Titusville, Florida Centennial — 1867-1967
RecreationAmerica's newest blue-water, big game fishing frontier for blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish is beckoning to offshore trolling buffs.
Deep waters off the Miracle Strip in extreme northwest Flortda offer one of the rare opportunities to tackle all three varieties of billtish on the same trip. In addition to bUllish, this section of the Gulf of Mexico also produces large quantities of huge dolphin and lightning-swift wahoo. Occasional catches also include broadbill swordfish, tuna, Atlantic spearfish, and makos.
Marine scientists sayan ocean current originating in the Caribbean and diverted close to the Miracle Strip by hydraulic pressures of the Mississippi has created one of the major gamefish junctions of the world roughly between the 100 and 1000 fathom lines. Both scientists and veteran sportfishermen have been effusive in their estimates of its potential.
Existence of a possible blue water bonanza located from 15 to 60 miles off the Flortda Panhandle was first revealed by the U.S. research vessel Oregon in 1958. Further studies under the Texas A & M Foundation confirmed that offshore big game species were abundant. Pioneering sport fishermen in private and charter boats proved the fishing could be spectacular on the right day.
Early fishing was sporadic and inconclusive. Few boats were designed or rigged for long offshore trips and most of the skippers lacked blue water experience.
But by 1965 some 15 charter craft at Panama City, Destin and Pensacola were geared for offshore work and running occasional trips to blue water.
First concrete proof the fishing was good as it was cracked up to be came during the 1966 season at Destin. A determined effort to document and tally every billfish catch was instituted. With an average of eight boats making one trip or more to blue water weekly, a total of 237 billfish were hoated including 28 blue marlin to 424-lb., 67 white marlin and 142 sailfish. (No effort was made to keep track of wholesale numbers of wahoo and heavy dolphin.) This during a five-month season extending from late May through late October, with fishing effort that would be considered spotty at established fishing ports.
Another revelation was the fact that the majority of these fish were hooked 20 miles or less offshore, a run of 1 ½ hours for the average fishing cruiser.
What should be the biggest blue water season yet on the Miracle Strip is approaching rapidly. At least 24 crack sportfishermen, most of them spanking new, will be ready for long offshore trips. Roughly 12 boats at Destin, eight at Panama City, and four at Pensacola will specialize in blue water, at daily charter rates ranging from $125 to $150. Their skippers, for the most part, are now seasoned campaigners. Having more boats on the grounds will surely help them to locate fish.
While the Strip's offshore fishery remains in the proving stage, those in the know are confident that the future can only produce better catches. The more fishermen, the merrier. Destin's noted fishing publicist, the late Leonard Hutchinson, predicted the Strip would become a second Acapulco. So why not come along and watch it happen?
FROLIC, FUN AND FOLLY
For amusement, there were dances. Mr. Ellis D. Wager played the piano and Mr. Robert Ransom played his "fiddle". One night at a dance someone soaped Mr. Ransom's bow tro:n end to end. When the time came to play, he couldn't make a sound as the bow glided silently over the fiddle strings.
These two gentlemen played for a dance on August 31, 1886, when the Charleston Earthquake gave Titusville quite a shaking. It didn't last long and only. a few dishes were broken and a few clocks stopped. Perhaps they thought the vibrations were from their music.
Then, there were real hay rides. The horses or mules carried a wagon load of straw and people. Afterwards, there were refreshments served at one of the homes. Everyone would have a good ti-ne. There were home parties, where games were played and music listened to and enjoyed. Refreshments, of course, were served.
Out near South Lake in the vicinity of Sharpes Dairy, was an old Indian Mound. It was here that many of the picnics were held. One person said ". .. and they'd have teams and straw on the wagons ... a hayride we'd call it. And sometimes those who had a few teams would take a bunch of us children over there. And we'd dig. We never found anything, but others have."
The second story of the Indian River State Bank, where in recent years many of the civic organizations have held their meetings, was the scene of many road shows. This part of the building was often referred to as "the opera house". Great stars of the day appeared there, such as the Pickett Sisters and the Coleburn Minstrels. The shows would come for a week and stage different performances each nlght.
In the opera house there was a portable stage and scenery, which could be removed for dances. The chairs, too, were portable. The equipment and stage props were stored and always well-eared-for. In fact, the chairs are still being used by the Pythian Sisters and are in the same condition as they were when Captain Pritchard donated them.
