Available on-site January 17, 2023
through November 2024
Living Off the Land: Florida’s Pioneering Efforts to Make a Living explores the various ways settlers in the mid-1800s through the early 1900s took advantage of readily available natural resources of the land and sea.
As Manatee County developed during the Pioneering Period (1830-1918), a number of commercial activities grew out of the environmental realities people moving into the area built upon. One of the earliest brought fishermen who set up seasonal camps along our shores. These fishermen set up semi-permanent Fishing Ranchos where they caught and prepared schools of mullet and other fish for Cuban markets.
In the 1840s, when the first waves of American expansion into the area started, sugar production became a major economic engine. At its peak, there were over a dozen sugarcane plantations established within the Manatee River area. After the Civil War, a number of family-operated cattle operations carried out the shipping of thousands of wild cattle to the Cuban markets. Others began to take advantage of the longleaf pine forests, tapping into the trees to collect pinesap processing it into turpentine and other products required by the maritime industry.
By the late 1800s and early 1900s, Florida’s population was growing. Pioneer communities, experiencing economic prosperity and a rising quality of life, started branching out. Florida’s open lands, climate and soil conditions were optimal for growing citrus and other tropical fruits, along with vegetables and flowers not readily available in the north during the winter months. With the development of steamship lines, connected to the first railroads, local businesses began to send products to ports and destinations around the nation and throughout the world.
Image Credit: Lanier family members in a strawberry field - Providence Region, Florida. 1915 (circa). State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.