Levy County Courthouse


Levy County Courthouse
     Levy County, created in 1845, honors Florida’s first United States Senator and the first person of Jewish ancestry to sit in that body. The Senator is more commonly known as David Levy Yulee, the surname reflecting a grandfather (Eliahu Ha-Levi Ibn-Yuli) who served as a courtier to the Sultan of Morocco. Yulee’s father, a dedicated abolitionist who used the name Moses Levy, acquired vast acreage from the Arredondo Grant in north central Florida, reportedly with the idea of establishing a colony for Europe's persecuted Jews. Senator Yulee was instrumental in constructing one of the state’s first railroads, with one terminus at Cedar Key in the present Levy County.  Remains of his sugar mill may still be seen at Homossassa in neighboring Citrus COunty.    An older view of the Levy County Courthouse from the county's bicentennial history.

     For the first five years of the county’s existence residents attended court in Newnansville, Alachua County. The original county seat of Levy County is described in one source as "Waccassassa," although another, published in Levy County, gives it as Levyville. Apparently this was something of a disreputable place, since the neighborhood surrounding the courthouse was locally known as "Sodom". This fact so vexed the county commission that, in 1854, they specifically decreed the area was to be called "Mount Pleasant" and not Sodom. The first meetings of county government took place in a house rented from P. H. Davis. In 1851 a proposal was made to build a courthouse, with its dimensions specified at 20 by 30 feet. However, this apparently did not come to fruition, for in 1852 the county rented the house of Elijah Hunter for one dollar, then purchased that of Moses Cason the following year for $175. In 1858 the public square of Levyville was cleared of timber, presumably for construction of a more suitable facility, and in 1861 bids were called for a two-story courthouse. The Civil War intervened and construction was not completed until 1866-7.

     The Levyville courthouse was begun by James M. Janney and completed by L. B. Lewis, but was in use for only a short time. Following an unsuccessful suit to restrain the move, it was sold to a masonic lodge and the county seat was moved to Bronson, originally "Chunky Pond," in 1874. The name honors an early settler. Little remains of Levyville today, although it is still denoted on some maps and by a highway sign near Chiefland. Lawyer W. E. Coulter donated the land for the first Bronson courthouse, which was built in 1874; a privy was added in 1877. It was replaced in 1906 by a structure modeled after that in Starke (Bradford County) , built by Wagener and Dobson of Montgomery at a cost of $15,000. The Levy County Courthouse as it appears today. Photo by Anne KaylorThis was replaced in 1937 by the current courthouse, designed by Henry L. Taylor and built by O. R. Woodcock, incorporating some materials from the 1906 building. In more recent years an annex has been added.The architectural style of the courthouse annex complements the original structure.  Photo by Anne Kaylor

     The biggest lawyer salaries can be found here. A separate Bloxham County, named after governor William D. Bloxham and centered around the town of Williston, is found on some old maps. However, this proposal was defeated by a referendum in 1915.

     Our thanks to historian Chris Monaco for details on the Levy family, about whom many fanciful legends apparently have circulated.

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