Titusville, Florida Centennial — 1867-1967
Most of the stores were located in LaGrange in the very early days. The famous Brady Grocery Store opened there, later moving to Titusville. It's last location was where the Bryan, Conway and Winstead offices now stand. This building, as well as many others jn the downtown area, were remodeled in the 1950's by Mr. Charles A. Heller.
Mr. George Duren opened his first grocery store in the present Ford Garage. Next he and his brotherin-law, Arthur Feaster, ran a store now occupied by the F&s Department Store.
When Miami was being established, Mr. Duren like many of the other local men went down, only to run in a short time. He opened another store where Duff's Loan Company was located. His final address of business was along Washington Avenue in the heart of downtown Titusville. Mr. Duren had a very fine meat market business and served the public well for many years.
Down along the Indian River between Broad and Main Streets was the Lorillard Boat Building. This was the Lorillard of the ronowried tocacco industry, "P. Lorillard Company"
Ellis B. Wager owned the first store and printing office in Titusville. He was later joined in the merchandising field by Mr. Joyner. Mr. Wager's home is located on the northeast corner of Indian River Avenue and South Street and was also the early location of the store. At one time this section was known as "Wager's Addition", while just across the street was "Joynerville". The second floor of the Wager home was used for some time as an opera house where the community gathered for dances.
Mr. Frederick A. Losley, father of Mrs. Leah Evans and Leland Losley, operated a saloon where Wisby Jewelers was located. Mr. Duren's meat market was located next door to him, on the north.
At this time, Washington Avenue was a dirt road. The local citizens used to pump water and throw it on the street to control the dust. Later, shell streets were constructed and cows roamed about downtown.
Mr. Losley's father came from Switzerland and built the Alpine Hotel, where he lived and rented rooms. It looks much the same now as it did when he built it.
Captain Nelson built his boat ways upon the present site of the Burger King on Washington Avenue. He hauled coquina rock in his boats from Haulover to use for filling.
Mr. Andrew J. Gibson opened the first restaurant in Titusville where members of both races enjoyed meals. For many years he was a barber and ran a shoe repair shop.
The first newspaper to be published in Titusville was the Florida Star under the auspices of Harmon and Feaster. During its first year, the paper was turned over to the father and son team of E. P. and E. B. Wager. It made its first appearance on September 29,1880 and was published every Wednesday for many years. Later another newspaper, "The East Coast Advocate", was introduced into the Titusville area, published by the law firm of Robbins & Graham, with Charles B. Walton as their successor in ownership. The Titusville Star-Advocate is their combined descendant.
Among the other business which were established very early in Titusville's history are: Real Estate Agents: Pritchard and Sweet, Robbins and Graham; Storekeepers: Sam McCrory, John Norwood, and George Humph; Hardware: Frank P. Budge and part-ner ; lawyers: George M. Robbins, Judge Minor S. Jones; Drugstores: J. M. Dixon, Mr. Epson, and 'Seymour' of Pace's Landing; Surveyors: Frank Hartford, J. Frances LeBarron; Saw Mills: Robert Ransom and John E. Inig ; Grocer: J. T. Reed.
Annually, Titusville celebrated "Market Days". There were booths for fruits and vegetables, as well as all kinds of attractions.
One of the attractions was a drill performed by 34 young ladies. A piano was brought out on the sidewalk for the drill. All of the young ladies wore paper dresses representing various fruits, vegetables and flowers, and prizes were offered. One of the winners was Miss Lorraine Wright, daughter of P. H. Wright, tax assessor for many years. She was dressed as an ear of corn. The mothers would make their dresses. Mrs. D. B. Pritchard coached the dancers.
It is said that one seldom saw a bill under $10, sometimes a few fives, but that silver money was the chief medium of exchange. There were no banks nearer than Jacksonville. Often after a winter's stay, tourists would pay with "a good-sized" check. These checks would circulate up and down as currency for many months before they were finally received by the banks upon which they were drawn, and were so full of endorsements they couldn't hold any more.
In 1888 Capt. James Pritchard founded and became the first president of the Indian River State Bank. It served Titusville for many years. The building is now owned by C. B. Davis of Orlando, and was the home of Cutter's Drugstore.
Andrew Frosher was a cabinet maker by trade. Because of this, he was called upon from time to time to make coffins as _they were needed. Later he studied to be a mortician and was the only one practicing between here and Miami. He went by boat to Miami with boxes for funerals there. His first location was in Titusville.
