Andersons Settled Manasota Area
Articles: Sarasota History
Well over a century ago, much of the land in the southern part of then Manatee County was wilderness. It was to this wilderness near the Mystic River (now Forked Creek) that Joseph Daniel “Jody” Anderson moved with his mother and siblings in the late 1880s. As did other early settlers in the area, the Anderson family gathered and built from the wilderness nearly everything they needed to support their homestead. When Jody and his brother Lee married and had families of their own, they spread out in the Manasota area. Taken together, these scattered pioneers laid a foundation for the present community of Englewood.
Anderson selected virgin land from which to mold a farm. Clearing palmetto roots with a grub hoe was hard, tedious work, but over time a 40-acre farm site was created. The family planted vegetables, field crops and a citrus grove. A guava orchard flanked the route between house and fields and inspired the family to name that well-traveled path, “Guava Lane.” From the annual harvest of sugar cane, the family produced syrup. A horse-pulled sweep powdered the rollers that crushed the stalks to release the juice. A wood fire heated the juice in a large kettle until Anderson judged it done.
Horses, swine and poultry became part of the farm, and cattle - a major enterprise. In the fence-free years, Anderson cattle roamed freely between the Myakka River and the Gulf. Periodically, family members would select cattle for market and drive then to Punta Rassa for shipment to Key West. When laws were passed to require fencing of cattle lands, the Andersons sold their stock. Their operation was too small to survive in a fenced environment.
The Anderson family harvested from the water as well as the land. They centered their early fishing operation in the area where Manasota Beach Road now crosses Lemon Bay to Manasota Key. Their cotton and flax twine nets were spread on drying racks along the east side of the bay. At first the Andersons salted and dried their fish. Only after John Savarese, one of the state’s leading fish dealers from Tampa, loaded his boats with ice did the Andersons ship fresh fish.
Jody Anderson was a pioneer not only in the settlement of the Manasota area, but also in Sarasota County Government. When Sarasota County was formed in 1921, Governor Hardee appointed the first county officials. The first elections were held the following year and Anderson ran for and won the District 4 seat on the county commission. Anderson and the other first commissioners acted on a variety of issues, which had let to the separation of Sarasota from Manatee, including paved roads to connect the county’s communities, improved schools, county fairground and baseball diamond, and support for an advertising campaign to bring northern visitors to Sarasota County.
On May 26, 1996 a historical marker was dedicated to the role Jody Anderson played in the development of the Manasota area. (Ann Shank)