Titusville, Florida Centennial — 1867-1967
The Early Settlers Of LaGrange And Surrounding CommunitiesIn the 1860's there were only four houses in the vicinity of LaGrange. They were the homes of the David Carlile family; his son L. J. Carlile and his family; John and Jane Harrison, Jane was David Carlile's daughter; and the John Reddick family.
David Nathaniel Carlile came from Mississippi with his family in about 1860. Upon their arrival, he built a large log house, which stood on a high hill a short distance from the LaGrange Church, which was constructed nine years later.
David Carlile had three sons; Andrew, Laurie and Bob, and their descendants are great in number.
Sometime during the 1860's, Mrs. Julia A. Coleman came down from Feasterville, South Carolina, with her two brothers J. C. C. Feaster and J. N. Feaster, and her two small sons. Her husband had died in the Civil War. Everything they owned, including their homes, had been destroyed when Sherman marched - to the sea through South Carolina.
From Charleston to Jacksonville, they rode aboard the steamship "Dictator". After waiting in Jacksonville a week, they boarded the "Darlington", a popular little steamer plying the St. Johns waters between Jacksonville and Enterprise - Enterprise being a bustling little settlement on Lake Monroe.
At the "Brock House" in Enterprise, they were met by Mrs. Coleman's uncle, John M. Feaster and a small party from Alachua County.
They left the Brock House with three mule teams, and spent the night in Osteen near an old sugar cane mill, where cane was ground and syrup boiled.
The next day they came through the woods to LaGrange, just northwest of Titusville. There were no signs of civilization anywhere until they reached Sand Point, where the remains of an old salt works could be seen.
Julia Coleman's uncle was enthusiastic about the idea of raising oranges and delighted in the abundance of game in the area. There would be no need for anyone to go hungry. It has been said that one could step right outside his home and shoot turkey, squirrel and a variety of wild game.
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph E. Gruber came to Sand Point shortly after the Feaster family. Mrs. Coleman had written to them of the wonders of Florida, and the newlywedded couple decided to come down and homestead, making this their first home. They left for the Florida wilderness on the first day of their honeymoon, taking the bride's mother, Mrs. Caroline Brown, a widow, with them.
The party traveled by train, then by steamer to Sanford, and from there by row boat down the St. Johns River to the landing at Salt Lake.
While their little log cabin near the lake was being built, they were the guests of the Colemans and the Feasters. Soon their home was ready, but because of the many wild animals roaming about, Mr. Gruber and a friend had to take turns guarding the cabin, until the doors were made secure.
The Indians, living in the vicinity were quite friendly. They bartered with the settlers, offering wild meats.
As their family increased, the Grubers built a larger home near Christmas Hills and homesteaded there awhile. Still later another home was built where Walter for trinkets of jewelry or what-have-you. In fact, an Indian squaw delivered the Gruber's first born child, as there was no doctor.
Carpenter presently has a home on Old Dixie.
Nine children were born to the Grubers. Only the youngest, Mrs. Marion Barnhart, and the eldest, Mrs. Annie B. Griggs, are still living.
Another early settler was Andrew Fresher who was born in Germany in 1844. On his voyage to America, he met Count Frederick DeBary a nobleman of Belgian birth. Mr. Frosher settled first in Poughkeepsie, New York, teaching college German, and DeBary settled in Enterprise. Remembering that Mr. Frosher had the reputation of being an excellent cabinet-maker, DeBary asked him to come down to supervise the building of his very impressive hunting lodge overlooking Lake Monroe.
While working for the Count, Frosher had heard many stories concerning the Indian River section, and decided one Sunday to come over and see for himself. As he came down the sand road to LaGrange, he noticed how the neighbors had gathered to one porch as was customary on Sundays in those early days of the settlement. He saw several very lovely young ladies sitting on the porch and stopped to talk with them.
It wasn't long before he became infatuated with two of them ... Miss Faber of City Point and Miss Levenia Fester. He couldn't make up his mind which one he liked better as they were both so very pretty. After a time he decided in favor of Miss Feaster; as Miss Faber, he thought, talked too much.
There was a courting period and soon they were married. Following the ceremony they lived in the DeBary Lodge, a very beautiful place. The new Mrs. Frosher, not being used to entertaining, became extremely unhappy because of the social demands made upon her. Out of consideration for his wife, Andrew Frosher returned to LaGrange, settling in the house now owned by Homer Conkling on Old Dixie Highway.
