Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Light at Cape Canaveral


As light is a symbol of understanding and guidance, so a lighthouse is a symbol of an area's local history. The Canaveral Lighthouse is such a beacon of the rich history of Brevard County, with its tales, historical characters and the events that were both festive and dramatic. A story to be told from generation to generation through oral histories, written narratives to complete novels.

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse structure earns its distinction as the oldest man-made structure in the Brevard County area. The story begins with a need. Canaveral's Cape with its coral shoals and wild ocean currents proved a formidable hazard for maritime shipping as evidenced by a graveyard of shipwrecks off the Cape. To counter this hazard a lighthouse was needed. As with any worthwhile venture it took the efforts of many people to
get this light started. A lot of letter writing ensued with the first one dated March 26, 1822 with a letter from M.C.Perry to Smith Thompson, the Secretary of the Navy, Perry wrote that "A lighthouse is very much wanted on Cape Canaveral".

The first lighthouse was built between October 1847 and finished in January 1848 and stood sixty-five feet tall. Although it was a good start the complaints were that it had a dim light and could not be seen unless the ships were close enough, but then they would be in danger of hitting the very reef they were trying to avoid. In 1851 pressure from the maritime industry the Lighthouse Board was set to improve all the Lighthouses on the Eastern seaboard. the second lighthouse parts were forged by the West Point Foundry of West Point New York and sent to Cape Canaveral after the Civil War and assembled in 1868.


It was a tough job being lighthouse keeper in the 19th century. Carving a life out of the wilderness of East Florida was not easy with the alligators, mosquitoes, diseases, huge snakes, missed supply ships and then the keeper had to man the light during a hurricane. The first lighthouse keeper Nathanial Scobie was run off by hostile Seminole Indians after his requests for military protection was ignored. ,p> The third lighthouse keeper Captain Mills Burnham reached fame throughout the area for his hospitality with his parties and out of town visitors. Prior to being a keeper of the light, he was a gunsmith,ship captain and machinist who lived in New Smynra, Florida. Mills was a diligent worker and took great care of the lighthouse and its lighting apparatus, a Fresnal lens. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Mills Burnham, under instructions from the secretary of the Confederate Navy ordered that the Cape Canaveral lighthouse be dismantled to hinder Union navigation. So Burnham removed the precious lens and apparatus and buried it in his citrus grove for safe keeping. He took great care of this lens and the apparatus to time the unique light sequence. Don Argo novelist of Canaveral Light wrote it best when he wrote, "“they carefully wiped and polished the glass lens prisms with spirits of wine, cranked the windlass, tightening the coil spring that turned the lens pedestal. Engaging the pawl that drove the ratchet gear, they used a pocket watch to time the turning rate of the lens ,the fixed beams would now sweep the horizon in an exact time sequence. Any ship’s captain seeing the flashes would know he was seeing the Cape Canaveral lighthouse and no other “— page 176. Canaveral Light. The light consisted of 15 lamps each with a 21-inch (530 mm) reflector.


After the war in 1868 the new lighthouse was finished and a light once again returned to the Cape. A new prosperity came with the gilded age, with it brought visitors to Burnham and his wife. On April 24th, 1873, a report from the Boston Globe entitled "Indian Mounds in Florida- Burnham's Grove of Orange Trees - Remains of a Giant Race - Curious Pottery Recovered" narrative of a visit of British Nobleman by the name of Sir Francis Sykes. Sykes visited Mills and did some archaeological work on one of the Indian Mounds on Burnham's property.

In 1885 a Hurricane caused severed erosion on the Cape's seashore which caused concern so that President Grover Cleveland and Congress put forward a bill to finance moving the lighthouse back. Moving the lighthouse was an engineering feat. "The lighthouse was moved with a tram-road in pieces with one mule" according to the oral history of Mrs Floyd Quarterman, a descendant of a lighthouse keeper. The tower was moved one and a half miles inland away from the eroding beachfront. Other features of the relocation are the roman numerals that can be found on each of the stairs that wind their way to the top. In 1873 the lighthouse received its distinctive day-mark of vertical painted black bands.

