History Happened Here

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Palm Bay

Brevard County

Year Founded: 1960


Palm Bay boasts a rich history which enhances the unique character of our city. Our very first residents were the Ais, a semi-nomadic tribe of Timucuan Indians, who settled along the Indian River Lagoon and the banks of Turkey Creek. By the mid 1600s, the Ais had completely vanished. In 1845, the first white settlers began to trickle into Brevard County and a few of them located at the mouth of Turkey Creek. In 1887, the area was named the Town of Tillman after John Tillman a friendly outgoing merchant who maintained citrus groves around the bay and acted as the principal advocate to petition the U.S. Postal Service for a local post office.

The advent of the railroad in 1894 brought further development to the Town of Tillman. In 1910, as the Indian River Land Company began to market the area, approximately 105 families, many of whom were German and Slavic settlers from the mid-west, bought land in Tillman.

The Melbourne-Tillman Water Control District, organized in 1922, began its operations to protect 62,000 acres of agricultural land from flooding by the St. Johns River and to direct water from the district to the Indian River. Around 1925, the 200 residents of Tillman made a significant decision that the name “Tillman” didn’t accurately depict the charming town. The lush palm trees that lined the bay at the mouth of Turkey Creek inspired the enchanting name — Palm Bay. But the town was short-lived. The year 1926 dealt Palm Bay and the drainage program both natural and financial setbacks. The great hurricane of that year caused extensive damage and flooding, destroying much of the developments and slowing dragline operations. Construction of the drainage system was halted in 1928. The drainage district went into receivership, businesses closed. Palm Bay defaulted on its bonds. The town was dissolved in May 1929.

In 1956, to avoid being annexed by the City of Melbourne, the citizens of the unchartered Palm Bay held meetings and a decision was made to reincorporate the Town of Palm Bay, which now had a population of about 1,000 residents. An election was held on September 14, 1956; Harry Pollak was elected as Mayor, and the Town of Palm Bay was reborn. Under his leadership, Palm Bay continued to grow, finally incorporating as a city on January 16, 1960.

During the next few decades, Palm Bay experienced a major growth in its land area and population. Our objective has been to maintain the city as the perfect place to live, work, and play. We remain a city focused on the future, yet in many ways we still retain the charming characteristics of that original small town situated on a scenic bay of the Indian River Lagoon.

Story of City's Founding

1849 to 1987 - area around the bay and along Turkey Creek known as Turkey Creek Hamlet. March 4, 1887 - a post office was established and the area became known as the Town of Tillman. June 2, 1925 - a special act of the Florida legislature chartered the town as Palm Bay. It was dissolved on May 9 1929. September 14, 1956 - reincorporated as the Town of Palm Bay. January 16, 1961 - incorporated as the City of Palm Bay.

Historical Sites

Name: St. Joseph's Catholic Church
Location: 1422 Miller Street, NE, Palm Bay
Historical Significance: Built in 1914 by pioneering families; entered into the National Registry of Historic Sites on December 3, 1987.

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