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Exploring North Brevard History - Titusville, Florida
Compiled by Michael Knight for our Facebook Page

The First Sheriff of Brevard County
By Joan Heller

Brevard County, originally called St. Lucie, was organized in 1845 as Florida was being admitted to the Union. During the shift from territorial government to state government, Florida’s few residents continued to engage in occasional armed skirmishes with Indians. The first sheriff of Brevard County was Mills O. Burnham, a settler who gave his occupation in the 1850 Census as “gunsmith.” Sheriff Burnham took office in 1845 and remained until 1847. He eventually operated the Cape Canaveral lighthouse which would be built a year after he left office as sheriff. He was appointed keeper of the Canaveral Light in 1853 and remained there until his death 33 years later.

It is likely that the size of the county population was much less of a challenge for Sheriff Burnham and his successors than was the vast distance over which these residents were spread. According to the 1850 Census, the county was populated by a mere 139 souls. Included in this number were 54 soldiers stationed at Ft. Capron (near present-day Sebastian), 53 white residents, one free black resident, and 27 black slaves.

The Brevard County of this era encompassed a far larger land mass that present-day Brevard County. Only its eastern boundary, the Atlantic Ocean, has remained the same. In its original configuration, Brevard’s northern county line was near present-day Sharpes. Its western boundary joined Hillsborough and Manatee counties at the center if the state and its southern boundary ran along the shores of Lake Okeechobee and southeastward to the ocean. At that time, Brevard County included all of present-day Osceola, Okeechobee, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties as well as parts of present-day Polk, Highlands, Glades, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

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