EXPLORE THE WORLD OF GENEALOGY AND DISCOVER INTERESTING HISTORICAL FACTS ABOUT BREVARD COUNTY, FL WITH GENEALOGY LIBRARIAN MICHAEL BOONSTRA

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Beginning Genealogy Class

A four week Beginning Genealogy course, sponsored by the Brevard Genealogical Society, will start on Friday, June 16, 2017. The class will meet each Friday, June 16, 23, 30 and Wednesday July 5, from 9:30am to 12 in meeting room 1 at the Catherine Schweinsberg Rood Central Library located at 308 Forrest Ave., in Cocoa.

For non-members of the society the fee is $20.00 which covers the cost of materials for the class and includes a membership in the society. Materials include a 3-ring binder with course syllabus which contains summaries of all classes, a supply of genealogy forms, sheet protectors and notebook paper.  Members may register for $10.00.

For more information contact Vera Zimmerman at (321) 453-4932, verazimmerman@flbgs.org or visit the BGS website.

Sign up soon as class size is limited and pre-registration ends June 1.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New Historical Marker for the Porcher House

Was great working with our friends at the City of Cocoa to get a well deserved State Historical Marker for the Porcher house in Cocoa Village. The well-known landmark turned 100 last year and as the result of several state preservations grants, and much additional city funding, it is poised to stand for another 100!! Special thanks to the Tourist Development Council for funding the marker!!



Monday, August 22, 2016

A Scandalous Past

While the moss draped live oaks along Rockledge Drive evoke a pervasive sense of calm, in it's heyday little Rockledge was a bustling destination for travelers looking to escape winters in the frigid north. They packed into several rambling wooden hotels along the bank of the Indian River where they sat on the porch, went on boat tours, hunted and fished, checked out the alligators and were even entertained by trained bears! Many guests came year after year and some, who had the means to do so, eventually decided they wanted permanent places of their own. While most of these early snow birds were merely here for a change of climate it turns out some of them might have been escaping a little "heat" of their own. Such is the case with a man by the name of  Edward Newton Rowell who spent his winters in the charming cottage below at 1119 Rockledge Drive, that he purchased from the Van Deman family. His daughters went on to spend even more time there, although not without some scandals of their own, but that's a story for another time!! 

VanDeman-Rowell House 1119 Rockledge Drive
Drawing by Robert Kronowitt from the book At First Glance by Roy Laughlin
It turns out that in addition to being a wealthy New York industrialist, he made a fortune manufacturing boxes, Mr. Rowell was also an accused murderer! In a case that captivated the press of the day Mr. Rowell was accused and tried for having shot and killed his wife's lover. Apparently Mr. Rowell's success in business had been matched by his marriage to a younger, very attractive lady named Jennie. However, since Mr. Rowell was described as being "cold as an iceberg" this was bound to end in trouble, and boy did it! Mrs. Rowell began looking for comfort in other places and among several dalliances was Johnson Lynch, an attorney and friend of her husbands. Eventually Mr. Rowell came to suspect his wife was being unfaithful and so he hatched plan to catch her in the act. Telling her he was going out of town on business, he instead got a hotel room and waited. Sure enough Mrs. Rowell dropped off her daughters with a friend and met Mr. Lynch at the train station. On October 30, 1883 after a pleasant dinner in her home Mrs. Rowell and Mr. Lynch went upstairs to her bedroom. No sooner had they gotten in bed than Mr. Rowell burst through the door and without saying a word, fired two shots into the bed. Mrs. Rowell was grazed by one bullet and the other missed entirely. Mr. Lynch, wisely proceeded to bolt from the bed and to hightail it down the hall. Mr. Rowell followed in hot pursuit and fired two shots at him as he went down the stairs. One shot entered his shoulder and the other went right through his heart killing him instantly. Mrs. Rowell escaped and ran outside calling for the police who came and took her husband to jail.


E. N. Rowell Mansion at Batavia New York. Built 1923
Despite the fact that it was clearly a premeditated murder, Mr. Rowell was only charged with manslaughter. Since things like this didn't happen very often at that day in age, the trial was widely covered in the press. When it was all over on February 8, 1884 the jury acquitted Rowell on the grounds of self defense! And while it isn't known how the people of Rockledge felt about Mr. Rowell, the townspeople of Batavia celebrated his acquittal with cheers in the courtroom and fireworks that evening.

As you can probably guess, Mr. Rowell filed for divorce from his wife in April of 1884 and received full custody of his two daughters. While the former Mrs. Rowell is said to have lived out her remaining days in need, Mr. Rowell went on to find happiness in arms of, yes you can guess it, his former secretary for whom he built the lovely house pictured above, and who became President of his company upon his death.




Monday, July 11, 2016

St. Mary's Church Restoration


Thought you might enjoy seeing the latest on the restoration of the old St. Mary's Church Building in Rockledge. Check out the link to Jodi's blog for more info and pictures!


CCS Restoration returned to Rockledge, Florida this week
to resume work on the restoration of the diamond pane
windows of the Old St. Mary's Church.
 Read more about what makes these windows so special in
the
CCS Restoration blog. 
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Monday, May 23, 2016

National Historic Preservation Month 2016

May is National Historic Preservation Month and the Brevard Heritage Council, Brevard County's oldest organization dedicated to historic preservation, celebrated it by hosting their annual awards evening on May 12th to recognize those individuals who have restored any type of historic structure in Brevard County. Many of these projects were not started and completed within the last year, but they are honored in the year they are "done." And I say "done" as anyone who has ever restored an old structure knows that it is pretty hard to ever been done working on them!  As you may or may not know, there are no grants or public monies available for those restoring a private home and due to very few local ordinances there are few restrictions on what can be done to historic structures in the area. As a result almost all historic preservation work is done by private individuals using their own funds and knowledge. The Heritage Council, which rents the historic City Point Church from the County, has for many years honored these brave individuals for their hard work and dedication in saving such wonderful examples of our local history. 

The board members of the Brevard Heritage Council nominate properties from all parts of the county which are then photographed, documented and then submitted for judging. And yes they are open to suggestions! Only the exteriors are judged and the Council awards either a Banner Award or a Heritage Award based on various criteria. In general the structures that receive a Banner Award have to be pretty close to perfect, and in near original condition. This typically means original siding, windows, roofing material, no additions etc. The Heritage Award recognizes a property that has been renovated and maintained to a high degree and is a credit to its community. 

Various experts have been asked to judge the entries over the years and this year I was asked to be the judge.  Below are photographs of the properties honored. 

HERITAGE AWARD 310 Orange St., Titusville, FL
Folk Victorian Style

BANNER AWARD 35 Barton Ave., Rockledge, FL
Queen Anne Style

BANNER AWARD 45 Barton Ave., Rockledge, FL
Folk Victorian Style

BANNER AWARD 3543 N. Indian River Drive, Cocoa, FL
Monterey Style
All of the property owners have done a wonderful job and are to be congratulated!!