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The Sams House at Pine Island

Photo(s): 1888 Sams Main House (left) & 1878 Cabin (rt), Merritt Island, FL Photo by: Lesa N. Lorusso

Two of Brevard County’s historical gems can be found at the Pine Island Conservation Area in Merritt Island, Florida. The newly restored buildings known as the 1888 Sams family main house and 1878 Sams cabin serve as the Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) program’s central region management and education center. The Pine Island Conservation Area encompasses nearly 900 acres in Merritt Island and was acquired by the EEL program in 1996. After an in-depth assessment conducted by the Indian River Anthropological Society, archaeologists discovered a rich history that not only included Brevard County’s pioneering Sams family but one that dated back as far as the Ice Age. In fact, in addition to the Sams family who lived on the site continuously from 1878 until the land was purchased by the EEL program in 1996, archaeologists discovered prehistoric fossils and evidence of ancient human habitation.

Photo(s): Ice Age fossils: Vertebrae, Tusk, Tortoise Shell, Jaw Bone, Photo by: Lesa N. Lorusso

The prehistoric aspect of this site dates from the Middle Archaic Period (5,000-3,500BC) through the Malabar I Period (500 BC – AD750) and includes dense scatters of ceramic material, intact stone tools and an interesting array of fossils. Patterns have been found on the site that suggests locations of ancient dwellings and human habitation spanning 800 years. In fact, burial mounds still exist near the Sams homestead and can be viewed today. Ice Age fossils including remains of Mastodon, Giant Land Tortoise, Glyptodont, Mammoth and Tapir were unearthed when wetlands were dredged by developers prior to EEL acquisition of the property and can be viewed by visitors to the center.

Photo(s): 1878 Sams Cabin and museum, Photos by: Lesa N. Lorusso

The education center is housed within two buildings previously owned by the Sams family of Brevard County. John H. Sams was a former Confederate army officer who moved to Florida from South Carolina after the American Civil War. The family originally settled in Eau Gallie, located approximately 25 miles south of the center, to take advantage of the1862 Homestead Act. After a failed attempt at farming in Eau Gallie, the Sams family relocated to the Merritt Island location and brought with them their three room cabin which they floated down the Indian River and reassembled in its present location in 1878. Roman numerals are still evident on the structural parts of the cabin detailing how the family took the cabin apart for a planned reassembly, according to Education Coordinator Katrina Morrell. The windows, external siding, ceiling and flooring are original. The house originally sat on wooden piers and now rests on blocks. The interior bead board paneling is not original to the house but is true to the consistency of the structure.  A separate kitchen was once located behind the cabin as well as an outhouse. The cabin is now air-conditioned and houses an interactive museum detailing the history of the site.


Photo: 1888 Sams Main House, Photo by: Lesa N. Lorusso

The Sams family was successful in their citrus, sugar cane and pineapple enterprises at their Merritt Island location and was able to build the main house in 1888 to better accommodate the family. The main house is a beautiful wooden two-story Florida vernacular structure. The white washed exterior has been restored back to its 1888 existence with an open, wrap-around porch and metal roof. An interesting and unusual detail to note is the double entry doors on the front of the home. The doors lead to the two main rooms downstairs: Mr. Sams’ office on the left and the family room on the right. Mr. Sams’ need for a dedicated office space arose from his agricultural success and his appointment as the first Superintendent of Schools in Brevard County. The family room downstairs houses a rustic fireplace and served as a gathering space for the family. Currently there are three bedrooms upstairs that are used to house volunteer workers and a bathroom.

Photo: Fireplace within 1888 Sams Main House and Restored porch roof detail. Photos by: Lesa N. Lorusso

Source: Katrina Morrell, Education Coordinator, Brevard County Pine Island Management and Education Center/Sams House, 6195 North Tropical Trail Merritt Island, FL 32953 (tour notes and brochure provided by Morrell)

 

20 Responses

  1. maritzaq rodriguez

    According to http://www.nbbd.com/npr/archaeology-iras/pineisland.html Sams cabin is considered the oldest stand home in brevard county, fl. His family consisted of four adults and six children in a cabin of 600 sq ft. The cabin originally consisted of three rooms. and later on it was used as a church, school, and workshop.They later built a large house in 1888.The house did not have indoor plumbing so an outhouse was located near the house. Sam served as superintendent of schools for the county from 11820-1920. he grew citrus and pineapples, sam died in 1923 and the homes were occupied by is descendants until 1995.There are four components to the Pine Island Conservation Area. There’s a site located north of the sams site area that materials were collected from spoil piles, they suggest that the fossil bearing material was dredged up during the excavation of the Sams Creek Canal in the 1960’s. materials such as stone for making tools, a coquina grinding stone, and hey also found one spear point. I can imagine how much history is lost right here in florida. I would love to volunteer in excavation of historic sites, I find it fascinating, It teaches us of other times and people. wouldn’t it be great if we could go back in a time machine and go through every era of this existing world and see and live what it was like.

