Location Map
History
Pineland Archaeology

Southwest Florida


 History
 
Lee County 
Page 1 of 2
 
Fort Myers
  The first settlers here arrived around 1839.  It was originally was called Fort Harvie, and it was built during the Seminole Wars near the Caloosahatchee River. According to historic records, this location boasted barracks, a bowling alley, stables, and choice fishing spots. For the most part, soldiers needed to stay close to the camp, prepared for Defense against the Seminole Indians. This fort later was improved and renamed Fort Myers after an officer (Colonel Abraham C. Myers), under the command of General David E. Twiggs (whose daughter Marion was to marry Colonel Myers). Many more buildings and a hospital were added to the property during the 1850s. Today’s Edison Bridge is close to the original location of this fort. Also, Billy Creek in Fort Myers is near to where Billy Bowlegs and his people camped. The modern city of Fort Myers was incorporated in 1885.
Punta Rassa
  Today, Punta Rassa is close to Fort Myers Beach. The name roughly translates to “a place or point of land where people of all types meet.” A fort used in the Seminole Wars once stood near this spot, and was called Fort Dulaney. Later, when more pioneers and ranchers came into this area, Punta Rassa was used as a point to place cattle onto boats for sale at other ports, some of which were in Cuba.
Bonita Springs
  Incorporated in 1999, this town started as a small fishing village along the Imperial River in the 1880s. Tourism was the first industry, and construction of US 41 was a vital part of that industry. The original Shell Factory was originally built and operated in Bonita Springs. This burned down in 1952, partly because the fire trucks had to come all the way from Fort Myers. Today, the Shell Factory is found in North Fort Myers.
Everglades Wonder Gardens
  Another popular attraction, and this is still open today. Riverside Park is home to the museum as ell as several small buildings, which used to be cottages, and which have been moved to the park to serve as small stores. These are known collectively as the “Imperial River Cottages.” This attraction was founded by Thomas Edison, and started as a facility for injured animals. Before long, things changed at the gardens, and they produced crowd favorites, including bears who drank Pepsi from glass bottles, and some animals that would be featured in major Hollywood productions (such as a beloved black bear called Tom who was featured in “The Yearling”).
Names of interest
  Summerlin Road in Fort Myers
  Named after Jacob Summerlin, a successful cattleman who received gold from Cuba by shipping cattle to Punta Rassa, and later used his money to fund Civil War actions against the Union.
  Evans Road in Fort Myers
  Named for Major James Evans. He is recognized as the founder of Fort Myers, since he purchased lands from the government and hired surveyors to establish the town site.
  Cleveland Avenue
  (US41) in Fort Myers is named for Stafford Cleveland, who arrived in 1884 and started a newspaper. Today this paper is called the News-Press. 
  Thomas Edison
  Many street names in Fort Myers make reference to Thomas Edison, who first came to the town in 1885 and built a winter home, which today is open to the public as a museum and gardens. 
  Hamilton Disston
  ...bought six million acres of South Florida swampland for 25 cents per acres. Eventually, some of these lands became Bonita Springs. However, draining and developing the lands proved more difficult than Disston had imagined. Historic sources about this figure in history have revealed a lot about what life was like for crews working on canals along the Caloosahatchee River, Three Mile Canal, Nine Mile Canal and 13 Mile Canal (which is now the Miami Canal).  Click here for PDF document   This file is 1.3 meg file and will require approx.  30 sec. download on a high speed connection
  Frank P. Bailey
  ...a Sanibel pioneer, was born in 1873. He arrived on Sanibel Island in 1894 with his mother and two brothers. They began farming while they bargained to buy their own land. The family eventually bought a plantation store that combined packing and shipping of their own produce as well as that of other farmers. Bailey co-founded the Sanibel Community Church in 1917, and when Sanibel Packing Company—the name given to the Bailey enterprises—was destroyed by a hurricane in 1926, he built a larger store in a more secure location. That same year he helped to establish Sanibel Community House, a facility that still serves as a center of island activity. In the 1940s he set up a telephone system and served as Justice of the Peace. Frank Bailey operated the general store until his death in 1952. His Great Floridian plaque is located at the Old Bailey Store, 950 Dunlop Road, Sanibel. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum also is partially named in his honor.
     
   
 
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