Freed slaves helped map Brevard history

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When Florida seceded from the Union 150 years ago on Jan. 10, 1861, three months before the first shot in the War Between the States was fired, what was Brevard County stretched from Melbourne almost to Miami.

Sparsely populated, residents of what's now the Space Coast had little connection to the Civil War that raged three days shy of four years and claimed more than 600,000 lives.

But after the battles ended, freed slaves and soldiers who made their way to Brevard played crucial roles in mapping local history.

The first three settlers in Melbourne -- then called Crane Creek -- were former slaves Wright Brothers, Balaam Allen and Capt. Peter Wright, said Anne Flotte, historian and co-author of "Melbourne and Eau Gallie," from the Images of America Series.

And the legacies of Melbourne's early black pioneers live on. For example, Brothers Park in south Melbourne, at Church and Race streets, is named for the Brothers family. In 1885, Flotte said, the Allen, Brothers and Lipscomb families started the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Lipscomb Street.

Many books and websites relate that freed slaves also founded Cocoa Beach, but some historians aren't convinced the story is accurate, said Ben Brotemarkle, executive director of the Florida Historical Society....

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