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TITUSVILLE / MOSQUITO LAGOON
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About: Titusville is located on Florida's Atlantic Coast, some 46 miles south of Daytona Beach and 40 miles east of Orlando. It serves as the seat of government for Brevard County. The economy of Titusville and the area surrounding it is based on the aerospace industry, centered at the Kennedy Space Center on nearby Merritt Island; tourism, also associated with the space industry; and agriculture, particularly citrus cultivation and processing. The city is the second largest in the county, with a population of 37,981. Titusville and Brevard County have been experiencing intensive growth since the initial development of the space industry in the 1950s. The county is currently the ninth largest in the state. Between 1980 and 1985 its population increased approximately 25 percent. Titusville is growing at a similar rate.
Names often tell us much about the history of a place. Such is the case with Titusville and Brevard County. Titusville is named for Colonel Henry T. Titus who in 1867 founded the early settlement which developed into the city. It is the seat of government of Brevard County, the twenty-fifth county in Florida, established March 14, 1844. It was originally named St. Lucie County, but was renamed in 1855 for Judge Theodore Washington Brevard, a North Carolinian who served as Comptroller of Florida from 1853-1861. The county was subdivided several times before arriving at its present configuration. In 1879 it was annexed to the southern part of Volusia County. Titusville became part of the county at that time, and in a voter referendum was chosen as the seat of government. In 1887 the state legislature formed Osceola County from parts of Brevard and Orange Counties. In 1905, the legislature further subdivided the county by forming St. Lucie County from the southern part of Brevard. Brevard is one of the longest counties in Florida, stretching some 75 miles along the Atlantic Coast and famous Indian River.
Titusville and its environs have one of the most extended periods of pre-historic and historic development in the United States. The history of the area ranges from the Indian burials at Windover, dating from 6,000 B.C. to the events associated with the development of the space industry at Cape Canaveral during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Windover, discovered in 1982, is one of the best preserved aboriginal burial sites yet discovered. The site has yielded more than 40 skeletons of men, women, and children approximately 8,000 years old. Among the remains are some of the oldest, most intact brain tissue ever found.
The region around Titusville was later occupied by a group of Indians known as the Ais. The Ais inhabited the Indian River region from Cape Canaveral south. They built a long and stable culture organized around the rich marine resources of the Indian and Banana rivers, the Atlantic Ocean, and connecting inlets. Their food sources included turtles, fish, and shellfish. Their language and culture were distinct from the Timucua who inhabited the region to the north.
One of the first documented contacts between North American Indians and European explorers occurred in 1513 when Juan Ponce de Leon encountered the Ais at a village site south of Cape Canaveral. Between 1513 and 1565, when Florida was a focus of Spanish explorers, the Ais culture began changing. The frequent shipwrecks that occurred along the Florida coast provided the Ais with the opportunity to take white prisoners and salvage ships. By the time the Spanish permanently settled Florida in 1565, the Ais had already developed a reputation as cruel, fierce warriors.
Beyond its pre-history, the Titusville area has a significant association with voyages of discovery and the settlement of Florida during the early and mid-l6th century. Cape Canaveral was a landmark to the early Spanish explorers and sailors who plied the waters of the Gulf Stream, the principal return route from the Americas to Spain. The Spanish gave the cape its name, meaning place of cane or reeds, in obvious reference to the sea oats that abound there.
Juan Ponce de Leon was the first recorded explorer of the Florida coast, although other Spaniards must surely have sighted it in the years between 1492 and 1513. In the latter year Ponce de Leon began the first of several attempts by the Spanish to conquer and settle Florida. He made a second attempt in 1521 at which time he met his death. Other Spanish explorers who tried but failed to conquer Florida were Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon in 1526-1527, Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528, Hernando de Soto in 1539-1541, and Tristan de Luna, 1559-1561.
The catalyst for the Spanish settlement of Florida was the establishment of a French colony at Ft. Caroline, founded in 1564 and located within the present city limits of Jacksonville. The Spanish had given up attempts to settle Florida in 1561, but were planning another effort at the time Ft. Caroline was founded. Under the rule of the orthodox Catholic King Phillip II, they viewed the Huguenots as heretical intruders who must be eliminated from Spanish territory. In response to the challenge, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, one of the ablest Spanish naval officers of his day, sailed from Spain to expel the French from Florida. In September, 1565 Menendez and a large band of soldiers and colonists founded St. Augustine and destroyed Ft. Caroline, annihilating most of its male defenders in the process.
Some of the French colonists escaped, but were later shipwrecked as the result of a fierce storm. Many of the survivors fortified themselves at Cape Canaveral. In October, 1565 Menendez set out from St. Augustine with a combined land and sea force. In early November he encountered the Frenchmen at a place several miles north of the cape, where they had constructed an earthenwork fortification protected by cannon salvaged from one of their ships. Except for a few, the Frenchmen surrendered to Menendez. The Spanish then destroyed the fortification and all remnants of the French presence at the cape and proceeded south.
Menendez continued south until reaching a narrow isthmus between the Ocean and the Indian River, where he encountered a concentration of Indian villages and the chief of the Ais. He decided to fortify and settle the area and left a group of 200 Spanish and 50 French to implement his orders. Shortly after Menendez departed, a number of the Spanish mutinied and abandoned the area, thus ending the first attempt by Europeans to settle the Indian River region.
