There is a rich lore of Florida and American history behind the modern villages of Sugarmill Woods. The community occupies an area that has attracted settlers and visitors alike since before Columbus. Its oak and pine trees coupled with rolling range lands are in surprising contrast to the tropical scenery typical of southern Florida. With a distinct spring and fall, but no winter to speak of, this section of Flor­ida is now sometimes called “the land of three seasons.”

According to the best archaeological data, the area was first inhabited by Timucua, Appalachee and Calusa Indians beginning around 400 BC. The Native Americans called the place Homosassa, which translates as “the place where wild pep­pers grow”. Strains of the same piquant peppers that spiced the food of pre-Co­lumbian Indians still can be found growing here today. When the first white men ar­rived, the Calusa along with more recent residents, the Seminoles were still here. In time, the Calusa tribes were scattered and the Seminoles moved southward. They left evidence of their civilization – burial and religious sites, pottery, weapons and canoes – in the numerous mounds and middens that dot the river banks and is­lands throughout the area.

Lying well north of the sea lanes, the Homosassa area saw occasional visits from Gasparilla, Lafitte and other pirates. The visits occurred only when they sought peace and refuge or needed to replenish their freshwater supplies from the clear springs that feed the numerous tidal rivers of the area.

Sporadic attempts at settlement were made as early as the mid-eighteenth century, but most of these early efforts failed for one reason or another. The area was not really settled by Europeans until well into the nineteenth century. One of the early permanent settlers was David Yulee, Florida’s first U.S. senator. In 1846 Mr. Yulee established a plantation of over 5,000 acres that he named “Margarita”, Spanish for pearl.

Margarita, basically a sugar cane plantation with its own processing plant, prospered until the Civil War.

Yulee, a loyal Southerner, provided the Confederacy and its European allies with sugar and other produce from Margarita until his mansion on Tigertail Island in the Homosassa River, as well as mainland cane fields, were destroyed by the Union Forces and Yulee was imprisoned. Tigertail Island is named after the rebel Indian chief who is believed to have used it as a refuge and, it is rumored, surrendered there.

The ruins of Yulee’s sugar mill – stone walls, boiler, and portions of the cane mill are now a State Historic Site in Homosassa. It is from this mill that Sugarmill Woods derives its name.

An influx of Southerners migrated to the wilderness after the war to escape Reconstruction and to start a new life on the virgin lands. They settled mostly on the many islands in the Homosassa, Chassahowitzka, St. Martins and Crystal Rivers. They established homesteads that were virtually self-sufficient. Many of the islands still bear the names of the pioneer families who settled there.

Communications in those days were primitive. The only contact with civilization was through Cedar Key, 60 miles to the north. Commercial fishing provided the major cash resource and the fishing boats brought back mail and supplies from their marketing expedition to Cedar Key. The area expanded steadily through the late decades of the nineteenth century when forestry and agriculture began to contribute to the economy. Timber and citrus were shipped out by boat, or later, up a sand hill road to the railway in Oca­la. The rail line also introduced tourism of a sort to the area. The first tourists were hardy sportsmen who braved the rigors of contemporary travel and primitive accommodations to enjoy the spectacular hunting and fishing the area offered.

By the 1920’s forestry and citrus declined and Homosassa was once again a place for family farming and small scale commercial fishing. Then, after World War II, a steady stream of “new settlers” began arriving. By the 1960’s the full potential of the area as a place for permanent residence be­came evident.

The site Sugarmill Woods now occupies was known as Twin County Ranch in 1972. The spread was part of the cattle operations of the Norin Corporation, owned by Bruce Norris. He presented plans for a joint development project to Punta Go­rda Island, Inc. – a developer of Florida residential communities. The two formed Parkland Properties, Inc.; thus the creation of Sugarmill Woods was underway. The partnership lasted until 1975 when Norris’ share in Parkland was acquired by Punta Gorda Isles, Inc., the parent company of Sugarmill Woods, Inc.

Platting of the land was begun in early 1972 and by July the first ground was broken. The first nine holes of a golf course, two tennis courts and a swimming pool were completed in 1975. The second nine was completed in November, 1978, and the third nine was completed in December of 1981. Another pool and a tennis complex in Oak VIllage were add­ed later. All the recreational facilities have since been sold to a Japanese company called SUNTACC. In addition, approximately 485 acres of land were sold to other Japanese companies.

To the credit of the developer, the design of Sugarmill Woods reflects an awareness of environmental and ecological concerns. Land use is warranted in deed convenant assuring the community of the preservation of native flora and fauna. Government preserves to the east and west shelter the area from ex­cessive future development.

The community includes Cypress and Oak Villages and Southern Woods. The combined population is over 9,000. No other development in Florida has a natural environment of the size and sylvan beauty of Sugarmill Woods. This priceless asset is protected by enforcement of the “Declaration of Restrictions” by the Cypress Village, Oak Village and Southern Woods Associations.

The design of Sugarmill Woods reflects an awareness of environmental and ecological concerns