The Harvard or Canaveral Club - Titusville, Florida
By Katie McQuade
Formed in 1890
Photos provided by Paul Marion
In 1890 a location east of Titusville on North Merritt island was purchased by a group of wealthy graduates of Harvard University who had formed a club (called the Canaveral or Harvard Club) for the purpose of vacationing, hunting and fishing, as well as increasing tourism in the area. As reported in the November 28, 1890 issue of the East Coast Advocate, the group bought about 18,000 acres of land, including miles of Atlantic Ocean frontage, plus acreage connected with both the Banana and Indian Rivers.
The land was purchased for an average of $1 an acre.
The original members of the club included:
|C. W. Amory
|T. Jefferson Collidge Jr
||Charles B. Cory
||F. L. Higginson
|Charels P. Horton
||George Von Lengerke Meyer
||Francis W. Sargent
||Charles G. Weld
||Stephen M. Weld
The membership fee was $5,000 ($131,000 in 2015 dollars), and the number of members was limited to 20 men, all graduates of Harvard University during the late 1800s . On the death of a member, the spot would be taken by that member's eldest son. The club was to remain in existence until the death of the last member.
A three story, 22 room lodge was built on a rising knoll near Chester Shoals at Cape Canaveral, near what was to become Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39B (ed: Northernmost). It was on the west bank of a finger of Banana Creek, at the time known as Home Port Lake. Members could enjoy the ocean beach with a walk of less than half a mile around the head of the creek finger. The club's beachfront property stretched approximately five miles north and south of the lodge.
At the time, all transportation connecting the club with Titusville was by boat via Pepper Flats, Banana Creek and the Indian River. Members and their guests were transported almost in a direct line east from Titusville to the property at Chester Shoals, by the club's own shallow draft steamboat, the Canaveral. The club also owned a yacht, the Yankee Doodle.
The East Coast Advocate reported in the January 23, 1891 edition that the steamer Canaveral had made a trip down the north end of the Banana River for the Canaveral Club the previous Friday, and had "caused no little excitement among the residents", being the first steamer that had ever entered from the north.
A circa 1900 issue of the East Coast Advocate reported on a launch, the Widgeon, that also belonged to the club. Built by Murray & Tregurtha of Boston, the launch was 35 feeet long with a 10 foot beam, was fitted with a 10 hoursepower Murray & Tregurtha gasoline engine, and was a stern wheeler. It was said to draw not over 8 inches, and was able to run at a top speed of about seven or eight miles an hour. The Wigeon was in command of Captain Fonda Reed, who was to make daily trips between the clubhouse and the Indian River wharf at Titusville.
Soon after acquisition by the club, the Widgeon's shaft broke in two in Banana Creek on her way to the clubhouse, and had to be towed back to Titusville. The engineer (W.W. Benton) had to head to Jacksonville to have the broken shaft repaired.
The club's lodge included a trophy room, in which were mounted the heads of dozens of the animals killed during those days of plentiful game on the island, a well-stocked wine cellar, and rooms for members and guests. Additionaly, the property contained an ammunition building housing an arsenal of hunting equipment and ammunition, a building for cooking, and several boathouses. There was also housing for the staff members who cared for the horses and maintained the clubhouse boats, as well as for the armed guards who safeguarded the property.
The club was open for members to come and go as they pleased from October through March of each year. Members sometimes brought their wives, children and servants.
Canaveral Club property included a swimming pool that was claimed to be the first in the Southeastern United States. It was fed by an artesian well and later used during the 1930s by Boy Scout troops camping on the property. The pool was also used by the pastor of the local Orsino Baptist Church to perform baptisms.
During the late 1800s the club was said to have hosted presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison, who came for the winter fishing. Cleveland visited Brevard County in 1888 and may have made subsequent visits to the club.
Meticulous records were kept of the results of hunting and fishing. A carefully kept ledger affords a glimpse the club's heyday, with such detail as the prices of items offered: In 1892 members and guests paid 15 cents for a cocktail, 10 cents for a grapefruit and 50 cents for a dish of strawberries.
The first to sign the club register were "Charles Cory, wife and maid". Cory, an ornithologist, came to the property to study the flora and fauna of the area, and had a house built not too far from the clubhouse.
