The History of
Ft. Myers Beach
Our own Estero Island
is a geologically young barrier island that was formed well
after the end of the Earth's last ice age. Florida's climate was
cool and dry, and the peninsula was covered by a grassy tundra.
With sea level 150 feet lower than it is today, a south Florida
Paleo-Indian of 12,000 years ago who wanted to move his family
to the beach would have walked west for about five days - more
than 70 miles - just to get there!
Because of its
proximity to the rich, food-producing estuaries of Estero Bay,
Estero Island was once at the very center of the Calusa Indian
heartland. The Calusa paramount king, who the spanish explorers
called Carlos, ruled a vast south Florida empire from his
ceremonial center on nearby Mound Key - a 125 acre island hidden
deep in Estero Bay. In 1566, just months after establishing St.
Augustine, the Spanish conquistador Pedro Menendez de Aviles
arrived at Estero Island. Menendez had come to secure La Florida
for Spain, to make the yet uncharted peninsula safe for
shipwreck survivors - Christians lost from Spain's yearly
treasure fleets. Many were known to be held captive against
their will and were living among the Calusa, whose name
signified Fierce People.
While Pedro Menendez was a rich and powerful man, the founder of
America's oldest city failed in his attempt to pacify the Calusa
Indians and establish a Jesuit mission on Mound Key. Today, the
high shell mounds on Mound Key and on the Estero Island
Archaeological Site in Fort Myers Beach still stand as monuments
to the once-mighty Calusa people. During the seventeenth,
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Spanish Indians, Cuban
fisherman and Euro-American settlers all occupied the high shell
mounds left by the Indians. Most of the area's archaeological
treasures have since been pock-marked by modern treasure
hunters, who seek mythical stores of plunder and loot left by
equally mythical pirates like Jose Gaspar and Augustus Black.
The Gaspar legend - an outright fabrication invented in 1919 -
was dredged up by land promoters trying to boost tourism and
land sales along what they had named "Florida's Famed Pirate
In 1893, Dr. Cyrus Teed arrived on Fort
Myers Beach. Teed's religious group, known as the Koreshan
Unity, had established a settlement on the nearby Estero River.
Teed and his Koreshans - who believed that the Earth was a
hollow sphere - had purchased large amounts of land on the
mainland, as well as at Mound Key and on Fort Myers Beach. Teed
died around the turn of the century. His body was put to rest in
a concrete vault on Estero Island, but later disappeared during
one of the island's major hurricanes.