Mrs. Ed Miller of Indian River City is one of the Frosher's surviving children.
Like Mr. Frosher, George Franklin Duren first settled in Enterprise. There he clerked in a store and served as a mailman. He later came to LaGrange and married Julia Alice Feaster on October 2, 1888. Mrs. Ira Nobles is a daughter and Mrs. Warren Bumpus, a grand-daughter of this couple. Before they were married, Mr. Duren had constructed a home for himself and his new bride. This home is where Mrs. Ira Noble presently resides.
Dr. Benjamin R. Wilson was born in Gainesville, Alabama, in 1837. He served as a surveyor in the Confederate Army.
Near the end of the Civil War his health began to fail and he felt that a warmer climate would be more suitable for him. In 1866, he came to the area to operate a saw mill, but realizing the dire need for a doctor, he decided to re-open his practice. By this time Titusville had developed into a trading post.
Dr. Wilson married Ethland B. Feaster, who came to LaGrange in 1875 from Paris, France, where she had spent three years for a finishing school education. They met while she was visiting in LaGrange with her father, Jacob N. Feaster, an early pioneer.
Dr. and Mrs. Wilson lived in LaGrange for many years, and moved to Titusville in 1888. Their home is now owned and occupied by Mrs. Leah Evans. The Wilsons were the parents of Mrs. Ethel Battle of Brevard Avenue.
In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Wilson was active in civic affairs, serving as County Judge and a long-time mayor of Titusville.
Another fine doctor was Dr. George Washington Holmes, who settled in City Point in 1875. He made many calls on the sick in this area. The home in which Mrs. Mary Scobie, his daughter, was born is located in City Point.
Dr. Holmes traveled to patients by horse and buggy. When going on calls on 'The Islan', however, he would cross in a boat. And on more than one occasion he was met by a Mr. Godby, who took him to the patient by horse and buggy. This required sever al hours.
Dr. Holmes' remedies were simple, but effective. Some of his patients would laugh at his instructions, but when he served in England during an epidemic there, it was found that Dr. Holmes' remedies were the most effective. The good doctors always answered calls, and the patients paid with meat, groceries, or whatever they had. It was a hard life, but they thrived on doing good here and in surrounding areas.
Among the early LaGrange settlers were Tom Johnson, Sam McCrory, John W. Harvey, R. Singleton, W. P. Day, George Gardner and Ademar Brady; most of whom are mentioned later in this chapter.
LaGRANGE AND THE CIVIL WAR
The Confederates made the most of their scant numbers and supplies. Captains Ramon Canova and Adolphus Pacetti, who had sailed in and out of the littleknown inlets, bays, and bayous of the Florida coast, formed a fleet of small schooners and successfully eluded the Federal Blockade. Under a cloak of darkness, cotton from the large plantations west of the St. Johns River was ferried across to Palatka. It was then loaded in oxcarts and carried to New Smyrna or another near-by port, for shipment aboard schooners to Nassau or Cuba. At least two small steamers, the "Hattie Brock' and the 'James Burt', carried cotton up the St. Johns to Lake Harney. From there it was carted to Titusville and taken to the coast for shipment.
Contraband goods such as coffee and cotton were stored under a house in LaGrange. This house has long since been destroyed by fire.
It has been said that Sand Point was also a site used by the blockade runners, later, becoming a hideout for criminals.
Until some time in the early 1900's, the ruins of an old salt works used during the Civil War were still to be seen. It was located on the banks of the Indian River, in the vicinity of the causeway on Route 402. Legend has it that they used to boil down river water to get salt. One of the huge, old iron kettles was left there until it finally rusted away.
THE LaGRANGE CHURCH
The little LaGrange Church, a non-denominational church, is considered to be the mother of all Protestant Churches south of New Smyrna to Key West.
The story goes that "Uncle Tom" Johnson upon finding a few people in LaGrange, decided to settle mere. Many of the people couldn't read or write, so Mr. Johnson taught six pupils in his log cabin shop at nights. The students ranged in age from 6 to 46.
The original meeting house was built of logs in 1869. On Sunday the people in the surrounding areas gathered there for worship. As the early settlers were not all of the sa ne religion, the congregation was treated to religious beliefs from all denominations, In the beginning, however, the people worshipped together and "Uncle Tom" served as the leader.
