Filed Under Native Americans

Old Brevard County Courthouse

Where the struggle for Native American rights in Florida began

Tom Tiger was determined to receive compensation for a stolen horse and was the first of his people to take the matter to a court of law

This tour concludes at one of the most impressive historic buildings in Titusville, renamed in 2006 as the Vassar B. Carlton Historic Titusville Courthouse. Built in 1912, it occupies the site of the first Titusville Courthouse, which was a two-story wooden structure built in the classical revival style in 1882 on land donated by Titusville founder Col. Henry Titus. It was here in 1899 that a member of the Cow Creek band of Seminoles named Tom Tiger became the first Seminole to participate in a legal action, claiming compensation from a white resident of Brevard County who had allegedly stolen his horse. Though the judge ultimately ruled against Tom Tiger, his appearance in the Titusville courthouse marked the first attempt in Florida for Native Americans to secure equal rights under the law. The struggle for Native rights was a long one; it was not resolved until 1961 when the Florida legislature declared that the criminal laws of the state should be equally enforced for the protection of the residents of Indian reservations. Thus, although Tom Tiger was unsuccessful in his suit, it can be said that the continuing struggle for Native American equality under the law in Florida began when he took his case to the Brevard County Courthouse in Titusville.

Images

The Old Brevard County Courthouse, renamed in 2006 as the Vassar B. Carlton Historic Titusville Courthouse. Source: Photo: Coherit Associates
The Old Brevard County Courthouse This building, constructed in 1882, was a wooden structure in neoclassical style. The brick structure in the background was the Titusville Jail. Source: North Brevard Historical Society and Museum
Capt. Tom Tiger (Micco Tustenug-gee) Illustration from Minnie Moore-Willson, The Seminoles of Florida (New York, 1920). Source: Harry A. Kersey Jr. "The Case of Tom Tiger's Horse: An Early Foray into Indian Rights." The Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jan., 1975), pp. 306-318.

Location

506 South Palm Ave., Titusville, FL 32780 | Although the Brevard County Courthouse has moved to a new six-story structure on South Street, the Old Courthouse is still used as a government facility.

Metadata

“Old Brevard County Courthouse,” Explore Historic Titusville FL, accessed December 3, 2022, http://history.titusville.com/items/show/9.