Manatee County was established in 1855 and named for the Manatee River. The endangered manatee, or sea cow (Trichechus manatus), is found in the vicinity. Europeans have traversed this area since Florida's early days; a national monument at Terra Ceia commemorates the site where Hernando DeSoto is believed to have landed in 1539. Among the more famous early settlers was Robert Gamble, whose sugar plantation near Ellenton has been preserved by the state. The Gamble Mansion was temporarily a refuge for Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin during the post- Appomattox "flight into oblivion." Another early sugar planter was Joseph Braden, who built a coquina-rock "castle" near the Braden River, a tributary of the Manatee. The ruins are still visible.
The earliest settlement was also called "Manatee" and served as the county seat. It has since been incorporated into the city of Bradenton, originally "Bradentown" or "Braidentown," named in honor of Joseph Braden. The oldest surviving courthouse in Florida, built in 1859-60 by Ezekiel Glazier, served Manatee County until 1866, when the county seat was moved from Manatee to Pine Level (now in DeSoto County). The structure was subsequently used as a Methodist church and was donated to the Manatee Village Historical Park and restored in 1975. More history of this structure can be found at the Manatee County Clerk's page.
When DeSoto County was created in 1887 the Manatee County seat was returned to Manatee village. The churchlike structure shown here, which comes to us courtesy of Jared Anton of Hollywood, is the Manatee County Courthouse as it appeared around 1905. This building was replaced by the courthouse seen below and at the top of the page, which was built by McGucken and Hyer Engineers of Tampa in 1913.
| Page 5 | Index | Home |