Sunday Favorites: Doctors, Healers and Midwives

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 12.21.15 PMPublished Sunday, April 20, 2014 12:05 am
by Merab-Michal Favorite

Seminole Chief Holata Micco, also known as Billy Bowlegs, practiced self-inflicted bleeding to help cleanse the body of infections.
Seminole Chief Holata Micco, also known as Billy
Bowlegs, practiced self-inflicted bleeding to help
cleanse the body of infections.

For the most part, early settlers had to self-treat their wounds using natural remedies to heal the infections and diseases that befell them.

While some treatment methods could be considered acceptable by today’s standards, others such as purging the stomach, bleeding and the use of leeches might be considered irrational.

The Seminoles used herbs and bleeding to cleanse their bodies in times of sickness. In the book The Lures of Manatee, by Lillie McDuffee, the Wyatt family discovered a band of Seminoles, Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs among them. The group had been quarantined from the rest of their tribe and was conducting the bleeding method of cleansing.

The first doctor to come to the area was Dr. John Oliver Brown who moved to Palmetto in 1893 at the age of 24 to practice medicine.

Brown was particularly interested in typhoid and malaria (also referred to “Intermittent Fear”) fevers. At the time, most doctors believed that inhaling rotting vegetation caused malaria. However, Brown associated the disease with mosquitoes and ordered all open-water wells filled and all rainwater cisterns covered because he believed it would reduce the population.

Brown served the community for 57 years, delivering 976 babies and traveling as many as 30 miles on horseback to tend to his patients.

The Manatee Mineral Spring was thought to have healing powers. It was used by native Americans and settled by Manatee's first white pioneer, Josiah Gates, in January 1842. It served Fort Branch when the early settlers camped nearby for protection from the Seminole raid of 1856.
The Manatee Mineral Spring was thought to have healing powers. It was used by native Americans and settled by Manatee’s first white pioneer, Josiah Gates, in January 1842. It served Fort Branch when the early settlers camped nearby for protection from the Seminole raid of 1856.

When a doctor wasn’t available, the women in the community served as healers. Pioneer housewives had access to medical books for guidance.

Each family kept a garden near their home containing essential medicinal herbs. According to historian Adam Wescott, palmetto berries and pennyroyal tea were used for colds and flu, soda and ginger helped treated colic, lemon, honey and horehound were used for cough, cinnamon and nutmeg helped with diarrhea, willow bark reduced fever, oak bark tea or a drop of turpentine on a lump of sugar was used for worms, chewed tobacco poultice was applied to insect stings and kerosene or animal fat healed wounds.

But people with more severe sicknesses or long term illnesses might seek out a more experienced “herb woman” or be taken to the doctor, which often meant traveling many miles to the next town or city.

Northern doctors prescribed a trip to Florida for several diseases such as tuberculosis. That is how many of the area pioneers ended up in Manatee County.
The fact that people came to Florida to better their health was also enticing to doctors.

Dr. Franklin Branch, born in 1802 in Orwell, Vermont, moved to the Village of Manatee in October 1846 and purchased the land that included the Manatee Mineral Spring.

Dr. Franklin Branch planned to begin a sanatorium, utilizing the springs' healing powers to cure his patients. However, the sanatorium became a fortified encampment during the Third Seminole War and Branch's plan never came to fruition.
Dr. Franklin Branch planned to begin a sanatorium, utilizing the springs’ healing powers to cure his patients. However, the sanatorium became a fortified encampment during the Third Seminole War and Branch’s plan never came to fruition.

Branch planned to build a sanatorium and utilize the supposed healing properties of the mineral spring to treat his patients.

The buildings he constructed were instead fortified with sable palm trunks for protection against the Seminoles. Instead of patients, residents of Manatee occupied the structures of what became known as “Fort Branch” for nine months, during the Third Seminole War.

During that time, Branch delivered three babies and treated a variety of ailments. Following the death of his wife, he sold his property and moved his practice elsewhere.

Dr. John S. Helms arrived in Palmetto in 1896. Immediately, he noticed many of the area’s children featured sallow complexions and behaved lethargically. He discovered they were suffering from hookworm, an often-fatal ailment that plagued many southern states. A simple step of better sanitation eradicated the parasite. Helms later opened a drugstore at Ninth Avenue and Fourth Street.

