Palmetto Schools History Text-Only Page

A Brief Summary

Early on families taught their own at home. During this time S.S. Lamb hired a tutor for his children. Later, he used a small log cabin as a school, and invited the neighbors.

Growth necessitated the building of a small frame schoolhouse and the hiring of teacher Mr. Nettles, and later Miss Frankie A. McKay (Frankie Howze).

In the late 1800's, the newly incorporated city of Palmetto built Palmetto Academy, the first public school in Manatee County.

Multi-storied red brick and concrete buildings followed, and in 1926 the Palmetto Grammar School building was added to the square block site between 7th and 8th Streets and 10th and 11th Avenues.

In 1947, Florida adopted the present system of having a single school district for each county and as a result Palmetto High School was merged into Bradenton High School and the school's name became Manatee County High School, which required changes in many school traditions. The school colors became red, white and blue by taking red from Palmetto's "red and black" and blue from Bradenton's "blue and gold" and adding white. Palmetto's yearbook had been the Palmetto Leaves, so the new one got the incongruous name of Manatee Leaves. The MCHS graduating class of 1958 was the last one to have students from both sides of the river, since Palmetto High School had been phased back beginning in 1957. Palmetto Junior and Senior High students moved to a new high school on 17th Street back in Palmetto adopting the current red, black & white school colors.

Palmetto Elementary remained in Palmetto during that time and presently consists of main buildings built in three phases from the 1960's to the 90's



  • In the school year 2000-01 (4/12/01) Palmetto El has 872 students enrolled in Kindergarten through 5th Grade.
  • In the "School Building Survey" of 1947, Pal El had 261 students in 1945-46, and 248 students in 1946-47.
  • In the school year 2000-01 (4/12/01) Palmetto El has 36 "Regular" & 5 "Special" teachers, and 49 staff.
  • Approximately 100 years ago Palmetto El had one teacher and no staff.
  • A building designated for use as a school has been available in the Palmetto area since the 1880's.
  • The Palmetto Academy built by the City of Palmetto was the first public school in Manatee County.
  • In 1999, Palmetto El had 25% (4 of 16) of Manatee County's first National Board Certified Teachers.
  • The gym was built in 1935 for $15,000.
  • The two-story Frankie A. Howze School building was built in 1926 for $62,500.
  • The two-story Senior High building was built in 1923 for $75,000.
  • The basic school site between 7th and 8th Streets and 9th and 10th avenues contains 3 1/2 to 4 acres.
  • The auditorium of the Frankie A. Howze school was 140 feet long X 75 feet wide, and had a capacity of 700.
  • In Diane Beck, Diane Popovice, Janet Stinton, and Renee Varnadore Palmetto El has the friendliest, most courteous office staff in the county.


In this relatively unsettled area in the mid-to-late 1800's, children's education was left to the means of their parents.

S.S. Lamb, our city's founder, hired a tutor, Mr. More, to teach his children at home.

As the area grew however, he moved them into a log cabin formerly owned by Madam Joe, a colorful early settler, and invited the neighbors

Log Cabin

A colorful early settler, Madam Joe, a German immigrant, came to the Terra Ceia area in 1843.

By 1851 she had bought from John Reese land and a partially built log cabin under the shade of six oak trees in Palmetto at the present site of the Palmetto Bed & Breakfast Inn on Riverside Dr. and 11th Avenue. Some of the oaks are living still.

Soon she built a larger house to the West, and converted the cabin to a store.

On Nov. 27, 1866, Madame Joe sold this property to Sarah Campbell, of Clarke County, Mississippi, about the same time that S.S. Lamb began his move from Clarke County, Mississippi.

On Feb. 3, 1868, Sarah Campbell sold the property to S. S. Lamb, who would own most of land in the area, and is today considered the Founding Father of Palmetto.

Mr. Lamb eventually converted Madam Joe's log cabin store into a schoolhouse, inviting others to send their children.

from 100 Years in Palmetto - Ruth E. Abel  

Frame Schoolhouse

 In 100 Years in Palmetto, Ruth E. Abel writes...

A frame schoolhouse was built on the southwest corner of 4th Street and 9th Avenue and J.W. Nettles became the teacher.

When Miss Frankie A. McKay from Chicago Palmetto in 1889, she found this schoolhouse used for public gatherings, town hall, and religious services. Mrs. M.B. Harrison was her assistant.(p. 107)

Because the school provided for children of all ages, Miss McKay divided students into two groups, and ordered and paid for books with her own money.  

Palmetto Academy

Palmetto soon outgrew the frame schoolhouse on 4th street. Because "parents wanted better educational facilities," a city was born.

In minutes dated July 9, 1894 of a town council meeting, it was decided to hold an election to pass a bond issue seeking to raise $1500 to build a schoolhouse.

The election results were 33 FOR and 9 AGAINST.

Palmetto Academy was built at the northeast corner of 7th St and 10th AV., and the people of Palmetto were proud. This was the first time public funds had been used to build a school. It was a two-story, frame structure.

