The newest town in Brevard County, the Town of Grant-Valkaria (incorporated 2006), enjoys a long history along the banks of the Indian River Lagoon, a history inextricably tied to the natural environment and was originally settled as a fishing community. The first settlers of the Grant-Valkaria area were the Ais Indians. The shell mounds in the area near the Indian River Lagoon (first called the “River Ais”) illustrate the Ais’ use of the abundant clams, oysters, mullet, turtle eggs and turtles. The Spaniards brought disease to the Ais and they disappeared from the area. Until the late 1880’s only 4 families of non-native Americans actually lived in the immediate Grant-Valkaria area. In 1886 Mr. Ernest Svedelius settled in the area immediately to the north of what would become Grant, and gave that area the name “Valkyries”. Post Office errors changed it to “Valkaria”. The Valkaria, Florida post office was officially established in 1890 with Mr. Edward Cecil as the postmaster. On August 4, 1891 the official Grant, Florida post office was opened with Mr. Edwin Nelson as the postmaster.
In December of 1892 the population of Grant doubled when 3 families totaling 16 new residents got off the steamboat to stay. The year 1893 saw the first school house opened in Grant. Around November of 1893, the first train stopped in Grant, leading to the construction of the Grant Station. (photo credit State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. )
Both Grant and Valkaria were indicated as stops along the Flagler Rail System East Coast Railway, circa 1912. In 1894 the Grant Grocery was opened. This store remains in existence to this day, and is listed on the National Registry of Historic places.
In 1895, W.L. Graddik settled in the area and eventually owned 75,000 acres of fenced pasture lands spreading from west of Palm Bay to South Brevard County. His ranch house was located in Valkaria. Mr. Graddik raised Hereford, Short Horn, Brahma, Durham, and Angus cattle. During WW II he prospered as his cattle went to feed the US troops.
In the late 1800’s, seventy-five Danish families settled from Vero Beach to Ft. Pierce, and some settled in the Grant-Valkaria area. They formed cooperatives and shipped out fish, oysters, clams, crabs, farm produce, some citrus and pineapples. The family names of Jorgensens, Christensons, Gutermuths, and Bensens are still common in Grant-Valkaria.
The Bensen House is a historical site.
For an early map of the area (1915) visit the Florida Memory site. The image below is from their collection.
Atley Bensen paid $1,200 for the precut yellow pine lumber which arrived by riverboat from Jacksonville in 1916, to build this house for his wife Clara Christensen. The Bensen brothers married the Christensen sisters, both pioneer
families of Grant. Atley and Clara lived in the house with sons, Atley Jr. and Russell until they were school age, and then moved to Melbourne, where son Edward Hartman was born in 1928. The Bensen House was rented for about five years until the family returned. Atley and his brother Adolph were involved in commercial fishing, grew pineapples, and operated the Jorgensen General Store, which opened in 1894. Atley died in 1961. Clara continued to live in the house, and then later moved to Tampa where she died in 1981. Russell donated the “cracker” house to the Grant Historical Society in 1984. In 1985, the house was moved from its original site, which was about 300 feet south of 1st Street on the banks of the Indian River Lagoon to this location, which was the original site of Grant´s first house built in 1894 by Louis Kossuth “Honey” Smith. The Smith house burned down in the 1970´s. The Bensen House became a museum in 1987.
Since at least 1930, Mr. Roy Couch owned and operated Couch Manufacturing Company building marine engines, pumps, and dredges in Grant-Valkaria for many years. He kept residents employed during the Great Depression and shared the first telephone in the area with residents. Roy Couch was instrumental in the dredging and development of Sebastian Inlet. The Couch Pump site is now Christenson’s Landing, a large boat ramp.
Today the Town is home to many engineers and technical personnel as well as to many entrepreneurs and tradesmen who cherish the rural character of the Town. A cattle ranch, large wholesale nursery, and orange groves maintain the Town’s agricultural past. Marinas and waterfront restaurants recall the fishing legacy.
To view a collection of historical photos, visit the Bensen Historical House. Be sure to ask, though, because they store the albums under the bed!
Name: Grant 1916 House (Bensen House)
Location: 5795 US Highway 1 Grant-Valkaria,, FL 32949
Historical Significance: Homestead of early settler family Bensen
Name: Grant Train Station Depot
Location: 5799 US Highway 1 Grant-Valkaria, FL 32949
Historical Significance: Flagler Rail System East Coast Railway train station
Name: Grant Grocery Store (now called Grant Station)
Location: 5390 US Highway 1 Grant-Valkaria, FL 32949
Historical Significance: Site of early Post Office, on National Historical Registry
In 2004, after many years of trying to convince Brevard County government and the neighboring City of Palm Bay to encourage responsible growth that would be compatible with the rural character of the unincorporated communities of Grant and Valkaria, a group of residents determined that it was time for the community to be in charge of its own fate. The original group of Lisette Kolar, Del Yonts and Dan Faden were joined by 7 other who worked together during a 2-year long incorporation effort to ensure the community’s preservation. These other cofounders included Patrick and Renee Bryan, Jim Tonti, Barbara Shea, Bonnie Allan, Fran Putnam and Bobby Putnam. A Grant-Valkaria Preservation Committee was formed and these folks encompassed the steering committee. The GVPC members shepherded the Feasibility Study and Town Charter through the legislative process. As there is something in the Grant-Valkaria water that makes volunteerism flourish, droves of volunteers came forward to do petition drives, pass out flyers door to door, hold and attend meetings, run and participate in fund-raising events, and keep residents informed via email and a website. The Towns Charter was developed by the GVPC steering committee and 20 to 30 residents meeting once per week for long hours into the night. The Charter and incorporation Feasibility Study were accepted by the State Legislature and incorporation was approved in May of 2006 and signed into law by then Governor Jeb Bush on June 15, 2006. On July 26, 2006 a referendum of the Grant-Valkaria residents was held in which there was a 72% voter turnout and a 66% approval for incorporation. The Towns Comprehensive Plan, designed to preserve the Towns rural character, has been approved by the State and adopted.