The name Estero is Spanish for estuary – where the river meets the sea – and until the 1970s much of the settlement and development in Estero was near the Estero River, then called Mosquito Creek.

In the early days, Estero was a major citrus producing area. The first homesteader is reported to be Gustave Damkohler who in 1882 farmed citrus along the Estero River and then used the river to ship his harvests north via the Gulf of Mexico.

Estero’s most noted pioneer was Dr. Cyrus Teed, leader of the Koreshan Unity, which believed the universe existed within a giant hollow sphere.  He and some of his followers began settling along the Estero River in 1894.  Gustave Damkohler joined the group after selling his 320 acres of land to the Unity for $200.

The Koreshans were able to incorporate 110 square miles into the Town of Estero in 1904.  The municipality stretched from a mile north of today’s Gladiolus Drive in South Fort Myers to a mile north of Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs and included all of today’s Lovers Key State Park and the Town of Fort Myers Beach.

Not all the homesteaders of that time were happy with the Koreshans. In 1901 Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Hendry deeded land for the Estero Creek School with the restriction of prohibiting all things Koreshan.  This school operated until 1903; there is no record of why it closed. The Town of Estero was later abolished in 1907.

During this time, the Koreshans opened a post office, store, blacksmith and saw mill; established schools for all those who wanted to attend; built an Art Hall for their symphony orchestra and theater group, and gathered exotic vegetation from throughout the world which they planted on their grounds.  The eleven remaining historic structures are being maintained at Koreshan State Park.

Gustave Damkohler’s cottage is among those, and is the oldest structure in Lee County, built in 1882.

Damkohler’s cottage c. 1890. Photo from Koreshan State Historic Site Photograph Collection.

Share us!


  1. I’d love to know who abolished the incorporated Estero and how it occurred and why. Seems to me something there is not right and that’s how the land grab began. Anyone have a link to this information? Thank you

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.