Fort Myers was one of the first forts built along the Caloosahatchee River as a base of operations against the Seminole Indians. Fort Denaud, Fort Thompson, and Fort Dulany (Punta Rassa) all pre-date Fort Myers. When a hurricane destroyed Fort Dulany in October 1841, the military was forced to look for a site less exposed to storms from the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of the search, Fort Harvie was built on the grounds that now comprise downtown Fort Myers. Renewed war against the Seminoles in 1850 caused a re-occupation and extensive reconstruction of Fort Harvie.
Fort Harvie began in 1850 as a military fort in response to Seminole Indians who were in conflict with the area’s settlers. It was renamed in 1850 for Col. Abraham C. Myers, who was stationed in Florida for seven years and was the son-in-law of the fort’s founder and commander. In 1858, after years of elusive battle, Chief Billy Bowlegs and his warriors were persuaded to surrender and move west, and the fort was abandoned. Billy Creek, which flows into the Caloosahatchee River and runs between Dean Park and Fort Myers Broadcasting, was named after a temporary camp where Billy Bowlegs and his men awaited ships to take them west.
The fort was abandoned and stood empty until December 1863, when Union Army troops re-occupied it during the Civil War. On February 20, 1865, the fort was attacked by three companies of Florida militia, determined to end the Union cattle raids against local ranches. The Confederate state troops demanded the fort surrender, but the Union commander refused, and sporadic firing continued through most of the day. The Confederates retreated after dark. One Union soldier was killed and three wounded in the Battle of Fort Myers. One Florida militiaman had been wounded. Even though the attack had been driven off, the Union troops abandoned Fort Myers the following month.
On February 21, 1866, Manuel A. Gonzalez and his 5 year old son Manuel S. Gonzalez became one of the first permanent settlers after arriving from Key West, Florida at the remains of the abandoned Federal Fort. Manuel and his son made repairs on what would become the Gonzalez family home located at what is now the corner of First and Jackson streets. Three weeks later, Joseph Vivas and his wife Christianna Stirrup Vivas arrived at the Fort with Manuel A. Gonzalez’s wife, Evalina Weatherford Gonzalez and daughter Mary Gonzalez., Three years later, however, when Fort Myers was incorporated, it was the second largest city after Tampa on Florida’s west coast south of Cedar Key, larger than Clearwater and Sarasota, also growing cities at the time.
Fort Myers first became a nationally known winter resort with the building of the Royal Palm Hotel in 1898. Access was greatly improved with the opening of a 28-mile (45 km) extension of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad from Punta Gorda to Fort Myers on May 10, 1904, giving Lee County both passenger and freight service. But what really sparked the city’s growth was the construction of the Tamiami Trail Bridge across the Caloosahatchee River in 1924. After the bridge’s construction, the city experienced its first real estate boom, and many subdivisions sprouted around the city.
June 15, 1934 the charter for the First National Bank in Fort Myers was approved. The original First National was liquidated and was renamed. The above 2 small size notes are the only known on this very rare charter #14195. This is the only 14000 chartered bank on the state of Florida.
- Mr. and Mrs. Youngerman attend the inagural “The Value of Money” exhibit
- Browse Videos of Florida’s Historical Towns and Banks
- Florida Currency Museum Open Showcasing The William Youngerman Collection
- State of Florida Civil War Currency
- Collecting Florida National Bank Notes
Notes & Currency
- 18__ Fernandina $3 Obsolete Note
- 1882 $50 Jacksonville Note Charter #3869
- 1902 $10 Punta Gorda Note Charter #10512
- 1882 $5 Palatka Note Charter #3223
- 1902 $5 Key West Note Charter #7942