  2. Catherine Biegler

    I enjoyed visiting Sams House at Pine Island this past week. The history that this house, cabin and land convey is irreplaceable. The history of the land dates back to approximately 5,000 BC.

    On the northern portion of the land fossils were found (mastodon jaw bone with teeth, vertebrae, various tools used by natives) while excavating the Sams Creek Canal.

    The cabin was originally built in 1875 by John H. Sams, but due to failing crops the home was moved up the Indian River in 1878. The cabin was originally built in the Eau Gallie area and transported in pieces (each piece contained roman numerals so that it could be re-built) to its current location at Pine Island. It was interesting to see the cabin and to know that it was originally 3 rooms with a loft space (the space is currently one open space). The 2nd house on the site was built approximately 1880’s. This two-story frame home has a wonderful porch that provided shade to the interior rooms. As we walked up the steps you see that there are two doors to gain entry. The one on the left (solid door not glass panes or lights) was to the “office”, this was put in so that the business had a separate entrance from the living area of the home (which was through the door on the right with 2 glass panes/lights). Upstairs there are multiple rooms which are currently being used as bunk rooms for those volunteers that are interning or groups that are working on the site.

    I urge each person reading this blog post to visit Sams House. It is a part of Brevard County History. It was overall a very interesting site that I am looking forward to visiting again in the future. I have also friended the site on Facebook to keep up with what is happening at the location.

  3. Saidee

    Great local find, I have lived here for 5 years and was surprised to read how this gem is right around the corner from me. Also interesting to read in your blog was the archaeologist ice age finds. The prehistoric fossils of the Mastodon, The Giant Land Tortoise, The Glyptodont, Mammoth and The Tapir would be very interesting to observe at the center. I am amazed that it was found in our area and I can’t help but ponder what else might lye beneath the rest of our local wetlands.
    There have been numerous times I have heard of ways people in the past have moved homes from one location to the next and yet I am still always amazed when I learn of a new process for another home. For a family to take a three room cabin and float it down a river to later reassemble it at its new location is such an astound process to us now a days and yet probably completely normal for their era. This is definitely a cabin that I too will have to take a tour of. I am excited to see the original windows, external siding, ceiling and floors of the cabin. Although all aspects of the building are not of original pieces, I am sure the replicated features will be just as interesting to see. I find historical architecture very interesting to observe, especially with this type of simple structure. Simple yet I am sure built with a lot of heart by the Sams family, a one of a kind for them.

  4. Bryan Mozo

    Wow, Sam’s House and the rest of Pine Island seems so interesting… I’m so sad I had to miss the tour, hopefully I can check it out soon. I really love the architecture and details of Sam’s family Main House it really reminds you of how timeless classic architectural styles can be. I have to imagine an upgrade from a cabin to an entire two story house must have been a huge step for the family and it just goes to show you how hard they must’ve worked in the citrus farming industry.
    It is almost hard to believe that a family could’ve floated their home down the river and rebuilt their cabin 25 miles or so away. Compared to today’s standard of just tearing things down or leaving them abandoned it shows you just how much these homes and belongings meant to people back in the 1800s. Now it almost seems silly and a waste to pick up and move a home, but when you think about it if you at least can reuse a lot of the resources from your old home in a new one, it would save a lot of resources.
    I think the Sam’s house at Pine Island seems like a very interesting place to visit and think it’s just a really great educational spot for the community, I love how they kept the exterior original and used the inside as a museum while still keeping the feeling of an historic building.

