Sunday Favorites: The First Post Office

A view of Main Street in 1905. Photo: Manatee County Digital Archives.
A view of Main Street in 1905. Photo: Manatee County Digital Archives.
Merab Favorite
This month marked the 140th anniversary of the first post office in Bradenton. William Iredell Turner, who is credited with founding the city, was appointed as its first postmaster. Here's the story of how it came to be.
 
William Iredell Turner (1812 - 1881), was a Florida pioneer and soldier who helped establish present-day Bradenton and Parrish. Originally born in Virginia, he enlisted in the military when he was 16, fighting during the Second Seminole War. As the series of wars against the Seminole Nation waged on, Turner ascended the ranks of the Florida Volunteers. During the battle of Ocmulgee, he was injured in the neck and discharged from the military in 1837, according to the book The Singing River, by Joe and Libby Warner.
 
In 1839, he moved to Micanopy where he met his wife Isabella Higginbotham. Together, they owned and ran Oak Hill, the largest plantation in Alachua County, Fla.
 
Turner was a proponent of secession and had unsuccessfully run for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives. Despite his injury, which still affected him, he returned to fight during the American Civil War, where he served as a Major for the Florida State Militia and was stationed at Fort Brook (located in present-day Tampa). He is known to have been elected to the Florida Senate in 1865.
 
Turner and his wife moved south, establishing a large plantation in Parrish near present-day Fort Hamer Road. The land they purchased, was said to "fulfill their dreams and more peaceful pursuits" in their golden years, and they considered it a wholesome place to rear their 10 children. The couple named the property "Oak Hill" which became the area's first largely successful farm, according to Warner.
 
At this time, the villages of Fogartyville, Manatee, and Palma Sola were making more progress than present-day Bradenton, which, at the time, was little more than an abandoned encampment utilized by residents during the Third Seminole War.
 
Turner purchased a small portion of land, a mere seven acres, and subdivided it into 19 plots. This area became Main Street in Bradenton. Businessmen in the area were quick to purchase property on the street.
 
On the east side, Turner built a store and warehouse, then, at the foot of the parcel, he constructed a large two-story home and hotel known as "The Mansion," along with a wharf for trade and transportation. He named the area Braidentown, this was part homage to the village's original founder, Joseph Addison Braden, and part marketing ploy, as area leaders envisioned a town where "women wore braids in their hair," according to a 2003 speech "The Past and Future of Bradenton," former Mayor Wayne Polston gave to the Manatee County Historical Society.
 
In 1878, Braidentown brought official recognition to a new community on the shores of Manatee River when the first United States Post Office was established. The post office was located in a general store owned by Turner, who served as the first postmaster. River traffic made possible the shipment of agricultural products and opened a new era for Manatee County.
 
Turner died on October 28, 1881, and is buried alongside his wife Isabella at the Parrish Cemetery.
 
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Reader Comments
Craig Clark
JAN 15, 2023  •  This article taught me a lot, BECAUSE mr. Turner is my great great grandfather! I live in Bradington, but only because the weirdest of all coincidences. In 1992 I took a job with Tropicana moving here from Dallas Texas. If Tropicana’s offices have been in Clearwater, I’d be living in Clearwater! But no the Tropicana offices were behind the red barn, And my other great great grandfather, Henry Smith Clark, is the first person buried in the Bradenton historical cemetery. I would occasionally walk to the cemeteryAt lunchtime and have lunch with Henry. Thanks again for this wonderful article.


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