Saint Joseph Catholic Community

 

 

 

 

 

The St. Joseph Miller Street Catholic Cemetery was placed on the National Registry of Historic Sites in 1986 and is one of the oldest facilities still standing in what was the original downtown area for Palm Bay.

The birth date of St. Joseph Catholic Church and Cemetery is generally accepted as 1914, but its origin really goes back to 1912, the year our first parishioners arrived in what was then called Tillman.


These early settlers, predominantly of Germanic and Slavonic stock, coming from settled communities in the North and Mid-West, were a devout, industrious, and determined group. They missed the churches, schools and priests, which had been an integral part of their lives. The Florida Indian River Catholic Colony provided them with a place of worship and erected a small frame building, called Saint John, located southwest of Malabar Road on Mission Road.

Disillusionment soon settled in. Their land of dreams was infested with mosquitoes and strange, hardy wild plants. The land did not respond well to cultivation and was inhospitable. The settlers, blaming the Land Company for their plight, were not favorably disposed to anyone closely associated with the Florida Indian River Catholic Colony. They even refused to use the church built for them.


Benedictine Father Gabriel Ruppert, the pastor of St Anastasia in Fort Pierce, started celebrating Mass in “Mass houses”, staying with the various families in the area.
In 1914, he led his parishioners in erecting the simple rectangular structure of native cypress lumber and a tin sheathed roof, which we now call our “Miller Street Church.”


The early parishioners buried their dead in a plot 300 feet west of the present cemetery. Due to the low swampy nature of the soil, most of the bodies were exhumed in 1929 and re-interred in the area around the church, which serves as the cemetery to this day. The original burial place, which was vacated in 1929, has been sold to the City of Palm Bay. The 7 graves that remained in the original cemetery were excluded from the sale, and will become a permanent memorial for those early pioneer still interred there.