The Indian River region was part of Spanish Florida for nearly two hundred years. Yet except for the native Indian population, it remained unsettled. Under Spanish rule Florida was not densely settled or intensively developed. It contained none of the attractions which brought settlers to other regions of the Spanish colonial empire. There were no precious metals, no highly fertile agricultural land, and no sedentary Indian population available as a source of labor. Instead of a mining, agricultural, or commercial settlement, Florida served as a military outpost and a point of departure for Spanish missionaries seeking to Christianize its aboriginal inhabitants.
Spanish Florida was first and foremost a strategically important outpost in the Spanish Caribbean defense system. It served as a buffer against intrusion into more economically valuable areas of Spain's colonial empire. St. Augustine was a military base for protecting the Spanish treasure fleet as it sailed homeward annually along the Gulf Stream ladened with gold, silver, and other valuable cargo. Following the founding of Virginia and the subsequent French exploration and settlement of the Mississippi River Valley, Florida served Spain as a bastion against English and French expansion into the southeast. Because of its strategic importance, St. Augustine was attacked at various times by the English, the French, pirates, and British colonists to the north. To protect the city, the Spanish developed an elaborate system of defense.
One early component of the Spanish defense system was a chain of wooden watchtowers and sentinel posts. Construction of the watchtowers was initiated in 1569 for the protection of the coastal areas surrounding St. Augustine. The watchtowers were located north and south of the town and served to give warning of approaching enemy vessels. The watchtowers and sentinel posts also aided ship wreck victims who became marooned along the Florida coast. The watchtower system apparently did not extend as far south as the Indian River region. The Spanish did, however, frequently patrol the area by land and sea in search of foreign intruders and ship wreck victims.
In addition to its military function, St. Augustine and its environs became a point of departure for Spanish missionaries seeking to Christianize Indians in surrounding regions. The missions were among the most important influences on the development of Spanish Florida. They affected not only the religious and social life of the colony, but also such matters as the location and character of its settlements, the nature of its defense, and its agrarian policy. The responsibility for the missions was assigned to the regular clergy, represented at first by the Society of Jesus in 1566, and then beginning in 1574 by the Order of St. Francis, following the withdrawal of the Jesuits from Florida. Starting with less than half a dozen friars, the number of Franciscans was gradually increased until at maximum strength, which was reached during the mid-seventeenth century, the order was represented by approximately fifty friars. With this comparatively small organization, the Franciscan maintained more than fifty missions, including a considerable number of doctrinas and other centers which contained no regular stations but were occasionally visited by friars. A doctrina was a principal mission center in which the main activity was religious education.
The mission system grew steadily following the arrival of the Franciscans. Occupying first the stations already developed by the Jesuits, the Franciscans had, by about 1600, extended their activities to include several intermediate positions of strategic importance along the Atlantic coast between St. Augustine and Port Royal Sound. In the early seventeenth century, they began moving westward into the interior. Many of the missions were organized along the ancient Indian trail which extended west from St. Augustine to the Apalache region. The Spanish were, however, never effective in their attempts to establish missions among the Ais and to christianize them.
Although the post-contact history of the Ais has not been thoroughly developed, several contemporary accounts of them and their life ways were written. In 1605 Alvaro Mexia, a Spanish soldier, led an expedition to the Titusville area, where he visited several villages. He was able to secure an agreement with the Indians to limit their attacks to Dutch, French, and English intruders and report the presence of Spanish shipwreck survivors to the authorities at St. Augustine. In 1675 the Bishop of Cuba visited the Indian River region and reported that the Ais remained a heathen tribe.
Jonathan Dickinson, the English Quaker who was shipwrecked on the Florida coast in 1696, provided the most detailed account of the Ais. Dickinson reported that the Ais lived in crude, flimsy wood frame structures thatched with palmetto leaves. He, together with his companions, was held captive by the Ais, described the Indians as cruel, warlike, and still heathen despite more than one hundred years of Spanish occupation. By the time the Spanish left Florida in 1763, the Ais had been decimated, the victims of disease, warfare, and malnutrition.
Although economic development was always secondary to military defense and
the christianization of Indians, the Spanish nonetheless initiated several
activities which made a lasting impact on the economy of Florida. One of the
primary economic activities during the first Spanish period was citrus
cultivation. British accounts of Florida describe immense orange groves
along the St. Johns River. William Bartram noted that even the Creek Indians
had adopted orange cultivation from the Spanish. Although documentation is
sketchy and limited, it appears the cultivation of oranges made a
significant impact on the landscape of settled areas of Florida,
particularly the areas along the St. Johns and in the vicinity of St.
Augustine. Moreover, following its introduction by the Spanish, citrus
cultivation has been a mainstay of the economy of Florida until the present.
Prior to the arrival of the space industry it was an integral component of the Titusviile economy and made the Indian River region world renowned.
