Monthly Archives: February 2017

How Did Fort Myers Get It’s Name?

 

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Marion Myers nee Twiggs

Fort Myers is a gateway to the Southwest Florida region and a major tourist destination within Florida. The winter homes of Thomas Edison (“Seminole Lodge”) and Henry Ford (“The Mangoes”) are a primary tourist attraction in the region. The city is named after Colonel Abraham Myers.

It was the love of a woman that got Fort Myers its name, but that same woman’s tart tongue effectively ended its namesake’s career.

The name originated as sort of an engagement gift from General David. E. Twiggs, the commander of Fort Brooke in Tampa, who in 1850, was in charge of a fort on the Caloosahatchee,  yet the Jewish Confederate who received it, never actually visited the place.

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Brig. Gen. David E. Twiggs

Twiggs was not the kind of man you would like to invite home for dinner, yet he commanded the respect of his men. Staff officer, Abraham C. Myers born 1811 in Georgetown, S.C. (he did however like) an 1833 graduate of West Point and the scion of a prominent Southern Jewish family, Myers was the son of an attorney, and a descendant of Moses Cohen, the first rabbi in Charleston, S.C.. He’d fought with distinction in the Seminole and Mexican Wars before becoming the Chief Quartermaster of the Department of Florida. Twiggs’ daughter Marion fell in love with Myers, after meeting him in Texas. In honor of his future son-in-law and to make his daughter happy, he named the fort for Myers. The couple married in 1853 when she was 15 and he was 42.

 

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Col. Abraham C. Myers

Confederate President Jefferson Davis also liked Myers who had joined the Confederate Army in 1861. He appointed him the first quartermaster general and Myers remained in that post until 1863 when Myers had some “problems.”

Marion caused the problems, as she was “quite the gossip.” Beautiful with “a wicked tongue” and her father’s temperament.

The final blow to Myers’ career came when Marion publicly described the olive-skinned Varina Howell Davis, the president’s wife, as a ‘squaw’.

Historians are unsure whether the colonel apologized to Mrs. Davis, yet Davis replaced Col Myers in 1863. In 1865, the Myers family left for Germany and returned in 1876.

Florida became a US Territory in 1821, the ensuing wave of settlers asked for protection from the native Seminoles. Fort Myers was built along the Caloosahatchee River, one of the first bases of operations during the Seminole Indian Wars. Fort Myers was named in honor of Colonel Abraham C. Myers, the son-in-law of the commander of Fort Brooke in Tampa.

The fort was abandoned in 1858 and reoccupied by Federal troops from 1863-1865.

The Southernmost battle of the Civil War, a skirmish between Northern and Southern troops occurred across the river in 1865 and is reenacted annually at the North Fort Myers Cracker Festival.

The fort itself was disassembled, and some of the wood used in construction of some of the first buildings in what would become downtown Fort Myers. No more than ten families lived in the original town when it was platted in 1876.

 

 (Reprinted with edits from the Sun Bay Paper Feb 16-22, 2017.)

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