By the 1920's the Canaveral Club was apparently in declining health, as evidenced by the 1921 purchase by John W. Winslow of 7000 acres of oceanfront property belonging to the club for the price of $30,000.
The last guest to sign the register in 1922 was Col. William A. Gaston, president of the National Shawmut Bank of Boston. The clubhouse closed in 1922, and the buildings were allowed to deteriorate. Falling plaster and cobwebs replaced the stuffed bears and heads of deer, panther and wildcat (shot by members and guests) that had once lined the walls.
Members and guests who continued to use the property for hunting and fishing avoided the decaying lodge and instead stayed in hotels in Titusville.
In 1945, Arthur K. Reading, a former Massachusetts district attorney and a Harvard graduate, bought the balance of the property that hadn't been sold to satisfy tax liens. Reading considered restoring the main structure but never attempted it.
In addition to the hunting and fishing done by members, a portion of the club's oceanfront property was used by the Coast Guard to build and maintain a rescue station that was very busy during World War I. This station was also used as headquarters for beach patrols during World War II, with a number of barracks added at that time.
The United States Air Force burned the Canaveral Club lodge for fire practice sometime in the mid 1900s.
A photocopy of one of the Canaveral Club ledgers resides with the Florida Historical Society in Cocoa, Florida. The original ledger is in the possession of a private individual in Titusville.
The ledger contains journal-type entries documenting the "birds, fish and reptiles killed or seen or any facts in Natural history interesting in after years." There are also pages recording hunters' Name, Date, Locality, Wind and Weather, along with a column to record how many of each type of bird were killed on that date: Widgeon, Pintail, Gadwall, Black Duck, Blue Wing Teal, Green Wing Teal, Shoveller, Canvas Back, Redhead, Mallard, Bluebill, Ruddy.
The following are transcriptions of the ledger from 1908-1911, as well as the final entry from 1930.
Canaveral Club Season of 1908 - 1909
Members who hunted during month: (Dec. 1 - Dec. 11)
F.H. Stone, C.G(?) Weld, A. Cochrane, J.M. Codman, Weld/Peters
198 good ducks + 89 Bluebills = 287 ducks.
Dec. 3 — At So. End pond while searching for a cripples (sic) duck, a King Rail with the back of his head torn off was found freshly bleeding. Evidently just killed by a hawk just seen flying about that spot.
Dec. 12 — Otter seen swimming across the cut off of Harrison's Point.
Dec. 15 — A King snake killed at the head of our Cove of over 5 ft. 7 1/2 in. long. Skinned and mounted on a stick.
Dec. 17 — 6 ft. alligator seen at Island Pond.
Dec. 17 — A small, beautifully marked rattle-snake about 2 ft 6 shot while swimming near the golf ground blind. A woodcock has been seen twice -- about 400 yards north of the stable.
Dec. 19 — Large alligator seen in the water off Hammond Point
Dec. 23 — Mr. Codman catches a trout weighing 11 (eleven) pounds -- length 31 1/2 inches -- girth 17 1/4 inxches, trolling in front of Club House -- (north).
Members who hunted between Dec. 12 and Dec. 25: Stone and Weld; Peters, Codman, Cochrane, Stone et als; Stone and Peters; Peters and Weld, Codman and Pease. Peters went out 9 times, Codman 12 times, Stone 5 times.
Ponds, places hunted: Black Duck Pond; T Hammock; Panther, Cedar Point, Pintail Bay; Quarterman's Point, Hoeck's Pond; Jeffords Cove; Home Point; BIg Cat Pond, Cat Pond; T Hammock; Cutwater; Deer Creek; Chain of Ponds; Home Point; Golf Ground P-n-e (?); Letter Box; Heron Pond; Mullet Creek.
357 good ducks + 290 Bluebills = 647 ducks.
Sunday Jan 3 — 6 trout in front of clubhouse -- a number of English Snipe on Chain of Ponds road this year. First flights of pelicans seen -- about 30
Jan 6 — A wild cat weighing 26 lbs -- and a raccoon caught in traps
Jan 8 — A large black snake (gopher snake) 6 ft 5 in long crawled over Fay's feet in the blind at Bald Pate Pond and was shot -- see next page
Jan 11 — Coon or possums are caught almost nightly by the assistant cook in traps over on the beach side.
