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History of Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island history early 1500’s Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth quest started.
It was during that quest that he discovered Florida itself on Easter Sunday, naming it “Pascua de Florida” which means “Feast of Flowers“, the Spanish name for this holy day.

His quest continued as he journeyed up the Gulf Coast of Florida nearly five hundred years ago and named our small island Ana-Maria-Cay to honor the Virgin Mary and her mother Anne.

Fierce Timucan Indians Once you’ve visited our island, you’ll want to come back.

Fierce Timucan Indians prevented him from colonizing the area so he returned to his base in Puerto Rico where he was shot with an arrow in 1521 and later died.

In 1539, the Spaniards returned. Hernando De Soto landed just across the bay from Anna Maria at Shaw’s Point in Bradenton and started a settlement.

After several hundred years of relative quite, George Emerson Bean became the island’s first permanent resident In 1892. The tip of the island at the far right hand side is still known as Bean Point. Surrounded by the lush sub-tropical growth and island birds, you feel the peace and security of times gone by.

Local real estate agents frown on “homesteading” these days but there are still terrific opportunities to purchase land on our island.

Hernando deSoto
georgeemersonbean Mr. Bean passed away in 1898 but just after the turn of the century his son, George Wilhelm Bean, teamed up with a financier named Charles Roser. Together, they formed the Anna Maria Beach Company, laid out the streets and started developing the town of Anna Maria.

Roser, it turns out, is not only the father of Anna Maria; he’s also known as the inventor of the Fig Newton.

The Kennedy Biscuit Company of Massachusetts began producing the cookies in 1891. Kennedy Biscuit had a tradition of naming cookies and crackers after surrounding towns and you still see “Beacon Hill” and “Shrewsbury” brands on store shelves.

In 1898, Kennedy Biscuit joined a national network of bakeries to form the National Biscuit Company, later known as Nabisco.

Charles Roser

While rumor has it that Roser made his fortune selling the “Fig Newton recipe” to Kennedy Biscuit Works, it is likely that his financial windfall was more closely related to the stock of Kennedy Biscuit, especially after it became Nabisco.

Roser’s original clapboard home, built in 1912, still stands next to the Siam Garden Resort.

1912 Pier In 1911, the company built a 678-foot long pier at the end of Pine Avenue enabling ships full of visitors and supplies to dock. Despite numerous hurricanes, the pier still stands at the end of our block, the favorite rendezvous for tourists, fishermen and locals alike.

In 1913, Charles Roser built our island’s first church; the Roser Memorial Community Church.

Its oil lit cross served as a beacon for fishermen returning from the Gulf of Mexico.

Starting in 1921 visitors could finally drive onto the island using a rickety wooden bridge that connected at the fishing village of Cortez.

It also came in handy for mackerel fishing, a delicacy that has largely been replaced with fresh Florida grouper, stone crab claws and smoked mullet.


Progress came to this little island a decade after WWII, and in 1957, the county opened the modern drawbridges on Manatee and Cortez Roads. The island of Anna Maria remains charming, dignified and unspoiled even to this day. If anything, perhaps it’s a little quieter now than it was 50 or even 80 years ago!

1912-2013 cortez-bridge-today

Go to the Complete History of Florida’s Anna Maria Island to learn more about how this quaint Gulf Coast Florida retreat came to be what it is today! About Our Island Home