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Area History

Southern Brevard County in Florida has a rich and fascinating history! Learn about the history of our area.

Early History

The first Paleoindians arrived in the area near Brevard county between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago. The Paleoindians were semi-nomadic people who lived in smaller groups. At the time, the earth was going through its most recent ice age and the climate of the area was much different than it is now; it was similar to that of Great Britain today. The area which today is Brevard County was probably not coastal at this period in time. The coast of Florida was about 100 miles wider and the Indian River was simply a lower point on dry land. After a few thousand years, perhaps by around 3000 B.C., peninsular Florida resembled the land of today; in shape, climate, fauna, and flora.
Spanish Explorer: Juan Ponce de León
The Ais and the Jaega were the dominant tribes in the area when Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León arrived at the shores near Melbourne Beach in 1513. There were about 10,000 of these natives in the area. Heavy mosquito infestation and the threat of Indian attacks kept the area from having any permanent white settlements. The Spanish quickly left the area, but left a deadly reminder of their visit: European diseases. Within 200 years, almost the entire precolumbian population of Florida had died out. Creek Indians from the north quickly swept down from Georgia and the Carolinas to fill the void. These Indians became known as the Seminole. Their activity in Brevard County was intermittent and usually not permanent.
18th Century History
Throughout the 18th century, the great European powers Spain, Great Britain and France vied for power in Florida. In contrast to today, where living in Florida means comfort and the “good life” to many people, Florida in the 18th century was seen as a hostile place with dangerous fauna such as poisonous snakes, alligators and panthers. Death by malaria was a possibility and death at the hands of angry Indians seemed even more likely. After being under Spanish, French, British, and then Spanish rule again, Florida finally became a United States territory and, in 1845, the 27th state of the Union.

During the 19th century, the state of Florida was constantly changing the names and borders of counties. Indeed, St. Lucia County was split off from Mosquito (later Orange) County in 1844. St. Lucia County was renamed Brevard County in 1856, but this “Brevard County” contained very little of present day Brevard County. Most of present day Brevard north of Melbourne was part of either Volusia or Orange counties. Brevard County in 1856 extended as far west as Polk County and as far south as coastal Broward County. Complicating the discussion of Brevard County in the 19th century is that an early county seat was located at (Port) St. Lucie, which took its name from the original county name and was eventually split off from Brevard to form a new county, St. Lucie County in 1905. Gradually, the borders of Brevard County were shifted northward while the county got “pinched” eastward. The portions of Brevard County in present day Broward and Palm Beach counties were given to Dade County, western areas of the county were given to Polk and Osceola County, and parts of Volusia and Orange Counties were given to Brevard including the eventual county seat of Titusville. Later, the southern portion of the county was be cut off to form St. Lucie County (which later spawned Martin and Indian River counties).

The first permanent settlement in present day Brevard was established near Cape Canaveral in 1848. By the 1880s, the cities along the Indian River included Melbourne, Eau Gallie, Titusville, Rockledge, and Cocoa. Unlike cities further inland in Florida, these cities did not have to rely as heavily on roads. The primary way of transversing the county was by water.

20th Century History
The advent of the automobile age brought even more growth to Brevard County as resorts and hotels popped up all around the county. The first major land boom began in the 1920s with the end of World War I. People flooded into the state of Florida as land prices soared, only to bust as the Great Depression temporarily stopped growth in Florida. Before the start of World War II, the largest industries in Brevard were commercial fishing, citrus, and tourism. In 1940, the Naval Air Station Banana River (now Patrick Air Force Base) was built. This began a new era in the development of Brevard County. Later, in the late 50s, the Long Range Proving Ground was opened. This later became the Kennedy Space Center. This changed the entire complexion of the county; where Brevard had once been considered a “backwoods” area of Florida, it instantly became the launching pad into outer space.

As a very long, but not very wide county, there had been a lot of complaints from people in the southern, more populous side of the county about being so distant from the county seat. A trip to conduct county business in Titusville was 50 miles from the most populous city in the county, Palm Bay. There was talk of secession on the southern end of the county, and the county decided to build a new county administration complex at Viera near the geographical center of the county. This complex was started in 1989, and resulted in a counter-threat of secession from the Titusville end of the county. This proposal to form a new county, Playalinda County, had some momentum in the early 1990s. The county government made a few concessions to the people in the northern part of the county, and agreed not to officially move the county seat. Viera, however, is for all intents and purposes the de facto seat of Brevard County.

Malabar, Florida
The name “Malabar” comes from Malabar in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The Town of Malabar got its first official Post Office and name on December 24, 1883, when R. A. Ward was named Postmaster by President Chester A. Arthur. Two times a week the boat that traveled down the Intracoastal waterway from Jacksonville would deliver the mail to the palmetto shack post office along the riverbank at Malabar. The mail was dumped on the counter for the population of 25 to shuffle through. With the coming of the railroad in 1893 the mail boat was no longer needed. The Town of Malabar was incorporated in 1962.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the Town has a total area of 13.2 square miles, with 10.6 square miles on land and 2.6 square miles on water. As of the census of 2000, the population of Malabar was 2,622.

Palm Bay, Florida

Palm Bay’s recent history began in the 1850s when the first European settlers built homes along Turkey Creek. Originally referred to as Tillman, the settlement was described as a “small strip of hammock…on each side of Turkey Creek…mostly pine and palmetto, miserable sandy barren oak scrub, some ponds and interspersed with sawgrass and gallberry.” By the mid-nineteenth century, there was a lumbering operation, packing house, and orange groves.

Between 1910 and 1914, Tillman became the center for a land company known as the Indian River Catholic Colony. Attempting to grow two crops a season, farmers quickly depleted the soil, and the colony failed. Those remaining built St. Joseph’s Church on Miller Street, the oldest building still standing.

In the 1920s, the city was renamed after the bay bordered with sabal palm trees known as Palm Bay located at the mouth of Turkey Creek.

In 1959, General Development Corporation purchased and platted extensive tracts of land in Palm Bay for its large residential project known as Port Malabar. The city incorporated itself on January 16, 1960.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 66.75 square miles, of which 63.65 square miles is land and 3.1 square miles is water. As of the 2010 census, the population of Palm Bay was 103,190.

Grant Valkaria, Florida

Grant Valkaria was incorporated as a town on July 25, 2006 by joining the two previously unincorporated communities of Grant and Valkaria. The community of Grant was originally established in 1925, and has a history as a fishing village, with agriculture also a part of both communities’ histories. The community name of Valkaria derives from Valkyrie, a warrior-maiden of Norse mythology. A largely rural town, Grant Valkaria includes older homes, newer homes on acre-plus lots and the county owned Habitat Golf Course, a 6,836 yards, par-72 course set near the Valkaria Airport.

The town has held the Grant Seafood Festival every year on the last weekend of February since 1966. In 1968, then U.S. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey visited the Seafood Festival while campaigning for his 1968 presidential bid. The proceeds go towards college scholarships for local children, as well as summer break activities for the community’s children. The town also features the historic Bensen House (1916 House).

Barefoot Bay / Micco, Florida
 Micco is a census-designated place (CDP) in southern Brevard County. According to the United States Census Bureau, Micco has a total area of 9.7 square miles, of which 9.4 square miles is land and 0.3 square miles is water. As of the census of 2000, the population was 9,498, including Barefoot Bay, an unincorporated community and Recreation District, and the Little Hollywood subdivision.
Map Brevard County