Cities and Towns
Alva is the oldest settled town in Lee County. It was founded by Danish immigrant Captain Peter Nelson, who is buried on Cayo Costa Island. Often assumed to be named after Thomas Edison’s middle name, it was actually named by Capt. Nelson for a Danish wildflower.
Captiva Island was inhabited as long as 6000 years ago by the Calusa Indians.The Calusa thrived on the island's bountiful natural resources. During the Exploration the Spaniards discovered Captiva Island and the majority of the native islanders were eliminated. The barrier islands then became a refuge for tall-masted schooners and pirate ships, offering protection from heavy seas and high winds. The island was named "Captiva" because pirates such as Jose Gaspar repaired battle-torn ships and imprisoned female captives while moored in the safety of the island.(or so the story goes)
Since the early 1900s, North Captiva has been the site of a large tomato plantation and a processing plant. In the 1960's and 1970's fifty homes were constructed and it was feared the island would follow the same path of development as the other barrier islands to the north and south. In 1975, the state of Florida acquired over 350 acres, almost half the island and with this acquisition this priceless resource was saved from over-development. Today there are only 40 year-round residents and about 220 dwellings. The island's natural beauty is being preserved and protected and future growth is kept in balance with the sensitive environment.
Cayo Costa - In the 1800s, the island was reputed to the stronghold of various pirates, including Gasparilla, and later as a hiding place for Union sympathizers during the Civil War. In the early 1900's, this unspoiled barrier island was used as a quarantine station for tall ships.
In the 1870’s, Tervio Padilla, a wealthy merchant
from the Canary Islands, came to Key West and established trade with natives
and “ranchos” that extended northward to Charlotte Harbor.
His ships often made port at Cayo Costa at the entrance to the harbor.
Enchanted by the tropical island, he eventually decided to settle there.
Spanish for "key by the coast", most of the island's 2,500 acres became a State park in 1959, and is now named Cayo Costa Island State Park.
Estero was incorporated in September 1904 by members of the utopian communal settlement of the Koreshan Unity . The cult also formed the Progressive Liberty Party in order to run against established Democratic candidates in 1906.
Now a State Park, Dr. Cyrus Teed, Founder of the
Koreshan Unity and President of the Koreshan University of Chicago, established
his "College of Life" in Estero in 1892. Through the Koreshan
Nursery the garden came to fame for its subtropical plant life. Mechanics,
arts, and music were taught, and sports cultivated. In 1961 the Koreshan
Unity corporation deeded 305 acres of their landholdings to the State
of Florida as "a gift to the people".
Felda is fifteen miles due south of LaBelle on Highway 29 and nine miles north of Immokalee. Felda, originally known as “Eddy”,named after Mary Baker Eddy ,was first settled in late 1800 and early 1900 when the area was still part of Lee County.The area offered rich farm and ranch land.
Thirty-three patents were granted between 1914 and 1931, totaling 4,520 acres. Henry Stokes received the first patent in 1914. Homesteaders had to prove up their acreage and build a home and live on it three to five years before receiving title.
Schools began after A. B. Townsend and family moved
there in 1911.
Ft. Myers Beach - Estero Island and its sister island, San Carlos, make up the community of Fort Myers Beach. It is a tiny bit of an Island, seven miles long and in no place as much as a mile wide. From the north-west point to the south-east tip, a gleaming white sand beach fronts the Gulf of Mexico. A quiet town of friendly citizens, artists, fishermen and winter residents, with a healthy quota of welcome tourists, make up the island population.
LaBelle was founded in the mid-1880s by Captain Francis A. Hendry. In the January 9, 1886 edition of The Fort Myers Press Sherman Adams mentions "Capt. Hendry's new and attractive town site." In another Fort Myers Press article dated March 26, 1886 LaBelle is mentioned by name. Although founded by Captain Hendry, it is Edgar Everett Goodno who is most responsible for its early development and he should properly be called the "Father of LaBelle." (he is buried at Fort Myers Cemetery).
As a community LaBelle was one of the older settlements
in Lee county, but it never advanced beyond the possession of a post office
and a few houses until Everett Goodno began development operations. By
1890 it had grown to a population of about 300, and Mr. Goodno put it
on such a firm footing that its future was assured. His fellow citizens
,in appreciation of Mr. Goodno's work in building up the town made him
a member of the first town council, thus giving him a voice in the government
of its affairs.
Manatee County was been settled as far back as 1000 AD by Mound Builder indian peoples. Josiah was the first white settler, arriving in 1841. In 1855 Manatee became the 31st Florida county.
Monroe County was a huge county extending to the south shore of Lake Okeechobee with few residents, that is residents who were actually considered residents. Almost certainly there were far more Native Americans than all others. Lee was annexed from Monroe in 1887.
Pine Island was originally settled by Calusa indians about 300 AD. In 1513 the explorer Ponce de Leon discovered Pine Island and introduced violence and disease . By 1700 the Calusa were extinct. The island was uninhabited until 1873. Pine Island is home to Bokeelia, Matlacha ,St. James City, Pine Island Center and Pineland.
Sanibel Island became home to the first permanent English-speaking settlers in 1833 as part of a colony planned by land investors. The settlement was short-lived but the initial colonists petitioned the U.S. government for the construction of a lighthouse on the island. Seagoing commerce in the area increased and in August, 1884 the Sanibel Lighthouse finally shone on San Carlos Bay, warning sailors and cattle shippers away from treacherous sandbars. A village of about 100 settlers grew up on Sanibel and in 1928 docks were constructed at the east end of Ferry Road. Until 1963, Ferry Road and Olde Town served as the hub of island activity. Since 1950, the U.S. Coast Guard property at the lighthouse has been a wildlife refuge.
Sarasota County was formed in June 1921 from the south western portion of Manatee County. However the first settlements in the present day county date back from 1841 before Manatee was created from Hillsborough County. Many of the early pioneer settlers were the Whitaker, Webb, Knight, Crowley, Abbe, Tucker, Edwards, Bidwell, Gillespie, Nichols, Wilson, and Palmer families .Bordering counties are: Manatee, Desoto and Charlotte.
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