Historical Sketch of Manatee County

Historical Sketch of Manatee County


Manatee County was created by an Act of the Legislature, Jan. 9th, 1855. Prior to the passage of this measure, the area now called Manatee County had been included within the boundaries of Alachua and Hillsborough Counties. On page 283 of John P. Duval's "Compilation of the Public Acts of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, Passed Prior to 1840", one finds the boundaries of Alachua very definitely set forth. The line comprehending this vast tract began at the Suwannee on the west, touched, on the north, the line dividing the Territory of Florida and the State of Georgia. At the head of the river St Mary's, by devious route, it ambled south to the main road from Tallahassee, missed the banks of the St. Johns by eight miles, veered west and south by the way of the Ocklawaha river and the Indian boundary line to the waters of Charlotte Harbor and then ran "west and north along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, including the islands to the mouth of the river Suwanhee [sic]". The approval of the act to organize a county called Hillsborough, January 25th, 1834, is also found on page 292.
The original boundaries of Manatee County extended from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee; they embraced an area of 5,000 square miles and included a tract 60 miles or more in width from north to south.(*1)
It is intriguing to imagine the method of procedure adopted by the pioneers who, sturdy of heart and long of vision, undertook the problems of organizing and administering the county's affairs. Early records of Manatee County have been well preserved, therefore, one is not left to flounder long in his own imaginings. In case he wishes to know, he will reach high on a shelf in the county commissioner's store room, lift down a volume, dusty, small, and entitled "Minutes of the County Commissioners", turn its pages and become well acquainted with the doings of the first county officials. The county government apparently did not begin to function until the year 1856; other than the transcriptions of Hillsboro records the earliest available records bear that date.
The faithful "Minutes", accurately and diligently recorded, indicate the first meeting of the commissioners under date of March 10th, 1856. The bonds of E. Glazier, Judge of Probate and James Cunliff, coroner, were approved. The Clerk of Manatee County was authorized to call on the Clerk of Hillsboro for matters on record pertaining to matters of Manatee County. Edmund Lee, the Clerk, was granted permission to use his books for record until others were furnished him. Josiah Gates, the first Manatee settler to receive a grant of land issued under the Armed Occupation Act, was appointed County Treasurer. No county tax was levied for 1856.
The commissioners held yearly meetings. During that period it behooved each man to remain close at home in order to protect his family


State Library of Florida, WPA - Historical Records Survey, County Histories


Brief history of Manatee County, Florida collected by the Works Progress Administration's Historical Records Survey.

Note to Researchers: Though the WPA field workers included extensive citations for the factual information contained in these county histories, it should be noted that these historical narratives were produced in the 1930s by federal government employees, and might reflect the inherent social biases of the era.