So much of the fabric of daily life in the past is hidden from us. Archaeology can “ground truth” the
documents that make up our accepted history, but it can also inform us about the existence of
people whose names are not recorded in deeds or contracts; it can shed light on activities that are
traditionally hidden from view; it can reveal how various peoples have dealt with changing
economic and political realities. Archaeology gives us the unique opportunity to fill in the warp and
weft of the social fabric.
Historical Archaeology uses both the historian's data set of documents and the archaeologist's
data set of artifacts and material culture. Used together, these tools allow us to form a more
inclusive history of this area, one that recognizes the multiple peoples who lived their lives along
the Manatee River, and one that challenges us to look beyond what we think we know about the
|Archaeology is Important to Understanding the Past
- To use the history that happened as a basis for addressing issues that are still alive today.
- To be inspired by those who came before us: their struggles, their perseverance, their
- An understanding of the past encourages a commitment to the preservation of
archaeological, historical, and natural resources for future generations.
- Understanding the richness and depth of local history helps to create a sense of place that
connects people of all races, religions, and ethnic groups.
- History connects all of us.
Paper inundates the modern world and we each, daily, toss much of it in the trash.
Yet the saved letter from a Civil War encampment, the advertisement for Ladies
sources that help us form a more accurate picture of the past.
Documents include: government records such as deeds, census lists, and court
filings; maps, charts, and survey notes; birth records and death records;
newspapers, directories, advertisements; account books, insurance records, and
meeting notes; personal letters and diaries; travelers accounts and sketch books;
photographs, architectural plans, and landscape design books.
Artifacts are tangible remains from people in the past. Artifacts entice us, they
excite us, and spark our imagination. With archaeological context, they are
powerful informants. Without context, they may be pretty pieces with a price tag,
or simple curiosities filling a shoebox.
Material culture includes artifacts, documents, landscapes, and the built
environment. It includes ceramic dishes and bayonets, the front parlor and the
workshop and the wharf, all the things that are influenced by the culture that
created and used them.
“Why are we interested in knowing about cultural expression through artifacts? In
an age of global consumerism, it is reasonable to be interested in how people
choose and use things, how they impart meaning to them, and how they accept
or reject them... how, through material culture, they have shaped, expressed,
hidden, and celebrated their identities.” - Barbara Little, Historical Archaeology:
Why the Past Matters
An intriguing documentary record surrounds the settlement of the Manatee River area in the 1840s and continual use of the Mineral Spring and the Curry
properties into the present. We have land deeds and contracts, photographs and letters. But these documents only tell a small part of the fascinating story of
this settlement, this spring, and the people who lived near the Manatee River.
The hidden histories include:
- Remnants of Native American mounds are evidence that peoples used this spring for generations. What did the landscapes look like and which
plants and animals did different groups utilize?
- In 1821, Lower Creek Indians, allies of Andrew Jackson, destroyed the community of free blacks and escaped slaves that historians call “Angola.”
Where was this settlement? Did they cultivate fields around this spring?
- When families staked claims here in the 1840s this area was wilderness: this was the frontier. What was life like? Were women's lives different than
if they had lived in a more established community?
- Prior to the Civil War, enslaved Africans and African-Americans made up about 30% of the population. We imagine the Gambles and Bradens owning
100s of slaves on their plantations, but many individual households like the Currys and Branches also owned slaves. Who were they? What evidence
might we find of their lives?
- Dr. Franklin Branch offered his sanitarium to provide services to the United States troops during the Third Seminole War. A stockade was built and
called “Branch Fort” or “Camp Manatee.” Settlers took refuge there, and even two babies were born at the fort. Can we find this spot?
- A deed mentions the blacksmith shop being on the corner of the Curry lands. It was reputedly the favorite spot for the neighborhood “loafers” of the
early settlement. What type of artifacts would support its reputation as the 1850s version of the neighborhood hangout?
- During the Civil War, in 1864, the 2nd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry was stationed at Manatee to destroy the sugar mills. The officers
occupied one of the Curry houses. Could it be one of the standing houses?
|Artifacts & Material Culture
|Long dock remains at end of
15th Street East at Manatee
River, left side.
|Long dock remains at end of
15th Street East at Manatee
River, right side.
|Before the bridges were built across the Manatee
River, the only way to get supplies or send out
crops was by boat or ship. This long dock was at
the end of 15th Street East, old Main Street. The
larger boats could come to this dock because it
was way out into the Manatee River and they
wouldn't have to worry about hitting bottom. When
and why was the dock demolished?
|Family History and Genealogy
When you begin your adventure into your own family history you begin to explore how your own life story fits into a larger whole. Children will be able to relate their own
personal history to the history they learn in school. The mysteries of other cultures will be unlocked and cultural traditions can be explored while learning about family
history. When we spend time with parents and grandparents learning about our family history, hearing the stories, looking at the pictures, we grow closer as a family.
Start with your immediate family
List the names, birth dates, places, and marriage dates of you, your parents, brothers/sisters, and grandparents. Ask if there is a family tree that someone in your
family may have already completed. This adds more ‘clues’ to the information you have already gathered. You might be able to add your ‘branch’ to the already
Interview your relatives
Find out the names and marriage dates of your ancestors, and ask about interesting family stories. Take careful notes, or use a tape recorder or video camera.
Documentation is key
Accurate genealogy relies on documentation, so try to find copies of records to make sure these clues are accurate. Documents to search for are: census records;
birth, marriage and death certificates; deeds, wills and property records; religious papers and bibles; school and medical records; ship passenger records; and
naturalization papers. It is important to know exactly where your ancestors lived, because many records are filed by township, city, state, and country. Look for these
documents at the National Archives and Records Administration, libraries, historical societies, and religious institutions, as well as a number of websites.
Keeping organized helps you to be able to find exactly what you need when you need it. It also helps to be able to keep on track with just one person’s information until
you have all you need. It also helps you to be able to recall where and when you found this tidbit and what else you need to keep looking for.
Map your family’s movements
As you find a place that your ancestor was born, married, lived, had children, worked, and died, chart this on a map. This is a great way to make geography come to life,
and opens up ways to learn about other places and cultures.
Remember ‘History Detective,’ your mission is to have fun, connect to the people you love most, and expand to find out more about how your family left it’s footprint in
the world. Follow the clues you get from each person and document, because it leads you one of the most interesting histories you will ever read and see… yours!
Some websites to point you in the right direction and put you in touch with others who share your interest or family name:
National Archives and Records Administration
National Genealogical Society
Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation
Cyndi's List of Genealogy
Manatee County RootsWeb/GenWeb
Family Tree Magazine form downloads
Genealogy Toolkit (forms kit)
Trees and Forms for Children:
Fan family tree 3-generations
Fan family tree 5-generations
Fun 3D Tree to make
Tree art project
A very fun tree to make for kids of all ages is found at Family Tree Magazine’s website.
|All the histories of the individuals who resided on the Manatee River section have been studied using these research
techniques. We are still looking for information, documents, photographs, interviews, of the entire community that built this
All the information collected came from the perseverance of volunteers from Reflections' of Manatee's History Detectives.
Their love of history and passion for detail made this educational project possible.
This website was created for the benefit of the general public to demonstrate the important contributions the citizens of the
Manatee River section made towards the development of our nation yesterday and today.
|Educationon ● Protection ● Preservation ● Conservation ● History