Settlement here began in 1842 when Josiah and Mary Gates (née Price) came to the Manatee River area seeing land under the Armed Occupation Act. The act, passed in 1842, promised 160 acres of free land to settlers who cleared five acres, built a home, lived there five years and agreed to serve in the militia if needed. In January, 1842, Josiah, Mary, their children, Mary's brother (Miles Price), and eight enslaved persons loaded their belongings for the journey to Manatee. Soon after the Gates family arrived others followed and the settlement grew. Josiah built his home 150 yards from the river bank. Over the next several years, Josiah and Mary had seven children including Edward, Sarah, Josiah Jr., Ella, Catherine “Katie”, Mary “Janey”, and Emma.
A settler’s life was not an easy one and Mary had a frightening encounter when a panther wandered into the kitchen while she was cooking. Her terrified screams brought her brother to the scene who shot the panther. Besides wild animals, they had to deal with the harsh Florida environment. In September 1848, a hurricane hit the area. Even though the Gates home was on a rise, sea water overflowed the land around it.
Around 1851, Gates built a large twenty room frame structure fronting the river near his old home to meet the demand for visitor lodging. The Gates Hotel was three stories with a broad double porch supported by eight pillars. All the lumber for the hotel had to be sawn, split and hewn by hand because there were no saw mills in the area. The building was a center of town life for many years serving as a church and Masonic Lodge for a time as well as a hotel. After Josiah Gates died in 1871, Mary continued to run the hotel for many years. Shortly before her death in 1896, the hotel was sold and its name changed to the Manatee Hotel. The building has since been demolished.
Raising young children so far from medical care was difficult and the Gates family experienced several repercussions due to their isolation. Edward had an accident when he was young that left him with a permanent limp. During a game, he was being spun around and his hip hit the corner of a building. Despite seeking medical help, the damage was done. Yet very little surpassed the devastating loss of Ella. Ella was only two years old when she passed after a brief illness. Her death resulted in her mother having a nervous breakdown from which she never fully recovered.
In 1873, Josiah Jr. married Christianna Pelot, sister of Dr. John C. Pelot. For many years after, the couple worked at the Gates Hotel and helped his mother run it. Josiah Jr. became a realtor and, later, mayor of the Town of Manatee. Their son, John W., and daughter, Eva May, are buried here with them. Eva was the last person buried in the Manatee Burying Grounds.
Edward Gates married Euphemia Hibbard. He was a teacher and Methodist preacher. He returned to Manatee County several times throughout his life and eventually served as postmaster. By the time of Euphemia’s death, they had been married 66 years and Edward was the oldest Methodist minister in the state of Florida.
Gates Hotel, later Manatee Hotel, 1919-1920, Courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections
Josiah Gates , 1865-1870, Courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections
Christianna R Gates - Grave #35
John W Gates - Grave #36
Josiah Gates - Grave #37
Eva May Gates - Grave #38
Gates Plot - Sarah Gates, Ella Gates, Josiah Gates, Mary Gates, Euphemia Gates, Edward F Gates - Graves #40-45
Euphemia and Edward F Gates - Graves #40-41
Josiah Gates, Mary Gates - Graves #42-43
Euphemia Gates and Edward F Gates - Graves #40-41
All images taken by MVHP staff in 2022 unless otherwise noted.