The Early Colonists
Near the turn of the century, pioneer settlers made their way to the pine flatwoods and open prairies in the Fort Myers
area to fell and mill lumber. Agriculturalists established citrus and tropical fruit plantations on the islands, and people came to work the fields. Fishermen flocked to the coastal areas and eked out a hard and salty existence.
This progress is chronicled in small collections at museums such as the Southwest Florida Museum of History
in Fort Myers
, the Museum of the Islands
on Pine Island
, Sanibel Historical Village
on Sanibel Island
, the Mound House
and the Davison cottage, home to the Estero Island Historic Society and next to Matanzas Pass Preserve
in Fort Myers Beach
.More Recent Settlers
In the late 1800s, Dunbar emerged east of downtown Fort Myers
. The story of this industrious African-American community is told at the Williams Academy Black History Museum
at Clemente Park.
At about the same time, wealthy Northerners discovered a tropical playground. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford established winter homes on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River
. Others, including Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Mary Roberts Rinehart, followed for the superb sport fishing and mild climate. Presidents continue to visit to this day.Explore Local Museums
Many museums have collections from the First and Second World Wars; Fort Myers
was an important training ground for airmen and support staff at Buckingham and Page Field
airports. Ancient Indian history as well as more recent history (1950s and ‘60s) is on display at the Cape Coral Historical Museum
. See the marketing genius of the Rosen brothers, developers of Cape Coral
, come to life in buttons, banners and publicity shots of celebrities.