  5. Kathleen Miron

    Sams House is a perfect example of just how important historic preservation is to us. As we were able to track the life of this house and the family who lived in it we found out the age of the house. The family moved it from South Carolina to Eau Gallie an area that was not good for farming. That gave us information on that area of Florida. They moved the house again, now to Merritt Island, Florida this area was farmland. This gave them a chance to thrive. Through our research of that land we uncovered that the Sams family were not the first to thrive on that land. They found remains of human bones along with stone tools and broken ceramic materials and prehistoric fossils from the Ice Age. This family gave us more than just fruit because of them we have uncovered much more.
    We were able to identify the means of destination of the house. The evidence shows they disassembled the house and were able to float it down the Indian River to their spot and reassemble it as they had marked the sections with roman numerals. The family farmed citrus, sugar cane and pineapple and were successful with it. This is why relocating this house was so important and that helped us uncover this information.
    We can read the house by considering the county records and the evidence of materials left behind in the house and the activity of farming and what was found on the land we can piece together the lifestyle of the people that existed at Sams House at Pine Island.

  6. Stephany Jones

    Wow, I am surprised. I had no idea that this was around here or that there was anything around here in the first place aside from some stuff in the downtown Titusville and Cocoa areas and Christmas. It is quite interesting to learn about the Ice Age fossils as well. It seems to hold a lot of archaeological value as well as the architectural value. I may have to take a trip up there one day considering I did not go on a tour of the place when others did. I can tell from other comments on here that the experience was great and it effected them in a way or left an impression on them. So hopefully I can get up there maybe sometime this summer. The sooner the better. Just looking at the pictures it shows some magnificent architectural aspects and I can not wait to be able to see them up close and I am guessing so much more. I like how it shows upgrades and how people changed their lives through history, you can practically see history actually playing out in front of you. Then it is amazing to think how we have improved from cabins to the two story houses to what we have now. It is also amazing to think of how they got their house down here by floating it down the river. Think of how they rebuilt it miles from their original place. It is quite impressive. It also goes to show how much people cared about their possessions that they would even take the time and energy to bring their whole house down here. I can’t wait to see it.

  7. Jan C Reed

    The Sams House at Pine Island is another gem in our own backyard that I was not aware existed. It is great that the houses are open to the public to tour as well as used as the management center for a government agency (EEL program). Being a taxpayer in Brevard County, from a family of developers and currently in the land materials business, many times I am against spending large sums of taxpayer dollars for purchasing land that is designated as environmentally endangered. What makes property environmentally endangered anyway? According to my google search the definition is lands that contain natural forest, wetland or native plant communities, rare and endangered plants and animals, endemic species, outstanding geologic or other natural features, or land which functions as an integral and sustaining component of an existing ecosystem. I guess it is important to preserve these types of lands, but it sure seems there are many endangered lands that are purchased at huge taxpayer expense. Therefore, it makes me happy to find out that the Pine Island Conservation encompasses many functions: offices for the EEL program, a museum where prehistoric archaeological artifacts dating back to the Ice Age can be viewed and has two examples of historic Florida architecture. The Florida vernacular style with the wrap around front porch and tin ceilings found at Pine Island is one of my favorites.
    The best of the Pine Island Conservation Area is that it is not just land that is being preserved, but it encompasses educational and historic buildings that can be toured and enjoyed by all Brevard County residents.

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  8. j sartori

    Having visited Merritt Island parks in the past, I am (again) surprised to hear of another feature that I have overlooked. I used to work at a day-care (many years ago) and I think it would have been really neat to have taken some field trips with the older kids to some of the places that I have learned about on this blog. Perhaps they have had the chance to visit during a school trip. Our surrounding towns all seem to have interesting “fun facts” about their beginnings or founding families. While researching different projects it is always interesting to me to see so many names that re-occur in our history. I like the way street signs, parks and buildings are named after families or events that helped shaped the past and present. It would make an interesting timeline or map to see the correlation of names and their contributions to each town. While visiting and researching St. Joseph Church on Miller Street, I came across several names that are familiar in our community. Walking through the cemetery also provided an opportunity to reflect on how long founding families have been in the area. The comforting feeling of recognition was surprising as I read the names, and thought to myself, I know that name, or family, or street….Our surrounding areas will tell a different story, one that I hope is an important one; many years from now. I am hopeful that we will leave a unique and valuable point of view about the way we live and that it enriches those that find and explore it.

