Titusville, Florida Centennial — 1867-1967
Colonel Henry T. TitusCon troversy completely surrounds our founder, Col. Titus, beginning with the date of his birth. Col. Henry T. Titus was born on February 13, 1823, in Trenton, New Jersey, according to the inscription on his tombstone in LaGrange Cemetery. However, the date 1822 is found on one of the beautiful stained-glass memorial windows in St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church. Still another source gives the year of his birth as 1815.
Col. Titus has been called a soldier of fortune by some and a national character by others. Concerning his adventures before the founding of Titusville we find that he had opposed John Brown of abolition fame in the days of Bleeding Kansas (1854). The Colonel was reputed to be in favor of slavery. He served with Earl William Walker in Nicaragua (1854- 1860) as Walker's Adjutant. He also served as an Adjutant General in Pennsylvania and acquired the title of Colonel which he used from then on.
Henry Titus married Mary Hopkins, daughter of Edward Hopkins, a wealthy and prominent planter of Darien, Georgia. Mr. Hopkins moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1853. There he had an active political career, serving as a member of the legislature, as Mayor and collector of customs for that city. He also had an unsuccessful try for Governorship. Our Hopkins Avenue was named in honor of Mary Hopkins Titus.
As the actual date of his birth varies, so also do the stories concerning Titus' arrival here. One story holds that "Titusville was settled by and named for Captain Henry Titus, who came with his family to that site in the 70's." "In 1870, Henry T. Titus," another story relates, "was forced to land here because he was shipwrecked." Still another asks, "Why did Col. Titus select here?" hinting at mystery.
Much has been written about Col. Titus and many of the tales are uncomplimentary. Despite this, the Colonel appears to have had a good side to his character. He donated generous areas of land for our churches and for civic use. To his credit, the land on which St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church and the Courthouse are built were given by the Colonel.
It was principally due to Titus' efforts on behalf of his community that Titusville became the County seat in 1880. (Another source states that 1879 is the correct date for this event.)
Col. and Mrs. Titus operated the Titus House. Legend claims that he would sit on the balcony of the Titus House with a gun across his lap. However, one person says, "I never knew of him taking a shot· at anyone."
Dr. Holmes wrote: "In the winter of 1874 and 1875, I went to Titusville. Its name had just been changed from Sand Point. Much of the mail still was addressed to Sand Point. Col. Titus himself was postmaster and had had the 'name changed to Titusville. While there were only a few people, some did not want it named after him. The principal part of the town was near to the north of the City Wharf (Main Street). Col. Titus owned a hack that met boats at Salt Lake and Lake Harney."
He also wrote, "He had rheumatism and neuritis which necessitated that the Colonel be confined to a wheel chair much of the time. He was a public spirited man, and always striving to improve the town named after him."
Col. Titus built the "Titus House" in tropical style. It consisted of a large main building with two long wings, all one-story, that formed three sides of a square. Within the walls was a garden. These long wings later became part of the Dixie Hotel. Rates in 1875 were $3 a day.
Col. Titus and his wife kept an excellent hotel building in the two one-story sections. The southeast corner of one wing was always kept ready for Captain Mills O. Burnham, lighthouse keeper of Canaveral. He frequently visited Titusville in his famous sailboat, the "Osceola". It was quite an event when the Captain arrived with his jolly crew.
Col. Titus gave the land on which our county buildings stand, but stipulated they be used only for county or public purposes. In this way he sought to firmly anchor the county seat in Titusville. It was considered his crowning achievement for the community to be made the county seat of Brevard County in 1880.
The Tituses had two pretty daughters, Kate and Minnie, and six sons. Minnie later married George Ensey and resided at "Tropic" on a beautiful place appropriately known as "Two Rivers" situated between the Indian and Banana Rivers.
The Mr. Ensey of Merritt Island is a grandson of Col. Titus. Mr. Ensey's mother was Col. Titus' pretty daughter Minnie Titus. Mr. J. Titus Hodgskin of Orlando is also a descendant of Col. Titus. Mr Hodgsklrr's paternal grandmother was a Titus of Trenton, New Jersey.
Col. Titus once wrote "Titusville is the grand center of all trade and will so continue to be. Her motto is to live and let live." Four days after these words appeared in print, on Sunday, August 7, 1881, Colonel Titus died.
On August 16, 1881, the "Tallahassee Floridian" made this comment, "There are few men more widely known in this state than was the deceased gentleman."