In 1887, Bradentown became the county seat of Manatee County. A young lawyer living in a nearby county saw a business opportunity and moved to Bradentown where he began publishing Manatee County’s first enduring paper, The Manatee River Journal. At first, only local news was printed because the town did not often receive news from the outside world.
The population of Braidentown (as it was spelled back then) numbered some 123 residents. The paper brought progress to the town, and soon the government added daily mail service delivered by boat from Tampa. In 1922, The Braidentown Herald merged with The Manatee River Journal and became The Evening Herald. We have archives from The Manatee River Journal and Bradentown Herald dating back to 1889. In 1926, the paper’s name was changed to The Bradenton Herald.
Bradenton was named after Dr. Joseph Braden, whose fortress-like house became a refuge for settlers during the Seminole Wars. In the 1880s, a yellow fever epidemic broke out in Florida, and the nearby towns of Manatee and Palmetto were put under quarantine and cordoned off. Braidentown residents were able to keep the town open, and a steamer from Mobile delivered groceries and supplies every 10 days until the crisis passed.
Baseball is a beloved pastime in America, and Florida’s beautiful weather attracted major league teams to the area for Spring Training. Bradentown adopted the slogan ‘The Friendly City’ and rolled out the red carpet for teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, who trained in the city in the early 1920s.
Like other coastal Florida cities, Bradenton has experienced the power of mother nature. In 1946, the city took a direct hit from a storm known as Hurricane Six. The hurricane caused more than $5 million in crop losses. The paper also covered Florida’s deadliest tornado outbreak in 1998. Some 260 were injured and 42 died.
Over the decades, The Bradenton Herald has chronicled the history of this Gulf Coast city. If you have ancestors that lived in Bradenton, search for them in birth announcements, wedding announcements, and obituaries. You may also find them mentioned in the society pages, if they attended a family reunion, or were sick or injured. A column called ‘Personals’ chronicled who was in town visiting and when residents left on vacation.