The germ theory of disease did not become the basis of treatment until the late 1800s.

One of the babies delivered at Fort Branch was Furman Charles Whitaker, the first native-born resident of Manatee County to become a doctor and practice in the area.

Furman had injured his elbow as a boy, without the capability of doing physical labor, he was sent to Danville, Kentucky to study. He returned in 1877, at the end of the Civil War.

He established his medical practice first in Sarasota in 1896, then in Bradenton in 1898. From 1906-1909 Furman practiced general medicine, then went to New York City for his specialty diploma. He was the first Eye, Ear and Nose specialist to practice in Manatee County, returning in 1911.

 Dr. Furman Whittaker became Manatee County's first native-born doctor and Manatee County's first eye, ears and throat specialist.

Dr. Furman Whittaker became Manatee County’s first native-born doctor and Manatee County’s first eye, ears and throat specialist.

Dr. Jack Halton was the first doctor to open a practice in Sarasota, 1904. Four years later, he opened the Halton Sanatorium. However, many historians believe it was his wife who was the real healer in the family.

Back then, women could not earn their doctorate, but they could become midwives.

Cornelia Ponder, of Punta Gorda, was one of the most well-known midwives in the region. Born in 1874 in Georgia, she received medical training was the only midwife to serve the Punta Gorda area during the turn of the century, delivering babies of all ethnicities although she was black. She delivered hundreds of babies in the region.

Antibiotics weren’t invented until the 1930s. Today they are prescribed without a thought, but it wasn’t that long ago that simple herbal ingredients did the job.


Sunday Favorites: Ill-Fated Journeys

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 12.21.15 PM

Published Sunday, March 23, 2014 12:05 am

by Merab-Michal Favorite and Drew Winchester

he bunk house was appropriatly decorated with a hog skull Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite
he bunk house was appropriately decorated with a hog skull
Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite

ZOLPHO SPINGS — Going camping is one of my favorite pastimes.  There is nothing quite like being disconnected from the everyday rat race.

Ringing cell phones, buzzing laptops and loud business meetings are easily forgotten and replaced with more soothing resonances like babbling brooks, crackling fires and the presence of wildlife.

While the wilderness can be enjoyable, a lot can go wrong in a short amount of time. Especially if you’re ill prepared for your trip.

That was the case for us last weekend. A day trip turned into an overnight debacle due to an auto failure. Drew had to cancel his plans to bring me jumper cables in the middle of nowhere. By the time he arrived, it was almost dark and we were forced to stay the night.

I had tried to get Drew out there earlier, but work and chores prevented him from accompanying me. I’d tried to persuade him to change his mind, telling him of the beauty of the Peace River, the quaintness of the camp and boasting the fishing opportunities, but to no avail.

When darkness fell, Drew and I weren’t snuggled in our warm bed as expected. Instead, we found ourselves lying on a wooden plank in a spider-infested bunkhouse, with no sleeping bag and only a light blanket as covering on a very cold night.

In December of 1885, a group of Scottish colonists left their homeland and headed to Sarasota. Photo: Sarasota Archives
In December of 1885, a group of Scottish colonists left their homeland and headed to Sarasota.
Photo: Sarasota Archives

We were miserable; beyond miserable. Our sleepless situation was amplified by the eerie sounds of wild animals: the hooting of an owl, croaking of alligators and … was that the howl of a coyote? These sounds seemed to haunt our dreams even when we happened to doze off, if only for a short time.

We couldn’t help but think of another ill fated journey: one that occurred about 172 years ago, not far from where we slept and involved a group of Scottish immigrants who had left their homeland in the hope of finding a new one in Sarasota.

The owl hooted again right outside the window of the bunkhouse. If we were those Scottish immigrants, we might have taken it as a malicious prophecy.

One of the colonists, Dan McKinley, wrote of the owl call in a diary he kept while living in Sarasota. The Jan. 27, 1886 entry reads, “It’s really very lonely. The eerie sound of the owl, the night is pitch dark and there are other queer sounds. I‘m going to turn in, have big washing to do in the morning.”

