How Bradenton Came To Be
Joseph and Hector Braden moved to the Manatee River area in 1842. The brothers moved into a log cabin just 5 miles from the mouth of the river with the intent of starting a new plantation in Manatee. But in 1846, Hector Braden drowned. This tragic event, however, did not discourage Joseph Braden from building the sugar plantation that the brothers had dreamed about. The Braden sugar mill was built near where the Braden River and Manatee River meet. To take advantage of the deeper channel and ship his goods out, Braden built a pine log pier at the end of present-day Old Main Street, and the processed sugar was shipped from there.
In 1851, Braden built his plantation home, a tabby structure named “Braden Castle,” near the sugarmill. The ruins are still visible today, and the site was used often for community picnics in the early 1900s. Joseph Braden lost his Manatee properties in 1857 to debt and moved back to Tallahassee. In the 1870s, the area once occupied by “Ft. Braden” saw an influx of new residents, prompting land investor and local business owner Major Turner to petition for the community to have its own name and post office. The first town meeting was all but a failure when it did not produce enough residents to qualify for a post office.
After recruiting residents from Fogartyville, Willemsenburg, and Palma Sola, a second town meeting was called. This time enough people were present to petition for a post office, but what would the name be? Major Turner suggested “Bradentown” to honor Joseph Braden. But a misspelling by acting secretary Helen Warner resulted in the petition naming the area “Braidentown.”It wasn’t until 1904, when the Braidentown population grew to 2,000, the Florida West Shore Railroad came through. Finally, on Feb. 1, 1905, the “i” was officially dropped and the name amended to “Bradentown.”
From 1905 through 1924, the town prospered, tourism flourished, and Bradentown was moving on up! A new city hall and courthouse were constructed in 1913. By 1916, tourism was bringing Bradentown $200,000 into the city. Top local businessman E.C. Barnes pushed for a more cosmopolitan name in a speech he gave to the Manatee River Kiwanis Club, declaring, “Bradentown will always be a small town until we take the “w” out!”His idea won out and on Dec. 1, 1924, the state Legislature granted the petition to change the name to Bradenton, along with welcoming the new motto “The Friendly City.” The name and motto still fit, 90 years later.