BRADENTON — The old cemetery is past the new subdivisions, the road-widening project on U.S. 301 and the flashing light at County Road 675.
Its headstones belong to some of Manatee County’s pioneer families.
Gillett. Harrison. Parrish.
“A lot of history here,” Bill Turner said.
Not just his own family’s, but that of Bradenton’s, just ranked by American Style Magazine as one of America’s Top 25 Small Cities for Art.
Near Turner was a weathered 3-foot high headstone shaded by an old cedar tree draped with Spanish moss.
“Sacred to the memory ...” the timeworn inscription begins.
It is the gravesite of Maj. William Iredell Turner, Bill Turner’s great-grand- father, the man who founded Bradenton in 1878 and is featured in our Celebrate Bradenton spec- ial section in today’s Herald.
A Virginian by birth, William Iredell Turner was a soldier, a statesman and a visionary.
Yet he wouldn’t recognize the city he started, which was ranked 22nd by American Style Magazine for its restaurants, galleries and boutiques, as well as the South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium, the Village of the Arts, ArtCenter Manatee and the future home of Manatee Players’ new theater.
The other Florida cities ranked were Key West (4), Sarasota (5) and Naples (14).
“When Major Turner came here Manatee was the frontier,” said Bill Turner, 75, as he pulled some weeds from his forefather’s resting place.
“It was a hard life.”
William Iredell Turner came to Florida in the 1830s and fought in the Seminole War and Civil War before moving his family to what is present-day Parrish. Then he moved his family once more to what is now downtown Bradenton.
Or “Braidentown” as mistakenly named by the U.S. postmaster general.
Turner would die three years after he established Bradenton, and was interred in the Parrish Cemetery near his original plantation.
His wife Isabella’s grave is alongside. Their graves are flanked by those of other descendants.
“You get a feeling when you come out here, whether it’s once in your lifetime or once every week,” Bill Turner said, gazing at the headstones of other pioneer families.
“This is part of the beginning of Manatee County right here,” he said.