Early History on the Banana River Lagoon
This is an attempt from a local private charter fishing guide to establishing a historical account of the Banana River Lagoon between Canaveral and Merritt Island, Florida. I am not a historian and have just read and compiled information from various sources for our readers and customers to reflect on how things have come about in the Banana River Lagoon area. If anyone has anything to add or omit from this collection of information, please add a comment, and I’d be excited to hear more about the history of our Banana River home area.
Pre Historic Banana River Lagoon Area
A discovery in the
NOTE: Captain Gina was born and raised on South Merritt Island and her family found several stone arrowheads in their neighborhood in the sixties and early 1970’s. “My sister and mother still have these arrowheads today, and it was thought that there was some early native settlements or camps nearby.”
Ais and Timucuan Indians
There is not much information about Banana River Lagoon before the colonization from the Spanish and French but here is our attempt to research and develop some historical perspective. Ponce De Leon and early Spanish explorers made mention of Cape Canaveral in the early
These early inhabitants should not be confused with the Seminoles, who did not migrate into Florida until the
The First European Inhabitants
As previously mentioned and noted that the discovery of the area by the Europeans happened within a few years after 1500. The Spanish had evidently been unable to establish a foothold in the Banana River area because of the hostile Ais Indians. However, the first account of European settlements was created from a French shipwreck on the Canaveral shorelines. The marooned sailors managed to cohabit peacefully among the natives until the Spanish rooted them out as a threat and pushed them southward to possibly co-mingle with the Ais Indians near the Cape and southward towards Cocoa Beach and the present area of Sebastian. The Spanish eventually expanded slowly southward against the Ais warriors with limited but steady success over the next century.
The Treaty of Paris in 1763 changed ownership to the British and for many years afterward the Cape was relatively unchanged and uninhabited as much of the original natives had been either killed by warring tribes or laid to waste by newly introduced European diseases. It appears that the Banana River area between Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island was not inhabited by Europeans or natives for the latter half of the
Pioneering settlers trickled in during the
Naming the Banana River Lagoon
The first permanent lighthouse keeper, Captain M.O. Burnham arrived at Cape Canaveral in 1853 and tended the Cape Canaveral lighthouse until his death in 1886. Burnham’s contributions to the area’s history were many and included the first modern exploration and mapping of the Cape Canaveral area.
Burnham established a permanent household around the lighthouse, and also undertook some agricultural projects, including an orange grove. He was the first American to navigate the Banana River, which he named after the wild bananas growing on its banks.
Early American Settlements on the Banana River Lagoon
We need some help here in establishing early settlements on the Banana River Lagoon before the Naval Air Station Banana River
Angel’s City – Located on South Banana River Drive and named after an old resident and John Angel.
Audubon – Located on the eastern shore of Merritt Island immediately north of present-day KARS Park. The area was annexed in 1949 when President Truman signed the law into effect for Long Range Proving Ground for testing guided missiles which is now NASA property. Named after John James Audubon (the Naturalist) that visited Florida in the
Artesia – An early settlement in the Canaveral area.
Oceanus – The early name of Cocoa Beach.
Canaveral – Early Canaveral started at the Cape in the north and went southward where the present City of Cape Canaveral is located. Port Canaveral and the eastern test range claimed the northern half of the Canaveral area before it was incorporated.
Cocoa Beach – formally known as Oceanus, the City of Cocoa Beach was officially incorporated in 1957. According to the City of Cocoa Beach’s website, “The first real settlement in Cocoa Beach was started by a family of newly freed slaves following the Civil War. In 1888, a group of Cocoa men bought the entire tract of land which remained untouched until an attorney named Gus Edwards purchased Cocoa Beach and began to develop it. The City of Cocoa Beach was established on June 5, 1925. It was incorporated as a City on June 29, 1957. There was a 1,000% population increase in the decade between 1950 and 1960.
NAS Banana River – Present day Patrick Air Force Base the Naval Air Station Banana River was the humble beginnings of this modern day Air Force Base in 1939.
Lotus – Located on South Merritt Island fronting both the Banana and Indian Rivers. Lotus was also the location of Lindner’s Store on the Banana River carrying gasoline and supplies for the remote settlement. Lotus was slightly south of present-day Honeymoon Hill and Fairyland.
Banyan – Located on South Merritt Island fronting both the Banana and Indian Rivers.
Tropic – Was small city located on present-day Dragon Point where the Indian River and the Banana River meet near Mather’s Bridge.