The owl was the least of his worries. McKinley’s entries get more concerning as time goes on. On Feb. 2, 1886, he wrote of prairie fires surrounding him and his camp. Two days later he wrote he following passage:

“Prospects here are so bad, in fact as far as we can see it means starvation if we stay… again see prairie fires some distance from us…high winds blowing and some rains….the colony seems to have completely broken up.” 

The land on the Peace River is reminiscent of the conditions a century ago.  Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite
The land on the Peace River is reminiscent of the conditions a century ago.
Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite

McKinley was just one of many immigrants who left their home for a promised land that unfortunately didn’t deliver what they had anticipated.

Nellie Lawrie was just a child when she came to Sarasota with her family from Scotland in 1885. She recalled a very sad departure on a dark and stormy night.

Lawrie said the passengers were overwhelmed with emotion as they left Scotland and began singing an old Scottish song called “Will ye not come back again? Better loved ye ne’er will be.”

There was not a dry eye as the song commenced, and the crowd kept singing Scottish hymns as the captain gave the signal to begin their long, transatlantic passage.

 It was not a straight shot to Florida. The ship first landed in New York; then the colonists had to travel by train to Cedar Key. At that time the station was the southernmost stop on the railway route. From there, they chartered a yacht landing where Marina Jack’s is today.

They were greeted by most of the families already established in the area; the Whitakers, Riggins, Abbes and Tuckers. It was a cold December morning and the surrounding terrain was unhindered; there was only one building in sight and their only prospects were before them down a dirt road that meandered out of sight and got lost in the dense palmetto underbrush.

Sarasota historian Jeff LaHurd wrote of the event in his book the Hidden History of Sarasota.

“Even from the ship railing they could see they had been duped. ‘Little Scotland,’ was a wilderness with which they were unprepared to deal.”

John Hamilton Gillespie is credited with building the first golf course in Sarasota in the backyard of his home (above). Photo: Sarasota Archives
John Hamilton Gillespie is credited with building the first golf course in Sarasota in the backyard of his home (above).
Photo: Sarasota Archives

The rest of 1885, and the beginning of 1886 was filled with freezing but favorable conditions (at one point it even snowed), but as the rainy season began to present itself, more and more problems also developed. Most of the colonists were staying in palm frond guest huts offered up by pioneers until they could build more permanent accommodations.

Anton Kleinosheg, one of the first and last remaining Scottish colonists, described the situation in a letter to a friend.

“The climate in winter (though we had a cold never experienced) is very pleasant and wholesome; but the summer!—100 degrees when it’s not raining and a terrible plague of mosquitos, enough to drive us mad! …. The sky consistently sends down water masses that stand in ponds and depressions and generate millions of these beasts. They have in fact killed two of my young dogs (a horrible end).”

Kleinosheg goes on to describe the living conditions inside the hut where he was staying, which belonged to the Abbes, a pioneer family. There were no screens, and he had to sleep, read and write under a mosquito net to avoid being “eaten to death.”

Kleinosheg eventually fell victim to the menacing creatures and contracted malaria. He had to be nursed back to health by the women of the Abbe family. He would later marry the daughter, Carrie Abbe, and they would move to Austria.

Most of the other Scottish colonists departed the area on March 11, 1886, only three months after they had arrived. However one of them, John Hamilton Gillespie, would later become Sarasota’s first mayor in 1902, and be credited for building the first golf course in his back yard.

In an interview with the Sarasota Herald in 1935, historian A.B Edwards told a reporter that the “distress and humiliation and hardships they encountered can scarcely be expressed in words.”

Lying there in the dark on my hard wooden plank, I felt pity for those settlers. After all, all I needed was some jumper cables to escape the breadth of my bad experience and I had a home, bed and pets waiting for me. Those settlers had sold everything they owned, traveled thousands of miles only to find that the land they bought was useless.

It was a bad deal with false hopes, peddled to them by a Scottish investment company. As they said their goodbyes to Sarasota, they probably couldn’t help but feel they’d been duped.