The Sunday School was organized March 13, 1870. In 1872, the people grew tired of worshipping in a log house and built a two-story public building. The upper story was used both as a school house and for meetings. The lower floor was used for church gatherings. Lumber was sawed at a little sawmill near the present Arthur Dunn Airport.
In 1893, the building was reconstructed and remodeled into the one-story church it is today. The second floor was removed and new naterial was placed over the old planking inside and out.
The church was dedicated by Rev. W. N. Chaudoin, who later became the President of the Florida Baptist Convention. Chaudoin Hall at Stetson University was named for Him.
The names of the settlers who donated their time for the building of this church are inscribed on one of the church's stained-glass windows and include Jacob and J. C. Feaster, Tom Johnson, W. S. Norwood, B. J. Mims, Robert Singleton, and W. P. Day, along with the name of the Pastor, Rev. A. D. Cohen.
The furnishings within the church are simple and plain. There are 17 hand-made hardwood benches with reversible backs, and a small pulpit sits on a foothigh platform.
The structure itself reflects the early American simplicity, with a slender tower rising from the face of the church's center. There is a double entrance at the front and a single door at the rear of the church.
Mrs. Truman Taylor, who was a member of the LaGrange Church put her sentiments this way:
"The LaGrange Church has a personal appeal to me, for it was there that I attended church as a little girl. We had a two-seated surrey with fringe around the top and a team of horses. This was the general mode of travel."
"Our family was always invited to dinner after 'preaching'. Some of the homes I remember visiting were the Chaudoins, Johnsons, and Gardners."
" 'Uncle Tom' Johnson, as he was affectionately called, was the superintendent of the Sunday School for forty-seven years, and was also the song leader. There were no musical instruments when I attended. He would 'pitch' the tune, and all joined in the singing ... sometimes too high, sometimes too low. The hymn book had no musical notes . . . just printed lines as in a poem."
"Each Christmas, Mrs. Johnson would set up and decorate a Christmas tree, which was placed on the raised platform. She had a hand- made gift for each person in the settlement and had extras on hand for unexpected visitors."
"In Sunday School the teacher would sit on a bench and reverse the back of the bench in front of her, so that the pupils sat facing the teacher."
"Most of the funerals for Mims settlers were held in the little Church and I attended most of them. I also attended the wedding of Annie Chaudoin, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R. R. Chaudoin and grand-daughter to "Uncle Tom" Johnson, when she married Cecil Crissey. Mrs. R. R. Chaudoin and Bert Johnson were children of "Uncle Tom" Johnson".
In the early days, the settlement north of Titusville was known as Mims City, and was settled about the same time as LaGrange.
At one time the entire area of present-day Mims was owned by the Mims family, with the exception of two parcels of land. These were the China property where the Mims Elementary School now stands and the Phil Roberts' parcel.
When the population of Mims City included 10 children of school age, the Board of Education erected a one-room school house. The land was donated by Mr. Mims and was located just across the street from the Methodist Church. The first teacher was Miss Susie Brown, and later Mrs. Ademar Brady taught there. The school Susie Brown taught was rated the best in the entire county.
The school was built high above the ground. Underneath wild hogs wandered. The school became so badly infested with fleas from the hogs, that they decided to pile straw under the building and set a smoldering fire to smoke the fleas out. They piled the straw under the building, set the fire, and within a few minutes not only the fleas, but building, books and all were completely destroyed.
Mrs. Truman Taylor's grandparents came to Mims in 1885, and built the first grocery and dry goods store. C. N. Mims was the first express and freight agent.
The house known in later years as the "Bevil House" . was originally called "The Hiawatha Hotel". It also served as the Miins'. residence. This building, too, was built high off the ground because frequently the water would rise, flooding everything. Children used to jump from the porch into the high water. The people, especially the children, found fun under the most difficult handicaps.
NORTH MERRITT ISLAND
Life on the 'Island' was primitive, the insects were almost intolerable, but the air was clean and each settler was master of his own kingdom. There was food to be had from the land and an abundance of fish from ponds, rivers and the ocean. There were wild hogs, stray cattle and small game such as squirrel, rabbit, quail and duck. With little effort, food was available.
To brighten their lives socially, the people held square dances, fish fries and picnics in season.
