1. HISTORICAL SKETCH
Sarasota county lies along the Gulf coast of the southern peninsula of Florida. In topography it is comparatively level and of but slight surface elevation, the altitude ranging from sea level at the coast to about 60 feet above sea level in the northeast part of the county. Most of the land lies less than 35 feet above sea level, while the long, narrow islands, or keys, which extend parallel to the coast and are separated from the mainland by shallow bays, are not more than 15 feet in elevation. The county is traversed by the Myakka River, which rises in Manatee county and flows southwestward to a point within a few miles of the Gulf coast and thence southeastward into Charlotte Harbor. Several creeks in the western part of the county rise only a few miles inland and flow into the bays along the coast. Tributary to these streams are shallow drainage lines or sloughs which range from a few feet to as much as a mile in width. During wet seasons these sloughs, which are seldom entirely dry, afford sluggish drainage for contiguous territory.(1)
Average annual precipitation in the county ranges from 50 to 55 inches in the south and southeast to between 55 and 60 inches in the north and northwest. Rainfall is seasonal, however, the average precipitation from June to September being from two to three or more times as great as in any other months. The mean annual temperature is about 71 degrees, Fahrenheit, while the mean monthly temperature ranges from the low 60’s in the coldest months to around 80 degrees in midsummer. Killing frosts may be experienced from late in December until early in March.(2)
Along the Myakka River are some hammock lands. The remainder of the county is divided between open pine woods with a saw-palmetto undergrowth and open prairie interspersed with small hammock and pine islands.(3) In the western part of the county are lowlands underlaid by peat or muck soils that are well adapted to truck farming.(4)
This area apparently was originally held by the Calusa,(5) although the exact territorial limits of the early Florida Indian tribes cannot be stated definitely. It seems to have been only sparsely inhabited, however, as few sand and shell mounds are to be found along the coast.(6) For several centuries its flat, sandy, and often swampy, terrain held forth no greater attractions for whites than for natives. As late as
1. V.T. Stringfield, “Groundwater Resources of Sarasota County, Florida,” in Fla. State Geol. Survey, Annual Report, 1930-1932, p. 128.
2. Ibid., pp, 129-130.
3. John P. Wall, “Southwest Florida,” in the Semi Tropical, vol. II (Feb. 1876), p. 104; South Florida, Tallahassee, n. d., p.78.
4. Stringfield, loc. cit., p.126.
5. Ales Hrdlicka, Anthropology of Florida, DeLand, 1922, pp. 58-59; Daniel G. Brinton, Notes on the Floridian Peninsula, Philadelphia, 1859, p.113.
6. Ibid., p. 171; George C. Matson, and Frederick C. Clapp, “A Preliminary Report on the Geology of Florida,” in Fla. State Geol. Survey, Annual Report, 1908-09, p. 160.
State Library of Florida, WPA - Historical Records Survey, County Histories
Brief history of Sarasota 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.