Jan 6 — Matt Willner sitting with the driver coming down the beach says he saw a bear on the beach, who ran away when he perceived the team coming -- nearer -- Fearing and Stockton who were in the team went to the spot and saw big tracks in the sand and have no double but that a bear had really been there.
Jan'y 8th — The blind in Baldpate Pond was invaded by a six-foot black snake -- which was killed.
Jan. 14 — A King Rail was seen hopping about the water's edge of the blind in which Weld and Peters were shooting in Pintail Bay quite unconcerned at the shooting over his head.
Jan. 13 — A Party of ladies with a gentleman in a launch from Titusville landed at Quarterman's landing and in going up to his house reported seeing a big rattlesnake, and fled terrified into the "House of Refuge".
Jan 17 — 2 whales seen close in off the beach, a most unusual sight here
Jan'y 16th — A fair sized alligator appeared close to the blind at Baldpate, and ate one of our dead birds.
Jan'y 17 — An alligator against the bank at the head of the home cove -- about 5 ft
Jan'y 18 — 2 King rail flew across Cory's pond almost into the blind.
Jan'y 19 — Mullet jumped into Peter's Boat
Jan 22 — Rather large gator seen -- see next page -- at Deer Creek
Jan 20 1909 — The planet Mercury has been distinctly visible for the last few evenings after sundown
Jan 22 — Good sized alligator was seen at the mouth of Deer Creek.
Jan 24 — A very large gopher turtle seen in the trail near the Dark Secret
Jan 31 — A norther set in yesterday -- today wind W-N-W. temp - 26 at 7:30 am -- water falling. The first norther this season
Feb 4 — Many fish were killed by the cold weather in Cutwater and Chain of Ponds. Two trout weighing 10 lbs each among others.
Feb. 17th — Mr. W. B. Emmons also shot 7 plover.
Feb. 18th — Ayer shot one jack snipe and one "Snake" hawk (So-called by the guide.
Feb. 19th — Eustis shot a rattlesnake swimming in front of Decoys at Eustis Point.
Feb. 20th — Ayer shot one willett and 6 mud-hens.
Feb. 22nd — Ayer took 7 trout in Conrad's Creek -- weight 3/4 lb. to 4 lbs.
Feb. 21 — Chef caught a young aligator in a steel trap 4 feet long.
Feb. 22nd — Matt (with Mr. Eustis) Killed two coons at Harrison'
Feb. 24 — One of the widgeon shot by Ayers was a European widgeon
Feb. 17 — There were over two thousand good duck in Bald Pate. They flew to the North & none came back.
March 1st — Driver after leaving Weld at Island Creek drove up to Bald Pate. There were more good ducks there than on Saturday. They scattered in every direction. Most of them went North. Shot one plover and 3 yellow legs.
March 2 — Shot one English Snipe & 2 yellowlegs. Heavy thunder squall in pm. Saw many snipe.
[Season ended per ledger on March 6, 1909]
Season of 1909-1910
Nov. 30 — Skunk head coot shot. Alligator 4-5 ft long seen at head of Home Cove
Dec. 3 — The first Canada Goose ever shot at the club. Flag Pd.
Dec. 4 — A very large 'gator was seen asleep on the bank of Moccasins' Creek was passed close to in Quarterman's launch -- but did not move. Utims (?) open his eyes. He probably was the largest 'gator any club member has seen here. Otter seen at Hoeck's Pond.
Dec. 11 — wild cat found at Big Alligator.
Dec 10 & 11 — Vast number of small fish driven on to the beach -- Some with pieces bitten out of them and their tails bitten off mostly whiting, some pompano and other kinds of fish.
Dec. 16 — Fearing and Stockton and Quartman all launched the dory and went out in the ocean. It became quite rough and they were obliged to come in pretty soon. They caught 16 bluefish on a bait mostly, but would take a spoon mighty quick. They could see vast quantities of bluefish in the water, also sharks, porpoises and other fish. Many fish on the beach with pieces bitten out of them. Unfortunately it was grown rough and another trip may not be made during this "carnival".