And as Drew lie awake beside me on our wooden plank in the middle of the woods, he probably had the same feeling. He felt he’d been duped into bringing me jumper cables on the promise of an amazing camping getaway only to be freezing his buns off in less than favorable conditions.

Sources: Hidden History of Sarasota by Jeff LaHurd, copywrite 2009, History Press, Charleston, S.C.

Sunday Favorites: Maroons Unchained

Slave Rebellion Leads to War and Cost Country Millions

Published Sunday, May 19, 2013 12:05 am

MANATEE COUNTY – The largest slave rebellion in American history is seldom talked about. It is a story of self-emancipated Africans, knocking down the bounds of pain and degradation, freeing themselves to grab the most basic of our freedoms: that all men, no matter what race, creed or color, are created equal.

The story starts not on those often famed and largely misunderstood Civil War battlefields, nor in the Oval Office where Abraham Lincoln would sign the Emancipation Proclamation not long before his assassination. This story starts in the untamed wilds of Florida, where those freed slaves first encountered the natives of the land.

Nearly a century before Harriet Tubman secretly led more than 300 slaves north to freedom, slaves were escaping south into the Florida wilderness and forming alliances with another group of exiled people, the Seminole natives.

The Seminole Nation was the collective name given to the combination of various groups of Native Americans and black people who settled in Florida in the early 18th century — who were the first associated with Alachua County (of which Manatee County was part of).
Over time, the groups melded together and formed what history refers to as a race of “maroon people.”

While many have heard the term Black Seminoles, their efforts against the U.S. Government have been suppressed and are hardly mentioned in history books. However, according to to Dr. Martha Bireda, founder of the Blanchard House Museum in Punta Gorda, they produced the largest slave rebellion; there was no other effort in the U.S. that compared in size or duration, she said.

‘This is the story of self-emancipated Africans,’ Bireda said. ‘No one helped these people escape; they did it on their own.’

The fugitive slaves and free blacks besmirched the country’s leading generals and inspired fear across the South, according to the Black Seminole Rebellion exhibit at

In the 50 years preceding the Civil War, blacks had the most significant influence shaping Seminole affairs, including the First and Second Seminole wars. But the alliance of the Africans and Native Seminoles was a source of concern to the U.S. Government because the Seminoles were seen as a major threat to the institution of slavery.

The relationship between escaped slaves and Seminoles was a fundamental concern during the Second Seminole War, the longest and most costly of any Native American War in history. The war was initiated by the slave industry and fought specifically over the issue of slavery and removal of Seminole peoples west to “Indian Territory.”

History books refer to two events that supposedly ignited the war. The first being the U.S. government’s decision to enforce the Treaty of Payne’s Landing at Fort Gibson; that is, an agreement made by seven Seminole Leaders who agreed to move west to Arkansas territory and join their known archenemy, the Creek Indians, in exile. The greater majority of natives violently opposed this migration. The Seminole Nation was outraged; it was the beginning of the Second Seminole War, or the Seven Year War, which lasted from 1835-1842.

Abraham, a famous “maroon” leader, was one of the seven who signed the treaty. Historians have theorized that the leaders were tricked into signing the agreement. However, Bireda said the allegiance was only a ploy for Abraham to receive the supplies he needed to attack U.S. Troops. Abraham gave the impression that he was in favor of enforcing the treaty. He requested gun powder, and arms from Cuba and secretly instructed slaves still living on plantations to revolt when the war began and join forces with the native nation.

U.S. Troops initiated a policy designed to separate the African and Native Seminoles. This policy called for the re-enslavement of Africans in addition to the deportation of natives.
Abraham led his troop of half breeds, strategizing Guerrilla war tactics, which were used to attack U.S. Troops, and negotiating with U.S. Military when necessary.

For the most part, Abraham’s military tactics were successful during the war, but he was forced to surrender during the Battle of Big Cyprus in the Everglades. Abraham eventually worked with General Jessup to convince members of the Seminole Nation that emigration was the only way to truly find peace. Abraham left Florida in 1839 accompanied by his family and 90 other black Seminoles.

