Variations on the truth of Melbourne’s beginning might be as hazy at times as an early morning mist over Crane Creek.
But what is factual is that three black men, former slaves Wright Brothers, Peter Wright and Balaam Allen are credited with founding Crane Creek (Melbourne) after the Civil War.
Arriving in 1867 or 1868, after the U.S. Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1866, they settled in Crane Creek, notes information provided by Carol Andren, the president of the South Brevard Historical Society.
Crane Creek was a wilderness of tropical foliage, snakes, wildcats, panthers, bears, mosquitos and exotic birds. The waters were teemed with fish.
“The story I have been told was that Wright Brothers, Peter Wright and Balaam Allen were former slaves freed from the Civil War,” said Ed Strutman of Indialantic.
“When the three men arrived, they were taken across Crane Creek by the local magistrate, and he gave them four stakes and told them: ‘Whatever you walk off today, mark it, and that will be your property,’ ” Strutman said.
Another version recalls “their master gave them tools and supplies from the plantation and set sail with them to find a new, unsettled place. They discovered Crane Creek had an abundance of wild game and good trees. The master left axes, a saw and tools to clear land, some flour and sailed away,” said local historian Fred Hopwood in information provided by Andren.
What is well-known: Peter Wright was a captain of his own vessel and the first mail carrier traveling to Titusville and as far south as Fort Pierce, twice a week. His brother, Dick Wright, would bring the mail from New Smyrna to Titusville. Peter Wright sailed it on from there.
The three original settlers also formed the Allen Chapel.
“The original Brothers’ knotty pine and cypress cottage has been donated to the Allen Chapel, where it now sits on property across the street,” Strutman said. “I understand plans are to make it into a museum.”
“The cottage was moved to make way for St. Stephen’s Way, a building housing 40 apartments for homeless families in the Brevard County school system and parochial schools,” Strutman said.