Edgar Ellis had a magnificent dream to reshape the landscape of southern Titusville
About 200 feet along the trail from the visitor’s center of the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary, you can see the evidence of an ambitious business undertaking that went terribly wrong. In 1911, businessmen Edgar W. Ellis and J. H. Beckwith put together a consortium of developers to buy 22,500 acres of marshy land south of Titusville, with plans to drain it and make the land usable for agriculture. The drainage was to be an enormous undertaking: by 1913, their crews, operating heavy earthmoving machinery that had been used in the excavation of the Panama Canal, had dug 43 miles of parallel canals and began work on a main canal that would join them. That canal was intended to divert floodwaters from the St. Johns River to the Indian River through Addison Creek, creating a wide channel to transport crops to market. But they hadn’t counted on the hardness of the coquina rock ridge that ran through the area. Their excavating machines could not break it. The canal was never completed, and the consortium went broke. A historical marker on the trail tells the story near one of the overgrown canals. But don’t stop there. The Enchanted Forest trails reveal many secrets of the environment that Ellis and Beckwith couldn’t tame.