The British occupied Florida for a mere twenty-one years, (1763-1784), yet they left a lasting imprint on Florida. With the transfer of Florida to England in 1763, the Spanish, with few exceptions, evacuated the colony. British rule resulted in important changes to both the economy and social fabric of Florida. British policy emphasized the economic development of East Florida, particularly the development of trade and commercial agriculture, in contrast to the practices of the Spanish whose primary concerns were military defense and christianization of the Indian population. St. Augustine and its environs began changing from a military outpost into a viable, self-sustaining province. The population of East Florida grew, hastened by the immigration of British loyalists fleeing from the revolutionary north and a group of colonists from the Mediterranean region. Referred to generically as the "Minorcans," the latter group was composed of Greeks, Spaniards, and Italians, as well as residents of the island of Minorca. They initially settled at the agricultural colony of New Smyrna, but after its failure migrated to St. Augustine and the surrounding area.
The outbreak of rebellion in the thirteen colonies to the north dramatically altered the development of British Florida. Since the Florida colonies remained loyal to the crown, they attracted large numbers of loyalist investors and settlers who were seeking economic stability and political asylum. The population of East Florida accordingly swelled from approximately 3,000 in 1776 to 17,000 eight years later, with most of the immigrants coming from rebel-controlled Georgia and South Carolina. Many of the new immigrants settled in and around St. Augustine and in the western section of the county along the St. Johns River. The British crown and the Florida governor distributed numerous grants during the period, although compared to those of the early years of British rule, they were small, seldom exceeding one thousand acres. Land was cultivated using the plantation system, with a dependency on slave labor. Plantations were established as far south as the Indian River.
Among the plantations was that of Captain Robert Bisset. The Bisset Plantation encompassed approximately one thousand acres and was located at the confluence of the Indian and Hillsborough rivers, near the current boundary between Volusia and Brevard Counties. Bisset worked about 30 slaves on the grant and produced primarily indigo. He cleared about 137 acres and constructed a number of improvements which included a log hut for the overseer, a frame corn house, quarters for the slaves, and wooden vats and related equipment for processing indigo.
Bisset transported his crops to Turnbull Bay for shipments to ports to the north. Bisset also secured the contract for the southern extension of the King's Road, the most important public works project in Florida during the British period. In 1779 raiders from a Spanish privateer attacked Bisset's plantation and forced him to flee the area, thus ending British efforts to settle the greater Titusville area.
The transfer of Florida to Spain in 1784 initially slowed development as the majority of British settlers left the colony for the United States, the Bahamas, or other parts of the British Empire. The population of East Florida fell to under 2,000, and numerous plantations were abandoned. Emulating the British, the Spanish crown adopted liberal development of St. Augustine and the interior. An oath of loyalty to the Spanish government was the only requirement for land ownership. Furthermore, contrary to official royal policy elsewhere in the Spanish empire, the crown permitted non-Catholics to settle in Florida.
The population of East Florida during the second Spanish period was mixed. It included Spanish, Minorcan, Indian, Anglo settlers, and blacks--both free and slave. Among those settling or owning land in or around Titusville were Domingo Reyes and Joseph Delespine. The Reyes Grant was located at the headwaters of the Indian River. It encompassed 1,000 acres. Reyes was the inspector and overseer of the Spanish Royal Hospital at St. Augustine. He planted sugar cane and established a sugar mill at the plantation which was about ten miles north of Titusville. The plantation was in operation from about 1804 until 1835 when it destroyed ac the outset of the Second Seminole War. The ruins of the mill are located on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. They consist of a boiler room, a distillery, and a base for the grinding mill. They are among the more intact remnants of the sugar industry in East Florida.
The Delespine Grant was the other major tract of privately held land in the Titusville area during the second Spanish period. Governor Jose Coppinger conceded the tract to Joseph Delespine in 1817. The grant, encompassing 43,000 acres was one of the largest ever granted by the Spanish in Florida. It was located in part within the southern section of Titusville.
During the second Spanish period, the United States, the rising power to the north, was anxious to acquire both East and West Florida. The vast, largely undeveloped area was a temptation to the expansionist government and private land speculators. Moreover, the Florida's presented problems for the United States. They were a haven for runaway slaves and for the Seminole Indians who were involved in armed conflict with settlers residing along the southern limits of the United States. East Florida, in particular, provided a setting for contraband trade and slave smuggling, both of which were in conflict with the policies and laws of the United States government. Contraband traders from Providence in the Bahamas, using William Augustus Bowles as their agent, conducted commerce with the Indians then residing along the Indian River. Finally, because of their strategic importance, the Florida's potentially threatened the national security of the United States. They could serve as a base for attacking the United States if acquired by a foreign power, particularly the British. When Andrew Jackson invaded Florida in 1818 as part of the First Seminole War, it became clear that Spain could no longer hold Florida. Mounting pressures from the United States forced the signing of the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819, although diplomatic delays postponed actual transfer of the provinces until 1821.
The United States Territory of Florida was established in 1821 with Andrew Jackson serving as the first governor. In July of that year Jackson created St. Johns and Escambia Counties as the first two political subdivisions in the newly formed territory. St. Johns County initially encompassed all of Florida east of the Suwannee River, including the area which today forms Brevard County.
As part of the Adams-Onis Treaty the United States government agreed to confirm title to recipients of former Spanish land grants who had fulfilled the terms of the grants. During the 1820s the United States surveyed public lands, established the present township-range-section system, and formed the Board of Land Commissioners for East Florida. The purpose of the board was to review the claims of all individuals in possession of Spanish land grants in the Florida Territory. In 1830, the United States Congress acting upon the recommendations of the board, confirmed title to all grantees found to be legitimately holding Spanish land grants in the Florida territory. The actions of the board and congress maintained the continuity of land holding patterns between the second Spanish and American Territorial Periods and has influenced the form and in many instances the substance of land development in Florida. Thus, the Reyes and the Delespine Grants were preserved as private land holdings in the Titusville area.