  9. Clair Brown

    The Sam’s House at Pine Island was unique history in itself and for the property owners to have discovered an Indian burial ground on the property was an added plus. I could not imagine how difficult it could have been at that time to float the entire cabin up the river when the Sams moved up to Merritt Island. Now the cabin is restored and maintained very well I thought. Although there were structural renovations, the coordinator pointed out original features of the cabin including the floors and windows. She also told us the story of while the family lived in the house, it was used as a school and the door the students used was on the side of the cabin which may have been the entrance into what would now be called the living room. As you can see, there were several displays highlighting indigenous plants and family artifacts. We also viewed several fossils and you can see the original teeth still intact.

    The main family house was beautiful and it was easy to see the design layout that better suited the functions of the family. Although there was a large accessible ramp that wrapped around the side of the front porch the coordinator pointed out some of the original features like the two separate entry doors on the first floors. One was an entry into the house and the other into Mr. Sam’s office. According to the coordinator a good deal of the restoration was cleaning and once she walked into the house to find a wall covered and before we left we heard the legendary ghost.

  10. Alison Carver

    It was a true pleasure reading this particular blog entry. I was fascinated to read we have such an interesting and beautifully preserved treasure right in our own back yard, especially one that dates as far back as the Ice Age. This detail really peaked my interest and even inspired me to do a little personal research on what the Florida land mass looked like during the Middle Archaic Period. Very intriguing. The Sams House at Pine Island will definitely be added to my list of “Must See”.

    Additionally, the later development and story of the Sams family was also very interesting. I can’t even begin to imagine what a daunting task it was to disassemble an entire house, float it all down a river to relocate it, and then reassemble it back together. Today, in the year 2012, this seems like an overwhelming chore to do, but in the year 1878, wow, what a remarkable feat. I can’t take apart a simple Ikea table during a move, without ending up with either missing or extra parts when I go to put it back together.

    I also found the tidbit about the entry design for the second home rather enthralling. Initially reading the blog post, I interpreted the “double entry doors” description to mean one single entry doorway large enough to incorporate two doors. After reading through the comments, I learned this was actually referring to two separate entries on the main level, one for the main house and one for the office. This seems like very well thought out design and planning, knowing that Mr. Sams’ need for his office was going to have a large demand for public access. Well done Sams family, well done.

  11. ariel

    i am one of the children that came to sams house.i was wanting to know if the sams family died in the house?

  12. Daniel MacLeod

    This place is incredible, the story and the way that it looks as well. My favorite part is pretty obvious, floating the house down the river to get it to the new destination. I know that in class we have talked about families moving and literally taking their house with them, but to see a specific example is pretty incredible. And the fact that people have discovered roman numerals that validate the story and that they numbered the pieces of their house so they knew how to put it back together. Another amazing detail about the property is the findings of the fossils that date back to the Ice Age! That is just incredible that you can find fossils this old on a property that is already being historically preserved. The buildings also look great, and it really looks like they are trying to preserve the property and make them look like how they did back when it was reassembled. I find it very obscure that the cabin is like a dark stained brown and then the house is the bright white elegant building. The contrast really draws my attention and makes me think that the inside of the two buildings are exact opposites. And then when you walk in, they are exact opposites! Well today they are at least. I like the fact that main house is still kind of in its original use, housing workers. Then finally having the cabin as a museum is the best way to use the old building in my opinion.

  13. ahmed almaz

    The Sam’s House at Pine Island was unique history in itself and for the property owners to have discovered an Indian burial ground on the property was an added plus. The buildings also look great, and it really looks like they are trying to preserve the property and make them look like how they did back when it was reassembled. I find it very obscure that the cabin is like a dark stained brown and then the house is the bright white elegant building. The contrast really draws my attention and makes me think that the inside of the two buildings are exact opposites. Perhaps they have had the chance to visit during a school trip. Our surrounding towns all seem to have interesting “fun facts” about their beginnings or founding families. While researching different projects it is always interesting to me to see so many names that re-occur in our history. I like the way street signs, parks and buildings are named after families or events that helped shaped the past and present. What makes property environmentally endangered anyway? According to my google search the definition is lands that contain natural forest, wetland or native plant communities, rare and endangered plants and animals, endemic species, outstanding geologic or other natural features, or land which functions as an integral and sustaining component of an existing ecosystem. I guess it is important to preserve these types of lands, but it sure seems there are many endangered lands that are purchased at huge taxpayer expense.

