North Brevard History - Titusville, Florida
By Michael Knight
Foot TravelTransportation throughout the Indian River Country has evolved through many different methods over the years. The method used by the early inhabitants was foot trails through the woods. The trails were usually located near the shoreline, while near the Indian River, to help in location recognition. Other trails took off overland and connected to other peoples and communities after leaving the Indian River. But the limiting factor was that these trails were narrow, sometimes through heavily wooded areas and usually consisted of sand and mud and was best traveled on foot.
SteamboatsWhen the steamboats first started service on the St Johns River, and especially during the post Civil War time period, they ran from the Jacksonville wharves to Jacob Brock's wharf at Enterprise, FL on the north shore of Lake Monroe. These were longer, wider and deeper steamboats and found easy passage on the St Johns River along this route because of wide sections, longer radius bends and adequate depths all the way to Lake Monroe. After leaving Lake Monroe, the St Johns became narrower, had smaller radius turns, heavy vegetation and shallower depths.
At Enterprise the passengers and cargo were transferred to smaller, narrower, shallower draft steamboats that were used to make the journey from Enterprise to Salt Lake landing where passengers and cargo were offloaded that serviced Titusville traffic, Rockledge landing that serviced the Rockledge area traffic and further south to Lake Washington landing that serviced the Eau Gallie and Melbourne traffic.
Overland Mule Teams
Hand-Hauled Boats from Salt Lake landingFamily stories from the Kittles family indicate that canals were dug from the steamboat landing site at Salt Lake eastward to South Lake and using small boats, goods were hand-hauled through those canals from Salt Lake landing to South Lake. Mule drawn wagons were used to haul goods from the east shore of South Lake to Titusville. The canals are all grown over today and are not recognizable on the landscape but there are remnants remaining of the dock pilings on South Lake.
RailroadsIn 1876, a 7 mile stretch of railroad with mule drawn cars was built by the St Johns and Indian River Railroad Company to make the connection from Salt Lake landing to Titusville. Later on, the track was extended from Salt Lake landing another 5 miles to the landing at Lake Harney.
Rockledge had a short 3 mile overland transportation system built to deliver passengers and goods between Rockledge landing and Rockledge. This is what the Rockledge landing looked like. Salt Lake landing near Titusville looked similar.
The steamboats would arrive at the landing where passengers and goods were offloaded onto mule drawn wagons that had been driven out into the edge of the lake. There was no pier or dock to offload on at the landing. It was a little tricky but people had to make do with what they had.
Rockledge had proposed a short 3 mile stretch of railroad from Poinsett landing to Rockledge but the 3 mile distance by mule and buggy teams proved to be less costly than the railroad was estimated to have cost, so the railroad was never built.
In 1881 a plan by the Palatka & Indian River Railroad Company was originated for a railroad to be built southward from Buffalo Bluff (near Palatka) to Tampa. The same plan called for a spur line railroad to be built from Enterprise, on the north shore of Lake Monroe to Titusville on the Indian River. Road grading began in 1882.
In 1883, W.B Watson, manager of the DeBary Steamship Line, predicted that the 35 mile stretch of railroad from Enterprise to Titusville would be completed within 18 months. Watson and the DeBary Steamship Line purchased the project from the Palatka & Indian River Railroad Company and offered to guarantee the first three years of interest on bonds issued for this purpose. With this, the Atlantic Coast, St Johns & Indian River Railroad Co.was chartered in 1883. The company announced it would build the railroad and have trains arriving in Titusville by 01 Jan 1886 if the residents would subscribe $30,000 in cash or land.
The expectation of having a railroad from Enterprise to Titusville was exciting, and the residents of the Indian River communities anxiously formed a subscription committee and almost immediately raised pledges for the $30,000 of subscriptions.
Road construction began with 300 workers clearing right-of-ways, grading, building bridges and laying track by early summer. To meet the deadline, more workers were needed and the pay was increased to $1.25 per day. More workers were hired and by late August 1885 grading had been completed within four miles of the LaGrange store and track continued to be laid at the rate of a mile per day.
