At the close of the Seminole War in 1842, this frontier was opened to settlement. Major Robert Gamble and other sugar planters soon located along the rich Manatee River valley, and by 1845 a dozen plantations were producing for the New Orleans market. The Gamble Mansion, built principally of native materials, 1845-1850, is an outstanding example of ante-bellum construction and stands today as a monument to pioneer ingenuity and craftsmanship. The plantation included 3500 acres, numerous outbuildings, slave quarters, and wharf from which sugar and molasses were shipped by schooner and steamboat.
The Gamble sugar mill, one of the south's largest, was destroyed by Union raiders in 1864. Ruins are located 1/2 mile north on State Road 683. During the Civil War the mansion was the home of Captain Archibald McNeill, famous Confederate blockade runner. Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of State, took refuge here during May 1865 while making his escape from Federal troops following defeat of the Confederacy. The mansion was rescued from decay in 1923 by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.