Friday, February 22, 2013

When Rockledge WASN'T Called Peru

While the internet has allowed us to make great strides in historical research it certainly has its downside in that it also allows false infomation to spread like wildfire. Such is the case with several websites that claim that Rockledge, Brevard's oldest city, incorporated on 7 Aug. 1887, was once called Peru, "after the Peruvian Mining Company" which supposedly had interests in the area and built a small group of houses for its workers in the 1860's. This statement has been picked up and now appears in several places online. While I had seen and heard this myself it wasn't until local historian and Rockledge resident Carole Pope called me this week and asked me if there was proof for this statement that I really thought about it.

Old Postcard of the Rockledge River Bank
Courtsey of Brevard Historial Commission
The source of the misinformation appears to be a travel article, which Carole forwarded to me, published online at  USA Today. This article correctly states that Rockledge got its name from the rock ledges to be found along the banks of the Indian River, but then goes on to mention the Peruvian Mining Company, a Peru Baptist church and some of the names of the early settlers of the area, none of which matches with what we know about the early history of Rockledge, and we know a lot! The article also states that some residents called the town Peru until the 1940s, which was another red flag as the only way Rockledge would ever have been called Peru was if it was long out of the memory of any living residents, as no one alive has ever heard it called by that name.

Some of the early settlers of Rockledge like the Hardees, Williams, and Macgruder families arrived in the 1870's and purchased or homesteaded their land from the government which shows there were no earlier owners. Eric Caron's Centennial history of Rockledge makes no mention of another name for Rockledge nor does the three volume history of the county published by our very own Historical Commission. A review of the Grantor and Grantee indexes for Brevard County land records, which go back to the County's founding days, show that no Peruvian Mining Company ever owned any land in the area.

An online search for the Peruvian Mining Company also turned up the following Wikipedia article which gives a description of an area called Riverview on the Alafia river in Hillsborough County which has almost the exact same history as that attributed to Rockledge. Since wikipeida is not always a reliable source, Carole found historical documentation in the form of a Historic Resources Survey published by Hillsborough County, which clearly shows the Peruvian Mining company's operations were in fact in Hillsborough County not Brevard County.

So, while it remains a mystery how the writer could confuse two towns on opposite sides of the Florida Coast it can now be clearly shown that the Peruvian Mining Company had nothing to do with the history of Rockledge and we can rest content that there is not some important part of our history floating out there that we had somehow misplaced!



    Michael, here is a possible explanation for the East-coast/West-coast confusion viz. the Peruvian Mining Co.: the Indian River Lagoon was called the Hillsborough River for a long time following the first Anglo-American survey by Gerard De Brahm and his underling Bernard Romans in the late 1760's. De Brahm named and renamed many landscape features willy-nilly, or motivated by the need to please influential people like Hillsborough, who ended up getting two rivers.

    So, it is quite possible that some 20th century reporter could confuse the two Hillsborough Rivers.

    Alan Brech
    Palm Bay, FL

  2. Alan, thanks for pointing this out. It makes perfect sense as I have also seen some second Spanish period land grants that were clearly in Brevard County referring to eastern boundaries on the Hillsborough River. I thought there must be more to that story, but never had the time to pursue it. That fact isn't included in our Brevard County History books, so it isn't very well know.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I originally added the Peru information to the Wikipedia article. I trusted the US Today article though being a native Rockledge Resident myself (born and raised 30 years), I should have been skeptical since I had no recollection of ever hearing the naming before. I ran across your blog here and I have since removed it from Wikipedia.

    1. Hey, it happens. Seems like there is always something new to learn out there even if it is "old news."