The Old Manatee Burying Ground is one of the oldest organized cemeteries on Florida's Gulf Coast. Josiah and Mary M. Gates deeded this land on May 30, 1850, making it the first public burying ground in the area. This site took new burials until 1892. At that time it was closed to all but immediate family members of persons already buried there. During its active period, veterans from conflicts affecting local and national history were buried here. There are fifteen veterans buried here, representing the Seminole Wars and both sides of the American Civil War. Three members of the Florida Secession Convention, including the convention's first president, also rest here.
There are ninety-eight known graves in the Manatee Burying Ground. However, ground penetrating radar showed an estimated 229 potential graves in this space. Time and weather have destroyed many of the markers and inscriptions but the memory of these determined and resourceful settlers live on. Most settlers came here in search of a better life for their family. Through programs like the Armed Occupation Act (1842) and the Homestead Act (1862), they were given that opportunity and the community of Manatee developed. Many endured wars, unpredictable elements, and epidemics during their lifetimes.
Today, the property is owned and maintained by the City of Bradenton. Manatee Village Historical Park provides public access to the Manatee Burying Ground during its open hours, arranges for routine cleanings of the graves and headstones, and hosts guided cemetery tours certain times of the year.
1850 Manatee Burying Ground, c. 1950-1960, courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Digital Collection