Friday, May 6, 2011

Titusville's Pritchard House

Last weekend featured the grand opening of the historic Pritchard House and gardens in downtown Titusville. This outstanding example of Queen Anne architecture was built in 1891 by Capt. James Pritchard and his wife Mary "Mamie" Haley (Boye) Pritchard and was continually lived in by Pritchard descendants until it was purchased for historic preservation in 2005 by Brevard County. The home which is a landmark in downtown Titusville remained virtually unchanged since its construction and was a prime candidate for restoration. Brevard County partnered with the North Brevard Heritage Foundation http://www.nbbd.com/npr/preservation/PritchardHouse/index.html and the resulting product will receive the highest award possible when the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation meets in Orlando on May 20th.

While it is commonly know that Capt. James Pritchard was a Confederate veteran and an early settler fewer people know that the reason he left Missouri to settle in the wilds of Florida in 1876 was that his wife Mary Haley Boye was an heir to a Spanish Land Grant of 43,000 acres known as the Delespine Grant. Mary's mother was Frances Jane ( Delespine) Boye, pictured below in the 1840's, was born in St. Augustine, Florida around 1811 to Joseph Delespine and his wife Francisca de Paula Petronita Fontanet.

Joseph Delespine was a prominent merchant in St. Augustine and received the grant in what is now Brevard County in 1817 for services rendered to the Spanish government during the American invasion of Spanish Florida in 1812. Joseph was a wily businessman and acquired other huge tracts of land by purchase from other Spanish grantees and owned somewhere around 200,000 acres in the state of Florida at the time of his death in 1834. When Florida became a state the grants had to be confirmed by the new American government and the Delespine heirs took their claim to the Supreme Court and won. Joseph's daughter Frances Jane married the German merchant Christian Boye and they moved from St. Augustine to Key West in the 1840's. After losing most of the family fortune and her husband during the Civil War period Frances Jane (Delespine) Boye and her two children Frank and Mary moved to Galveston, Texas where Mary met and married Capt. James Pritchard, who was passing through that city on an expedition to Brazil. Frances Jane moved in with the Pritchards and after some time spent in Missouri they decided to return to Florida and settle the Grant that Frances Jane had inherited from her father.  The Pritchards settled on the Grant in 1876 and lived until the freeze of 1886 destroyed much of their citrus crops and caused them to decide to move to Titusville. After living in a cottage for a while the Pritchards built the current house in 1891 and Frances Jane (Delespine) Boye moved into it with her daughter and husband.

Frances Jane lived until 1901 and he obituary in the Florida Star called her "one of the pioneers of Florida." It also referred to her "possessing of a deeply sympathetic nature and a fine motherly character which caused her to be deeply loved and highly respected by all." This picture of her taken in the 1890's certainly reflects that and still shows the dignity of the portrait painted of her in her prime above.

When you consider that the Delespine Grant was awarded in 1817 the ancestry of Capt. Pritchard's mother in law likely gives them the oldest connection to Brevard County of any of the pioneer families. That their ancestral home has been restored and open to the public is a gift to us all!