Dec. 18 — Yesterday and today there were no signs of fish in the ocean and today the dory was launched and Fearing, Stockton and Quarterman went out with no success whatever -- showing how quickly a school will disappear. In making a landing the bow of the dory struck the bottom while the stern was on top of a breaker and all were spilled and slightly injured.
Dec. 17 — Larger Scaup duck killed at Pepper creek. Skunk trapped at flag Pd.
Jan. 8 — A porpoise seen in Pintail bay -- and pursued by Wald and harried in shoal water until he became so tired that he could be approached and shot several times in his head with duck shot and killed.
Jan. 11 — A coot was caught in a trap.
Feb. 8 — 10 1/4 lb trout shot by Eustis near Bass Isd.
Feb. 9 — Tarpon seen off beach today & yesterday. Have been seen on and off for the past 10 days.
Feb. 15 — Nine white pelicans seen in Hoeck's Pond.
Feb. 20 — 1 yellow leg minot.
Feb. 22 — One of the widgeon shot by King was a male European widgeon.
March 2nd — Shot big hawk at Bald Pate.
March 3 — Went to Panther but saw no birds in any of the Chainn of Ponds except one bunch of blue bill in Narrow. Then went to Dark Secret - where we had seen birds inawi (?)
March 6 — Fifteen white pelicans on the shoal S.W. of the club house.
March 6 — L. Minot left for home.
March 8 — Tried Dk. Secret got seven blue bills at one gun. Went to Keron and got 12 good duck and 26 blue bill.
Season of 1910 - 1911
Dec. 11 — Two white pelicans seen going up the beach
Dec. 13 — A ground rattler found in a pile of boatds on the bulkhead and killed
Jan. 20 — A European widgeon was shot in Alligator Creek by Dr. Tiffany.
Jan. 24 — Fay & Ely see a bear disappearing in the scrub.
Jan. 25 — A comet has been seen for the past 3 evenings, first after sunset in the west low down, pointing downwards with tail pointing NE. (Imus's Comet)
Jan. 27 — For a week or more a very large flock of sheerwaters have hung about Corbetts Shoal and the Golf ground -- making much noise with their cries.
Jan. 28 — Eight white pelicans seen flying over the beach near Heron Point -- Large numbers of porpoises swimming close in among the breakers on the beach.
Feb. 7th — Of the four widgeon killed today at Alligataor - was of the European variety
Mar. 1st — S.M Weld killed one female ring-necked duck and fifteen beach birds
Mar. 1st — King & Enivelo (?) killed three such birds
Mar. 2 — S. McNeld killed 10 pelk (?) & sand pipers. Saw a wild cat on the way home from Sargents Pier after leaving beach.
Mar. 3 — S.W. & E.M. Weld 2 Shelorake, 1 winter & 1 summer fallowby.
Mar. 7 — S.M, W one yellow leg or alligator
Mar. 9th — S.M, W shot 4 plover and 2 yellowlegs.
Mar. 10th — Last day shooting. Not nearly as many good duck as last year at this time.
Season of 1930 - 1931
Dec. 30 '30
An unusually large blue heron which had been fishing some fifteen yards from shore caught a mullet and with the fish held crossway in his beak walked ashore. After going three or four feet from the water the heron put the fish on the ground and gave it a couple of blows with his beak. He then picked it up and walked back to the water and out a few feet. He looked upward and there was an eagle with talons extended and beak open hovering about ten feet above the heron. The eagle dropped with the intention of grabbing the fish and striking the heron with its beak. When the eagle dropped the heron let the fish fall and drew his head back and to one side and gave a hoarse croak. The fish fell just in front of the heron but the eagle feared evidently to come within striking distance of the heron's beak. After hovering over the heron for a few moments the eagle went away and paid no further attention. The heron never moved but kept his bill drawn back ready to strike. After the eagle left the heron tried to discover the fish but could not do so & began fishing once more... The heron at no time seemed hurried and was prepared to fight for his fish.
Place Names Mentioned in the Canaveral Club Ledger From 1907-1934
||Bald Pate Pond
|Big Cat Pond
||Black Duck Pond
||Catwater (or Cutwater) Pond
||Chain of Ponds
||S. W. Creek
||So. End Pond
||South Pond (Chain of Ponds)
||Water Melon Point