After the United States acquired Florida, an influx of new settlers arrived in the territory. Some Spanish subjects, particularly the Minorcans, remained in East Florida, but the population of St. Augustine and the surrounding area became increasingly English speaking. A change of attitude towards settlement of Florida accompanied the change of flags as land speculators and entrepreneurs saw potential fortune in the under populated new territory. Real estate speculation fueled a boom during the early years of the territorial period, but transportation and health problems limited its effect. By 1825, the year of the first territorial census, there were 5,077 people in all of East Florida. Settlement did not, however, extend to the Titusville area prior to 1835.
The most significant event in Florida during the 1830s was the outbreak of the Second Seminole War in 1835. The United States had been in conflict with the Seminole Indians even prior to 1821. Andrew Jackson's invasion of Florida in 1818 in pursuit of the Seminoles had served as a catalyst for the cession of Florida from Spain. After 1821 the United States Government viewed the Seminoles as a nuisance obstructing settlement of the territory. It sought to isolate them on a reservation. Formal negotiations regarding the reservation issue occurred during the fall of 1823 in St. Johns County near the banks of Moultrie Creek south of St. Augustine.
When they signed the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, the Seminoles agreed to move to the center of the peninsula. The treaty established a four million acre reservation for the Seminoles, but it failed to eliminate tensions between them and white settlers. The Indians frequently strayed from the reservation, and many whites believed that runaway slaves found sanctuary among them. The runaway slave issue was complicated by the fact that free blacks and the Indians own slaves resided on the reservation. Clashes between Indians and settlers were frequent until the outbreak of war in 1835. Indian settlement along the Indian River was significant. In one instance, 80 men under the command of Lieutenant Colonel B.K Pierce required two days to destroy fields cultivated by the Indians.
The Second Seminole War stimulated the first significant development of much of the Florida peninsula, including the Titusville area. Land was cleared, roads were built, and fortifications were constructed. Furthermore, the United States government created a real estate boom in Florida by promising a grant of land to any volunteer over eighteen who enlisted to fight the Seminole Indians. Congress enacted legislation in 1842 to encourage the settlement and development of the Florida Peninsula south of Palatka. The legislation, known as the Armed Occupation Act, granted 160-acre homestead tracts to heads of family settling within the prescribed area. The act produced the first concentrated development of the Indian River region as between 20 and 35 families settled there. As was true in the first years of American occupation, land development and speculation once again became a significant factor in the economy of Florida.
During the Seminole War, the United States government constructed a fortification in the Titusville area. The fortification was named Ft. Ann and was erected in 1837 and 1838. The fort guarded the "haulover,' between Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River, where canoes and other shallow draft vessels were portaged. It was garrisoned by a naval unit and three companies of artillery. Located northeast of Titusville near Allenhurst in the Canaveral National Sea Shore, it formed the original settlement of northern Brevard County.
The Seminole War was a long term disaster for settled areas of East Florida. It disrupted staple agriculture when local settlers abandoned their plantations and farms and fled to St. Augustine. Indians destroyed the sugar plantations which had been major slave labor enterprises along Florida's East Coast. Moreover, events beyond the war hastened the decline of the local economy. In addition to the 1835 freeze, an outbreak of citrus scale further devastated the cultivation of oranges. On a national level, the Panic of 1837 created a financial crisis throughout the country. Many banks including the only one in St. Augustine, the Southern Life Insurance and Trust Company, suspended specie payments. The chances for economic recovery diminished when a depression spread throughout the United States the following year. The economy of most of East Florida remained stagnant until after the Civil War.
The economy of Ante-bellum Florida was based on the plantation system and the production of cotton and tobacco. The Titusville area, with its lowlands, inaccessibility, and sandy, relatively infertile soils, did not permit development of the extensive plantations found in Middle and West Florida. The Civil War did little to improve economic conditions in East Florida. Many of the male residents of the county abandoned their farms and joined the Confederate Army. Following the war most of the Florida East Coast retained a backward economy based largely on subsistence agriculture. Its economic development was inhibited by geographic isolation, a lack of marketable cash crops, and the absence of adequate transportation facilities.
One of the few settlers of the Titusville area prior to the Civil War was Douglas Dummett. Dummett was the son of Thomas Henry Dummett who immigrated to present day Volusia County in 1825. The elder Dummett had served in the British Royal Marines and had been a planter on the island of Barbados before fleeing a rebellion. He lived briefly in Connecticut before settling in Florida at the Tomoka area. He promptly purchased several large plantation tracts and numerous black slaves to cultivated them. Like so many others Dummett planted and processed sugar cane. After a series of financial setbacks, he moved to St. Augustine and left his remaining holdings to his son, Douglas.
Douglas Dummett was one of the officers of the Mosquito Roarers, a militia company organized by residents of Mosquito County prior to the Second Seminole War. During the war he rose to the rank of captain. Prior to moving to the Titusville area he was the postmaster of Tomoka in what today is Volusia County. There he farmed sugarcane during the 1820s and 1830s. The younger Dummett was one of the few planters to also cultivate oranges. In 1828 he sold his first crop and later transplanted some of his trees to groves on Merritt Island.