On 27 Dec 1885 the first train from Enterprise entered Brevard County and continued on into Titusville ending at Washington Avenue with whistles blowing, cannons firing and fireworks exploding. Everyone was satisfied, the deadline had been met and the subscribers had made good on the $30,000 worth of pledges.
In late January 1886, the Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West Railroad Co. leased the newly completed Atlantic Coast, St Johns & Indian River Railroad Co. railroad and operated it as a branch of the JT&KW Railroad Co. The JT&KW Railroad Co. built a 1500 ft. dock than ran into the Indian River at the east end of Broad St. and laid track on it so the trains could connect with the soon-to-be company operated steamboats that would steam up and down the Indian River.
With the completion of the railroad from Jacksonville to Tampa in 1886, and the completion of the connecting railroad from Enterprise to Titusville in 1885, Titusville became the transportation center of the Indian River for the next ten years. It was also the beginning of the golden age of steam boating on the river when the waterborn extension of the JTKW was formed as the Indian River Steamboat Co. in 1886.
When Henry Flagler decided to lay new track south of Daytona, he did it with great determination. By the fall of 1892, his rails were approaching Brevard County. In preparation for the new track, the rail baron assigned 1500 men to cut a somewhat curvy route through dense pines and palmettos along Brevard's lagoon. With the Indian River in sight, he renamed his line the Jacksonville, St Augustine and Indian River Railway. After a visit to north Brevard, Flagler made tentative plans for a luxurious waterfront hotel along Titusville's Sand Point. The property owners, Lewis A. Coleman and Thomas G. Knight heard of Flagler's interest and tried to strong-arm the old tycoon. Not accustomed to competition, Flagler moved on to the deserted Palm Beach area where he selected acreage for his hotel at a more reasonable price.
As the railroad progressed, a number of towns received spur lines that veered toward wharfs on the Indian River Lagoon. The track reached Titusville in January of 1893, and by July, Eau Gallies spur was completed and receiving pineapples for shipment to Jacksonville.
Flagler completed his track along Brevard's Indian River Lagoon, a total of 115 miles, by March 1894. The following year, 1895, he shortened the name of his railroad to The Florida East Coast Railway.
Just south of Titusville, the old FEC Railroad beds lie hidden behind a scant layer of pines and oaks along the edge of Addison Point, just west of the Old Dixie Highway (North and South of the NASA Causeway).
Pictures of what the abandoned FEC Railroad beds look like today
ROADS & HIGHWAYSThe early days of the automobile proved to be quite an adventure when traveling from place to place in Florida. My grandparents, my father and two of my uncles moved from Lake City, South Carolina to Titusville, Florida in 1912. They told stories about the pine needle covered sand roads they encountered when they got into Florida. I bet they had to get local farmers along the way to extricate them from the deep sand many times before they arrived in Titusville.
The Dixie Highway: In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Bankhead Act, which pumped $75 million of federal money into the idea. This was the beginning of the U.S. highway system we know today. As that system grew, older blazed trails like the Dixie and Lincoln Highways were absorbed into it. Soon, the name "Dixie Highway" was only used locally on certain segments of the original route, usually with "Old" in front of it. The name "Dixie Highway" also lived on in the names of businesses like the "Dixie Highway Garage" or the "Dixie Highway Inn" that sought to link themselves to the novelty of the new road.
INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEMThe Interstate Highway System is a network of controlled access highways that forms a part of the National Highway System of the United States. The system is named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower who championed its formation. Construction was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 and the original portion was completed 35 years later, although some urban routes were cancelled and never built. The network has since been extended and, as of 2013, it had a total length of 47,856 miles. I-95 is the leg of the interstate system serving Brevard County.
AIR TRAVELSince early in the 20th century, air travel has certainly made travel for goods and passengers to and from the Indian River Country a viable method.
SPACE TRAVELAll of the discussion above has involved travel on the face of the earth, but we also must include space travel here and isn't it ironic that the launch pad locations for all of the U.S. manned space flight launches are located on the Florida coast approximately where Christopher Columbus first sighted land in North America.