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Mainstays: Farming, Education, Religion

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Mark Smith, former Sarasota County Archivist
Source: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Photo Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources

Sarasota History - Mainstays: Farming, Education, Religion photo

Settlers coming into the Myakka region around 1850 found open land, lakes and rivers. The area was settled by a group of cattlemen and their families who had to carve an existence out of this open range.

The settlement began to take hold and by 1885, the estimated population was about 100 people. The small community continued to grow, and before the turn of the century, Myakka residents had established a school, church, post office, country store and a telephone service.

Residents debated over the spelling of the name of their community. According to the publication, “Myakka: A community portrait,” when Myakka was registered on the federal map for a post office, the man who sent in the request wrote so poorly that it could not be read. So the little settlement went on the federal papers as being spelled with a “y” instead of an “i.” Today, some in the community refer to it as Old Miakka.

Citrus raising and general farming were important industries in Myakka. By the early teens, families were raising crops of vegetables, both for their families and for sale. According to the publication, “A History of the Myakka River,” by John McCarthy and Glenna Dame, tomatoes are the most frequently mentioned in Sarasota Times newspaper articles in those years. Rice and corn were grown in abundance, the latter for use as cattle feed. Sugar cane and citrus production increased steadily over the years and was a major livelihood for many settlers.

Education and religion were very important to the small community. It soon outgrew the second school that the residents had built. In February 1914, the Myakka School District No. 13 voted to take advantage of a law passed in the previous year by the state legislature that permitted the sale of public bonds to finance the construction of new schools. In July 1914, a contract was awarded for $1,390 for the construction of a new school. The Myakka School House, located at the corner of Myakka Road and Wilson Road, is a simple frame vernacular building constructed in 1914.

An addition to the school became necessary when attendance in all grades at times reached sixty-five. Sometimes the students went to school only three months each year because they were needed at home to help with the work. The interior of the school consists of a main classroom space and a smaller south room that’s now used as a kitchen. The classroom space includes a raised platform at its south end, presumably for the teacher’s desk and slate blackboards.

The school is significant because it served as the one educational facility for the fledgling settlement for nearly 30 years. The building was completed in September 1914, with professor Lee Hall serving as its first instructor. For his efforts, Hall was paid a monthly salary of $5.00.

Typically, one teacher served the needs of the entire school. The school teacher would generally reside with one of the families of the community, sometimes taking turns with each family. The building remained in continuous use as a school until 1944. The school and its adjoining two acres of property were acquired by the Miakka Community Club in 1948 and is presently used as a community meeting hall.