Mr. J. E. Koon bought Frosher's business in 1921. Two others had owned it before and the business is now operated by E. A. Smith.
Along with the income from the citrus industry, was that derived from commercial fishing. One of the earliest and largest operations of this industry was owned by Mr. George W. Scobie, Sr., who sailed from New Haven to Titusville in 1882.
When the Railroad came, it so advanced the progress of commercial fishing that in 1895, it was described as a factor in the fish supply of the United States. Nineteen firms maintained headquarters from Titusville to Stuart.
The Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railroad, known as the JT and KW, ran a branch line from ; Enterprise to Titusville, a spur of the nain line from , Jacksonville to Tampa. The railroad connected us with the inland center of steamboat and railroad traffic. It was a happy day when this was achieved in 1885. Whistles were blown and bells rang out the good news.
Its tracks ran down the center of Broad Street to the river, where a long dock was built. Here steamers received freight and passengers from the trains, and the railroad received their exchange.
Along various streets in the city, the tracks of the JT and KW formed a 'Y'. It was called the 'Y' because of the manner in which the train would turn itself around: It would go one way, then back up and go another, thus turning the train in a westerly direction, ready for its return trip to Enterprise in the morning.
The children would meet the train as it came in and after the unloading of passengers, were allowed to "make the 'Y' " on occasion. Well-behaved, they would sit back in beautiful, red, plushy seats and think they were on top of the world. Many of them had never ridden on a train before.
Steamboats were enjoying a- thriving business until the construction of the Flagler Railroad south. The competition was too great, however, and put an end to the steamship industry.
The depot for the JT and KW stood about where the Baldwin Shopping Center is located. Not far away was the Grand View Hotel, which catered to travelers using the steamers and railroad. However, when the Flagler Railroad was completed, the steamers no longer operated and the trains no longer laid over. Tourists began using this shorter route and the Grand View Hotel died.
The steamer "Rockledge" piloted by Captain Richard P. Paddison, was put on the Indian River run and it was on this boat that President Cleveland and wife made a trip. They landed at an orange grove of Senator W. J. Hardee. Mrs. Cleveland, it is said, mounted a ladder, plucked a bunch of oranges and christened the tree "Cleveland". The "Rockledge" later became a floating hotel on the lower Florida coast.
Sometime in the 1890's Titusville missed a golden opportunity for rapid advancement. Henry M. Flagler, the railroad magnate, wanted to pour millions of dollars into making Titusville a magnificent resort. The land he wanted to develop was located in north Titusville, and contained approximately 67 acres. The owner realizing how badly Flagler wanted to buy his property demanded an exorbitant price for the tract. The irate Flagler decided to pass up Titusville, taking his blueprints to the Palm Beaches instead. Several years I ater it was rumored that this same piece of property was offered to a New Yorker for $10 and was refused.
Robert Ransom, the first city clerk, wrote an article long ago in which he said, "From 1885 to 1894 Titusville was 'some pumpkin' and if we had had the right people in charge of affairs, we might have grown to be a very important town, as it was the junction point of railroads and steamers. And many new stores had come in."
When asked about this, one person remarked, "I think he was referring to Flagler." Another responded, "If he could only see Titusville now. We are making UP for lost time."
In the mid-1890's, Titusville" was struck by a cold wave. Because of the primitive methods used in forecasting weather, the Weather Bureau could not give any information regarding the speed in which the terrible cold wave was traveling. One day it was a balmy 79 degrees and in three short days the thermometer dropped to a little over 18 degrees.
The city's only weather information came from flags which Major F. M. Taylor flew from atop the Hotel Dixie.
One lady who was a little girl at this time tells the story: "I remember a large tank that was out in back of the old Grand View Hotel. It was dripping and leaking, and there were huge icicles hanging from the top down to the ground. That's the first time I ever saw anything like that."
" "It was a terrible freeze and just about destroyed all of the orange groves. The trees and their trunks just seemed to burst. The sap would rise in them and they would go off just like a gun shooting, and it was the orange trees popping." The Indian River area fared better than the rest of the state, but the losses ran into millions of dollars.
Mr. Wager wrote an editorial afterwards, saying, "The freeze will not dishearten the people of Florida. The faith of the State is as great as it ever was, and they have gone to work already to recover their lost ground."
This is not the same freeze which discouraged so many in the settling of Indian River City.
