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2019 Survey, Preservation Plan, and Ground Penetrating Radar Project

The Manatee County Historical Commission is pleased to share the results of a grant project on the 1850 Manatee Burying Ground!
 A survey and master plan was developed to ensure preservation of the historic cemetery thanks to a partnership between the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc., the City of Bradenton, the Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court’s Department of Historical Resources, and a grant funded by the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources and the State of Florida. A key component of the project was Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) scanning which took place on Friday, March 8, 2019, in the 1850 Manatee Burying Ground. An additional component of the grant-funded project was to develop a digital map of the 1850 Manatee Burying Ground and links to supporting historical information.

Part of the appeal of this project is answering the frequently asked question of whether unmarked graves exist in all of the apparently open space in the cemetery. It is rumored to be full, having been closed in 1892 to all but a few family burials, with the very last being that of pioneer descendant Eva Gates in 1967. Today, through the use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), the location of unmarked burials may be determined through recording the size, depth, and pattern of ground disturbances within the cemetery. The results of the scan indicated 229 possible burials and the location of former walking paths which have long since been lost to memory. 

The Burying Ground is the oldest established cemetery in Manatee County. Used by the residents of the Village of Manatee, it was established in 1850 for the pioneer settlers of what became the City of Bradenton. The cemetery contains the remains of such Manatee County notables as  first settlers, Josiah and Mary Gates, fourteen Civil War soldiers (eleven Confederate and three Union), and three members of the Florida Secessionist Convention including John C. Pelot, President of the Convention, and Brevet Brigadier General John Riggin, Aide de Camp to Ulysses S. Grant. In recent years, it has been the site of the historical drama “Spirit Voices from Old Manatee,” a popular living history event which took place in October from 2011 to 2017. Another annual docent-led cemetery tour titled "Tombstone Tours" was provided to the public in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, a special digital format of "Tombstone Tours" was published, providing a documentary-style tour of the cemetery. Currently, staff hold guided daytime cemetery tours in the months of March and October.
The cemetery is 1.92 acres in size and is bordered by 15th Street East and 6th Avenue East, in Bradenton. The property is owned and maintained by the City of Bradenton, with public access and programming made available through the Manatee Village Historical Park and the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. 
This culturally significant site is now in the middle of an urban landscape, edged on three sides by roads and highways and on a fourth side by a public school. It has been subject to vandalism and the ravages of time. This project strives to document, protect, and preserve this important piece of local history as an educational resource for generations to come. After all, every tombstone has a story to tell, and when viewed collectively as a cemetery, these sentinels create an outdoor museum. 

Manatee Village Historical Park is a part of the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Historical Resources Department. This information is offered in conjunction with the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. 
Due to the size of the document containing the 2019 Manatee Burying Ground Preservation Plan, several sections of the document are available for the public to download below:

Click here to download 2019 Preservation Plan Part 1 (p.1-11)
Click here to download 2019 Preservation Plan Part 2 (p.12-21)
Click here to download 2019 Preservation Plan Part 3 (p.22-32)
Click here to download 2019 Preservation Plan Part 4 (p.33-42)
Click here to download 2019 Preservation Plan Part 5 (p.43-50)
Click here to download 2019 Preservation Plan Part 6 (p.51-55)

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