The area grew and Lighthouse community saw new well heeled neighbors arrive and built a magnificent club house called the Canaveral Club. A gun club started by C.B. Horton for the Harvard Graduating class of 1890. In 1894 The old lighthouse was blown up and the rubble used to prepare a foundation of the newer lighthouse. The cast-iron tower was disassembled, moved and reassembled at the new location a move that took 18 months. This tower stood 165 feet allowing better visibility of its light to passing ships. The next keeper

Clinton P. Honeywell served as lighthouse keeper from 1891 to 1930. By this time two small communities were established near the lighthouse; Stinkmore to the South and DeSoto Beach to the North. Stinkmore originally a fishing community sported a pier and a hotel and became a haven for bootleggers in the early 20th century. In the 1950's the Missile age came as a forerunner to the Space Age and the Canaveral Lighthouse and property was acquired by the Air Force. It was recorded that Dr. Wernher Braun, a pioneer of the space effort, used the lighthouse as a platform to observe early rocket launches. The silhouette of the lighthouse even resembles a rocket. A local tale goes that a new Pan Am employee was told to watch the black and white rocket which was about to go up, he strained to watch it for 2 hours when the silence was broken with howls of laughter from his colleagues. He was told. "You are not watching a lighthouse, you are watching a 92 year old light house." The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is on Air Force Land that is restricted to the public. Currently the arrangements to visit the Lighthouse is by membership to the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. For your reading pleasure read Don Argo’s “Patrick Smith’>s Award”winning Canaveral Light.

Author Don Argo pictured with Yvonne Thornton (lighthouse keeper Mills Burnham descendent aboard the Sterling Casino Boat for a relighting of the lighthouse event.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Indian Burial Mound with 96 Skeletons; Geocache marks the spot.







Many years ago in Cape Canaveral, a mass grave of 96 skeletons was found. A strange arrangement as the skeletons were arranged as spokes in a wheel with their heads pointed towards the apex of the mound. Among the skeletons discovered were interesting artifacts including a crystal necklace.

Such were the findings of a 1933-34 archeological expedition to the Cape Canaveral and Indian River areas. A Dr. George Woodbury under the direction of the Smithsonian's Bureau of Ethnology director Dr. Stirling, investigated burial mounds among a series of six mounds in the Artesia area of Cape Canaveral. The dig sites he researched revealed a culture of Native Americans that lived at the Cape 3,000 years ago, other researchers believed they may as old as 8,000 to 10,00 years old. This burial mound was one among six others in the Artesia area of Cape Canaveral that revealed other interesting artifacts.

Could these mounds be signs that a lost city of Indians lived in the area of Cape Canaveral? If not a city perhaps a large town or village. A Florida archaeological survey from the Bureau of Archeological Review stated of the Fuller Mound. "One of a string of burial mounds (90-95) all making up a complex village site. This is the largest"

The human remains examined at the site consisted of 35 adult males, 42 adult females, 7 adults of uncertain sex and twelve infant skeletons. Artifacts found in their grave included 1 bone whistle, 1 shell bead, iron celt and 2 pendants. Other artifacts described by another anthropologist Irving Rouse from Yale University in his 1951 publication are a bowl and quartz crystal pennant. Rouse describes in his writings. "one of the St. Johns Plains specimens is almost complete bowl, 4.5 inches in diameter. A notched stone weight two single grooved, plumment shaped pendants of quartz crystal;
fragments of four bone pins, one peg topped and one slotted, three being engraved. Then further south, to the Burns mounds another interesting artifact surfaced that indicated a advanced Indian civilization evident of their trade, an artifact of a copper snake was discovered. Described by Rouse, in 1954, "a thin strip of metal, 13cms long and 17cms. wide (of aboriginal manufacture, but of European-transported metal). The tail portion has been cut out to represent (see pic next page) rattles while the body is decorated in a repousse technique. A row of fine close-spaced dots borders each edge of the body. On the body of the snake are marks arranged in panels set off by horizontal bars. This kind of stylized representation of the rattlesnake - by the use of x-marks on the body-is typical of South Cult forms".

How did these Indians get copper? Since there were no natural veins of copper ore in the area, maybe they traded with the northern Indians the Timucuans. Perhaps they obtained the copper from Europeans and then cold hammered it into their own shapes and ornaments. There are a number of theories.

