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The town of Ellaville

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Photo Courtesy of Florida Memory

Ellaville was located on U.S. 90 beside the Suwannee River and was a town once bursting with activity in the 1800's. Pictured is the Hillman Bridge that lead to Ellaville.

Ellaville was a boomtown in the 1800's, where approximately 1,000 people lived at one time. Ellaville was located at the merging of the Withlacoochee and Suwannee River on U.S. 90 in Madison County.

Town records date to just before the Civil War period, with a Confederate Fort that once stood nearby to protect the old railroad bridge called the Hillman Bridge, an old truss bridge that was built from a federal aid project from 1925-1926 and designed by RHH Blackwell Company of East Aurora.

The very first governor of Florida, George Drew, built a mansion in the area in the 1860's and named the town after his long-time African-American servant, Ella. Unfortunately, the mansion was destroyed by a fire in 1970, but the remains are still there.

During his time in Ellaville, Drew built a steam-operated sawmill in 1865, which at one point was the largest of its kind in Florida and employed 500 people. Its location proved advantageous, as the rivers provided an easy way to transport logs down the river until the Florida Railway was constructed through Ellaville and opened a special service to the mill.

Ellaville had a train station, steamboat dock, masonic lodge, two churches, two schools and a commissary.

Although a flourishing town of its time, Ellaville's successes and defeats relied heavily on environmental and economic factors. The sawmill burned in 1898 but was rebuilt later; however, the industry quickly exhausted yellow pine that it harvested and closed for good.

After his term was completed in 1881, Drew sold his company shares to his business partner, Louis Bucki, and left Ellaville to pursue other opportunities in Jacksonville.

The trying period of the 1900's brought war, flooding and of course, the Great Depression. By 1942, the Ellaville Post Office closed and in 1986, the Hillman Bridge was bypassed by a new highway and is no longer in use.

Today, there is very little evidence of Ellaville that remains.

If you hike on the Florida Trails that start at the parking lot and picnic area at the west end of the Hillman Bridge, you might catch a glimpse of some of the foundation of the Drew Mansion, though it's usually covered by vegetation.

A flywheel from the sawmill is on display at the nearby Suwannee River State Park and an old cemetery is located on River Road, south of U.S. 90. On the western side of the Suwanee River, the historical marker for Ellaville can be seen as you cross the river.

Interestingly enough, only a few of the town’s abandoned homes remain empty. However, a number of them, though worn by time, have again become occupied.

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Photo Courtesy of Florida Memory

Pictured is a class of one of the two schools in Ellaville in 1921. School was held in an abandoned church for three months out of the year.

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Photo Courtesy of Florida Memory

The historical marker for Ellaville can be found on the western side of the Suwannee River and offers visitors a brief history about this ghost of a town.

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