Brevard County is a county in the U.S. state of Florida, along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010 census, the population was 543,376, making it the 9th most populous county in the state. Influenced by the presence of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Brevard County is also known as the Space Coast. As such, it was designated with the telephone area code 321, as in 3-2-1 liftoff.
The official county seat has been located in Titusville since 1894, although most of the county's administration is performed from Viera. Brevard County has more than one county courthouse and sheriff's office because of its length. Hence, government services are not centralized in one location, as they are in many American counties.
The county is coextensive with the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) designated by the Office of Management and Budget and used for statistical purposes by the Census Bureau and other agencies. Palm Bay, Melbourne and Titusville are designated as the principal cities of the MSA. The Melbourne-Titusville-Cocoa, Florida Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area was first defined in 1973. Cocoa was removed as a principal city in 1983, and Palm Bay was added, with the name changed to Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The MSA name was changed to its present form in 2003.
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 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. The ocean had risen enough to flood the Indian River with salt water.
About this time, a new group of settlers appeared, known as the Archaic people. These people were primarily fishermen, as opposed to the hunting and gathering way of life which characterized the Paleoindians.
From Spanish rule to statehood
In the year of 1601 the Spanish King commissioned a map of Florida indicating his desires for a fort to be built in Miami. On the map he indicated the land we know as Brevard county as the 'Province of Ais', as it was typical in those days to designate a region of specific tribal domination and generally took its name from the ruling cacique.
Later in 1605, Alvaro Mexia was dispatched from St. Augustine to the "Province of the Ais"area on a diplomatic mission to the Ais Indian nation. He helped establish a "Period of Friendship" with the Ais caciques (chiefs) and made a color map of the area.
Heavy mosquito infestation and the threat of Indian attacks kept the area from having any permanent European settlements. The Spanish intermittently settled the area. In 1763, the Spanish relocated the local population to Cuba, reduced to 80 natives who had survived exposure to European diseases. The Spanish briefly passed the sovereignty of Florida to the British in the Treaty of Paris. 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.
The Spanish ceased control of Florida once again in 1821, ceding the territory to the United States. In 1837, Fort Ann was established on the eastern shore of the Indian River on a narrow strip of land on Merritt Island. During the construction of the Hernandez-Capron Trail, General Joseph Hernández and his militiamen encamped near present-day Mims. These settlements were short-lived and were abandoned shortly thereafter.
Statehood to 1900
In 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the Union. How and when Brevard County was founded and its history in the 19th century is much more complicated. 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 counties, 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 cut off to form St. Lucie County, which in turn spawned Martin and Indian River counties.
The first permanent settlement in present day Brevard was established near Cape Canaveral in 1848. After the establishment of a lighthouse, a few families moved in, and a small but stable settlement was born. Gradually, as the threat of Seminole Indian attacks was becoming increasingly unlikely, people began to move into the area around the Indian River. In the 1850s a small community developed at Sand Point which eventually became the city of Titusville. Unlike other areas of Florida, the Civil War had little effect on Brevard County, other than perhaps to slow the movement of settlers to the area.
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 traversing the county was by water. In 1877 commercial steamboat transportation became a reality as the Pioneer was brought to the area.
The first real boom to the area occurred with the extension of Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad into the area. The railroad reached Titusville in 1886 and Melbourne in 1894. With the railroad came increased settlement and the first tourists.
20th century to present
The advent of the automobile age brought even more growth to Brevard County, as resorts and hotels popped up all around the county. As the automobile became increasingly important as a means of transportation, roads connecting Brevard County to the rest of Florida and ultimately to the rest of the nation were built.
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 1950s, 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. What had once been a primarily low-tech farmer/fisherman economy was transformed into a high-tech engineering and computer economy.
In 1982, Windover Archaeological Site was discovered by a backhoe operator who was working on a housing development.
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 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 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.
The summer of 1998 produced some of the worst brush fires on record. were burned.
Prior to instituting controlled burns, the county forests and pastures burned for months during the dry season. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the state assumed control of burning that prevented uncontrolled fires. In 2006, the state burned a record in the county.
Note: originally named St. Lucie; renamed Brevard in 1855. The current St. Lucie County was created in 1905.