Who were these early Cape Canaveral residents and how did they live? M.W. Stirling reported that the deceased were tall people of robust physique, the crania being large, under-formed, and uncommonly thick; the long bones, heavy and massive." Many myths referred to them as being giants. (1)

Spanish explorers in the 17th century called the local Indian River natives of their time period as Ays Indians. A Spanish explorer and military cartographer by the name of Alvaro Mexia mapped and befriended the Indians on neighboring Merritt Island. Nowadays we use the word Ais instead of Ays pronounced (Aice). It was a harsh environment when the Indians lived at Cape Canaveral. This area named by Europeans as Cape of Cane Fields. Swamps, scrub mangrove trees
and wild cane fields stretched as far as the eye could see and the land was only 15 or 20 feet above sea level. Alligators and crocodiles basked in the sun waiting to gobble up their next meal. Wild beasts
routed through the canes and swarms of gulls screeched endlessly overhead.

Further evidence of a village may be considered in that there was a find of a circle in the area. The BAR master file states that a 20 foot circular area making up an Indian Wall was discovered. The reader may want to compare it with the Miami circle and other American earthworks.

(1) Giants? "Indians were not especially tall." said David Dickle of the Fl. Bureau of Archaeological Research Collections and Conservation Lab. "The reverse however is true- that is, Europeans of the time were generally short due to poor childhood diets (especially protein deficient) and childhood biological stress in general. The contrast was especially obvious to early Spanish and French sailors, who often came from lower economic classes and thus subject to more childhood stress. Thus Native Americans were not especially tall (6 foot would be a tall person), but many Europeans were short (5' 6" would be a tall person). The Europeans, being ethnocentric, instead of wondering why they were so short compared to Indians, instead wondered why the Indians were tall. Thus the story of extra-large Indians started. The guy looking up thinks the other guy is tall- the guy looking down thinks the other guy is short."


2) This was not the first time skeletons were found in this arrangement. "Boston Daily Globe April 24,1873 reported in their story entitled. "Indian Mounds in Florida- Burnham's Grove of Orange tree - Remains of a Giant Race- Curious Potter Recovered" "Sir Francis Sykes a British nobleman visited Cape Canaveral by Captain Burnham’s permission he excavated the mound, and took out twenty-seven complete skeletons. The skeletons were found lying side by side in a circle, with their heads towards the centre of the mound."

A geocache called Ais Indian Nation marks the location of where these mounds were once.

To be continued.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Time Line of Ponce de Leon events and celebrations



Timeline of Ponce de Leon events, sources and celebrations.

1511 Peter Marty published "Opera" a map.

1511 Andres Morales Map published.

1512, February 23rd, Contract presented by Ferdinand to Juan Ponce for exploration and settlment of Bimini. Three ships Santiago, Santa Maria de la Consolacion, and San Cristoball.

April 2, 1513 Florida Landing, exact location has been debated. Many say Melbourne Beach others in the past have said St. Augustine, Deland, Ponce Inlet, and Stuart.

April 21, 1513 Ponce's encountered the Gulf Stream. (first written reference to the Gulf Stream). Encountered local Indians and a fight broke out. Traveled and landed and encountered more Indians and took one to serve as a scout.

April 22, 1513 Stuart Florida, sighting and naming by Ponce de Leon the River of the Cross, thought by author Robert Fuson to be at St. Lucie Inlet at the southern end of Hutchinson Island, near the town of Stuart.

May 8th, the doubled the Cape of Florida couldn't sail in the direction
they wanted because of the strong current so they anchored behind a cape,
next to a village named Abaido near Jupiter Florida.

June 4 & 5, Explore Charlotte Harbor area, encounter and battle with Calusa Indians

1521 Ponce de León organized a colonizing expedition in SW Florida but was fatally wounded by an arrow from a Calusa Indian.

1537 Alonso de Chaves published document as the Chaves rutter.

1541 Alonso de Santa Cruz's Map published.

1601 Herrera map published.


1910-April 1, Another commemoration of the Landing of Ponce de Leon with an elaborate historical and spectacular celebration on March 30th and April 1st. Hundreds of Indians, Spanish Nobles, Soldiers participated.

