Fort Myers, Florida History
|During the early 1500’s it is believed that Ponce de Leon ventured into the Fort Myers area in one of his many explorations. The area in Lee County remained very isolated and unpopulated for many years. In the early 1700’s the area became the home to pirates known for raiding cargo ships traveling from the docks in New Orleans.
It wasn’t until 1821 that Florida was recognized as a territory in the United States. It was soon after that Fort Myers was built running along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. The fort itself was initial built after requests were made by the settlers for protection from the Seminole Indians. The name “Fort Myers” was meant to be an honor to Colonel Abraham Charles Myers, a distinguished officer in the United States Army. It was given to the fort by General David E. Twiggs who was the federal commander in the Seminole Wars. Myers would also marry General Twiggs’ daughter. The fort was eventually abandoned in the late 1850’s but was re-occupied by the French from 1863-1865. The fort was eventually dismantled and the material salvaged was later used to help build downtown Fort Myers. The southernmost battle of the Civil War occurred across the river in 1865 and still today you can see this battle re-enacted every year at the North Fort Myers Cracker Festival.
The city of Fort Myers was developed in the later years of the 19th Century much thought the help and support of Stafford C. Cleveland, a newspaperman from New York. Fort Myers most infamous resident by far is Thomas Alva Edison who was inspired by the town while passing through in 1885. He was so intrigued by the community and what it had to offer that he eventually made Fort Myers his winter home and built offices there. The inventor known by most for his production of the incandescent light bulb created many spectacular wonders and made various discoveries in his “laboratory” in Fort Myers. The Edison Home was donated to the city in 1947 where today you can view some of those original discoveries. Don’t forget to stop by our annual Edison Festival of Lights.
By the early 1940’s the area became a site for air bases and flight stations. Fort Myers would gain two important air bases: Page Field and Buckingham Field. Many of the men who served in the area would also eventually set up residence here.