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From Bibb to Brevard: A Pioneer Family

Updated: Apr 23


Written by Korinn Braden


Merritt Island, in Brevard County, Florida, has been home to many people for thousands of years. From the archaic peoples of Eastern Florida, to the Ais, and to the early pioneer families of the mid-nineteenth century, its shores have welcomed each group.


The Field Brothers


Florida became a territory in the 1820s and suffered the lack of population to become a state. After the Civil War, Florida saw repopulation. Many individuals and families took advantage of President Lincoln’s 1862 Homestead Act, which allowed pioneers to homestead up to 160 acres, with stipulations. One had to live on the land, build a permanent structure, and improve the land, all within a five-year time span.


JR and Eliza Field with well


In 1868 the Field family did just that. Traveling overland from Bibb County, GA, catching a barge out of Sand Point (now Titusville) down the Indian River Lagoon, and landed on Merritt Island’s shores. Without a store, money, nor neighbors, it was a difficult time. From Sam Field’s diary, “landed on Merritts Island the 21st of March. It was not very inviting not a house to shelter us from the weather except a small tent which my father and mother and younger brother occupied while my bro’ and wife slept in a covered wagon…” Sam homesteaded 160 acres, while his brother, JR, homesteaded 320 acres. Combined, the brothers had close to 500 acres, extending from the Indian River to Sykes Creek.


Two generations of Fields (JR Miot, Ed, Betty Lou, Louise, Joe)


Sam and JR, along with their wives Julia and Eliza, named the area Indianola and scraped out a life for themselves and the others who arrived shortly after. About a year after their arrival, “It rained near thirty days and nights at intervals. We toiled hard and build [sic] us a house. We cut pine trees and put them down endways making a stockade.” Their individual homes were not built until 1880. There was no store, no mill, and admittingly, no money.


Field families at the beach, after 1913 (Sam third from left, Joe, Louise and little Ed on right)


Overtime, JR used his land for agriculture, while Sam created the Indianola Post Office, a store, a school, a church, and a community center. Each Field family contributed and built the community into one of Brevard’s pioneering communities and future generations created an infrastructure to bring Merritt Island into the 20th century.

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