David Levy Yulee, U.S. Senator

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David Levy Yulee, U.S. Senator's Geni Profile

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David Yulee (Levy)

Birthplace: St. Thomas, USVI
Death: October 10, 1886 (76)
New York, NY, United States
Place of Burial: Washington, DC, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Moses Elias Levy Yulee and Hannah Margarite Levy
Husband of Nannie Christian Yulee
Father of Nannie Christian Noble; C. Wickliffe Yulee; NN Reid; Florida Yulee and Mary Yulee
Brother of Elias L. Yulee, Maj., CSA; Rahma Mendes da Costa and Rachel Henriques

Occupation: Senator
Managed by: Kevin Lawrence Hanit
Last Updated:

About David Levy Yulee, U.S. Senator

David Levy Yulee, a Delegate and a Senator from Florida; born David Levy in St. Thomas, West Indies, June 12, 1810; at the age of nine was sent to the United States to Norfolk, Va. to attend a private school; studied law in St. Augustine, Fla.; admitted to the bar in 1836 and practiced in St. Augustine, Fla.; delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1838; clerk to the Territorial legislature in 1841; elected as a Whig-Democrat, a Territorial delegate to the Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth Congresses (March 4, 1841-March 3, 1845); did not seek renomination, having become a candidate for the Senate; upon the admission of Florida as a State into the Union was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate and served from July 1, 1845, to March 3, 1851; unsuccessful candidate for reelection; chairman, Committee on Private Land Claims (Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth Congresses), Committee on Naval Affairs (Thirty-first Congress); by an act of the Florida Legislature and at his request his name was changed to David Levy Yulee in 1846; again elected to the United States Senate in January 1855 and served from March 4, 1855, until his withdrawal January 21, 1861; chairman, Committee on Post Office and Post Roads (Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth Congresses); due to his support of the Confederacy, was a prisoner at Fort Pulaski in 1865; president of the Florida Railroad Company 1853-1866; president of Peninsular Railroad Company, Tropical Florida Railway Company, and Fernandina and Jacksonville Railroad Company; known as the “Father of Florida’s railroads”; moved to Washington, D.C., in 1880; died in New York City, October 10, 1886; interment in Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C.


David Levy Yulee, born David Levy (June 12, 1810 – October 10, 1886) was an American politician and attorney from Florida, a territorial delegate to Congress, the first Jewish member of the United States Senate, and a member of the Confederate Congress during the American Civil War. He founded the Florida Railroad Company and served as president of several other companies, earning the nickname of "Father of Florida Railroads". In 2000 he was recognized as that year's "Great Floridian" by the state.

Early life and education

He was born David Levy in Charlotte Amalie, on the island of St. Thomas. His father Moses Elias Levy was a Moroccan Sephardic Jew who made his fortune in lumber. His mother was also Sephardic; her ancestors had gone from Spain to the Netherlands and England. Some had later gone to the Caribbean as English colonists during the British occupation of the Danish West Indies, now the United States Virgin Islands.

After the family immigrated to the United States, his father bought 50,000 acres (200 km2) of land near present-day Jacksonville, Florida Territory. He wanted to establish a "New Jerusalem" for Jewish settlers. Levy was sent to a boy's academy and college in Norfolk, Virginia, then returned to Florida to study law in St. Augustine.

Political career

David Levy studied and practiced law in St. Augustine. He was elected in 1841 as the delegate from the Florida Territory to the US House of Representatives and served four years. He worked to gain statehood for the territory and to protect the expansion of slavery in new states.

In 1845, after Florida was admitted as a state, the legislature elected him as a Democrat to the United States Senate. He was the first Jew elected to the Senate.

Marriage and family

In compliance with a request made by his fiancee, Nannie C. Wickliffe, David Levy changed his name to David Levy Yulee (adding his father's Sephardic surname), by special act of the Florida general assembly on January 12, 1846.

In that year he married Nannie C. Wickliffe, the daughter of Charles A. Wickliffe, the former governor of Kentucky and Postmaster General under President John Tyler. His wife was Christian, and they raised their children in her faith. After serving one term in the Senate, Yulee was defeated for re-election in 1850.

Florida businessman

The next year, he founded a 5,000-acre (20 km2) sugar cane plantation along the Homosassa River. (The plantation was worked by approximately 1,000 slaves). The remains of his plantation, which was destroyed during the Civil War, are found at the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins State Historic Site.

While living with his family in Fernandina, Yulee began to develop a railroad across Florida. He had planned since 1837 to build a state-owned system. He became the first Southerner to use state grants under the Florida Internal Improvement Act of 1855, passed to encourage the development of infrastructure. He made extensive use of the act to secure federal and state land grants "as a basis of credit" to acquire land and build railroad networks through the Florida wilderness.

Issuing public stock, Yulee chartered the Florida Railroad in 1853. He planned its eastern and western terminals at deep-water ports, Fernandina on Amelia Island on the Atlantic side, and Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico, to provide for connection to ocean-going shipping. His company began construction 1855. On March 1, 1861, the first train arrived from the east in Cedar Key, just weeks before the beginning of the Civil War.

Confederate Congress

Elected to the Senate again in 1855, Yulee served until January 21, 1861, when he withdrew from the Senate after Florida seceded. He joined the Congress of the Confederacy.

He was known as "The Florida Fire Eater" for his radical views in support of the southern cause.

In 1865 after the war, Yulee was imprisoned in Fort Pulaski for nine months due to his participation in the Confederate government.


After his release from confinement, Yulee rebuilt the Yulee Railroad, which had been destroyed by warfare. He served as president of the Florida Railroad Company from 1853 to 1866, as well as president of the Peninsular Railroad Company, Tropical Florida Railway Company, and Fernandina and Jacksonville Railroad Company. His development of the railroads was his most important achievement and contribution to the state of Florida. He was called the "Father of Florida Railroads". His leadership helped bring increased economic development to the state, including the late nineteenth-century tourist trade. In 1870 Yulee hosted President Ulysses S. Grant in Fernandina.

Death and legacy

Selling the Florida Railroad, Yulee retired with his wife to Washington, D.C. in 1880, where she had family. He died six years later while visiting in New York. Yulee was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Both the town of Yulee, Florida and Levy County, Florida are named for him.

In 2000, the Florida Department of State designated him as a Great Floridian in the Great Floridians 2000 Program. Award plaques in his honor were installed at both the Fernandina Chamber of Commerce and the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins State Historic Site. source: wikipedia

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David Levy Yulee, U.S. Senator's Timeline

June 12, 1810
St. Thomas, USVI
Washington, DC, United States
October 10, 1886
Age 76
New York, NY, United States
Washington, DC, United States