Following the Seminole War, Dummett took advantage of the land program under the Armed Occupation Act and settled an area near Ft. Ann. He was separated from his wife during this period for reasons of incompatibility. He began living with a young woman named Leandra Fernandez, with whom he eventually had three children. Dummett was the pioneer citrus grower in the famous Indian River Citrus region. While still living in Volusia County, he began experimenting with various techniques of citrus cultivation. He planted wild sour-orange trees which probably had originated with the Spanish and had become acclimated to the Florida soil and climate. To this sour-orange root stock he grafted cuttings from sweet orange trees which reputedly came from groves planted by the Turnbull colonists at New Smyrna. These experimental trees survived the famous 1835 freeze and were transplanted to the Dummett Grove following the Second Seminole War. Dummett's orange crop was transported on a shallow draft vessel, dubbed a "Minorcan Sailor" for shipment to ocean going ships at Mosquito Inlet. He increased the size of his grove over the years and by 1859 he was producing a crop estimated at 60,000 oranges. He also contributed to the development of the Indian River citrus region by selling bud wood to other growers.
Dummett was a strong supporter of the Confederate States. He was the highest
ranking Confederate official in the area, serving as collector of customs.
Among his other public offices were judge and justice of the peace of
Mosquito County and appraiser of the Union Bank. He was the first state
representative from the Titusville area following the granting of statehood
to Florida in 1845. He died at his orange grove in 1873, after
With the exception of the Dummett Grove on Merritt Island, the area in and around Titusville remained largely undeveloped until after the Civil War. There was, however, modest growth. A community called Sand Point began developing in the vicinity of Ft. Ann. In 1859, the U.S. government established a post office there and appointed Shubel G. Luffman postmaster. The post office was, however, closed only a few months after it opened.
Prior to the Civil War most of the Indian River country remained a vast wilderness. According to one account, wild orange trees grew in the hammocks. The river teemed with marine life, while deer, bear, and other wild game abounded on its shores. Most settlers lived in simple cabins of hand hewn logs. Roofs were thatched with palmetto. Few homes had glass windows. Wooden shutters covered window openings. Others lived in palmetto structures, probably similar to the Seminole Indian chickees. They had simple log frames sheathed in palmetto with only a door and perhaps a window opening. The population of Brevard County was only 246 in 1860.
One important development prior to the Civil War was the opening of the first haulover canal. Located just south of Ft. Ann, it measured approximately one-third of a mile in length, ten to twelve feet in width, and three feet in depth. Completed in 1854, it was used for shallow draft vessels. It was one of the first major man-made improvements to the inland waterway system which had served Florida travelers since pre-historic times.
During the Civil War little of significance occurred in the Titusville area. Douglas Dummett sold his slaves at the outset of the war and allowed his grove to decline. Many Brevard County settlers left their land and families and enlisted in the Confederate Army. The principal economic activities during the war were contraband trading and salt making. One salt works was reportedly built on the Indian River in the vicinity of Broad Street at Titusville. The salt works consisted of huge iron vats in which salt water was evaporated. The Indian River, particularly the Sand Point area, became a haven for blockade runners.
The concentrated development of Titusville did not begin until after the Civil War. In 1867, the founder of Titusville, Colonel Henry T. Titus, arrived at Sand Point. Titus was born at Trenton, New Jersey on February 13, 1822. Before he settled at Sand Point, Titus could have been best described as a soldier of fortune. Colonel Titus first became prominent as a filibuster who supported Cuban rebels in their fight against Spanish colonialists. He was accused and tried of violating U.S. neutrality laws, but was exonerated. He later moved to Jacksonville, where he became a merchant. During his residence in Jacksonville Titus met and married Mary Hopkins, the daughter of General Edward Stephen Hopkins. In 1856, he moved to Kansas where, despite his northern origin, he supported the pro-slavery cause. He was involved in fighting and captured by abolitionist forces. After his release in a prisoner exchange, he left Kansas, carrying with him the nickname "Border Ruffian.
His next stop was Nicaragua, There he commanded troops under the regime of William Walker, an American expatriate who had seized control of the country in 1856. Following Walker's overthrow, Titus fled to San Francisco. During the Civil War, he surfaced as a blockade runner on the Indian River, where he was captured by Union forces. After the war, he remained an irreconcilable supporter of the South. In 1866, he assaulted a former Union soldier in a Jacksonville bar. That same year he returned to the Indian River, reportedly for health reasons. Titus and several New York investors established the New York and Indian River Preserving Company for shipping Florida seafood to northern markets. The company established operations along the Indian River, where its employees proceeded to harvest fish, turtles, and oysters. The seafood was then to be cleaned, boiled, canned, and shipped to New York As a result of shipping and canning problems, the venture failed the year it started
Titus settled at Sand Point in 1867 on a piece of land owned by his wife. He conceived the idea of founding a town and opening up the Indian River country. In 1869 the rest of his family joined him. He established a stage line between Enterprise, a river port on the upper St. Johns River, and the new settlement. Titus operated a mercantile store at Enterprise and a dry goods store together with J.W. Joyner at Sand Point, the only store along the coast of Volusia and Brevard Counties. In 1870 he completed the Titus House, a local hotel. At the time of his arrival there were only a few families in the area: the Stones at Sebastian, Captain Miles C. Burnham at Canaveral, and the Dummetts on Merritt Island.
