Sanibel Island | News & Weather | Sanibel History

Sanibel Island, like it's neighbor Captiva Island, has a rich history filled with stories from natives to Spanish explorers, and from pirates to pioneers. The islands were originally thought to be formed as one about six thousand years ago.

The Calusa Indians were Sanibel's first known residents, dating back to 500 B.C. They altered the course of water through the island to create a supply of food, tools, and riches. They ate plenty of seafood and used empty shells to create tools. They made their huts on top of shell mounds to protect themselves from storm tides, and some of the mounds are still intact today.

Sanibel Island is named after Queen Isabella by the Juan Ponce de Leon, the famous explorer who is thought to have discovered the Island and called it "Santa Isybella". The Spanish were unsuccessful at creating any permanent settlements because they could not defeat the Calusa. However, they brought European diseases which nearly wiped out the native population by the late 1700s.

As the story goes, the islands became a haven for pirates such as the infamous Jose Gaspar, who built the prison "Isle de los Captivas." Although he was eventually caught, Indian raids continued to keep settlers and fishermen at bay. NEXT>