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Community Best of 2012: Sunday Favorites: They Called it Fogartyville

The  second generation of Fogarty Brothers: Jerry, William, Bartholmew and John. 

BRADENTON -- Captain John Fogarty blew into the Manatee River section during a storm. After the gale had passed, he and his crew sailed upriver in search of a village they had heard of called Manatee. There they provisioned the ship for the rest of the voyage, and departed. But something about the Manatee River had impressed Fogarty, and he would one day return and create the town of Fogartyville.


After years of exploring the Gulf, Fogarty had developed a certain sixth sense for danger. That’s why he ducked into the Manatee River when he felt a storm was brewing the in the Gulf in 1865. During the storm, Captain John and his crew had spotted a vessel in distress and rescued the men onboard, but couldn’t save the boat from sinking according to Joe Warner is his book “The Singing River.” He loaded the extra crew in a dinghy and headed for Manatee. During the trip he took in the sights, especially a plot of land located between two creeks on the south side of the river. When the sailors reached Manatee, they were directed to Rev. Edmund Lee’s general store and bought the entire stock of goods for $40.


Within two years Fogarty had returned with brothers Tole, and William Henry (Bill). The brothers built a family home and boatworks, starting what they began referring to as Fogartyville, which is located at the Manatee River at the end of present-day 26th Street. However, much to their surprise, they were not the first people at the pristine location; Johan Wilhelmsen and his wife Sarah Jane, resided on the plot first. Wilhelmsen had plans to start a colony himself, and the situation would cause a spirited competition between the two families for several decades.


The Fogartyville Boatworks was located on the Manatee River near present-day 26th Street

One day, a neighbor approached John and his wife with an orphaned boy that had been stranded in the woods of Terra Ceia. Both parents had died of yellow fever and the child spoke no English. The couple adopted the boy as their first son, naming him Robert Fogarty. (They birthed 10 others; their home still stands on Riverview Boulevard in Bradenton.)


 “In the ensuing years the brothers developed a thriving business with the construction of (fishing) smacks, schooners, sloops and yawls as well as some smaller boats,” writes Warner.


While business was good, the brothers longed to get into the profitable cattle business that so many other residents had prospered from. (There were over 1046 brands in this area). They began rounding up free-range piney wood cattle in addition to boat building. Dec. 29, 1874, they launched their second schooner Ino which was specifically designed for shipping cows to Cuba. The Fogarty’s also built the first dry dock on the river with the help of another captain from Key West.


By 1880, at least 30 families had settled in Fogartyville. But because Manatee Ave. was not yet constructed, their primary means of transportation was by boat.


When Capt. Tole’s son Bartholomew “Bat” built his first boat at the age of 19, he sealed a longtime family legacy of boatbuilding. Hundreds of boats came out of the Fogartyville Boatworks. They also exported smoked mullet as far away as New Orleans.


People said the schooner Vandalia was cursed because the day she was launched, circa 1895, she ran over and killed a workman. The ship was constructed at Fogartyville Boatworks with William “Will” J. Forgarty, son of William H. and Eliza Atzeroth Fogarty, supervising the build.


In 1885, a bridge across Jacques’ Creek and one across Ware’s Creek completed a road from Manatee to Fogartyville called Manatee Ave.; by 1895 the population in the small village had reached 100.

People said the schooner Vandalia was cursed because the day she was launched, circa 1895, she ran over and killed a workman.

The sons and daughters of the four original Fogartys grew up and became captains and boat builders and married others from around the small community. In 1899, Fogartyville obtained its first post office with J. Howard Gray appointed as first postmaster and Captain John Fogarty serving as the last before the post office closed its doors in 1915.


In 1906, Will sailed Vandalia to Apalachicola to procure cargo that was to be delivered to Key West. The ship is shown in Apalachicola near the Cypress Lumber Company. Upon returning from their Key West destination, the crew was caught in a squall causing hard winds and rough seas. For days the residents of Fogartyville awaited the crew’s return. Will’s children recall going to the dock and scanning the horizon for his ship. Capt. John Miller was dispatched to search for the missing ship. He finally came upon her, she was capsized and there was no sign of survivors. Capt. J.J. Fogarty salvaged the ship and sold her. Years later the ship caught fire and burned while moored to the Electric Dock at St. Petersburg. 


The founding fathers began to pass away one by one in the early 1900s, then in 1903 Braidentown became incorporated and extended its western borders to include Fogartyville – the small boat building town was beginning to lose its identity. By the 1920s, it was known only as West Bradenton.




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