Sunday Favorites: The Lee Family, Part 2

The subject of this photo has been widely debated. It is a photo of one of Rev. Lee's wives, but no one is certain which one. Could it be Electa? We may never know.
The subject of this photo has been widely debated. It is a photo of one of Rev. Lee's wives, but no one is certain which one. Could it be Electa? We may never know.
Merab Favorite
When we left off last week, Edmund and Electa Lee had just moved to the Manatee River section. While Edmund preached the Presbyterian gospel, Electa began the first school, which she named the Dame School for Boys.
 
When we left off last week, a communal meeting place had been erected in Manatee Village and Reverend Edmund Lee, preached there but shared the space with other denominations. According to an article from Karl Grisme, he and his wife Electa also owned a small apothecary shop and general store which they ran out of their home in Manatee Village.
  
Rev. Lee would frequently paddle across the river in his rowboat to the Gamble Mansion carrying with him an empty bucket. He held religious services for the Gamble slaves and at the end of the service, the attendees would fill the bucket with molasses as payment, according to Lillian McDuffee in her book, “The Lures of Manatee.”
 
Up until this time, Manatee County was still part of Hillsborough. In 1855, it became an official county and Rev. Lee was appointed Clerk of the Circuit Court.
 
A year later, the Third Seminole War broke out and many residents took refuge at Fort Branch, a fortified encampment near the Manatee Mineral Spring (present day East Bradenton). Rev. Lee enlisted in John Parker’s Company with several other Manatee County men, including his future son-in-al James Cowan Vanderipe.
 
Following the war, residents got back to work improving the Manatee Section. Rev. Lee donated $1.50 for the jury box of a newly planned courthouse. Can you imagine what that would cost today?
 
In 1861 the Civil War broke out and the patriarchs of the area enlisted in the Confederate Army. Even though he was born and raised in Vermont, Lee was loyal to his state of residence and, on April 25, 1862, he enlisted as a Private in Company K, Seventh Florida Infantry serving under Captain Smith.
 
The war was hard on Southern troops who were expected to march north hundreds of miles to battle. Rev. Lee was not a young man and it didn’t take long for his underlying ailment of consumption to catch up with him. He was eventually hospitalized, but continued to serve as chaplain in the hospital. On October 9, 1862, at age 54, he received a medical discharge from the Army at Salvisa, Ken.
According to his war record, he was declared “unfit for duty due to general disability from a lung pulmonary disease.”
 
After his discharge, Rev. Lee became a nurse and chaplain at a hospital in Savannah Ga., during his time he met the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. When he had served his duty full, he began the long walk home from Georgia.
 
Another Manatee resident, Jesse Knight, noticed a tall, thin, man with a dark complexion walking on the side of the road. He barely recognized the grey-haired man as Rev. Lee, but knew it was him because of his black eyes. Jesse picked him up and brought him home the rest of the way.
The men of Manatee needed to me to recover from the war. Malnourished and over-exhausted, they relied on their families to help them through recovery.
 
By 1867, Rev. Lee had once again remodeled his home – this time into a boarding house. Many tourists and new residents lived there before purchasing land and constructing their own homes.
 
In 1868, tragedy struck a well-known family living on Terra Ceia Island, the Guerreros. Miguel Guerrero, his wife Frederica and their two oldest sons died of disease. Two other boys and a baby girl survived, but did not speak English. Because Rev. Lee and another man, John Fogarty, spoke Spanish, they volunteered to adopt the remaining children. While the baby, Mary, did not survive, Rev. Lee raised Christopher Guerrero as his own, even giving him his family name of Edmund Miguel Lee. Rev. Lee and John Fogarty raised the two brothers as best friends, allowing them to spend as much time together as they pleased.
 
Sadly, a few years later, Electa Lee died of dysentery at age 62. She didn’t get to see her daughter Sarah wed James Vanderipe the following year. James had four children from a previous marriage. The family of six, along with another young woman named Alice Bullock and Rev. Lee’s newly adopted son Edmund Miguel all lived under one roof. If that wasn’t enough, Rev. Lee married a widow, Addie Frierson of Brooksville, who had three other children, John, Isabel and Lula. That’s 13 people in one house!
 
It’s no wonder Rev. Lee signed over a piece of his property his only biological child, Sarah, and her husband James. He probably wanted them out of his house!
 
Rev. Lee died peacefully in his home in 1892, at age 82. He joined other family members in the 25-by-45-foot plot which, at the time, was situated in his orange grove. In 1999, The Manatee County School honored Rev. Lee’s first wife Electa naming Lee Middle School after her. She served as Manatee County’s very first teacher and operated the very first school in this area.
 
This story does not end here. Only recently has the Lee Family Cemetery, which is located on 17th Street East in Bradenton, been restored. I’ll tell you all about it next week. See you then!
 
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