Most Unforgettable Villages in North America

Cortez, Florida Population: 4,491

This Manatee County fishing village comes with a side of historical local lore. Claiming to be the oldest remaining fishing village in Florida, Cortez dates back to the late 1800s, and many of its current inhabitants are descendants of original residents. Today, commercial fishermen in the village still make their livings catching fish, crab, and shellfish in Sarasota Bay’s blue-green waters. Learn more about the area’s proud history by visiting Cortez’s Florida Maritime Museum, which displays historic vessels, houses a research library, and even runs boat-building programs.

Local Eats: Star Fish Company takes a laid-back attitude toward eating, so don’t worry about peeling off those sandy clothes or changing out of your flip-flops before entering. Picnic tables right on the water provide casual seating to enjoy the day’s catch.

The website, in a travel feature, listed Cortez Village as one of its “Most Unforgettable Villages in North America.”

In its comments about Cortez, the website says the fishing village in Manatee County “comes with a side of historical local lore. Claiming to be the oldest remaining fishing village in Florida, Cortez dates back to the late 1800s, and many of its current inhabitants are descendants of early settlers from North Carolina.

“Today, commercial fishermen in the village still make their livings catching fish and crabs in Sarasota Bay’s blue-green waters.”

The website says visitors can learn more about the area’s history by visiting the Florida Maritime Museum, which “displays historic vessels, houses a research library, and even runs boat-building programs.”

The website also lists several restaurants in Cortez that offer fresh-caught local seafood.

Karen Bell, owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co. and the Star Fish Co. Market & Restaurant in Cortez, said she was surprised to learn of the ranking.

Bell, whose family roots go back to the early settlers, said she was pleased the village has been recognized.

“I was surprised and shocked. It’s quite an honor to be recognized as one of the great villages in North America,” Bell said.

“We’re glad to share our history with others who come to visit,” she said.

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing director Deb Meihls said she found the ranking to be “wonderful and exciting.”

This confirms what we already knew, “what a special place Cortez is,” Meihls said.

Published in: on August 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Regina Makes First Run

The Regina, which in 1940 wrecked on the beach of Anna Maria Island, made it’s first run with Cuban Molasses 108 years ago this week. In fact it was the first Cuban ship to deliver a load of Molasses to the US.

When the Regina ran aground in 1940 many Cortez residents played a part in saving the crew who were trapped aboard the sinking ship.  The Regina shipwreck is now a Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve.


This article is from the Philadelphia Record, dated July 9, 1905.

The Philadelphia Record - Jul 9 1905

The Philadelphia Record – Jul 9 1905

Published in: on July 13, 2013 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Clarence Jackson Fulford

Clarence Jackson “Sandy” Fulford, Age 84, LTC US Army (Ret.), of Tampa passed away on Friday, May 24th 2013. He lived a full life that revolved around his faith, family, and service to his country. Sandy was the grandson of David Sanders and Lula Fulford who were among the first settlers in Cortez, Florida. They operated the Fulford Hotel on the location of the present Cortez Trailer Park.

As a kid called Buddy, he had a dog named Bingo and an alligator named Oscar. Buddy rode a bull in a rodeo and attended Hillsborough High. Joining the Merchant Marines at 15, he was just in time to shiver off the shores of Leyte, Philippines in 1944.

Following a stint in the Marine Corps, Buddy joined the Army and found a 28 year career where he picked up the moniker, Sandy. He was Sandy when he met and married the woman he loved. Sandy was Airborne, Special Forces, and fought in WW II, Korea and Viet Nam.

To his four children he was Dad, and to his children’s friends he was “The Colonel.” The Colonel offered friendly advice to friends and resolute direction to his kids. He wasn’t always right but he was always sure. He liked to say, “I fought in three wars so you can do what you think is right,” but it was certainly easier if you agreed with him.

To his grandchildren and great-grandchild his name was Big-Dad. Big-Dad was the go-to guy when you needed an opinion or got in trouble with your parents. Biggie was a ready source for long stories of marginal veracity, a swift kick, or a big hug.

Most of all he was a man loved by his family. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jo Fulford; his daughter Lynn Honeycutt and her husband Randy; his daughter Vickie Arnold and her husband Robin; his son Jack Fulford and his wife Sherry; his daughter Kris Freeze and her husband Greg; his sister Gale Whitaker and her husband Glen; seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.

A service with military honors is scheduled for July 19, 2013 at 10:30am at the Florida National Cemetery located in Bushnell, FL.

Published in: on June 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

D. Turner Matthews

D. Turner Matthews, 70, passed away, June 9, 2013. He was a longtime Bradenton Attorney.

He was a loving and respected member of the community who made an impact on many lives. He was an attorney, friend, husband, father, grandfather, historian and mentor. His love for boating, travel and unique friendships will live on through the lives he touched.

Turner is survived by loving wife, Nancy; children, David and Eden Matthews. Services will be private. Covell Funeral Home in charge of the arrangements.

Published in: on June 14, 2013 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Kingfish Biting at Unprecedented Rate

From the Tampa Tribune Sunday April 16, 1916

Tampa Tribune - Sunday, April 16, 1916 web

Published in: on June 9, 2013 at 8:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Louise Bell Shuman

Louise Bell Shuman, born December 29, 1958, in Bradenton, FL, passed away on May 25, 2013.