During the Second Seminole War, the U.S. government lost 1,500 troops and spent $40 million to return 300 to 500 slaves to their masters. Bireda estimates that the capture of each slave cost the U.S. $80,000 and the lives of three soldiers.
Most of the Seminole Nation left Florida, but a few stayed. Those holdouts still exist in the deep swamps of Big Cypress, the same place where their ancestors had raised a white flag so many years ago.

Merab Favorite is a published author and columnist for the Bradenton Times. She can be reached at

Remembering Ben Fredrick Sutton, Everyone’s Best Friend

Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Ben Sutton was killed in a helicopter crash on Sept. 3, 1969.

PALMETTO –As children, my brother and I loved to scan the lofty branches of our favorite tree in search of the rusty handle of a knife fused into the wood. The moss-covered live oak was in my grandmother’s yard. She enjoyed telling the story of how a neighborhood boy once brought the knife over to the house and waved it around the other children, pretending to stab them. My uncle Ben Sutton, or Scooper as everyone called him, seized the knife and then climbed the tree, driving the blade into the trunk with such force so he was sure it could never be removed.

That was the kind of person Uncle Ben was. He was a sweet-natured child and a happy-go-lucky teenager, but he was also protective of his family and siblings. Born in 1946, Ben was a lifetime resident of Palmetto. He was the second of five children — four boys and a girl. He would delight his kid sister, Bonne’, by taking her around to local haunts, and he just brushed off any ragging from boys his own age. Ben liked to pack as many siblings and neighbors as he could fit in his 1959 Chevy to spend an evening watching movies at the old Palmetto Drive-in. He played varsity baseball and was in the band at Palmetto High School. The word was the girls considered Ben quite the heartthrob. Above all else, he was a friend to all. That’s what classmates who signed his PHS yearbook said — he was a great friend, one with whom they never wanted to lose touch with.

Ben possessed the same Sutton traits that marked the rest of the family — dark curly hair, narrow, laughing eyes, a dimple-enhanced smile and a small, athletic build. He breezed through life with a carefree attitude that enabled him to laugh off criticism and exude confidence. When he was 12, Ben tried out for the high school football team (high school comprised of sixth through twelfth grades back then). When he was fitted for his uniform, the coaches found the smallest shoe was three sizes too big for his size-5 feet. A newspaper article labeled 77.5-pound Scooper as PHS’s smallest player ever. After one year of football, he decided baseball was his game.

Ben rarely went straight home after school. Instead he would go to the A&W root beer stand, walk to the Boy’s Club or play in the park. He constantly left his trumpet here and there, such as on a park bench or at the soda counter. Usually someone would find the trumpet, knew it was Ben’s and bring it by the house. If he wasn’t forgetting something, he was daydreaming, once while riding his bicycle he ran into a parked car. Scooper practically lived at the park; it was just two blocks down from his home on Seventh Street West in Palmetto. My grandmother, Alice Sutton, would become irritated when she’d have to walk down the road after him when he was late for dinner.

Ben was what many would call a “man’s man;” he liked sports and being outdoors.  He started hunting and fishing early on, and he would often go camping with his buddies in Parrish for the weekend, usually bringing fish or small game  home for supper. Ben’s younger brother Alan was too small for hunting, and his older brother Charles wasn’t the outdoors type, so Scooper would often bring Bonne’,   four years his junior, along. They would meet friends at dusk and hike along the orange groves until they spotted quail or rabbits. My grandfather, Ben Sutton Sr., taught him how to make castnets and young Ben would frequently wade Terra Ceia Bay to catch mullet.

After graduating PHS in 1964, Ben married his high-school sweetheart and became the father of a beautiful daughter, Michele. But things didn’t work out, and the marriage ended in divorce. As a married man, Ben had an exemption from military conscription. Now he was eligible for the Vietnam War draft. Ben moved to Alabama, wed another girl and started working for IBM. Nine months into the job, Uncle Sam came calling.

Ben then faced with a tough decision. He could wait and take his chances in the draft or volunteer. Ben decided to enlist in the Army, which allowed him to pick a specialty of his choice — the Army flight-training program. In 1967, he left his new wife and went off to win his wings so he could command a helicopter in Vietnam.

