Archaeological information documents ten thousand years of seasonal occupation by native people. Sarasota Bay was the primary source of protein and mounds of discarded shells and fish bones attest to the human settlements that existed in the area.
Europeans first explored the area in the early 16th century. In 1513, a Spanish expedition landed just to the south at Charlotte Harbor. After the 1819 acquisition of Florida as a territory by the United States and five years before it became a state in 1845, the army established Fort Armistead in Sarasota along the bay. In 1842, after the Seminole Indians were forced south into the Big Cypress Swamp, the Sarasota lands held by the federal government were opened to private ownership by those of European descent via the Armed Occupation Act passed by the Congress of the United States. The initial settlers were attracted by the climate and the bounty of Sarasota Bay. European settlers arrived in significant numbers in the late 1840s. The area already had a Spanish name—“Zara Zote”—on maps dating back to the early 18th century and it was retained as, Sara Sota. Although the name was associated with the area from the beginning of European contacts the origin of the name, Sarasota, is unknown. It may be named for a word in the indigenous Calusa language, whose meaning may be Point of Rocks or Place of the Dance. Some believe a fanciful story created for a popular early twentieth-century pageant held in Sarasota, that it was named after the daughter of famous explorer Hernando de Soto's daughter Sara. According to the Florida League of Cities FLC, the name first appeared in print as "Zarazote" on a 1763 land grant map.
Sarasota has been governed by several different American counties. Not becoming a state until 1845, Florida was acquired by the United States as a territory in 1819. Hillsborough County was created from Alachua and Monroe counties in 1834 and many early land titles cite it as the county governing Sarasota. Hillsborough was divided in 1855, placing Sarasota under the governance of Manatee County. In 1921, three new counties were carved out of portions of Manatee--one of those new counties was called, Sarasota, and the city was made its seat. The village of Sarasota was incorporated for local government as a town under state guidelines in 1902. It was re-platted in 1912 and its government then was incorporated as a city in 1913. From prehistoric native people to John Ringlin and Bertha Palmer, Sarasota history has much to offer. We hop you find your history here.
County Coordinator: Taneya Koonce