EHS Annual Pioneer Picnic

Fernandez Family 2017

Fernandez Family 2017
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The Annual Pioneer Picnic was held April 15, 2017 on the deck at the Cottage.

2017 Tea Party


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The 2017 MaD HaTTeR Tea Party was held April 3, 2017 at Shadow Wood Clubhouse.



Help plan the future of the Koreshan Historic Site

Wednesday, June 29 at 5 p.m.

The Planetary Court building at the Koreshan Historic Site: What do Estero residents envision for the future of this park?

Can you imagine walking over the Estero River on a footbridge connecting the historic Boomer Home to the Koreshan site?

Or taking a tour of this home, built in 1916 at the behest of Waldorf-Astoria Hotel magnate Lucius Boomer for his mother, Bertha Sterling Boomer, an original Koreshan Unity follower and member of the Planetary Court?

Or attending a wedding on the 25-acre grounds of this old Florida manor?

Plenty of events are ongoing at the historic site of the Koreshan Unity, including farmers markets on Sundays that include native plant sales, concerts in the arts hall, tours of various buildings and so much else.

But Park Manager Rick Argo and staff want to know what Estero residents would like to see and do at this gem in our midst. All residents are invited to a long-term planning session in just a few days.

Ideas will go on a wish list for the 10-year management plan for the Koreshan State Historic Site when the details are discussed at a public forum at 5 p.m. on June 29.

  The meeting will be held at the Art Hall at the park, 3800 Corkscrew Road, Estero.

Recent suggestions for the site have included:

  • More prominent signage directing cars to the park
  • Concessions for canoes and kayaks
  • A renovated boat ramp with separate canoe/kayak launch
  • A boardwalk along the river accessible for less abled visitors
  • Convenient access to safe bike and pedestrian paths
  • Entrance passes or discounts/memberships for Estero residents

Check out other proposals for Koreshan park’s future in the draft of the DEP’s Unit Management Plan at

The Naples Daily News recently published a story about the Boomer property. See it here:

Feb. Membership Meeting Celebrates Valentine’s Day

Membership meeting Feb. 8 Valentine

Essay Contest ~

Capt. Gustave Damkoehler, Estero First Homesteader, is an example of a significant historical figure a student may choose to write about.

Capt. Gustave Damkoehler, Estero First Homesteader, is an example of a significant historical figure a student may choose to write about.

The contest kicked off January 1 and is open to any student living in Estero,  including home-schooled and private school students, who may obtain a copy of the guidelines from the EHS website or contacting: or   239-949-1518.

Winners to be announced at the Ceremony for the 2015 Essay Contest on May 12th at 6:30 p.m. at the Cottage.

The topic of the contest is  to write about a significant historic  figure  who contributed to the SW Florida region, or was a significant influence upon it.  Middle School students are asked to write an essay of 250-500 words.  High school students may write up to 1500 words with all providing the following information:

               1)  Choose an historically significant character from SW Florida

               2)  Tell why you chose that character

               3)  Write a short biography about your choice

               4)  Describe the contributions or significance that person made to the community.

               5)  List your sources.

Your essay must be typed,  double-spaced,  with  1-inch margins and a cover page,  indicating your name, age, school, teacher, and contact number.  Students in  Estero public schools will be able to enter through your respective schools.   Private school or home-schooled students  may  deliver  essays  to the EHS Cottage, located in the Estero Community Park.

DEADLINE for submission to the EHS Cottage was:   March 1,  2015.   

The Cottage is open on M/W/F and Sat.  from  1-3 pm.   If you are unable to deliver your essay, please contact Carolyn Fischer at the above no. or email at least 1 week prior to the deadline.

A bibliography of  notable persons in the history of SW  Florida is available upon request.*   You may also choose to select an “un-named” person,  such as:    Calusa boy or girl of Useppa Island,  Swamp Ape of Everglades City,   a civil war soldier,  etc.,   but the judging will be more intense as to the details of the time and impact on the community.

Finalists  will be judged by a committee representing the EHS,  the Chamber, and the Educational System in Estero.

Cash prizes for the two categories  (middle-school and high school grade students)  are  being provided  by the ESTERO CHAMBER, as follows:    1st prize = $100;  2nd prize = $50;  3rd prize = $25.    Additional prizes of  historical biographies will be presented to each school library and to our Estero Library.   An Award Ceremony will be held the end of March.   It is the goal of the Society to conduct a similar contest each year.   The top 20 Essays may be considered for publication in a Biographical Collection of Essays on Notable SW Floridians.

Celebrating Mimi 2014

On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, the Estero Historical Society celebrated the life of founder Mimi Straub with a birthday party in her memory at Estero Community Park.

Jean Pryal giving welcome introductions

Jean Pryal giving welcome introductions

August Fischer and Ms. Burnham from Marco

August Fischer and Ms. Burnham from Marco

Docent - Joyce teaching Jenna Fernandez

Docent – Joyce teaching Jenna Fernandez

Docent - Joyce giving Madison a lesson in playing the docent

Docent – Joyce giving Madison a lesson in playing the docent

Display of goodies that were served

Display of goodies that were served

Carolyn Fischer cutting the cake

Carolyn Fischer cutting the cake

Carol Gelacek counting the money!!

Carol Gelacek counting the money!!

Mimi Birthday Cake

Mimi Birthday Cake

Birthday cake waiting to sing

Birthday cake waiting to sing



Carolyn lighting candles with Madison Fernandez

Carolyn lighting candles with Madison Fernandez

Cottage with Banner for Mimi

Cottage with Banner for Mimi

Maryann Weenen and Jean Pryal remember Mimi

Maryann Weenen and Jean Pryal remember Mimi

Canning Presentation

“Canning at Home”

       by Terri “Sunny” Molle LLC

Celia Hill from the IFAS Extension Ag Sciences of the University of Florida, took us step by step through Canning at Home, providing a slide presentation and a hands on canning session in the kitchen of the Cottage.  We walked through the step by step vacuum seal process.  She emphasized the “Musts” of Canning and showed us the complete process of Boiling Water Canning Procedures.  The group was most inquisitive and learned the importance of the “pops”, tapping the lid to ensure that it is sealed properly, and proper home storage methods.  A grand time in the Cottage Kitchen making Mango Chutney and getting to know one another a little better.

Those in attendance:
Linda and Jim Biddle, Marlene Fernandez, Sis Newberry, Sunny Molle and Carol B., Megan McShane

July 4th – Annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence

1The Estero Historical Society hosted their annual reading of the Declaration of Independence on Friday, July 4th at the Society’s historic cottage. The cottage is located in the Estero Community Park,9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd.

Our celebration was a HUGE hit with 80+ participating in the reading of the Declaration of Independence.  We kicked off the event with the Pledge of Allegiance to our Flag with our  Flag flying high from an Estero Fire Truck.

The Declaration contains Congress’ justifications for independence. Congress approved the Declaration more than a year after the beginning of the Revolutionary War. It lists 27 grievances the Colonist had with England’s King George from taxes to inciting Indian attacks on frontier settlers. The Society passed out parsed copies of the Declaration of Independence. Each person took a turn reading small sections of the 27 grievances (a couple of sentence or less) and then allow the next person to pick up where they left off.

The reading took about 20 minutes.

2Signing the Declaration was considered an act of treason and the signers did not take their duty lightly. The Declaration ends with the signers stating…” we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

There was a brief discussion as to the fate of some of the signers and several points of history during this time were talked about also. We Sang along with The Cascades Choral group and enjoyed a history lesson presented by Joann Luce on the Colonists Grievances against England and George Washington’s selection as the commander and chief of the Continental Army. We concluded the program with some cold watermelon, and lots of friendly conversation.



In the waning years of their lengthy lives, former presidents (and Founding Fathers) John Adams and Thomas Jefferson reconciled the political differences that had separated them for many years and carried on a voluminous correspondence. One of the purposes behind their exchange of letters was to set the record straight regarding the events of the American Revolution, for as author Joseph J. Ellis noted, they (particularly Adams, whom history would not treat nearly as kindly as Jefferson) were keenly aware of the “distinction between history as experienced and history as remembered”: Adams realized that the act of transforming the American Revolution into history placed a premium on selecting events and heroes that fit neatly into a dramatic formula, thereby distorting the more tangled and incoherent experience that participants actually making the history felt at the time. Jefferson’s drafting of the Declaration of Independence was a perfect example of such dramatic distortions. The Revolution in this romantic rendering became one magical moment of inspiration, leading inexorably to the foregone conclusion of American independence. Evidently Adams was right: So great is our need for simplified, dramatic events and heroes that even the real-life biographies of the fifty-six men who risked their lives to publicly declare American independence are no longer compelling enough. Through multiple versions of pieces like the one quoted above, their lives have been repeatedly embellished with layers of fanciful fiction to make for a better story. As we often do, we’ll try here to strip away those accumulated layers of fiction and get down to whatever kernel of truth may lie underneath:

  • Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died. It is true that five signers of the Declaration of Independence were captured by the British during the course of the Revolutionary War. However, none of them died while a prisoner, and four of them were taken into custody not because they were considered “traitors” due to their status as signatories to that document, but because they were captured as prisoners of war while actively engaged in military operations against the

British. George Walton was captured after being wounded while commanding militia at the Battle of Savannah in December 1778, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge (three of the four Declaration of Independence signers from South Carolina) were taken prisoner at the Siege of Charleston in May in 1780. Although they endured the ill treatment typically afforded to prisoners of war during their captivity (prison conditions were quite deplorable at the time), they were not tortured, nor is there evidence that they were treated more harshly than other wartime prisoners who were not also signatories to the Declaration. Moreover, all four men were eventually exchanged or released; had they been considered traitors by the British, they would have been hanged. Richard Stockton of New Jersey was the only signer taken prisoner specifically because of his status as a signatory to the Declaration, “dragged from his bed by night” by local Tories after he had evacuated his family from New Jersey, and imprisoned in New York City’s infamous Provost Jail like a common criminal.

  • Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. It is true that a number of signers saw their homes and property occupied, ransacked, looted, and vandalized by the British (and even in some cases by the Americans). However, as we discuss in more detail below, this activity was a common part of warfare. Signers’ homes were not specifically targeted for destruction — like many other Americans, their property was subject to seizure when it fell along the path of a war being waged on the North American continent.
  • Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured. Abraham Clark of New Jersey saw two of his sons captured by the British and incarcerated on the prison ship Jersey. John Witherspoon, also of New Jersey, saw his eldest son, James, killed in the Battle of Germantown in October 1777. If there was a second signer of the Declaration whose son was killed while serving in the Continental Army, we have yet to identify him.
  • Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. This statement is quite misleading as phrased. Nine signers died during the course of the Revolutionary War, but none of them died from wounds or hardships inflicted on them by the British. (Indeed, several of the nine didn’t even take part in the war.) Only one signer, Button Gwinnett of Georgia, died from wounds, and those were received not at the hands of the British, but from a fellow officer with whom he dueled in May 1777.
  • Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags. Before the American Revolution, Carter Braxton was possessed of a considerable fortune through inheritance and favorable marriages. While still in his teens he inherited the family estate, which included a flourishing Virginia tobacco plantation, upon the death of his father. He married a wealthy heiress who died when he was just 21, and within a few years he had remarried, this time to the daughter of the Receiver of Customs in Virginia for the King. As a delegate representing Virginia in the Continental Congress in 1776, he was one of the minority of delegates reluctant to support an American declaration of independence, a move which he viewed at the time as too dangerous:

[Independence] is in truth a delusive Bait which men in considerably catch at, without knowing the hook to which it is affixed … America is too defenseless a State for the declaration, having no alliance with a naval Power nor as yet any Fleet of consequence of her own to protect that trade which is so essential to the prosecution of the War, without which I know we cannot go on much longer. Braxton invested his wealth in commercial enterprises, particularly shipping, and he endured severe financial reversals during the Revolutionary War when many of the ships in which he held interest were either appropriated by the British government (because they were British-flagged) or were sunk or captured by the British. He was not personally targeted for ruin because he had signed the Declaration of Independence, however; he suffered grievous financial losses because most of his wealth was tied up in shipping, “that trade which is so essential to the prosecution of the War” and which was therefore a prime military target for the British. Even if he hadn’t signed the Declaration of Independence, Braxton’s ships would have been casualties of the war just the same. Although Braxton did lose property during the war and had to sell off assets (primarily landholdings) to cover the debts incurred by the loss of his ships, he recouped much of that money after the war but subsequently lost it again through his own ill-advised business dealings. His fortune was considerably diminished in his later years, but he did not by any stretch of the imagination “die in rags.”

  • Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward. As one biography describes Thomas McKean (not “McKeam”): Thomas McKean might just represent an ideal study of how far political engagement can be carried by one man. One can scarcely believe the number of concurrent offices and duties this man performed during the course of his long career. He served three states and many more cities and county governments, often performing duties in two or more jurisdictions, even while engaged in federal office. Among his many offices, McKean was a delegate to the Continental Congress (of which he later served as president), President of Delaware, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, and Governor of Pennsylvania. The above-quoted statement regarding his being “hounded” by the British during the Revolutionary War is probably based upon a letter he wrote to his friend John Adams in 1777, in which he described how he had been “hunted like a fox by the enemy, compelled to remove my family five times in three months, and at last fixed them in a little log-house on the banks of the Susquehanna, but they were soon obliged to move again on account of the incursions of the Indians.” However, it is problematic to assert that McKean’s treatment was due to his being a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (His name does not appear on printed copies of that document authenticated in January 1777, so it is likely he did not affix his name to it until later.) If he was targeted by the British, it was quite possibly because he also served in a military capacity as a volunteer leader of militia. In any case, McKean did not end up in “poverty,” as the estate he left behind when he died in 1817 was described as consisting of “stocks, bonds, and huge land tracts in Pennsylvania.”
  • Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton. First of all, this passage has a couple of misspellings: the signers referred to are William Ellery (not “Dillery”) and Edward Rutledge (not “Ruttledge”). Secondly, this sentence is misleading in that it implies a motive that was most likely not present (i.e., these men’s homes were looted because they had been signers of the Declaration of Independence). The need to forage for supplies in enemy territory has long been a part of warfare, and so it was far from uncommon for British soldiers in the field to appropriate such material from private residences during the American Revolution. (Not only were homes used as sources of food, livestock, and other necessary supplies, but larger houses were also taken over and used to quarter soldiers or to serve as headquarters for officers.) In some cases, even American forces took advantage of the local citizenry to provision themselves. Given that many more prominent American revolutionaries who were also signers of the Declaration of Independence (e.g., Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, Benjamin Rush, Robert Morris) had homes in areas that were occupied by the British during the war, yet those homes were not looted or vandalized, it’s hard to make the case that the men named above were specifically targeted for vengeance by the British rather than unfortunate victims whose property fell in the path of an armed conflict being waged on American soil.
  • At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt. The tale about Thomas Nelson’s urging or suggesting the bombardment of his own house is one of several Revolutionary War legends whose truth may never be known. Several versions of this story exist, one of which (as referenced above) holds that Nelson encouraged George Washington to shell his Yorktown home after British Major General Charles Cornwallis had taken it over to use as his headquarters in 1781: Cornwallis had turned the home of Thomas Nelson, who had succeeded Jefferson as governor of Virginia, into his headquarters. Nelson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, had led three Virginia brigades, or 3,000 men, to Yorktown and, when the shelling of the town was about to begin, urged Washington to bombard his own house. And that is where Washington, with his experienced surveyor’s eye, reputedly pointed the gun for the first (and singularly fatal) allied shot. Legend has it that the shell went right through a window and landed at the dinner table where some British officers, including the British commissary general, had just sat down to dine. The general was killed and several others wounded as it burst among their plates. Other versions of the story have Nelson directing the Marquis de Lafayette to train French artillery on his home: The story goes that the new Virginia Governor Thomas Nelson (who’d been held at Yorktown but released under a flag of truce) was with American forces that day. Lafayette invited Nelson to be present when Captain Thomas Machin’s battery first opened fire, as both a compliment and knowing Nelson lived in Yorktown and would know the localities in the riverport area. “To what particular spot,” Lafayette reportedly asked Nelson, “would your Excellency direct that we should point the cannon.” Nelson replied, “There, to that house. It is mine, and … it is the best one in the town. There you will be almost certain to find Lord Cornwallis and the British headquarters.” “A simultaneous discharge of all the guns in the line,” Joseph Martin wrote, was “followed [by] French troops accompanying it with ‘Huzza for the Americans.'” Sounding much like the Nelson legend, Martin’s account added that “the first shell sent from our batteries entered an elegant house formerly owned or occupied by the Secretary of State under the British, and burned directly over a table surrounded by a large party of British officers at dinner, killing and wounding a number of them.” Still other accounts maintain this legend is a conflation of two separate events: Thomas Nelson, acting as commander in chief of the Virginia militia, ordered a battery to open fire on his uncle’s home, where Cornwallis was then ensconced. Later, Nelson supposedly made a friendly bet with French artillerists in which he challenged them to hit his home, one of the more prominent landmarks in Yorktown. Whatever the truth, the Nelson home was certainly not “destroyed” as claimed. The house stands to this day as part of Colonial National Historical Park, and the National Park Service’s description of it notes only that “the southeast face of the residence does show evidence of damage from cannon fire.”
  • Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months. Francis Lewis represented New York in the Continental Congress, and shortly after he signed the Declaration of Independence his Long Island estate was raided by the British, possibly as retaliation for his having been a signatory to that document. While Lewis was in Philadelphia attending to congressional matters, his wife was taken prisoner by the British after disregarding an order for citizens to evacuate Long Island. Mrs. Lewis was held for several months before being exchanged for the wives of British officials captured by the Americans. Although her captivity was undoubtedly a hardship, she had already been in poor health for some time and died a few years (not months) later.
  • John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year, he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. John Hart’s New Jersey farm was looted in the course of the Revolutionary War (possibly due his status as Speaker of the Assembly), and he did have to remain in hiding in nearby mountains for a short time, but the rest of the above passage is gross exaggeration. When the British overran the area of New Jersey where Hart resided in late November of 1776, he was not “driven from his [dying] wife’s bedside,” as his wife had already died several weeks earlier (and most of his thirteen children were adults by then). He certainly didn’t spend “more than a year” on the run living “in forests and caves,” as the Continental Army recaptured the area within a month (through General George Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night). Hart also did not die “from exhaustion and a broken heart” a mere “few weeks” after emerging from hiding — in 1778 he was re-elected to the New Jersey assembly, and he invited the American army to encamp on his New Jersey farmland in June 1778 before succumbing to kidney stones in May 1779.
  • Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates. Lewis Morris (not Norris) indeed saw his Westchester County, New York, home taken over in 1776 and used as a barracks for soldiers, and the horses and livestock from his farm commandeered by military personnel, but he suffered those initial deprivations at the hands of the Continental Army, not the British. Shortly afterwards his property was appropriated, looted, and burned by the British when they occupied New York. (Morris and his wife were eventually able to reclaim their property and restore their home after the war.) Philip Livingston lost several properties to the British occupation of New York and sold off others to support the war effort, and he did not recover them because he died suddenly in 1778, before the end of the war.

Annual Spring Tea / Lunch

Beverly MacNellis

Beverly MacNellis

Dear Friends and Others,
Feb. 17, 2014

It was my great pleasure to chair the 14th Annual Tea-Lunch for the Estero Historical Society. Without knowing it or planning it I have become an event planner since way back even before I planned the State Art conferences for the Michigan Art Education Association.

This tea-lunch was the biggest the Society ever had in numbers. We had a total of 207 attend the event at the fabulous Shadow Wood Country Club. The 23 tables were sold out and never were advertised in October when the theme, date and place were decided. The tea the year before was also a big hit and with the generous support of Charles Dauray of the College of Life Foundation the Society made just over $10,000 to restore the school house. This year we almost made another $10,000. We were close. I had more expenses with the filling of the raffle baskets and lunch cost more. We almost hit the $10,000 mark again even with all of that.

We had a professional photographer taking pictures. They are great. I have emailed the entire list of hostess and anyone else I had their email, the web site and pass word to get into Patricia Downey’s web site

Her photos are copyright protected but I do have permission to post on Face Book, our News Letter and our web site. If you desire to purchase any please contact her at (239) 218-3973.

There are so many people to thank that it was impossible for me to remember them all. But one person that was very important to me and helped me in many areas and I forgot to thank her publicly at the tea. Anina Bachrach I am so sorry for not mentioning your name and the help you gave me. Anina has so many great ideas. Thank you Anina!

I have chaired my last tea for the Estero Historical Society. The only thing I regret is not having the time to have been able to move around and greet each one of you and look at your hat, outfit and table. You have amazed me for the last two years. I have loved looking at all the pictures in detail.

Thank you for coming, and making the hat and caring out the theme of

“Bling, Buttons and Bows”

Thank you so very much,

Beverly MacNellis

2014 Chair of the Estero Historical Society’s Annual Tea


Annual Christmas Lunch, Dec. 13, 2013

The Estero Historical Society held the Annual Christmas Lunch on Friday, December 13, 2013, at the Villages of Country Creek Club House.  The co-chairpersons were Eileen Galvin and Jean Pryal. It was a joyous event attended by 72 ladies and men. The menu was enjoyed by all and many thought it was the best Christmas Lunch.

Nov. 18 Tour of Art Calusa

Art Calusa: Reflections on Representation

By Archaeologist Theresa M. Schober

Only a small group sponsored by the Estero Historical Society and arranged by Carolyn Fischer, attended a private tour of the Art Calusa exhibit at the Pier Building in Fort Myers. In this marking of Viva Florida 500 initiative, archaeologist Theresa Schober and Barbara Hill, a fine art consultant, has put this show together by picking out the individual pieces that brings the old history of Florida alive. We were so lucky to have Ms. Schober direct our tour and make it all so clear to us. This unique collection of artwork by historical artists, focused on the Calusa Indians and their predecessors through European contact.

Those that attended were: Beverly MacNellis, Carolyn Fischer, Augie Fischer, Jean Pryal, Dave Pryal, Nola Boomer, Conway Swee, Mary Popovich, Norma Panell, Diane Wisen. Afterwards most met for lunch at the historic Edison Lunch Box.

Exhibition artists: Lucas Century, Merald Clark, Charles Dauray, Christopher Kreider, David Meo, Theodore Morris, Dean Quigley, Hermann Trappman, & Jackson Walker.

2013 Oct 15th “Food tasting from Evelyn Horne’s Receipts”


Good and rich conversation easily flowed among the 53 guests of the Estero Historical Society’s Tasting of Olde Estero from the Evelyn Luettich Horne family recipe book. The tasting took place on the back deck of the Historical Society’s newly renovated Hall Collier Hanson house, and soon to be renovated Estero’s First School House, conveniently located in our Estero Community Park, just off of Corkscrew Road.

We ate, chatted and enjoyed some delicious food from Evelyn Luettich Horne’s recipe book. All the food was prepared by the wonderful Estero Historical Society members and Evelyn’s family members. The cooks in the kitchen included: Sis Newberry, Marlene Fernandez, Darlene Horne Johnson, Carla Morris, Linda and Billy Horne, and Lois Fein. The mood was the outstanding tastes of Fish Chowder, Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, Southern style cornbread, Chicken and Rice, Tomato Gravy, and moist nut and fruit cakes and coffee bars, all with a spread of Honey Butter, that were OUT OF THIS WORLD. Additional recipes that can be found in Evelyn Luettich Horne’s Recipe book (available to purchase and perfect for a stocking stuffer), would be an additional treat on your holiday tables.

I sat with Evelyn’s children, Darlene and Billy, and their spouses Herby Johnson and Linda. They were thrilled to talk about their family gatherings as they rushed home when mom called. As children they would often play in the orange groves, The Flowery Grove (currently where Villages of Country Creek is located) and Evelyn’s deep and echoing voice saying, “DINNER TIME, COME HOME” was the only warning that they needed that supper was on the table. A family tradition was the gathering of 40-50 people every Sunday after attending the Estero United Methodist Church service. The BBQ, Smoked mullet fish fries with hush puppies (described as perfectly moist and seasoned to perfection), and always homemade southern style cornbread, typically served with lima or great northern beans) and brewed iced tea.

From Evelyn’s recipe book the section entitled: Just Plain Folks, the author states: “Evelyn learned to cook from Molly “Grandma” Johnson, who lived off of Coconut Road near the Weeks Fish Camp (located near the Hyatt). Evelyn adored Grandma Johnson and she taught Evelyn that the key to cooking is SIMPLICITY. To prove this point Grandma Johnson would make her family famous “unforgettable biscuits”. These biscuits were some of Evelyn’s first recipes that she collected. Evelyn made it her ambition to collect and prepare recipes that she gathered from family and friends. She had a knack for making these recipes “her own”. And boy did the family love that!!!!

Be sure to stop by and visit us at the Park. You will be amazed at our rich Estero History and the depth of knowledge that all of the society members share. For the Estero Historical Society open house hours contact Jean Pryal at 498-5296 or visit them at

Estero Historical Society support writer: Terri “Sunny” Molle

1925 Orange Blossom Special


The Orange Blossom Special was a deluxe passenger train on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and connecting railroads between New York City and Miami in the United States. It usually (always?) ran winter only, around December to April.

It covered 1372 miles on the Pennsylvania Railroad from New York City to Washington, D.C., the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad from Washington to Richmond, and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad from Richmond via Raleigh, Columbia, and Savannah to Miami. A section went to Tampa and St. Petersburg winter season only.

The train started on November 21, 1925 and was the brainchild of SAL president S. Davies Warfield, who wanted to capitalize on booming development in Florida at the time. Warfield believed Florida was a land of opportunity, and with fast, luxurious trains he could lure influential (not to mention wealthy) business leaders to the Sunshine State. In February 1926 the train took 35 hours New York to West Palm Beach (Seaboard track didn’t reach Miami until 1927).

Spurred by the success of Henry Flagler and his rival Florida East Coast Railway in attracting travelers, the Orange Blossom Special became famous in its own right. It was renowned for its speed and luxury. E. M. Frimbo, “The World’s Greatest Railway Buff”, offered this account of a dining car chef who had worked aboard the train:

“Our chef…spent nine of his forty-three years with the Pennsylvania Railroad as chef on the celebrated all-Pullman New York-to-Florida train the Orange Blossom Special—the most luxurious winter-season train ever devised by man. Nothing even remotely resembling a can opener was allowed on the premises. All the pies, cakes, rolls, birthday cakes were baked on board under his supervision. Cut flowers and fresh fish were taken on at every revictualing stop, and the train carried thirty-five hundred dollars’ worth of wine, liquor and champagne—these at pre-Prohibition prices—for each run.

The service was suspended during WWII to free the equipment for carrying troops. Its last run was in 1953. This market is now handled by Amtrak’s Silver Star.

A similar locomotive painted to resemble a locomotive of the time, and lettered Orange Blossom Special is currently being moved from its long-time display location at the Church Street Station in Orlando, Florida to the Gulf Coast Railway Museum in nearby Tampa. Plans are for a multi-year restoration to active status for eventual excursion service.


The train and the song

It happened during the maiden run of the new streamlined train at the Jacksonville Seaboard Railroad Station that Ervin T. Rouse and Robert Russell “Chubby” Wise saw this train. Rouse and Wise wrote the “Orange Blossom Special” song as a fiddle tune. The tune was first recorded by Ervin and his brother Gordon one year later in New York. Bill Monroe recorded Rouse and Wise’s tune in 1942 (with Art Wooten on fiddle) and popularized the tune. Johnny Cash named his 1965 album after the song. The song was also recorded by Bill Ramsey and Don Paulin.

This popular tale explains the fascination which led Ervin Rouse and Robert “Chubby” Wise to write the now famous fiddle tune. However, historically the Blossom was never “streamlined” and used Pullman heavyweight sleepers, diners, and some coaches of the winter Tampa run. The Blossom may have used some lightweight cars sporadically in mixed consist with the Pennsylvania Railroad which hauled the Blossom in the Northeast Corridor. If Rouse and Wise did see a streamlined Seaboard train in 1938, it was most likely the “Silver Meteor” which was streamlined with its stainless steel coaches. The name of this train was chosen by a public contest. The Seaboard’s lightweight trains later became known as the Silver Fleet. This included the Silver Meteor, the Silver Star and the Silver Comet. The train did receive modern EMC E4 diesel locomotives in 1938, but continued using heavyweight Pullmans and American Flyer coaches until its demise in 1953. It is also possible the songwriters saw one of the Twin Cities Zephyrs at the Jacksonville railroad station in 1935. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad brought the train to Florida at the invitation of the Seaboard Railroad. It toured the state, making stops in both east and west coast Florida cities, where the public was able to both view and tour the Zephyr; Jacksonville was one of the stops on its Florida tour.

Pictures All About Mimi’s Life


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2003 High Tea: Mimi

2013, Aug. 29, Mimi Straub Passes



Reading of the Declaration of Independence

Each year our celebration of American Independence on July 4th seems to get better and better. We are always thankful to the Estero Fire Rescue for the fire truck and hanging our flag high over the Estero Community Park. EFR Commissioner Dick Schweers shows up every July 4th with a few of Estero’s best and the big fire truck. The Cascades Singers began the day with patriot songs which many join in with them. Balloons for the young and young at heart were given out to add the American Red, White and Blue to the day. Cold melon was served after the reading and cold water was always available. Chairs were provided this year to make sure everyone had a place to sit. With the newest shade sails covering our deck almost everyone was in the shade. Jean Pryal passed out copies of the Declaration to everyone. Dave Pryal our vice president started the reading. Everyone got to read a sentence in their turn at least twice. JoAnne Luce gave a short history of what things were like back in the days of the 1774-6 that were of interest. A social hour, afterwards brought the yearly event to a pleasant close.

“In the waning years of their lengthy lives, former presidents (and Founding Fathers) John Adams and Thomas Jefferson reconciled the political differences that had separated them for many years and carried on a voluminous correspondence. One of the purposes behind their exchange of letters was to set the record straight regarding the events of the American Revolution, for as author Joseph J. Ellis noted, they (particularly Adams, whom history would not treat nearly as kindly as Jefferson) were keenly aware of the “distinction between history as experienced and history as remembered”:

Adams realized that the act of transforming the American Revolution into history placed a premium on selecting events and heroes that fit neatly into a dramatic formula, thereby distorting the more tangled and incoherent experience that participants actually making the history felt at the time. Jefferson’s drafting of the Declaration of Independence was a perfect example of such dramatic distortions. The Revolution in this romantic rendering became one magical moment of inspiration, leading inexorably to the foregone conclusion of American independence.

Evidently Adams was right: So great is our need for simplified, dramatic events and heroes that even the real-life biographies of the fifty-six men who risked their lives to publicly declare American independence are no longer compelling enough. Through multiple versions of their lives have been repeatedly embellished with layers of fanciful fiction to make for a better story.”

Be sure to come next July 4th to hear some of the REAL stories of what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

2012 July 7, Weeks Fish Camp

2012 11-07 Weeks Fish Camp

Pioneer Picnic

Estero Historical Society hosts annual Pioneer Picnic By LAURA GATES Posted April 25, 2012 ESTERO — Squeezing oranges by hand, roller skating in a converted schoolhouse and enduring long bus rides to Fort Myers were among the memories shared by native Estero residents Saturday during the Historical Society’s annual Pioneer Picnic honoring the community’s first settlers and their descendants.

“When we were growing up, Estero had maybe 500 people, nearly all related,” said Kay (Smith) McCullers, sitting alongside her cousin Darlene (Horne) Johnson, both are descended from the Fernandez pioneer family. “We would walk down 41 to the K-U — the Koreshan Unity store — to get bread. We could go to the Methodist church, which we did often, then walk down to my Aunt Rosa’s on the corner, down Highlands to the river and make a circle. Then we had said ‘hi’ to everybody that lived in Estero.”

The entire trip took only a couple of hours, including stops to visit.

“At one time in Estero, you were related to everybody, or if you weren’t, you thought you were,” joked Johnson, whose mother, Evelyn, was an early Estero school teacher and a longtime worker at the Koreshan Unity compound.

Evelyn (Leuttich) Horne wrote a recipe column for the Koreshan newspaper, the American Eagle, served as a chauffeur and took care of the last five Koreshans before they died. Her family lived on a houseboat on Mound Key before settling in Estero when she was six years old.

The Horne family has roots all the way back to Estero’s first settlers, members of the Koreshan Unity, a religious sect founded by Dr. Cyrus Teed which settled in the swamplands of Estero in 1893.

Johnson’s great-grandfather was a Koreshan who relocated from Chicago as a young man. He came with his father, leaving his mother behind when she refused to live in such an inhospitable climate. He eventually left the Koreshans, becoming a commercial fisherman and marrying, which was not allowed under the Koreshan vow of celibacy.

The Koreshans were highly educated and capable people — they operated their own bakery, machine shop and power plant — but they endured much tribulation on their journey toward utopia.

“They had to go by boat to Fort Myers to buy any groceries, and everything was bartered,” Johnson said. “They lived off fish, shrimp and scallops.”

One year, the Koreshans survived on nothing but peanuts, Johnson was told by one of the last living Koreshans, Vesta Newcomb, who came to live with Johnson and her husband.

In her lifetime, Johnson has experienced a dramatic population explosion and development boom in Estero, which was little more than a tiny blip on the map between Fort Myers and Naples when she was growing up.

Although her mother briefly taught at a small schoolhouse on East Broadway, children began being bussed to Fort Myers for school in the late 1950s. The building was then converted for a series of uses which included a church, a community center and even a roller skating rink. It is a private residence today.

“I can remember going roller skating there, and having Halloween parties and cake walks there,” Johnson said.

Don Newberry remembers his older brothers attending school there, but by the time he was school aged, he was sent to Fort Myers on a grueling bus trip with one stop in Bonita, one stop in Estero and another stop at Gladiolus Drive in Fort Myers. There was nothing in between.

Newberry is a lifelong Esteroan, growing up on Sandy Lane. His father, Jay Newberry, relocated to Estero from Winter Haven in 1945 to work in the Marshal Brothers orange groves, and eventually purchased a grove of his own.

“I used to work 24 hours in season packing fruit,”

Newberry recalled.

Kay McCullers also grew up in the citrus groves. Her father, Hugh Smith, hitchhiked from south Georgia to Estero at age 13 to work in the Floweree groves. He started his own fruit shipping business and opened a fruit stand on US 41.

“Everything was done by the family,” McCullers recalled. “He hired no outside help. We washed oranges by hand, juiced oranges by hand. We worked till way past dark.”

The family juiced 24 gallons each night and sold out by 11 a.m. the next day, she said.

Clyde C. Marshall and sons opened a larger operation down the road, but it never detracted from the Smith family operation. “I don’t think he did any more business than we did because we had regular customers,” McCullers said.

Hugh Smith died a week before his 69th birthday doing what he loved. “He was picking grapefruit when he had his famous stroke and left this world,” his daughter said.

The other big industry in early Estero was commercial fishing, the heritage of the Fernandez family.

Tom Fernandez’s father was born on Mound Key in 1900, two years after his Portuguese grandparents, Antonio and Mary, landed there by mishap. They intended to become Catholic missionaries in Tampa but were abandoned on Fort Myers Beach by the pirate Juan Gomez.

They were found by another early pioneer, Frank Johnson, who taught Antonio to fish. Generations of Fernandez descendants have fond memories of catching fiddler crabs at Weeks Fish Camp off Coconut Road.

Three generations of Fernandez attended Saturday’s Pioneer Picnic, including Tom, son Tim and grandson Zachary.

The picnic was held at the renovated Hall-Collier House in Estero Park, which is being transformed into a museum. The society is now raising funds to restore a 1909 School House through the sale of commemorative bricks. For more information, visit

© 2012 Naples Daily News.

Guided Tour to Mound Key


General Membership Meeting

The April General Membership Meeting was held on Monday, April 8, 2013 at 2 p.m. at the Estero Historical Cottage at Estero Community Park.

Celebrate Estero at Miromar Outlets

The Society is lucky to have members willing to “Meet and Greet” the many visitors at Estero’s many functions. Many visitors stop by that are old friends and members. Working that day are board members Eileen Galvin, Jean Pryal, Beverly MacNellis, Dave Pryal, Betty Shandor, Bob & Carla Morris.

BBQ and Family Fun Fest

Always promoting the mission of the Estero Historical Society are Betty Shandor and Jean Pryal. Here they have brought all the information you want to know or buy to the Rotary Club of Estero’s BBQ & Family Fun Fest held each year at the Estero Community Park.

Archaeologist Theresa Schober

Canadian archaeologist Theresa Schober spent her childhood visiting ghost towns across the United States and Canada with her father, Frank Schober. She received archaeology and anthropology degrees from the Universities of Calgary and Illinois. Before Florida, Schober participated in or directed archaeological excavations in Canada, Mexico and Panama. Now, the 37-year-old director of the Mound House on Fort Myers Beach, who is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida, studies the historical significance and behaviors of the habitants of Estero Island, in particular the Mound House, which is built atop a Calusa Indian Mound dating back to 4000 B.C.

She spoke of Mound Key and Mound House plus other points of interest.

Lady of Light Luncheon

Board member Eileen Galvin invited several ladies from her church, Lady of Light, to enjoy lunch and learn about the Estero Historical Society On March 8, 2013. It was another perfect day outside and sitting under our new shade sails protected everyone from the sun. The breeze was delightful. The tables were set with our members good tea services and linen napkins to make the lunch special.

Two other long time board members, Marlene Fernandez and Sis Newberry were the speakers.

These two ladies are considered the old timers of Estero. They have lived here all their lives. They talked about the history, our buildings, what we do, our homemade Chutney and so much more. It turned into an open question and answer period for some time.  It must have been good because we gained many memberships and sold some books on the history and of course our famous chutney.

Annual Spring Tea / Lunch

lace darker 4 inch 300 Our annual Spring Tea was held March 4, 2013 at the Shadow Wood Clubhouse in the Brooks. This year’s theme was “lace”.

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