Background


The Federal Government invited the States to conduct a census in 1885 and it offered to pay part of the cost of doing so. Only five areas accepted the offer -- Dakota Territory, New Mexico Territory, Colorado, Nebraska, and Florida. These five areas were all on the frontier of the United States with quickly growing populations. Other states conducted censuses in 1885, but did it on their own.

The Brevard 1885 census covers the exact same area as did the 1880 census. During this period, Brevard County was much larger, covering not only the current Brevard County but also Indian River, St. Lucie, Osceola, and Okeechobee counties plus that part of Martin County lying north of the St. Lucie River and bits of other counties around Lake Okeechobee. In 1887, two years after this census, the western part of Brevard County was split off to form Osceola County.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the U. S. grew 25 percent in population between the 1880 and 1890 censuses. Florida grew over 45 percent during the same period. And Brevard County grew 47 per cent in just the five years between the 1880 and 1885 censuses.

About 2272 people were enumerated in Brevard in 1885 plus 20 more in the Mortality Schedule. The area comprising present day Brevard County was the most populous, with about 65 per cent of the population. Over 26 per cent were in what is now Osceola County and Okeechobee County. Only 8 1/2 percent were in the coastal area south of present day Brevard County.

Since this census was done at the invitation of the Federal Government, copies of films of the census can be purchased from the National Archives. The number for Brevard is M845, Roll 1. The film may also be rented from the LDS Family History Library, microfilm number 888962.