Calusa Indians were Longboat Key’s first tourists. They traveled to and from the Key by canoes to search for shellfish, turtles and fishing, before returning to their homes on the mainland.
But Thomas Mann was Longboat Key’s first officially documented homesteader.
On June 17, 1891, President Benjamin Harrison signed a land grant awarding Mann 144.47 acres in what is now the Longbeach Village, through the Homestead Act of 1862, which Congress passed to encourage settlement south of Gainesville.
Settlers had to be armed and settle 160 acres of land; after five years, they could buy the land for $1.75 an acre.
Other settlers received grants for Key land before Mann, but there’s no official record they actually lived on the Key.
Mann, a Civil War veteran from Indiana, sailed down the Mississippi River after the war, then traveled from New Orleans to what was then Braidentown by boat with his family in 1872, according to Ralph Hunter’s “From Calusas to Condominiums.”
He moved to the Key, “possibly to avoid the Yankee-hating vigilantes or the yellow fever epidemic on the mainland in 1887 and 1888,” and lived in a thatched hut, the exact location of which is unknown.
Mann died in 1908 in Cortez after worms infested his body, and eventually, his brain.
+ North end businesses call it quits
The Longbeach Chevron and Dr. Robert Gordon’s dental office were the first signs of commercial life Key residents saw when they drove onto the Key over the Longboat Pass Bridge.
But on June 15, 2007, both businesses closed permanently.
Gas station owner Robert Self cited the loss of summer traffic in his decision to close his business on the Key and open a new mechanic shop in Ellenton. Gordon moved his practice to a larger space in Sarasota.
Century 21 Beggins Enterprises now operates out of the former dentist’s office. The gas station has remained vacant in the six years since then.
+ Nude dude on beach was on the run
Longboat Key police spotted a man walking nude on the old Holiday Inn’s beach June 19, 1991. An officer questioned him, but the man ran toward his car and put on shorts. Upon further questioning, he took off running and outran the officer.
The next morning, police captured the man, who turned out to be on the run from the Charlotte County Correctional Institution, by changing into civilian clothing and staking out the car, which was stolen. The man had escaped the month before from a road gang and had more than eight years remaining on his sentence.