Two years later his wife, Harriet Jacks Sutton, received a dreaded visit from a military officer. Her husband, Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Ben Fredrick Sutton had been killed in action on Sept. 3, 1969, in a helicopter crash. At 23, he was already commander of his squadron. He was practicing maneuvers  when the aircraft went down and burned. There was no way to tell what had gone wrong. Some of the men in his squadron believe it could have been sniper  fire. Regardless of the circumstances, Palmetto lost a favorite son to the war.

In 1982, the Palmetto Junior Women’s Club wanted to dedicate the west side of the park on Main Street to a local veteran, so it seemed fitting to select the boy who had spent so much time there — Ben Sutton Jr., the only person from Palmetto to die in Vietnam. Sutton Park is dedicated to the memory of all veterans from Palmetto who have served in battle, ranging from the Seminole Wars in the 1800s to today’s war in Afghanistan.

At the park’s dedication ceremony, former Mayor Ken Burton Sr. said, “Ben Sutton Jr. represents the many young men and women who have given their lives to preserve America’s heritage. It is fitting that we remember these patriots on this day of celebration and renew our pledge to see that they will not have died in vain.”

My family will forever hold Ben’s memory in our hearts, and we appreciate that Sutton Park now will forever be a place of honor, a tribute to the little boy who grew into a man there.

A few months ago the old live oak that withheld the knife fell down in my grandmother’s back yard. I hadn’t thought of the dagger until after the men came to chainsaw the tree to pieces. It saddened me to think I would never again get to locate the handle among the leaves. When I walked outside to mourn the loss of my favorite landmark, I saw the section of wood containing the familiar rusty handle. The workers had saved it for me, carefully setting it on the porch steps where I would easily see it. I guess they figured there was a good story behind it.

The Feral Children of Terra Ceia Island

Robert Fogarty was born Robert Guerro and adopted after his parents died of yellow fever.

TERRA CEIA – According to local legend, he had to catch the Guerro children in a castnet. Famished and in a state of confusion, the children were roaming around the Terra Ceia wilderness completely disillusioned. Mumblings of an indiscernible language confused their captor, who wanted nothing more than to help the lost youths. But there were many questions unbeknown to the rescuer. Were the children stricken with yellow fever, did they speak English and how long had their mother’s body been rotting in the house?

This heart-wrenching tale first started as a love story.

Joe and Julia Atzeroth were a Bavarian couple that settled on Terra Ceia Island in 1843 after staying in New York and New Orleans for a short while. Julia is commonly known as “Madam Joe” because she often referred to her husband as “Mister Joe.”  The two are considered Terra Ceia’s very first permanent settlers.

On the island, they acquired 160 acres under the Armed Occupation Act and built a profitable farm. In 1851 they moved to Palmetto, opening the first store there while continuing their farming endeavors on the island and overseeing their cattle on the open range north and east of Palmetto. Mr. Joe fought in the Seminole Wars of the 1850s, and the Civil War of the 1860s, while Madam Joe attended to their home affairs.  According to many texts, Madam Joe frequently wrote home to Germany asking relatives to visit and help her with her countless responsibilities. Frederica Kramer, a niece, came from Bavaria, Germany circa 1855 -1856 for a visit that would change the course of her life.

During this period of time, fisherman populated the coastline along the Manatee River and the Gulf. Often housed in temporary fishing rancheros made of palm fronds, they would fish during the season and sell their catch in the Havana market.

Miguel Guerro was a descendent from the Spanish Island of Minorca. (A colony of Minorcans immigrated to Florida during the British rule of the East Cost around 1767.) Like many before him, Miguel had founded his livelihood on the abundance of fish in the area and settled on Terra Ceia.

It was love at first sight when Miguel and Frederica first met; the only means of communication was body language since she spoke only German and he only Spanish. They moved from his modest shed to a small home on the long shell mound facng a bay (Miguel Bay) which was named after the Guerro patriarch. Their family grew at a rapid pace. They had five children. Michael was born in 1857, followed by Fredrick, (born 1859) then Christopher (born June 1, 1864), Robert (1866) and finally Mary born in 1868. It has been said that the children spoke neither language fluently, but instead uttered sounds that were only understood by one another, in that way, the family was like Manatee County’s version of Nell.