January 24, 1913 The Christian Science Monitor published the article "Motor Boat Clubs to Aid Florida in the big celebration." Expect Big Races Will Attract More Entries Than Usual This Season at Four Hundredth Anniversary MOTOR BOAT CLUBS TO AID FLORIDA IN BIG STATE CELEBRATION


April 1, 1923
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., March 31. -- Juan Ponce, Knight of Leon, who, on Easter Sunday just 412 years ago today, landed in Florida in quest of the Fountain of Youth, will again land this week with all his pomp and glory in St. Augustine, when one of the most picturesque celebrations ever undertaken in Florida will be presented in a three-day historical pageant

December 13, 1934
TOAST TO PONCE DE LEON.; Floridans Join Puerto Ricans in Salute to Their First Governor. Floridans and Puerto Ricans toast Ponce de Leon in San Juan

January 18, 1935,
House of Ponce de Leon Identified in Puerto Rico

January 09, 1938,
PONCE DE LEON'S TRAIL; Tourists Follow It to Those Springs He Bathed In on Quest for Youth CASSADAGA, FLA. ON Summerlike days which are sprinkled through the Winter months in Florida tourists visit the famous "miracle" springs of crystal-clear waters where Ponce de Leon bathed in his historic search for a "fountain of youth."
Section Resorts-Travel


March 22, 1964
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Participation by Central and South American countries and Spain in St. Augustine's quadricentennial, to be celebrated in 1965, has been assured. The celebration will take place between April 3, the date of the discovery of Florida by Ponce de Leon in 1513, and Sept. 8, the date on which Pedro Menendez landed here in 1565 to establish St. Augustine.

1982
SAN JUAN, PR, Statue in Old Juan Puerto erected was originally made from the bronze from
English cannons seized after the English attacked San Juan in 1794.

2000, Author Robert H. Fuson published, "Juan Ponce De Leon and the Spanish Discovery of Puerto Rico and Florida". Fuson thought that Ponce de Leon may have landed 30 miles North of the Daytona Beach area at the Palm Coast (pg 105) and that Ponce was told by the King of Spain to keep an eye out for the fabled, Fountain of Youth.


Newspaper reported in 1920's WHERE PONCE DE LEON EXPLORED; All historical evidence places him in area near De Land, Fla. DE LAND, Fla. -- According to legend, Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer, discovered the springs north of here nearly 450 years ago, when he was searching for the mythical Fountain of Youth.



Monday, March 18, 2013

Air Force Space and Missile Museum in Cape Canaveral





Although it may cost an individual several million dollars for a journey into space, a journey into space history is free at the Air Force Space Missile History Center in Cape Canaveral.

This new 3,200 square foot history center is located just outside the Cape's South Gate at 100 Space Port Way and is free to the public. Visitors will find a variety of eye catching and mind boggling history exhibits arranged in order of the launch complex where space history was made.

The history center delivers the information in an entertaining way on every launch complex on Cape Canaveral. Artifacts, displays and presentations includes but not limited to launch consoles, control panels, nosecones, rocket engines, and even a Mercrury capsule prototype.

Each exhibit tells the visitor fun facts based around the history of that launch pad while at the same time helping the visitor understand the inter-related purposes the missions had with one another.

For example at LC 43, one learns of rockets called, "Cajun Dar, Nike Smoke, Nike Javelon." (One would be forgiven thinking these were athlete shoes.) Mission programs from this Launch Complex supported Aeronomy, the study of upper atmosphere meteorological studies. These weather rockets were launched before major manned rockets to test atmospheric and weather condition prior to the main launch. Another fun fact learned here is immortalized in historic photos of Barbara Eden of I Dream Of Jeannie fame who pressed a button that launched a LOKI/Dart rocket in June of 1969 from here. This rocket was used to measure atmospheric conditions prior to the Apollo 11 launch.

But this history center is more that just displaying facts in a fun way, it is about honoring all the space workers who made the dreams of space flight possible. Brig General ED. Wilson of the 45th Space Fighter Wing summed it up well when he said, "This center is a testament to all those who have come before us, to the hard work and the dedication they expressed, and the sacrifices those individuals made."

Well worth the visit just a few miles North East of 528 Beeline on state road
401. Picnic benches outside the building so considering bringing a packed lunch.
Estimated time to visit all the exhibits is an hour. Gift store inside gives the visitor the opportunity to purchase some mementos of their visit.


