As you enjoy your Fort Myers Beach vacation at the Beach Shell Inn you will no doubt see many place names that are more Spanish in nature and you might wonder to yourself how they came to be, as this area was settled mostly by Anglo- Americans in the 19th Century.
Southwest Florida was first discovered by the Spanish conquistadors in search of gold. As they did not find it in our area they moved on to look for it elsewhere. Ponce de Leon was the first European to set foot on the mainland of Florida and gave it its name. He most likely traveled around the coast from the East through the Florida Straits to our coast at Punta Rassa in 1513. Leaving quickly he did not return for 8 years. He was in search of the elusive Fountain of Youth rumored to be somewhere in the state. When he did return it was north of Punta Rassa before reaching Venice. The Caloosa Indians who inhabited the area were none too pleased with their guests and repulsed them violently sending poor Ponce de Leon back to Cuba where he died of an arrow wound soon after.
In 1566 the Spanish sent the Conquistador Menendez who again had a violent altercation with the Caloosa’s, but this time he was the victorious party. He killed the Caloosa chieftain named Carlos and then proceeded to massacre his entire warrior general staff. This occurred at Matanzas Pass, aptly named as matanzas is Spanish for slaughter. Carlos is memorialized in dozens of names on our island and the area around it on the mainland: Carlos Bay, Carlos Pass, San Carlos Island etc.
Although the old Conquistador’s never officially found the Fountain of Youth or the golden treasure, you have found it here on our tropical island where sunshine and smiles will remain with you long after you have returned home!