  14. Amber Maiwald

    Sams’s House at Pine Island sounds like an awesome place filled with rich history. I find it really interesting that this piece of land was once inhabited by other humans many, many years ago. I have always found archaeology interesting and this really sparks my interests. When I was little, I would go in my backyard with my best friend and dig in the ground for hours. We would only find pretty, colorful rocks, but we would always talk about how one day we would find like an arrowhead or something and become rich. I have also always been interested in fossils and ancient, extinct animals. I bet the museum has some pictures or maybe even some actual fossils that the archeologists found around the site. I think that it is really amazing how the Sams family took apart their house and floated it down the Indian River from Eau Gallie to Merritt Island. That must have taken very strong individuals as well as an advanced understanding of construction, physics, water movement, and math. I think that it’s amazing today how houses are relocated on semi-trucks or trains, but relocating a house by floating it down a river is even more amazing. I have seen pictures of the logging days, so I’m assuming that they just tied a bunch of logs together, set the pieces on top of the logs, and rode along with the house. Sams’s House sounds like a really cool place to visit and I hope someday that I will get a chance to go check out the rich history of that area.

  15. Emily WIndsor

    (Week 15)

    Lesa,

    I find it remarkable that the 1888 Sams family main home and the 1878 Sams cabin harbored archaeological artifacts that can be dated back as far as the Ice Age.
    The archaeological find such as ancient human habitation spanning 800 years and prehistoric fossils are a rare and amazing find. The education center must receive a lot of visitors to see the EEL’s findings. It is interesting that the Sam’s family moved to these homes to take advantage of the 1862 Homestead Act. I also really like the fact that the house was passed down through the family for many generations until give to Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) programs. It is always good to see such strong family connections through a home such as this example.

    I am glad that this family was successful in their citrus, sugar cane and pineapple enterprise endeavors. I am going to assume that the wrap-around porch was for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The fact that the Sam’s house is of Floridian vernacular structure does not surprise me, but I am surprised that it is white instead of the other pastel colors you have mentioned in other blogs; such as pink or blue or even yellow. I am interested in the fact that three bedrooms are actually still in use for the volunteers to use along with a bathroom. I find it interesting because a lot of places, such as these, are normally just walk-through museums. It is nice to see one that is still in working order.

  16. Chelsea Pushman

    Sams’s House at Pine Island is so full of history it is crazy. I find it so cool that it is land that already pre-existed and was home to other inhabitants long, long ago. The fossils found interest me the most. I think it is so interesting how we can get so much information from a piece of a rock that has been in the natural elements for many years. If it is a fossil of an animal, we can learn the species, from the species we can learn about the area, from the area we can learn of the people and how they lived. It is so interesting and I wish I could maybe discover such things one day.

    I also like the way Sam’s family built their own life. They found success in citrus and other endeavors. Myself and a friend are trying to grow our own farm. We have been growing organic tomatoes, green beans, oranges, spinach, broccoli, beats and chives. It is so much fun to watch them grow and to know that we grew them from such tiny seeds!

    Another thing I liked is the layout of the house. I like the double entry doors, it seems to make the house more open. I love that there are two rooms immediately when you walk in. I like that it is an office and a family room. I like that a family room is front and center. Another feature that I like is the fireplace. I went to Virginia over Christmas break and I have lived in Florida all my life. I got to experience using a fire place during the trip and it felt amazing! I think I might want to live up north and add some of these features to my future home.

  17. Jennifer Garcia

    It’s absolutely incredible to think that people inhabited the same location where the Sam’s house is over 800 years ago. That land has hundreds of years of not only artifacts but history. I also find it quite fascinating as I’ve read many articles about people migrating south to Florida, how many of them came from South Carolina like Mr. John Sams. Florida obviously had a lot to offer to those living up north, such as land and the great weather to grow fruits and vegetables which many did when they moved. As a result Mr. Sams made plenty of money to build his main house. He worked very hard not only to better himself but his family as well, he made a great moved from South Carolina to Florida and then had various jobs until he succeeded and was able to build their house. I would love to visit this house and witness firsthand not only the Sams house but the many artifacts they have found on the land. The Sams must have been somewhat wealthy before they moved I believe because it would seem like not only costly to take a part a cabin but also the shipment and labor of putting it back together as well. Even though the cabin isn’t completely original it still looks as if it was, and what is left has been preserved very nicely by EEL. I am glad that they made this into a museum because it definitely is worth seeing with all of it’s history.

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