She was a graduate of Manatee High School, Manatee Community College, and the University of South Florida where she earned a BA in English and an MA in Education.

She was an instructor and a counselor at Manatee Community College. She also taught at Bayshore High School and was employed by Bell Graphics, Inc. Louise was an eclectic reader and learner and an award-winning writer.

Louise was predeceased by her beloved son, Jared.

She is survived by her parents, Chester and Ellen Bell of Bradenton; her brothers, Warren (Debby) of Bradenton and Brooks (Sheri) of Los Gatos, CA; nieces, Lindsey, Haley, and Jaclyn; and nephew, Beau.

Visitation 6-8 PM Thursday May 30, 2013 at Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory 26th Street Chapel 5624 26th Street West, Bradenton, FL 34207.

Graveside Services private for the family at the Cemetery at Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church, Old Chicora, FL.

In Louise’s honor, please make Memorial donations to Tidewell Hospice, 5955 Rand Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34238.


Published in: on May 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cortez Bridge Project Will Be Pushed

From the Tampa Tribune Sunday, June 25, 1911.

Tampa Tribune - Sunday, June 25, 1911

Published in: on May 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Marion ‘Sam’ Bell

Marion ‘Sam’ Bell passed from this life on May 2, 2013, after a long battle with cancer.

He was a native of Cortez, FL, born Sept. 11, 1939, the youngest son of Manly and Floy Bell who predeceased him. He was a descendant of some of the early settlers of Cortez (Taylor, Bell). He is survived by his wife of almost 50 years, Kathleen Glidden Bell, two sons, Kevin Bell of New Port Richey, FL and Nathaniel J. Bell of Tampa, FL, grandsons, Nathaniel G. Bell, Sebastian Bell and Keaton C. Bell, brother, Ronald T. (Rosa Lee) Bell of Greensboro, NC.

Sam was a graduate of Manatee County High School (1957), Manatee Junior College (charter class) and the University of South Florida-Tampa (charter class). He was a Freemason, a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, and a Shriner. Sam’s passions were his family and the village of Cortez. His interests included classical music, reading, traveling, volunteering, and his many friends. He will be remembered by his sense of humor, his willingness to help others, and his wit. His working career consisted of a stint with Honeywell Aerospace where he was production coordinator for the inertial guidance platform for the Gemini two man space program. He then began his career in consumer products for several companies marketing a variety of products from paper to toiletries. The last 14 years prior to retirement he helped introduce self blood glucose testing to the American market.

Final Disposition will be a private family Burial at Sea. Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory 26th Street Chapel in charge. In Memory of Sam, please make a contribution to Tidewell Hospice, Inc. or Cortez Village Historical Society. Condolences

Published in: on May 4, 2013 at 9:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Cortez in running for “Ultimate Fishing Town” title


Nick Ibasfalean navigates the "High Roller" into the Cortez Village docks to fill the fish hold with 6,000 pounds of ice. Ibasfalean will fish past the 3-mile mark for thread herring bait fish.FILE PHOTO/TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

CORTEZ — Manatee County’s historic fishing village is a contender to be voted the "Ultimate Fishing Town." Cortez was nominated for World Fishing Networks’ Ultimate Fishing Town contest, putting the community in contention for a regional prize of $3,500 or grand prize of $25,000.

"I just think Cortez is coming into its own," Karen Bell said. "People are learning to appreciate commercial fishing."

Bell, a manager at the family-run A.P. Bell Fishing Co., attributes the increased attention Cortez and similar fishing communities have gained to television shows such as Discovery Channel’s "Deadliest Catch" and National Geographic’s "Wicked Tuna."

The historic Cortez Fishing Village dates to the 1880s and claims to be the oldest surviving fishing village in Florida. Relatives of the original village members continue to live there.

A.P. Bell is one of the largest fishing companies still in existence with multiple generations of the family still involved in the business. "I’m third generation," Bell said. "But we are hoping to have a fourth and fifth generation here." Bell helps manage the company alongside her uncle, owner Doug Bell.

Local fishermen were excited about the nomination." I think it would be good for the community," Alex Shely said. "I do mullet fishing with the first-, second- and third-generation fisherman here." Shely, originally from Minnesota, now does commercial and charter fishing locally.

To support Cortez, go to and vote up to four times a day.

Jessica De Leon, Herald Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012

Published in: on April 26, 2013 at 7:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Barbara L. Berry

Barbara L. Berry, 81, died April 17.

Mrs. Berry and her family lived in the Cortez village 28 years. They owned and operated the Miss Cortez Deep Sea Fishing Fleet.

She was a member of the Church of the Annunciation and Daughters of the King-St. Mary Our Blessed Mother Chapter. She served as electa and chaplain in the Order of the Eastern Star and was awarded the Cross of Colors, the highest honor given by the Rainbow Girls. She was a past president of the Sigma Delta Tau Sorority and served as a Florida firearm safety instructor.

A celebration of life was held April 22 at Westminster Towers Chapel, Bradenton. Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.

Mrs. Berry is survived by her husband of 60 years, Capt. Jim; daughters Jadeana and Jamie; and grandson Capt. Derek Berry

Published in: on April 23, 2013 at 7:51 am  Leave a Comment  

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