The Myth of the Bronze Plaque
The bronze plaque on the Sugar Mill chimney at DeLeon Springs State Park was placed there in 1931 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It reads, 1570-1763 -- During this period this chimney and the sugar vats were built by Spanish settlers.
Extensive research has proven these structures were first built by American settlers and slave labor in the early 1830s, starting with Orlando Rees. Thomas Starke purchased the property in 1850 and rebuilt the mill, continuing the operation until the end of the Civil War in 1865.
In 1929, Fred Burt, a local entrepreneur from New York, wrote his version of the area's history. He had this to say about DeLeon Springs, "There seems to be little authentic history of Florida, and practically none of DeLeon Springs. We must, therefore, rely almost wholly upon legends ... as well as call upon our imaginations to round out our local history."
He certainly used his imagination to create a fictional history of the spring, complete with a fabricated quote from Ponce de Leon. This information would have been readily available to the DAR members when they made the plaque in 1931.
Brian L Polk, Manager, De Leon Springs State Park