Sometime after the birth of Mary, yellow fever struck the family. The two eldest children, Michael and Fredrick died tragically at age 11 and nine. Miguel and Frederica buried their small bodies in the shell mound.

Following the solemn service, Miguel had to leave on an extended fishing trip.  When he returned, he found his wife dead; she was lying in bed next to her new baby. Miguel was not well himself. He too had been stricken with the fever. The two young boys were running around outside disoriented and hungry. They were confused; they didn’t understand why their mother wasn’t responding to them or where the two oldest children had gone. Miguel couldn’t communicate with them. The extended fishing trip had left him weak. He was too faint to bury Frederica, or take a rowboat to the mainland and get help. He laid down next to his beloved wife, waiting to join her in the afterlife.

Asa Bishop, of Bishop’s Point in Palma Sola, eventually came sailing by. He was in a neighborly mood when he stopped in to discover the dire situation.  He helped Miguel bury Frederica in the shell mound. According to an interview conducted by the Manatee County Historic Society, his son claimed he eventually caught the two boys in a castnet. He then loaded Miguel and the three children in his boat and carried them to his home. Miguel and the baby eventually died.

Reverend Edmund Lee and his wife Electa of the Village of Manatee adopted Christopher, changing his name to Edmund Miguel Guerro Lee, or E.M. Lee as he was called. Mary and John Fogarty adopted Robert. Robert was renamed Robert Guerro Fogarty. Both children quickly learned to speak English in their new homes.

After extensive searching as an adult, Robert Guerro Fogarty found his biological mother’s grave on a creek embankment near the original home. He moved her remains to Palmetto Cemetery.

Edmund M. Lee lived with his adopted family until he returned to Terra Ceia in 1892 to claim his portion of the Guerro homestead. He was a farmer and considered to be an expert in the art of making castnets. He lived in the Terra Ceia/Rubonia area until his death in 1940. He is buried in the Gillett Cemetery.


The Lures of Manatee by Lillie b. McDuffee

The Gillette Cemetary: A Pioneer Cemetay in the Gillette Community by Marvis R. Snell and Jacob Randolph Snell

Somehow Old Ball Players Come to Bradenton

The Bradenton teams, the “B’s” and the “Fats and the Leans,” sent several players to the big leagues.

BRADENTON – Perry Land knew how to make an entrance. He figured he’d make the greatest one he’d ever made before, being that it was the very first day of major league baseball in Bradenton, and seeing as how everyone in town held him responsible for the expensive venture totaling a whopping $2000!He was an aviator, among other things, and set out that fine spring morning in his biplane, crossing over the murky waters of the Manatee River and heading north to Tampa with the wind in his hair and a smile on his face. He headed west toward the coast  into Clearwater. He found the perfect spot for landing. It was a stretch of clearing that  just so happened to be a golf course. He promptly landed the plane on a par 5. Who cared about golf anyway? Today was a day for baseball! He punctually picked Baseball Commissioner Kenesay Mountain Landis. The flamboyant but incurious judge was staying at the Bellevue-Bitmore Hotel, which was his winter retreat.  They put on their goggles and headgear; they were destined  for the new baseball park, just east of present day McKechnie Field.A crowd of people cheered as the drone of the plane seemed to get closer and closer. The field had been partially completed in a joint venture with the St. Louis Cardinals and City of Bradenton. The grandstand sat 1,300 and 700 could easily occupy the bleachers, which included separate facilities for African-American fans. Together they cheered and laughed as the plane landed on the outfield. With the high-school band playing marshal music befitting the moment, the theatric Landis with his falling white hair whipping in the breeze, climbed out of the cockpit and strolled majestically toward the wooden grandstand amid cheers at the hundreds of spectators. It was the first day of major-league baseball in Manatee County in 1923.

After WWI, the Manatee County Board of Trade decided that bringing major league baseball to Manatee County would surely  stimulate the economy. Up until 1920, no team trained south of St. Petersburg. R. M. Beall, found of Beall’s Department Store, was a native of Moultrie Ga., and a staunch baseball fan. He was involved in baseball since the day he arrived in area in 1915. He was connected with several Bradenton teams that were in and out of the Florida State League several times before WWII. The Bradenton teams, the “B’s” and the “Fats and the Leans,” sent several players to the big leagues. The most notable being Henry Johnson, a native who became a pitcher for the New York Yankees, and complied a 63-59 lifetime record during his 14 years in the majors.

