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Fort Myers History

During the Seminole Indian wars in the 1800s, Fort Myers was constructed as a base of operations along the Caloosahatchee River. The Seminole Indian wars weren't the only wars fought in Fort Myers. In 1865, the southernmost battle of the Civil War took place just across the river. Still today, the city hosts an annual re-enactment during the North Fort Myers Cracker Festival.

Once the wars were over, the fort was taken down. Fort Myers became a town in 1876 and only 10 families were in residence there.

Over time, farming and logging became the economic mainstays of the city. Herds of cattle were moved past the old grounds of the fort, where they were eventually shipped to Cuba. This is where it got its nickname "Cowtown." As for farming, pineapple plantations ruled the areas inland along the river.

In 1885, Fort Myers was the second largest town on Florida's Gulf Coast. This is the same time Thomas Edison visited the village and decided to make his home there. Edison built his estate and laboratory, Seminole Lodge, on the banks of the river.

Edison isn't the only celebrity to grace Fort Myers with his presence. Henry Ford, a good friend of Edison's, would visit Fort Myers on a regular basis. Eventually, Edison persuaded Ford to quit his job in New York and to live out his dream of inventing a gasoline-fueled automobile. The rest of that is history, but it's interesting to note that in 1914 the first Ford Car Dealership was opened in Fort Myers.

By 1920, visitors from the North were making their way to Florida to escape the cold and uncover their fortunes in land. It was during this time that the Tamiami Trail opened up, linking Fort Myers to more-populated Tampa and Miami. Growth continued well into the 1930s.

Most cities in Florida had air bases by the 1940s, including Fort Myers. With more and more flights coming into the city, the growth continued. Fort Myers was also home to numerous servicemen because of Page and Buckingham fields and many of those men became permanent residents of the city.

Since World War II, Fort Myers has grown to become a popular tourist destination because of its rich history and the addition of coastal settlements like Sanibel and Captiva islands, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach.

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