Schools were not graded at this time. The school day started at 8:30 AM and dismissed at 4:00 PM. A fifteen minute recess divided the morning and afternoon sessions. Boys and girls played on opposite sides of the building. The school term lasted about 5 months.

This building was moved to the present location of Palmetto Historical Park and continued to be used during the construction of the Red Brick building which replaced it.

Miss McKay continued to be the school principal, serving for four generations. (pp.107-8)

...from 100 Years in Palmetto-Ruth E. Abel

The Red Brick School Building

The red brick school building was erected in 1912 along the east side of 10th Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets. The two-story wooden Palmetto Academy building was moved from the site to accommodate its construction.

This building consisted of two stories and a basement. The basement was used to house the furnace, and for physical education, showers, dressing rooms, and restrooms.

Interior wooden staircases connected all the floors, with classrooms on floor one, more classrooms and a small auditorium and stage on floor two.

Metal fire escapes from the top floor were provided on both the north and south sides. Large cement steps provided access to the first floor at the front (west) side of the building, and on either side of these cement stairwells provided access to the basement.

When two other two-story buildings were built on the one-square block site during this time, the red brick building was used as the Junior High.

The red brick building was used until it was torn down in 1959. The plaque indicating the year construction was completed, the builder, and the names of school officials is presently located in the old Carnegie Library building on 10th Avenue, presently part of Palmetto's Heritage Park.

White Concrete

This building was built in 1923 facing east along 9th Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets. Over the years it was used as a high school, a junior high, and an elementary school.

A cafeteria building (1934) was situated just west (behind this building), a Home Economics building just across 8th St. to the north, and a gymnasium (1935) just across 8th ST. to the northeast. Just west of the gym sat the "little kindergarten" building (1920's cottage moved here in 1936) now located at Palmetto Historical Park.

A "School Building Survey" around 1947 describes this building as a

"...two-story building whose outer walls are of hollow tile covered with stucco. The first floor contains the principal's office, three classrooms, and a library. The upper floor contains an auditorium space which is now being used as a study hall, and five classrooms."

Frankie Howze School

The "School Building Survey" of 1947 describes this building as a two-story stucco over hollow tile structure erected in 1926.

It contains ten classrooms and an auditorium.

The classrooms are arranged on the lower floor along a corridor extending the width of the building. Access to the second floor is provided by two interior wooden stairways, to the right and left of the main entrance.

The second floor classrooms are on both sides of the corridor. Two classrooms in the middle over the auditorium are built on a level approximately two feet higher...Fire escapes are provided at the two ends of the building. The interior walls...are metal lathing and plaster.

Originally designated as Palmetto Grammar School, it was later dedicated as the Frankie A. Howze School, and a plaque was placed above the center archway on the front (south) of the building above the main entrance.

This plaque is now located at the entrance to the "Phase Two" building along the circular driveway off 8th St. on the north side. (At one point the front, now the back, of the school.)

This building was last used during the 1976-77 school year, and was demolished to make way for the new "Frankie Howze Building" dedicated April 1, 1979.

Pal El - Phase One

The current buildings of Palmetto Elementary were built over 30 years in three phases. Each newer phase is distinguished by differing roof lines on the building as one looks from west to east.

When the Red Brick building along 10th Avenue was torn down in 1959, along with the outdoor basketball court just to the north of it, there was room to build what is now the oldest part of the current main buildings.

Phase One extended along 10th AV from the NE corner of 7th ST. and 10th AV to the SE corner of 8th ST. and 10th AV. Both the two-story Frankie A. Howze School building and the "White Concrete" former high school building facing 9th AV. were still on site and being used.

Pal El - Phase Two

During the 1976-77 school year, the two-story Frankie A. Howze School building along the north side of 7th St. was demolished making room for Phase Two of the current version of Palmetto Elementary. At this time the front of the school was moved to 8th ST. with a driveway entering from 8th ST. and exiting onto 9th AV.

The Phase Two building was dedicated as the Frankie A. Howze School Building on April 1, 1979, and the plaque formerly installed on the front of the "old" Frankie A. Howze School was placed at the entrance to the "new."

This phase provided new administrative offices, a media center, and numerous classrooms.

Pal El - Phase Three

Phase Three of the current Palmetto Elementary was completed in 1991. A plaque indicating the date, architect, and school officials is in the main office storage area awaiting installation. This phase necessitated agreements to close one block of 9th AV., one block of 8th ST, and reroute traffic through a former alleyway.

These newest buildings provide new administrative offices, a computer lab, a cafetorium, a pleasant courtyard, a kindergarten area, and numerous classrooms. It was at this time that the "crayon" theme was introduced.

Over the years other buildings have come and gone.