The Titus House became the community center of the fledgling settlement and the surrounding Indian River Region. It was a wood frame building with a large central block and two long wings, all rising one story in height and surrounded by verandahs. It was located on Washington Avenue, just south of Main Street. At the hotel Titus served many of the exotic game, fish, fruits, and vegetables which abounded in the Indian River region. He paid for the clearing of land at the new town and the laying out of many of the first buildings. Titus helped establish a mail route to Sand Point and served as postmaster and as justice of the peace. He shipped freight to Titusville by boat and wagon and then filled them with citrus and pineapples for re-shipment north.
1873, the name of the post office was changed from Sand Point to Titusville.
According to one account, the name resulted from the outcome of a domino
game between a Captain Rice and Colonel Titus. The winner of the game was
Colonel Titus and thus the town thereafter appropriately became Titusviile.
Another source indicates that Titus was postmaster and unilaterally named
the town for himself despite some local opposition. During the 1870s, the
town grew at a comparatively brisk rate. By one
The establishment of Titusville as the seat of government for Brevard County symbolized the maturing character of the community. in 1879, Captain J. Francis LeBaron laid out Joynerville, the first subdivision within the present corporate limits of Titusville. LeBaron was a civil engineer and at one time served as chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. He is credited with discovering the first phosphate deposits in Florida while surveying the Peace River in 1881 for a possible cross-Florida canal route. He surveyed and laid out many towns and subdivisions throughout Florida. The new subdivision was originally owned by Mary M. Carlin and was probably named for J.W. Joyner, Henry Titus's business partner. Joynerville contained a number of buildings, including the offices of J. Francis LeBaron, J.W. Joyner's saloon, Wager's grocery, C.R. Carlin's boatworks, and several residences, among them that of Mary Carlin. In 1880 the board of county commissioners met to discuss building needs. The original courthouse was housed in a building rented from Henry Titus. Shortly thereafter, the commissioners let a contract for the construction of the Brevard County Jail. The county school board was also organized that year, and S.W. Harmon began publication of Titusville's first newspaper. In December, the county commissioners published a legal notice soliciting bids for the construction of the courthouse. Construction was begun in 1881 and completed the following year.
In 1880 J. Francis LeBaron platted another important subdivision, the Original Town of Titusville. Within the subdivision were the Titus House and Lund's Hotel, the two rooming establishments in the fledgling community, the post office, wharfs, and a saw mill. In early 1881, the Duke and Duchess of Castelluccio arrived in the area and purchased the Dummett Grove and subsequently erected a large residence. Later that year the local chamber of commerce held an organizational meeting. By 1885 the town had a population totaling 250 by one count. It was accessible by steamer to Enterprise and then by a stage which ran three times a week. That same year George Webster Scobie settled there and established the first successful commercial fish business.
Despite its growth an inadequate system of transportation continued to be a major impediment to the development of Titusville. In 1885 a trip from Jacksonville took a circuitous route. A fairly large steamboat could be taken from there to Sanford. From Sanford there were two routes to the Indian River. One was primarily used for freight and the second for passengers and mail. The first involved the transfer to a smaller steamboat on the upper St. Johns to a place called Salt Lake and from there to Titusville. The second route began at Enterprise covered by horse or wagon approximately 42 miles to Titusville. Until the arrival of the railroad these routes were the chief links between Titusville and the outside world.
Perhaps the pivotal event in the history of Titusville occurred in 1885. That year the Atlantic Coast, St. Johns, and Indian River Railroad began a spur line from Enterprise to Titusville. Shortly thereafter, the line was leased to the Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key West Railroad which extended the track to Titusville. Residents of Titusville contributed $30,000.00 plus the right-of-way. The transportation infrastructure of the town was supplemented by the construction of a railroad wharf at the Indian River. The wharf was a transfer point where freight and passengers boarded the Indian River steamers for points farther south. Steamship companies coordinated their schedules with those of the railroad to insure continuity of travel. Titusville residents greeted the arrival of the railroad with great fan fare. Whistles, shouts, and cheers filled the air as a single event forever changed the character of the town.
The railroad had an immediate impact on the economy of Titusville and the entire Indian River region. It allowed the rapid entry of tourists and permanent settlers, while facilitating the shipment of products from the region, particularly fish and fruit, to markets to the north. Businesses directly and indirectly associated with the fish and fruit industry, such as ice plants, packing houses, and canneries developed. In 1886 D.S. Hutchison purchased the Titus House, remodeled it, and renamed it the Indian River Hotel. Titusviile, however, remained very much a frontier town. In 1886, one new arrival described the town as "a city of saloons' with "no churches."
Titusville, although the county seat, remained unincorporated until 1886. In November of that year, local residents voted 58 to 2 in favor of incorporation. On the same ballot they elected D.L. Gaulden, Mayor; John Dixon, town clerk and treasurer; and O.T. Rice, Marshall and tax collector. As an indication of the changing character of the town Rice defeated Howell Titus, son of Henry Titus. Town alderman elected were Minor S. Jones, George W. Mackenzie, R.C. Serimgeour, S.H. Ray, and J.H. McCrory. City hall was housed in a rented building on Main Street.
