“Discovery” of unknown city of 5,471 people stuns Sarasota officials

1898 map shows location of Hayden, then three miles south of Sarasota.

When the 1960 census showed the town of Hayden, just south of Sarasota, with thousands of residents, it stumped city officials.

At a meeting in May 1961, Sarasota City Planning Department director R.W. Pavitt raised a surprising concern. Apparently, there was a town just south of the Sarasota city limits with a whopping 5,471 residents! At least, that’s what the United States Census of 1960 reported. The problem was no one at the city office had ever heard of such a place.

It wasn’t the only new city the federal government gifted to county residents that year. They also inserted the previously unknown burg of Sunnyland, somewhere between Fruitland and Bee Ridge. Queries to Washington indicated that they often needed to find names to cover unincorporated areas; those two seemed suitable enough.

A couple of weeks later, one of Sarasota’s original settlers, A.B. Edwards, came forward to help solve the mystery. Having lived in the city since 1888, he recalled that there was, in fact, once a settlement called Hayden. However, it was not located where the bureaucrats had placed it. It seems they conveniently moved it about 1.5 miles southeast (near Trader Joe’s on Tamiami Trail today) to suit their lack of a name for that area.

The actual settlement’s roots went back to December 1895 when George W. Hayden purchased 52 acres in what is now the Cherokee Park subdivision for just $50. That same year a post office was established on the property, and by 1897 five other pioneer families had taken residence there: T. F. Hamlin, E. T. Hevlem, W. M. Lambert, Henry Schupp, and S. R. Silas.

Grave of George W. Hayden at Fogartyville Cemetery in Bradenton. (Find A Grave)

Born in South Carolina in 1852, Dr. Hayden moved to Palmetto in the 1880s and married his wife, Mary P. Tyler, in 1888. She was just 18 years old at the time; he was twice that.

Hayden was a well-known mobile dentist. He served his patients, traveling by horse and buggy up and down the Gulf and into the interior regions of the expansive Manatee County, then encompassing all of the present-day county plus Sarasota, Hardee, Highlands, DeSoto, and Charlotte counties. He rode on a circuit, made home visits, and set up shop in the small towns and villages throughout the region, much like a preacher would at the time.

The post office at Hayden closed in 1908 and the Hayden family moved back to Bradenton and later to Arcadia. George Hayden, Sr. is buried in Fogartyville Cemetery today along with his wife and children — two of whom (including George Jr.) lived until 1991.

1917 Geographic Manual and New Atlas

Hayden vanished from maps in 1917, around the time that Sarasota annexed the town site. The subdivision of Cherokee Park was platted there in 1925 by James C. Brown but failed to sufficiently take off before the land boom had crashed and the nation entered the Great Depression.

Brown resorted to giving away some of the properties in the mid-1930s to spark other settlers to build there. The plan eventually worked and the community took off after World War II. Today the community is part of the coveted “West of Trail” neighborhoods between the Tamiami Trail and the Gulf of Mexico. Homes in the old Hayden town site now run between 1.5 and 8 million dollars a piece!

Following the town’s sudden reappearance and relocation southward, it was seemingly everywhere! Magazines, encyclopedias, and road maps began referencing this sizable and fast-growing settlement. So essentially, the Census spoke it back into existence for much of the 1960s.

Having had enough of its new rival town, in 1966, the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously to wipe Hayden from the map once and for all! They believed the anachronism might cause confusion, so they lobbied for over a year and finally, the state removed it from official state maps. And then, just like that, Hayden vanished from existence… again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *