Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 082815 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
Rules And Regs, A Town Is Born
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
The tattered document pictured here, titled “Incorporation,
The Town of Fort Myers,” chronicles in a mere seven
pages the founding of a town and the basic laws established
by the first elected officials.
The final page of the booklet is dated 1887, two years after
the vote to incorporate, and is signed by William W. Foose,
Mayor or Fort Myers; James Evans, Council Chair; and CH Steb-
The document opens with the “call” or public notice that went
out on July 11, 1885 to all registered voters, who, by the way,
would have been white, male, at least 21 years of age, and U.S.
citizens. They were invited to a meeting at the academy in Fort Myers on Wednesday,
The academy referred to the town’s first publically funded school, a woodframe
structure opened in November 1878, at Second and Jackson, where the Gwynne
Institute stands today.
The grand purpose was to select
officers and organize a municipal gov-
ernment for the town of Fort Myers.
After all, the population had reached
an amazing 349. Incorporation would
allow for the levying of taxes for pub-
lic improvements. (It should be noted
that in 1885, the settlement was in
Monroe County; Lee County would
not be formed until 1887.)
The men destined to become
the founders of Fort Myers met and
fulfilled the order of business, voting
unanimously to incorporate: officers
were chosen, the town limits defined,
and a town seal adopted.
The only even slightly conten-
tious issue was the official name of
the town. Capt. Francis A. Hendry
was the only voter in favor of calling
it simply “Myers,” to conform with
what U.S. Post Office called it at that
Hendry became chair and Howell
A. Parker, secretary. Hendry, who
would go down in local history as
“the father of Fort Myers,” appointed
three judges for the election of offi-
cers, CH Funck, JO Braman, and
HB Hoyer, as well as JL Cutler as
clerk of election.
The judges and clerk were sworn
in and the meeting adjourned so
municipal officers could be elected.
A total of 45 votes were cast in
the decision to incorporate, with
Parker being elected the first mayor
with 38 votes.
The first council meeting was held the following night to install officers.
Councilmen elected were Francis A. Hendry, NL Langford, John T. Haskew, Wil-
liam Marion Hendry, Jehu J. Blount, WA Roberts, and JO Braman.
Capt. Hendry was elected president of the council. Charles H. Stebbins was elected
clerk and CL Oliver marshall.
The next day, August 14, the work really began, as the newly elected officials out-
lined the ordinances. Many were the hum-drum ordinances familiar to anyone who has
served on a board – for example, the duties of officers, from treasurer to marshal.
Other ordinances arouse curiosity all these years later. A list of “legalized streets”
was established; the list coincided with the streets declared public in the 1876 Julian G.
Arrista survey of the settlement commissioned by Maj. James Evans, whose homestead
contained today’s business district.
The document specified which ditches would be cared for at government expense,
and urged all property owners to plant shade and ornamental trees along sidewalks.
An early tree-protection ordinance was established too: a fine not to exceed 10 dol-
lars would be levied against anyone vandalizing, destroying, or marring those trees.
Street obstructions were prohibited so that wagons at stores and warehouses could
be loaded and unloaded.
Other 10-dollar fines were set for anyone misusing firearms or fireworks; driving or
hitching a horse, mule, or oxen on a sidewalk; or riding faster than a “slow gallop” in
the town limits.
Placing or throwing broken glass, crockery, or tin cuttings in a street or alley, how-
ever, would incur a mere 5-dollar fine. Not only would this type of littering be danger-
ous for people, but it could harm horses and other animals too.
The next time you ponder the voluminous ordinances of today’s Fort Myers,
remember, it started with common-sense rules still with us today: don’t break glass on
the streets, park on the sidewalks, speed through town, or maim a tree.
continued on page 6
THE RIVER - AUGUST 28, 2015
The River Weekly News will correct factual errors or matters of emphasis and interpretation that appear in news stories.
Readers with news, tips, comments or questions, please call (239) 415-7732 or write to: The River Weekly News,
1609 Hendry Street, Suite 15, Fort Myers, FL 33901. Fax number: (239) 415-7702. E-mail: email@example.com.
The River Weekly News reserves the right to refuse, alter or edit any editorial or advertisement.
Independently Owned And Operated • COPYRIGHT 2015 The River Weekly News • LORKEN Publications, Inc.
and Ken Rasi
Gerri Reaves, Ph D
Read Us Online:
Click on The River
Marion Hauser, MS, RD
Ross Hauser, MD
Capt. Matt Mitchell
Cynthia A. Williams
Fort Myers’s incorporation became official on March 24, 1886, the year of this drawing.
The view is from roughly from Fowler Street looking west from the Caloosa Hotel. The dock
(center right) is the Hendry Street dock. The cut-out (upper left) shows the Methodist Church
at today’s First Street and Royal Palm Avenue. Labeled pioneer homes include those of JJ
Blount, Joseph Vivas, and Capt. FA Hendry.
courtesy Southwest Florida Historical Society
This booklet, which came to belong to Nathan G.
Stout, records the history of the incorporation of
Fort Myers and the basic laws established by the
new government. The item’s condition suggests
that it might be an original 1887 document, but
the stamped date, August 4, 1925, might mean
that it was a 40-year commemorative edition,
albeit one in bad shape.
courtesy Southwest Florida Historical Society
Links Archive RWN 082115 RWN 090215 Navigation Previous Page Next Page