History & Culture

Canaveral, from a word given by Spanish explorers meaning "place of cane," is one of the oldest recorded geographical names in North America. Merritt Island is thought to have been named by Pedro Marratt, a surveyor who charted the island in the early 1800's. But humans left their imprint here long before European explorers ventured ashore. First Natives, attracted by the fertile estuaries and temperate climate, harvested oysters and clams and discarded the shells in heaps that archeologists study today in the national seashore such as the mounds at Seminole Rest, Turtle Mound, and Castle Windy. In April 1513, Ponce de Leon claimed the land for Spain. Spain retained control until 1821, except for a 20 years period (1763 - 1783) when the British gained control of Florida's east coast. But the extensive wetlands, clashes with Seminole Indians, and clouds of salt marsh mosquitos delayed development until the 1830's, when Douglas Dummett (or Dummitt in other sources) planted an orange grove in th Merritt Island area that began the world-renowned Indian River citrus industry.

During the next century villages near citurs groves or water passageways were established, but were abandoned because of storms, isolation, or occasional killing frosts. One of these towns was Eldora, a late-19th century community built near Mosquito Lagoon in what would later become part of the national seashore. Two houses associated with the earyl history of this community have been rehabilitated.

Seminole Rest, site of a prehistoric first native mound, dates from about 4,000 to 500 years ago. Archeologists believe that the mound was a place for the Timucuan Indians to gather and process clams. The two late-19th century rehabilitated residences are at the top of the 18 foot high mound. During the early 1900s, the owners refused to sell the content of the mound for road construction material, thus preserving the evidence of the Timucuan people.


Last updated: October 2, 2018

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