Florida Ruins Are What's Left of a Slave Plantation not Mission.

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Once upon a time, robes of Franciscan friars swept the sands of Volusia County west of New Smyrna Beach. They moved past palmettos and through the shade of ancient oaks to pray behind arched coquina windows as they sought to save souls of heathen Jororo Indians.

Chants and song resonated from the mission of San Josef de Jororo as its bell tolled the faithful to the altar of the chapel built by followers of Columbus on his second voyage in 1496. It was one of several holy outposts along the Halifax River.

"The ruins of these missions stand as monuments to the Franciscan friars," wrote Pleasant Daniel Gold, the area's most prominent historian in the late 1920s, "who, for over 100 years, worked among the savages of this coastal region as the vanguard of civilization."

Mission ruins of coquina dot Volusia and Flagler counties' coast, he wrote.

Balderdash. Poppycock. Fiddlesticks.

All of it. Mission, monks, chapel, chants and tolling bell. They were fairy tales, fabricated whole cloth, told and retold, printed and reprinted in decades of books, pamphlets, newspapers and postcards.

The ruins west of New Smyrna Beach are what's left of a 19th-century sugar mill. Just like several others in Volusia and Flagler counties.

Two New Yorkers, Henry Cruger and William DePeyster, established a slave-labor plantation about 1832 with $10,000 in borrowed money. Three years later, Seminoles burned the factory and captured or loosed the slaves...

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