Bakers’ Cocoa or Coco Plum

Charles W Skelly and Donna Sheriff

There are many stories about the naming of Cocoa; each one supported by some fact or the other, some old documents dug up or someone’s actual unquestioned memory, You know, one of them is probably true, Now you take the one that goes like this,

A group of settlers were sitting around on boxes in Willard’s Store chewin’ the fat and politicking’, the main issue was, “What are we going to name this city now that we’re about to be incorporated?” They discussed all kinds of names and everything in between. Since this was Willard’s store on Willard Street, how about Willardsville? At that point, I’ll bet things got a little heated. As a matter of fact, one brand new bridegroom probably suggested, “The Beautiful City of Estherville.”  .

Well, there’s a native shrub called the coco plum, which was found all over here and still is, and since this was more neutral, the men finally decided on Coco, Florida for the new city. Could it be true, even though no one recalls when an “A” got added?

Old Grandpa Hardee says, “Hogwash!” He had his story, too. And if you ask me, well, see what you think. Grandpa G. S. Hardee came to this area, down around Rockledge, in 1868. Grandpa’s dead now, but hetold good stories about the early days to anyone who would listen to his stories about Indians, traders, and settlers; about towns and people, too. He recollects that on June 15, 1883 his Great Uncle R. A. Hardee,who was a trader, filed a claim in Titusville for a plot of land on the site, which is now Cocoa. Great Uncle Hardee was always buying and selling land. He traded in horses, too, and before the War Between the States, some say he traded in slaves.

Anyway, the plot we’re talking about was called Hardee’s Plat of Indian River City. Now don’t confuse that with today’s Indian River City, that’s another story. Uncle Hardee’s plat was divided into lots 150 feet by 150 feet with fifty foot streets, and twenty foot alleys separating them. It was a goodinvestment and before you knew it there was regular shopping center there on the river front. One of thebuildings housed a general store and post office. President Ulysses S. Grant, himself, named the proprietor, Mrs. James, Post-mistress.

The river carried most of the traffic in those days so that’s where the equivalent of the modem day billboard was placed. Signs and advertisements were painted on the sides of buildings or wooden storefronts facing the river. The general store was popular with traders and hunters who came for supplies and to meet and talk. The traders often brought shopping lists from the settlers up and down the river.

Well, way back then in 1884, Baker’s Cocoa was supplying chocolate flavor for chocolate lovers and advertising their product in the near wilderness of Florida. The river front trading post was an ideal location for Baker’s Cocoa sign. Once the sign was up, though, no one bothered to repaint or replace it andthe “Baker’s” disappeared, but “Cocoa” remained readable. Then it was only a matter of time until this became a landmark and traders, hunters, and settlers alike would say, “I’ll meet you in Cocoa.” “Pick me up a sack of salt at Cocoa.” “I saw old Wooten at Cocoa last month.”

Everybody identified the landing as Cocoa, so when it came time to incorporate, that’s what Grandpa said they called it. The Town of Cocoa. Grandpa should know, he was around a long time. He was just twenty-six years old when he homesteaded on the mainland of Central Brevard. Part of that homestead was the old Sears Town in Rockledge, but Grandpa saw it all in another day.

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