Hours: Closed Monday.
Open Tuesday to Friday 9 am to 2 pm
Saturdays 9 am to 5pm
Sunday Noon to 4 pm
Admittance: Free


GPS: N 28° 25.023 W 080° 36.275
-RKO

Friday, February 22, 2013

Geocaching with history at the Indian River Hotel Rockledge




One of the first hotels in the Rockledge/Cocoa area was built in 1881 by A.L.Hatch and was known as the Rockledge House. It caught fire and burned down in 1884 and rising from its ashes, a grander hotel was built. The hotel was purchased by Joseph Wilkinson who renamed it the Hotel Indian River in 1885. The positioning of hotel in a charming location along the river added to its popularity among tourists. A seasoned and experienced manager by the name of J.M.Lee was hired and with his experience of running big hotels in Jacksonville turned the hotel into a showcase. It was advertised as the finest and largest hotel on the East Coast of Florida between St. Augustine and Key West. The stationary from the hotel read that the Indian River Hotel had 300 rooms, had its own telegraph office and its motto was "The Tropical Health and Pleasure Resort of America".

A highlight in history is when President Grover Cleveland visited the area and had a picture taken of his entourage at the front of the hotel. Rockledge hotels in this time period became the pride of Brevard County during the 1880's and 1890s.

The Indian River Hotel was sold in 1910 to SF Travis of Cocoa and two New Jersey men who put the establishment in "first class shape." The hotel had a major remodeling and on January 24, 1924 and was formally opened as The New Hotel Indian River where an estimated 400 people celebrated the grand opening. Architecture of the building was of Spanish style which was popular for this time period.

Use your GPS and visit the location of this hotel by visiting this
Historical-Geocache and discover a Million dollar bill. Be the first to find this replica note.


To be continued with more interesting facts. Be sure
to become a follower of this blog.

Historically yours,

-RKO

President Cleveland's 1888 visit to Central Florida






It was election year in 1888 and President Grover Cleveland made a visit to the Land of Flowers ,the great state of Florida. It was a full itinerary that included visits to Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Palataka, Titusville, Cocoa and finally Sanford and Winter Park,

President Grover Cleveland, the First Lady, and entourage's trip to Florida continued from St. Augustine with a train trip to Titusville, Florida with a brief stop in Palatka. As typical with their other whistlestops, huge crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of the Executive General. At the Titusville Warf the President's party boarded a paddleboat, called Rockledge.

Going south on the Indian River the Rockledge Steamer docked at the wharf of citrus grower, Mr. G. Hardee, at 11:30 am in Rock Ledge. Under the shade of several live oaks, in front of Mr. Hardee's residence, a reception was feted. A large number local officials, of this Indian River area, had the opportunity to shake hands with the President. The people were enthusiastic and warmly welcomed the party into the beautiful grounds of Mr. Gardner Hardee's estate and into his magnificent orange grove. Mrs. Cleveland pitched the first orange from the laden branches, which was followed in suit by other members of the party.

Mr. Hardee selected one of the finest oranges in the grove and peeled it in the Ole Florida style, for the President. Since the President was extremely pleased with that one, Mr Hardee announced that this one variety orange would be known as "The Cleveland Orange". A reception was held at the Indian River Hotel and is memorialized in a photograph of the President,entourage and local citizenry.

The New York Times reported that the First Lady Mrs. Cleveland was greatly amused at some of the strange watercraft that came up the dock. A local fisherman presented a huge channel bass to the President and he made the donor happy by saying, "I don't believe I could pull that fellow in myself. "The entire party were reported to be in the most congenial spirits and spoke highly of their delightful trip.

The President and his entourage departed Rock Ledge at 2:45 pm by paddleboat, back to Titusville where they were welcomed by a large crowd. Waving to the crowd and making handshakes the Presidential boarded their train and steamed off to their next whistle-stop,Sanford.



Footnotes:

1) Click the Sanford link above to continue the story.

2) The city of Rockledge back in 1888 was spelt as two words.



Sources:

For more on this story visit Google Books for free Ebook Review

Library of Congress Archives at Florida State University

Florida Star newspaper March 1, 1888.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Period of Friendship: Mexia and the Ais Indians

At the moment this writing project at this site is a landing page for work in progress.

Most of the content for this story is contained at a Wikipedia entry on Alvaro Mexia. Researchers and writers are welcome to add to the article.

This is a historical research and writing project in progress. These accounts will be used for an oral presentation by reenactors for a Heritage Day event planned for March 23rd, 2013. The plan for the event is to engage both visual arts with other forms of expression including performing arts around the historical period when the Europeans met the indigenous tribes of Florida. Scholarly and constructive advice is always welcome.

This writing project first started with an article the author published years ago called 96 Skeletons

The Ais Indian Nation Geocache marks the spot where six mounds of these Indians were found. A beautiful and tranquil point of interest in a small city park in Cape Canaveral.

-RKO