History of Fort Myers, Florida
Between 1513 and 1521, Ponce de Leon surveyed across the Gulf Coast of Florida. Many believe that the barrier islands of Lee County were one of the ones he explored. Some settlers from Cuba and Spain built makeshift farming and fishing camps beside the coast.
During the 1700s, the Lee Island shoreline appeared in British maps. At the latter half of the 1700s shore areas of Lee County became the groundwork for pirates invading ships sailing to and from New Orleans.
In 1821, Florida became a US Territory, and its growing number of inhabitants requested protection against the Seminoles. Fort Myers was established near the river of Caloosahatchee as one of the bases for activities in the Seminole Indian Wars. The town was named after Colonel Abraham C. Myers to honor him.
The settlers in the fort left in 1858 until the Federal troops resettled there in 1863. The battle between Northern and Southern armies during the Civil War took place in 1865, across the river. These events are replayed annually at the North Fort Myers Cracker Festival.
The fort dismantled, and some wood from the construction of the first establishments were used for what we now know as Fort Myers. The town was inhabited by no more than ten families when it was first founded in 1876.
The number of settlers in Fort Myers continued to grow, and by 1885, it boasted a total population of 349 people. The town was the second largest on Florida's Gulf Coast. Thomas Alva Edison made a stop at the village on that same year. He quickly fell in love with the town and erected his home and laboratory on Caloosatchee River. Edison became one of the most prominent citizens of Fort Myers and was a compelling force for its development.
It was because of Edison's love for nature that he did his best to conserve and learn more about the royal palm lined up across Riverside Avenue. He got them moved and planted in the town, thus the nickname "City of Palms."
Originally, Edison's laboratory was established to research on goldenrod rubber. Many of his inventions and research materials are on exhibit. He is famous for incandescent light, which is considered his most significant invention.
Edison prides himself with almost 1100 patents to his name and is even considered the most productive inventor of America. Among his successful inventions were the movie camera and projector, phonograph, and microphone. He was also responsible for the less famous inventions such as tin foil mimeograph, and wax paper.
In 1921, a devastating hurricane propelled the collapse of thriving Florida. After five years, another catastrophic storm happened again. At the time of the Great Depression, Fort Myers suffered a significant loss along with the rest of the country. But that didn't stop the construction of some well-funded buildings in the town.
Fort Myers continued to develop along with the rest of Southwest Florida since World War II. The population began to grow as well as the commercial and trade scene in the city. The city of Fort Myers was able to retain most of its historic sites to ensure that they can be seen by the next generations to come.