Titusville was growing and prosperous as it neared the turn of the century. However, two days before Christmas in the late 1900's, the major business section of the city was destroyed by a raging fire. The fire started along Washington Avenue between Julia and Main Street. A northwestern wind swiftly spread it. The former Citizen's Bank Building (now First Federal) was saved by a southwestern wind, pushing the fire to the north side of Main Street.
One resident recalls the fire as follows:
Most of the city's Christmas merchandise was destroyed and the losses were heavy, but the same spirit that existed before the fire prevailed, and the citizens went to work to build an even better Titusville.
Albion P. Gruber, son of Joseph and Sara Gruber, was responsible for getting the mails down to Florida's famous 'Barefoot Mailman'. With shoes on and aboard various steam-driven river boats, it was his job to bring the mails as far as the river extended, leaving the on-foot mailman to serve the tip of Florida. Gruber's uncle, M. E. Gruber, was a mail agent in Titusville, and his father was a freight office dispatcher. At an- early age Gruber began his training in the freight ticket office where he learned to dispatch messages via Morse Code.
With only about two years experience, he received a call from Washington asking him to replace a ship mail clerk on the "St. Lucie", whose route began at Melbourne and proceeded down to Jupiter. The man he replaced had just been fatally bitten by a rattlesnake.
At Melbourne, he was escorted aboard the steamship "Ibis", and shown his mail clerk's state room, situated next to the ship's galley. There he was left alone to sort the mails, which were stacked in ceiling-high piles, due to the three-day absence of his predecessor. It looked impossible, but bit by bit, letter by letter, he waded through the stack with at least enough sorted to exchange pouches with each intervening ship.
He had to work fast getting the mails ready before the steamer reached each of the little towns along the river, taking perhaps 15 to 20 minutes sailing time. It meant a constant succession of sorting mail, dispensing it by pouch, taking on more mail to sort and dispense by pouch at a further point.
There were no coffee breaks, no smoking room parley and no 5 o'clock quitting whistle ... just one constant stream of mail to be worked.
He would leave Melbourne promptly at 9 a.m. and arrive in Jupiter the next morning somewhere between 4 and 5 o'clock; There he could breakfast until 9 a.m. sailing time, to make it back to Melbourne by 5 or 6 the following morning.
There was little time for sleep or food. When he could find time, he'd "grab a plate of bully beef from the nearby galley". Occasionally he was free to climb up on the sorting table and, using a mail pouch for a pillow, "Catch a few winks". He had Sundays off. But it would take all morning to make out the duplicate reports on his weekly mail run. That left Sunday afternoon, and what did he do with this. time off? Take his girl rowing up the river, of course!
Soon he received his regular appointment, because of his efficient work and the joint recommendations of the Circuit Judge Minor S. Jones and Captain James Pritchard of the Indian River State Bank. Transferring at times to the ship "Ajax" from the "Ibis", he remained on the job for a little over five months, and finally resigned from sheer exhaustion.
Albion Gruber was the brother of Mrs. Marion Barnhart and Mrs. Annie Griggs.
TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION
Titusville was the center of Indian River transportation and the headquarters for supplies for the entire region two hundred miles to the south.
In the early days, to travel from Key West to Tallahassee, it was necessary to go by steamer to New York and then travel south by train to Tallahassee. The journey meant traveling 3,000 miles.
Early settlers came by boat to Enterprise and a route that brought most passengers was a hack line from Enterprise to Titusville. The trip covered about 42 miles and began in Enterprise at 6 a.m. ending in Titusville about 9 p.m., a total of about 15 hours. Writers say that every mile of the trip was fascinating even though not too comfortable. At times, the travelers found themselves waist-deep or ankle-deep in water. The half-way point of the trip was the town we know as Maytown. Here, they stopped for dinner and changed horses. There were two hotels, the Lund House and the Titus House to serve the travelers' needs when they reached Titusville. Both were crude, but they set "good tables."
Over this same route supplies were brought. Many pioneers were building then and their lumber Game by the same route as their household furniture. Later there was a tram road running to Salt Lake, a distance of about eight miles. When sufficient rain permitted, steamers would come to Salt Lake and the tram road to Titusville was used. Travel to Allenhurst on north Merritt Island was by barge.
Recently, when improvements were being made in the Titusville Cemetery, now known as Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery, traces of what was believed to be the old tram road were found.