Did Spanish explorer De Soto really land at Bradenton park site?

October 18, 2013 

Just this past Monday, Oct. 14, I read an article that mentioned the rich history of Bradenton. In this article was a quote stating that Hernando De Soto landed in Bradenton. Well, maybe ... maybe not.

Although we are fortunate to have De Soto National Memorial, where visitors can get some historical insight to the early Spanish explorers, namely De Soto; no one can say that De Soto landed here without some trepidation.

The park and its facilities sit in an area rich with Native American history and is surrounded by prehistoric shell middens, which are the discards of former coastal natives' primary food source, shellfish. The current middens are only a shadow of their former selves. Before they were bulldozed away to use for Manatee Avenue road-fill and the like, they were 20-plus feet high.

The idea that De Soto landed here goes back to the 1920/30s when supposedly some period chain mail and other small artifacts were recovered in this area. That being said, even if some small artifacts were recovered, they should be considered suggestive, and not a fact, that De Soto was here.

Please, let's please educate visitors and locals alike that De Soto may have landed here, and we have a wonderful park and facility celebrating that idea. As a good friend of mine who played De Soto for the Hernando De Soto Historical Society during a year in the 1970s once said to me, "Look, if De Soto was exploring north, why would he land on the south side of the river?"

Justin McNesky


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