Beall was bound and determined to bring the majors to Bradenton. Sam Braden was the owner of the St. Louis Cardinals at that time, but he also possessed a citrus grove ten miles up the Manatee River. Beall convinced him to move the Cardinals from their training facility in Orange Tex., to Bradenton. Since Braden was familiar with the climate, he agreed and soon Bradenton would be hosting its own games near McKechnie Field, which was the original site of the Manatee County Fair.  In a joint venture between the Cardinals and the city, a new ballfield was constructed with a grandstand and bleachers for $2,000. The fairground buildings were converted into makeshift locker room. When the Cardinals got to see their new ballfield they discovered that second base was 14 inches lower than home plate, and the outfield was still two feet lower than second base.

The Cardinals stayed at the Manavista Hotel on the river and walked to and from the ballpark because management thought it was good exercise. However, die-hard fans would often pick them up and give them a ride, just to shoot the breeze with their favorite sports star.

While Beall was working to bring professional baseball to Bradenton, H.W. Harry Peterson and the Palmetto Baseball Club sought financial assistance from the City of Palmetto to bring the either Milwaukee or the White Sox to the area. The city council gave them a $12, 000 bond for to buy a ten-acre tract of land on Snead Island Road, or 10th St. which is presently the site Palmetto Elementary. The minor league team, the Buffalo Bisons, signed a five-year contract to play at the Palmetto Ball Club in 1925. During the duration of their stay in Palmetto, they played more major-league teams than minor league teams.

In 1925, the Philadelphia Phillies trained in Bradenton for three years. Then the Boston Red Socks called it home in the springtime. In the 1930s, the Cardinals returned during what journalists refer to as “the gas house gang era.” During that time they had a lot of great ball players including Paul Derringer and Bradenton’s favorite player Dizzy Dean.

Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean was one of the most popular baseball characters of the area.  When Dizzy Dean first signed to the Cardinals, he pitched a shutout end of the 1930 season and while all other ballplayers when home, he stayed in a St. Louis motel. He didn’t have a home, and found that all he had to do was sign his name and he could get anything he wanted. The only problem was that his procurements were building up a huge overhead for the team. After he started taking girls to department stores and buying them anything they wanted, Braden had enough. He sent Dizzy to Bradenton early for spring training. He was only given a dollar a day for his expenses – any more money was sure to get him in trouble. Dizzy was known for his practical jokes, pranks and sending the press on wild goose chases. Dizzy eventually retired to Bradenton where he and his brother ran a gas station.

Those were the golden days of baseball. Famous people including Babe Ruth are rumored to have spent time in Manatee County, but in 1937 the Cardinals moved to Daytona Beach and Bradenton was without a major league club for a year. In 1938, the Boston Braves came to Bradenton for a three-year stint, but after they moved to San Antonio Tex., no other teams played for seven years.

Eventually the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee, and returned to Bradenton in 1948 through 1962. They won three pennants while they trained there– 1948, 1957 and 1958. They were world champions in 1957. It was during this time when Bradenton became the first club to bring allow an African American baseball player — Sam Jethroe of the Boston Braves. This was a major breakthrough because had Florida not allowed him to join, the state would have lost all of its baseball clubs.

The Kansas City Athletics trained in Bradenton from 1963-1968. In 1968, the Bradenton City Council went to great lengths to ensure that a major league team would stay in the area. They signed a contract with the Pittsburg Pirates for 40 years, with an option of 40 more. This had never been done before. Finally the most recent Marauders utilized McKechnie Field. Baseball will always hold a important place in Manatee County history, and for many baseball players, it holds an important place in their hearts. Enough sentiment  stems from spring training that they often relocate to the area. It’s like the late great sports writer Red Smith once wrote, “somehow all ballplayers go to Bradenton.”

Merab is a writer at the Bradenton Times. She can be reached at