The first European to explore Florida was actually a Spanish sailor named Juan Ponce de León in 1513, not the more well-known Christopher Columbus.
Lee County, Florida, located in the southwestern part of the state, has a rich and diverse history that spans centuries. The region was originally inhabited by the Calusa Indians, who thrived in the area for thousands of years before the arrival of European explorers. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors explored the area, followed by English and French explorers.

The area now known as Lee County was officially established in 1887 and named after General Robert E. Lee. At the time, the region was primarily used for cattle ranching and fishing. However, it quickly became apparent that the area had potential for agriculture due to its fertile land. Over the years, citrus groves, vegetable farms, and cattle ranches became prominent in Lee County.

The 20th century brought significant growth and development to Lee County. The construction of the Tamiami Trail in the 1920s connected Fort Myers (the county seat) to Tampa and Miami, opening up the area to tourism and commerce. During World War II, the region played a crucial role as a training ground for pilots and military personnel.

In the latter half of the 20th century, Lee County experienced a rapid population boom, largely driven by retirees seeking warmer climates. The construction of the Interstate 75 in the 1970s further facilitated growth and paved the way for the development of residential communities, shopping centers, and tourist attractions.

Today, Lee County is a vibrant and thriving area that attracts visitors from around the world with its beautiful beaches, unique wildlife, and recreational opportunities. It is also home to various cultural attractions, including the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, which showcase the legacies of two iconic American inventors. As a popular destination for tourism and retirement, Lee County continues to evolve and adapt to meet the needs and desires of its residents and visitors.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Lee County, Florida.

  • 1887 - Lee County is established on May 13, named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
  • 1914 - The Tamiami Trail, connecting Tampa and Miami, is completed through Lee County.
  • 1923 - The city of Fort Myers is incorporated.
  • 1931 - The Edison Bridge, linking Fort Myers and North Fort Myers, is opened.
  • 1941-1945 - During World War II, Fort Myers becomes an important training and supply base.
  • 1963 - Cape Coral, a planned community, is incorporated in Lee County.
  • 1983 - The Southwest Florida International Airport opens in South Fort Myers.
  • 2010 - Lee County experiences a significant decline in its housing market, following the nationwide real estate crisis.