‘Soldier of Fortune’ Col. Henry Titus Established Titusville as Brevard County Seat in 1880
By Space Coast Daily // January 11, 2021
Citrus Grower, Grocer, Sawmill Operator, Postal Inspector, Civil War Soldier, Hotel Operator
Theodore Titus settled at Sand Point in November 1867, which had a population of 250. Titus built a sawmill, general store and hotel at that location. Titus was appointed postmaster, and soon thereafter renamed the settlement “Titusville.”
BREVARD COUNTY • TITUSVILLE, FLORIDA – Theodore Titus was a pioneer, soldier of fortune, and the founder of Titusville, Florida. His military adventurism included expeditions to Cuba and Nicaragua, fighting on the side of pro-slavery forces in the Kansas Territory, and blockade running during the Civil War.
Never commissioned, Titus retained the honorary title of Colonel.
Titus was born in Trenton, New Jersey on February 13, 1823. He was the first of nine children of Theodore Titus and Catharine Flick Howell and was raised in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.
Titus was enrolled for some time at the United States Military Academy at West Point but did not graduate. In 1845, he was a postal inspector in Philadelphia.
Pioneer and Military Adventurer
Titus was a leader of the Narciso López expedition, an unauthorized military venture that invaded Cuba in 1850-1851. On August 20, 1852, Titus and his son Ellett survived the sinking of the steamer Atlantic after it collided with the steamer Ogdensburg.
Titus was a grocer and sawmill operator in Jacksonville until migrating with his family to “Bleeding Kansas” in April 1856 to join pro-slavery forces. He resided at Fort Titus, a fortified double-log cabin one mile south of Lecompton, that came under artillery attack from John Brown’s raiders on August 16, 1856, in what became known as the Battle of Fort Titus.
He was wounded, captured, and exchanged for Free-State prisoners, before joining William Walker in Nicaragua in February 1857. Walker was engaged in an unauthorized military expedition in the country, ultimately to establish a slaveholding settlement there.
After his force was defeated at Castillo Viejo a few weeks later, Titus went to New York City.
Titus and his brother Elliot moved to the Sonoita Valley, Arizona, where they operated various ore mines during 1858-1860.
He married Mary Hopkins, daughter of Edward Hopkins, a wealthy and prominent planter of Darien, Georgia. Hopkins moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1853 and had an active political career, serving as a member of the legislature, and as Mayor and collector of customs for that city. He also made an unsuccessful bid for the Governorship.
Modern-day Titusville’s Hopkins Avenue was named in honor of Mary Hopkins Titus.
Served in Florida Militia During Civil War, Settled at Sand Point in 1867
Titus returned to Jacksonville during the American Civil War and served as an assistant quartermaster in the Florida Militia. He was also working for the Florida Provision Company, a business owned by his father-in-law, Edward S. Hopkins. The firm sold supplies to the Confederate Army.
While transporting a load of Confederate draft dodgers to Nassau in 1863, Titus lost his steamer to the Northern blockade and was captured on the Indian River. He eluded imprisonment and later returned to Florida with his family, preceding a post-war wave of newcomers.
He moved to New York with his family in 1865, but returned to Florida in November 1867, settling at Sand Point which at that time had a population of 250. Titus built a sawmill, general store and hotel at that location. Titus was appointed postmaster, and soon thereafter renamed the settlement “Titusville.”
The name of Titusville was determined by a dominoes game with Captain Clark Rice on October 16, 1873. He lobbied tirelessly to have Titusville named as the county seat. His efforts were realized on October 7, 1879, when a vote was taken and the result supported the relocation of the county seat to Titusville.
Col. and Mrs. Titus operated the Titus House and legend holds that he would sit on the balcony of the Titus House with a gun across his lap.
He built the Titus House in tropical style as it consisted of a large main building with two long wings, all one-story, that formed three sides of a square. Within the walls was a garden. These long wings later became part of the Dixie Hotel and rates in 1875 were $3 a day.
Titus was also the Justice of the Peace, a notary public for Volusia County and a marine insurance underwriter’s agent.
Rheumatic gout kept him confined to a wheelchair during the last years of his life.
Titus died August 7, 1881, in his namesake town of Titusville. His son, Theodore Titus Sr., who became a distinguished south Georgia jurist, died July 4, 1959, at age 87 in Thomasville, Georgia. Great-grandson Theodore Titus, III served five terms as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives.”
– Wikipedia contributed to this report.