On May 12, 1910, the Sarasota Times announced that Bertha had purchased 37,000 acres of land from J. H. Lord south of the town of Sarasota. This was but the beginning. The Manatee County land records reveal numerous purchases of property by Bertha and members of her family. Before long, the family owned over 80,000 acres. These acquisitions in 1910 were part of a rational plan of development. The properties stretched along Sarasota Bay at least from the mouth of Philippi Creek all the way to an area that would become the community of Venice. A great swath of Palmer lands stretched east along the modern roads of Bee Ridge, Proctor, and Clark well past today’s Interstate 75 corridor. Yet another vast expanse ran north and east from the current intersection of Honoré Avenue and Bee Ridge Road past Fruitville Road. At its peak the Palmer holdings covered 218 square miles of Manatee County. When Sarasota County was formed in 1921, the Palmer and Honoré interests owned between a fourth and a third of the county’s land.
The size and sweep of Bertha’s purchases startled the Sarasotans who were not used to thinking in such grand terms. They were further amazed by the news that Bertha had arranged with officials of the Seaboard Airline Railway Company to extend its tracks 20 miles from Sarasota through the small village of Fruitville and then straight south to a new terminus that Bertha had named Venice. Why the railroad agreed to build the extension is unclear. At the time there were few people living in the area and limited agricultural production.
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