Population growth followed the arrival of the railroad. Titusville had five stores, express and telegraph offices, two hotels, two public schools, and a steam saw mill. With the only rail connection, it was the hub of transportation for the Indian River region. There was steamer service to Melbourne and other points on the river. The frontier atmosphere of the town was tempered with the organization and construction of two churches that year. The first was the Presbyterian church. The second was St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church which still stands and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1889 two additional churches were constructed. They were the First Methodist and St. Teresa Roman Catholic Church. The First Baptist Church was organized that same year and a building drive begun. One of the most important economic developments of the late 1880s was arrival of Thomas Nevins, the founder of the Nevins Fruit Company. Thomas Nevins was a New York fire chief. The Nevins Fruit Company was formally organized in 1898 and is one of the oldest continuously operated citrus business in the Indian River growing area. It was eventually purchased by the Parrish family who continue its operation to the present.
The development of Titusville continued in the early 1890s. One of the most important community improvements was the addition of electric power. In the fail of 1890, the town council voted to adopt the Edison lighting system. The system was placed in operation in April of the following year. The addition of electric power resulting in the opening of the town's first commercial ice plant. The ice plant was essential to the preservation of fish products, fruits, and vegetables that formed the backbone of the Indian River economy. W.T. Whetmore operated the original ice plant, called the Crystal Ice Company.
Another significant development of the early 1890s was the extension of the Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Indian River Railway to Titusville. The new rail connection served as a catalyst for the growth of the economy and population of the town. The owner of the railroad was Henry Flagler. Flagler visited St. Augustine in 1885 and envisioned the Ancient City becoming the Winter Newport, a resort center for wealthy northerners. To that end Flagler constructed two major hotels in St. Augustine, the Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar and subsequently purchased a third, the Cordova, to add to his complex. In 1889 he purchased the St. Johns and Halifax Railroad, changed it to a standard gauge, and offered improved passenger service. Flagler had ambitious plans for the east coast, as he had already demonstrated in St. Augustine, where he constructed major hotels for northern tourists. In 1892, he extended the railroad to Daytona. Later that year he began construction of the line to the Indian River region. Train service began at New Smyrna in November, 1892 and in January, 1893 at Titusville and Cocoa. The line reached Eau Gallie in May. In 1895 Flagler changed the name of the railroad to the Florida East Coast Railway. The FEC quickly supplanted the steamboat as the principal means of transportation along the Indian River. Until completion of the Dixie Highway and America's adoption of the automobile for long distance trips, several decades in the future, Flagler's line remained the principal means of transporting freight and passengers to and from Titusville.
Despite the improvements to the town's utilities and transportation systems, Titusville suffered two severe economic set-backs during the mid-1890s. The first was the "Great Freeze" of the winter of 1894-1895. Other severe freezes had been recorded in Florida in 1835 and 1886. But the 1894-1895 freezes effectively brought an end to the citrus industry in North Florida. During the last days of December, 1894, a blast of Arctic air entered Florida and pushed temperatures lower than had been previously recorded. In Titusville the temperature dropped as low as 18 degrees and barely rose above freezing during the next twenty-four hours. Although the Indian River region suffered less than points north, growers nonetheless lost virtually all fruit that had not been harvested.56
Although much fruit was lost, tree damage was relatively slight during the December freeze. The plight of the railroads and shippers was, however, even graver than the growers. Hundreds of cars and boats would be left idle for a lack of fruit, and thousands of men, those whose jobs it had been to buy, sell, and haul, or to operate the boats and railroads, were out of work. Nevertheless, there was a certain amount of optimism among those dependent on the citrus industry because tree damage was not severe. In fact, following the freeze, a warming trend began and budding was in evidence in many groves.
The worst, however, was yet to come. In February, 1895 communities throughout the state experienced record low temperatures. The second freeze destroyed what little fruit that was left. The orange trees, during the few weeks of unseasonably warm weather between the freezes, were budding, blooming, and full of sap. Trees in North Florida were nearly all killed, and even those in the Indian River region were substantially damaged. The freeze caused severe hardship and forced many individuals involved in the citrus industry to seek new occupations. Although a short term disaster, many growers recovered, and the Indian River became the best known citrus producing region in Florida. With the commercial citrus industry in North Florida decimated, many growers from that region moved to the Indian River. By 1900, Brevard had become one of the leading citrus producing counties in Florida. Much of the production and processing was centered around Titusville.
The "Great Freeze" was not the only calamity which struck Titusville during the mid-1890s. In December, 1895 the major portion of Titusville's central business core was destroyed by fire. The business district was concentrated between Broad and Julia on Washington Avenue. As was true in virtually ever town in Florida the first commercial buildings were nearly always wood frame, constructed of extremely flammable pine. As a result of these early building practices, fires were common, particularly in commercial areas where buildings were sited in closed proximity to each other. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the business districts of a number of Florida cities burned. They included St. Augustine, Fernandina, Palatka, and Arcadia. Perhaps the most spectacular of the fires was the one at Jacksonville which destroyed approximately 150 blocks and more than 2,000 buildings. While a great personal loss to the merchants of Titusville, the fire produced improved materials and construction as the new buildings were built in brick. The greatest losers in the fire were Mrs. M.E. Titus who owned four buildings which were burned and Captain T.W. Lund who owned the Lund House hotel and several additional buildings.
By 1900 Titusville was a maturing community. Its population had grown to 900 and its business district was being rebuilt. Its economic character had been formed. It was the seat of government for Brevard County and a transportation center and distribution point for Indian River fruit, vegetables, and marine products.
Over the next several decades the population and economy of Titusville continued to grow and the quality of life to improve. In 1900 the Progressive Culture Club, the predecessor of the Titusville Woman's Club was formed. Among the club's first projects was the development of a local library. The town's first licensed pharmacist, Dr. J.C. Spell opened the Banner Drug Store in 1907. Many important buildings were erected during the period. In 1912, the current courthouse was constructed. Others constructed that year were the Spell Building and the Duren Building. Education improvements were also made. In 1916 the Titusville Elementary and High School was completed.
Transportation improvements continued to be important to the development of Titusville during the second decade of the twentieth century. One of the most important of these was the Dixie Highway. The most pervasive change in the physical landscape of America's city has been wrought by the automobile. Titusville like cities throughout the United States, had to cope with demands for improved streets and face the need for regulating use of the machines. By the 1920s, the automobile had begun to exert social changes as well, providing vehicular access to a different class of tourists than Florida had previously attracted. During the 1920s, as the state entered its "Boom" era, America's middle class had discovered the pleasures of Florida's climate and beaches. Many who had visited had remained. To accommodate travelers, construction of the Dixie highway was undertaken. As was true with the railroad, settlement and economic development followed its course and the course of other roadways which were built in and around Titusville during the 1910s and 1920s. Perhaps the most significant change resulting from road construction was the addition of trucking as a means for transporting fruit and other agricultural products grown in the Indian River region.
During the 1920s Titusville along with communities throughout the country, entered a period of rapid, exuberant growth. The precipitating event which stimulated growth throughout the state was the Florida Land Boom. The Boom had its genesis in South Florida, particularly in Miami. Buildings designed by architect Addision Mitner in Palm Beach and subdivisions such as Coral Gables became models for real estate developments around the state, including Titusville. The stylistic models for the architecture of the period were typically Spanish, Spanish Colonial, Italian, or an eclectic mixture. These styles are commonly found among the buildings constructed in Titusville during the 1920s. The building boom of the 1920s meant the development of areas of Titusville beyond the traditional center of town. A number of new subdivisions were platted at that time.
By the late 1920s the economic and social character of Titusville was well established. It remained the seat of government for Brevard County. County government with the direct and indirect employment and commerce it stimulated remained an important component of the local economy. Agriculture, particularly citrus cultivation, packing and processing, was the other important component of the local economy. Titusville was one of the centers of Indian River citrus. In addition to businesses directly involved in citrus, it help support secondary businesses such as the railroads, trucking, banking, hardware stores, and fertilizer companies. Other significant economic activities were cattle ranching, truck farming, and commercial fishing.
The Florida Boom collapsed in 1926, bringing to a close a significant period of growth for communities throughout the state. The onset of the Great Depression, beginning in 1929, further exacerbated the economic problems of these communities. Titusville, like other communities, suffered the effects of the Great Depression. The local economy declined, and for the first time since the 1870s the population failed to increase at a significant rate. The impact of the Depression was mitigated somewhat by the presence of county government which remained a steady source of employment.
Little significant development occurred in Titusville from the late 1920s until after World War II. Shortly after the war, the city began a period of incomparable growth stimulated in large part by the development of the United States space industry complex at Cape Canaveral. The space industry began in 1950 with the establishment of a missile testing range at Cape Canaveral. The United States government's missile testing program began in New Mexico, but was relocated because of the increasing range of missiles and their threat to population centers. After reviewing a number of sites, the government selected the cape for its launching program. The cape was advantageous for a number of reasons that included the range length, the availability of land, the undeveloped nature of the surrounding area, and the proximity of support facilities. The main support facility was the U.S. Naval Air Station at what today is Satellite Beach. The facility encompassed some 1,822 acres and was originally known as the Banana River Naval Air Station. It was activated in October, 1940 and served as a base for Martin patrol bombers that guarded nearby shipping lanes. On August 11, 1949 President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order establishing a testing facility there to be shared by all three branches of the military. The base was eventually transferred to the administration of the air force and renamed Patrick Air Force Base in honor of Major General Mason M. Patrick.
When the space program began, the United States government already owned the land surrounding the Cape Canaveral lighthouse. It acquired the remaining acreage necessary for the facility from private land owners. The first launch occurred in 1950 and testing continued increasing throughout the 1950s. In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration began operations at the cape. NASA was charged primarily with the launching of communication, meteorological, and scientific satellites. The NASA program became increasingly important after 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced plans to place a man on the moon before the end of the decade. In 1963, the federal government acquire another large tract of land on Merritt Island, where they developed a major support facility for the launch complex. The best known component of the new facility was the 52 story Vertical
Although the population of Titusville had grown steadily since the 1920s,
its rate increased dramatically following the development of the space
Historical information provided by the Historical Society of Brevard County
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