Life was very simple. Each had his own problem, and worked on it. There was no lawlessness. People never locked their doors. They could go away for days and weeks at a time, and things would remain unchanged. Taxes were almost unheard of.
Almost everyone on the 'Island' was a homesteader, acquiring the land from the Government by grant after fulfilling certain requirements, such as clearing and sowing a stipulated amount of acreage and living on the land for a certain period of time.
THE TITUSVILLE NEGRO COMMUNITY
Among the first Negroes to settle in Titusville was Mr. Andrew J. Gibson. He was born in Augusta, Georgia, and was a slave during the pre-Civil War years. After the Civil War, Andrew Gibson and his brother Edward moved to Thomasville, Georgia, and later to Monticello, Florida, where they lived until 1869. In that year, they both moved to Rockledge. Andrew Gibson returned to Monticello in 1872, where he farmed for a few years. He married Miss Miley Macon in 1873 and came to Titusville three years later, making it his home.
Although not verifiable, the first Negro Development appears to have begun on Merritt Island near Wilson. Homes were constructed out of large palmetto fronds attached to a pine wood frame. This was how many of the earliest settlers both white and negro built their shelters. Life was simple, living in a palmetto shack and cooking outdoors over a fire on the ground. The diet consisted of fruits and vegetables with all types of fish and meats of various game animals.
Among the early settlers was the family of Fred Campbell. Mr. Campbell was born on North Merritt Island when his family was still homesteading.
There were many Indians then who were very friendly. Often they would come to visit with the Negro families.
INDIAN RIVER CITY
Joseph DeLespine was personal physician to the King of Spain. In recognition of his professional and political service to his Majesty, the Spanish King granted a large amount of land to him.
Doctor DeLespine married Frances Fontaunet of st. Augustine. A daughter was born to them and they named her Frances after her mother. She married Christian Boye, who had come from Germany and they had two children, Mary and Frank Boye.
Mary Boye married Captain James Pritchard of the Confederate Army in Galveston, Texas, January 17, 1867, and moved to St. Louis County, Missouri, where D. B. Pritchard was born. Since Mary was heir to the Spanish Grant of her grandfather, they decided to move here in 1876. "Boud", as D. B. Pritchard was affectionately called, was only four years old when they came here.
The Grant extended from Titusville to Frontanec. Mary B. Pritchard's share was the present site of Indian River City. Her brother Frank Boye had an equal share. His home is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. H. Gard Shuler. It was the first poured concrete home in the entire area.
The Pritchards built a home where the B. F. Kelly residence now stands. It is one block north of Route 50 and was known as Pritchards Landing. Small boats would come in, but the larger river boats couldn't.
The Pritchard Family planted a grove west of their home and had a sugar cane patch and mill at Clark's Corner (Intersection of U.S. 1 and Route 50).
Visiting ministers would occasionally stop in and conduct services on their travels up and down the Indian River.
About ten or twelve families followed the Pritchards down. They planted groves. And all went well until the big freeze in 1885. The' freeze nearly wiped au t the entire settlement. Everyone became discouraged and went back north, except Frank Boye and the Pritchards, who later moved to Titusville.
THE PRITCHARD HOME
In 1891, when there was nothing in the area but scrub oak ana palmettos, the Pritchard family built a house which has become a Titusville landmark.
The house is of northern architecture and was built for Captain and Mrs. James Pritchard. It is located on Washington Avenue and Palm Street. There were but few homes here, and one could see only the Wager Place down on the river.
Mr. P. J. Hall was the contractor. The building materials came by boat down the St. John's River to Enterprise and from there overland by means of a wagon and team. It took a long time to build and the house is well constructed.
The manner in which the house is designed makes it comfortable all year round. It is, as it stands, a museum of Titusville's past, a monument worth preserving. Much of the massive, ornate furniture enjoyed by the Pritchard family for generations was brought over the same route used to bring the building materials.
The D. B. Pritchards were married in May, 1913. and made their home with his parents, Captain and Mrs. Pritchard. Mrs. D. B. Pritchard has lived in this quaint house ever since.
Down on the river behind the beautiful Jess Parrish Memorial Hospital is what was known as Pace's Landing. In addition to the few houses and Major Pace's store, there was a drug store kept by a man known as 'Seymour'. This small community was built on low ground and dared to think that they would one day outgrow Titusville. What ever happened to Pace's Landing? A hurricane swept it almost out of existence.