An agriculture building now used for classrooms and P.E. offices still stands on the west side of 10th Av. A frame cafeteria once stood facing north along 8th St, and a three-room frame building used for Home Economics stood on the corner of 8th ST and 9th AV facing south. A large frame gymnasium was situated facing south on 8th St between 8th and 9th avenues, and just to its west stood the frame cottage used early on as a kindergarten.

Other Buildings

Gymnasium - A large frame gymnasium measured 65 X 100 feet, and was built in 1935 for $15,000. It was situated facing south on 8th St between 8th and 9th avenues. It had no heating system. This gym was used by the boys. Girls used the Armory.

Home Economics - A three-room frame building stood on the corner of 8th ST and 9th AV facing south. It was later used for ????

Cafeteria - A frame cafeteria was built by the WPA in 1934 for $4,000. It was situated facing north on 8th St. The building is 40 X 50 feet, and has a large brick chimney and fireplace at the south end. A service counter separated the kitchen from the dinning areas.

Agriculture - A building used for Agriculture was built in 1945 for $8,000. It was situated (and is still) on the west side of 10th Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets. This is a concrete structure measuring 30 X 80 feet. Facilities included a classroom, conference room, farm shop, storage, and toilet.

Kindergarten - Moved now from its "original" site facing west along 9th Avenue just west of the old gym, this 1920's cottage was used starting in 1936 as a Kindergarten, increasing the Palmetto School site to seven buildings. It sits presently at the Palmetto Historical Park.

Football Field - Running east-west along the south side of 7th Street just barely fitting between 10th and 11th Avenues, a lighted football field was enclosed by fence and hedge. Successful kicks and errant passes would often land in neighbors' yards. Stands for spectators and a score board were provided. This is presently Sutton Park.


Madame Joe

Mr. & Mrs.Joseph Atzeroth were natives of Bavaria, Germany. They arrived on Terra Ceia April 12, 1843, and bought 46.46 acres bordering the Manatee River in Palmetto in 1850 for $230. They later bought another 38 acres adjacent to their property.

Because she always called her husband Mr. Joe, those who knew her referred to her as Madame Joe.

At first they lived in the partially completed log cabin on the 46 acres, but soon built a larger log house and covered it with clapboards. The log cabin became a store.

Madame Joe was an impressive, forceful character that no one could forget. She became the heroine of many tales of the Manatee frontier.

They sold their land in Palmetto on November 27,1866, and planned to return to Germany. Due to her liver illness, they returned to their farm on Terra Ceia where Mr. Joe died in 1871, and Madame Joe, on January 24, 1902, at 94.

She was described as friendly, understanding, full of vivacity, and loved fun and dancing.

Source - 100 Years in Palmetto by Ruth E. Abel, pp.7-14

S.S. Lamb

Palmetto's Founding Father

Manatee County's first road roughly followed what is now US 301 north from the Manatee River to Tampa in 1846. It was down this road that 36 year-old Samuel Sparks Lamb came from Clarke County, Mississippi.

He traveled with his wife, five daughters, and a son. He rode a horse, and his family traveled in a wagon pulled by a yoke of oxen.

Lamb acquired 160 acres in what is now Palmetto. He donated many acres for a library, a cemetary, and churches. He built the first brick building, a bank, and laid out the town with a wide main street that ran from the railroad station to the river.

He is described as aloof and stand-offish.

S.S. Lamb died on March 13, 1910. He is buried in the Palma Sola Cemetery on 9th AV in Bradenton.

Source - "Early Settler Helped Palmetto Grow" by Morgan Stinemetz

Frankie A. Howze

Teacher, Librarian, Principal - Mrs. Frankie A. (McKay) Howze

Frankie McKay of Chicago came to Palmetto in 1889 to teach in Palmetto's one-room school. Palmetto was a struggling village, recovering from a yellow fever epidemic.

When Mrs. Howze found some of her students were interested in high subjects, she organized classes in literature, Latin, elementary science and algebra, and the nucleus of high school came into being. After sending to Chicago for a model course of study, she divided children into classes and subjects were selected suitable to their age.

Much needed textbooks and other equipment was ordered. Parents and children helped raise the money for these through social functions and plays. Mrs. Howze was reimbursed for the textbooks she had bought. She contributed from her salary to buy the first double school desks. She was a good teacher who not only taught the three "R's", but also self adjustment, good citizenship and religious training. She taught foreign languages as well as football. She was an excellent role model for young teachers.

Until she retired at the age of 72, Frankie Howze led the young people in daily sitting up exercises. She taught piano and voice. In some families, she taught three generations. In addition to her duties as a teacher, principal of the primary then elementary school, Mrs. Howze also was the local librarian. Mrs. Howze was then called the mother of education in Manatee County. She was honored by her peers. Two schools were named for her. She never stopped learning. After her retirement, she returned to school and earned another degree. Mrs. Howze died on July 29, 1956.

The Palmetto Carnegie Museum, Palmetto Historical Park, has a large collection of Frankie Howze memorabilia.

Source - Palmetto Historical Commission

History primarily compiled by Pat Willingham - April, 2001