There was a band supported by the local merchants. It was called "The Indian River Band", under the direction of Mr. Frank Campbell. Regular rehearsals were held, and nearly every Saturday night, a concert was given from the balcony of the Duren Building. The stores stayed open late on Saturday nights and people would congregate and enjoy themselves. The population of Titusville at this time was between 1,200 to 1,500.
A band was always on hand at the City Park, now Blanton Park, on Sundays. Swings were set up in the large oak trees for the children. And people would bring picnic lunches. Often some club or organization made home-made ice cream and sold it. The band concerts were good and created real get-togethers for all of the people.
The only way to get to the beach in the early days, was by sailboat. 'If the wind wasn't blowing right, it would take most of the day to get there. From the mainland, families would go across the river and into what was called Alligator Creek, pulling in near the Coast Guard Station. They would anchor and walk up over the dunes to the beach. People often spent the night.
Tournament racing was a great sport. Along a prescribed course, men on ho-seback would race to take rings from posts with their lances. The winner was the one who had successfully obtained the most rings. This was a very popular sport and required great skill.
Boat races were popular, too. Participants included people from far and near. The men wore Bacyelor Brogans, palmetto hats, hickory shirts and almost any old thing for pants. The competition was keen, and at times most exciting.
Yacht racing came much later. The Indian River Yacht Club was the sponsoring organization, with its main building located on the river. This clubhouse was at the end of the Main Street pier. All of this was destroyed in a hurricane.
Football was popular in early Titusville, but because of the small number of students in school, it was necessary to make a few rule changes. "Jun" Beneke whose family were early settlers on North Merritt Island enjoyed football and loved to play. He was lmown as "The Paper Boy" because his helmet, which was far too large for him, was stuffed with paper. On several occasions, when the number of students present was not sufficient to make up a team, spectators in the grandstands were called upon to join the game.
HUNTING AND FISHING
Game was plentiful. For many years visiting hunters, some bringing their families, came regularly to enjoy this sport. The area seemed to abound in all sorts of wild animals, fowl and fish.
It was common to see great bevies of ducks and coot on the river. And as a sail boat approached them, the birds would rise like a dark cloud making a noise like cilistant thunder. They would leave the waters covered with feathers. Every home was amply supplied with feather beds and pillows.
Bears and even panthers were to be seen almost any week. There's a story that tells of a panther killing the calves and pigs of the early settlers. A hunting party was formed one night to track him down. This vicious animal was finally treed just west of Minis by a dozen hound dogs. One of the men held a lighted torch of pine, while the others gathered' around. The animal was wounded and suddenly sprang' from the tree falling upon the man carrying the torch, knocking him to the ground, and plunging the scene into total darkness. In the dark the hounds lunged at the panther. The rest of the men stumbled to the rescue of the torch-carrier who was in the middle of a real cat and dog fight. The hunters first pulled out dogs' legs, then the panther, and then the poor fellow who had been buried beneath the struggle.
The waters literally teemed with fish. After dark many of the local people would take a boat out on the river, put a lantern in the bottom of the boat and within a half an hour, enough mullet had jumped into the boat to supply the needs of the family and several neighbors for some time.
THE CANAVERAL CLUB
The Harvard Class of 1890 developed the Canaveral Club, which for many years stood across the lagoon from the Coast Guard Station on Titusvilie Beach. The building materials were brought down on barges to Salt Lake, then carried overland and loaded on boats hauling it over the river and through the lagoon to the building site.
The club was a winter resort for the vacationing blue bloods from New England and their guests. Their charter was to run until the last man in their class died.
Mr. John Johnston of LaGrange worked as a carpenter on the construction of the clubhouse. It contained rooms for members and guests. a trophy room, a well stocked wine cellar and an ammunition storeroom the size of a small arsenal. A swimming pool with a six foot high fence around it was built not too far from the clubhouse. Along the waterfront were several outbuildings in which the numerous servants lived and the variety of boats were docked.
It was agreed by the members that each would invite a guest to the clubhouse. If the guest was asked to return, however, all of the members had to approve. The Canaveral Club exemplified the life of the wealthy during the gay 90's period.