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The mid-1600s marked the arrival of the great Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto and his crew of conquistadors. DeSoto came upon the shores of the Manatee River and discovered a seemingly uninhabited region characterized by rich riverbanks and scenic beauty. DeSoto departed and the area remained unoccupied for an additional two centuries until another explorer by the name of Josiah Gates and his pioneers reached the fertile land in 1842. Gates and his comrades laid claim to the area, naming it Manatee after the sea cows which were frequently seen throughout the waters of the newfound area.

Manatee County was officially founded in 1855, stretching over 5,000 square miles. As the area began to develop, the abundance of waterways located here provided an exceptional source of transportation. Adding to this was the establishment of the railroad, along with bridges and roadways offering even more access in and out of the burgeoning region.

It was during the early 1920s that all of Florida saw rapid growth in population. People began recognizing this as a wonderful vacation destination, as well as a favorable retirement site. The great sport of baseball found the area’s pleasing climate as an asset, and many spring training camps and professional teams were established in the state.

The area weathered the Great Depression of the 1930s, thanks to such significant industries as agriculture and fishing, and it experienced a surge in population after World War II. This residential growth was supplemented by development in industry, retail, education and tourism. Today, the outstanding benefits and beautiful backdrop of Manatee County still draw in new residents, businesses and tourists from all over the world.

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