On October 6, 1873 a major hurricane pounded the coast of southwest Florida with howling winds in excess of one hundred miles per hour. Sanibel received some of the worst effects of this storm when a surge of water washed completely over the island. The salt water contaminated soil could not be farmed for many years after that and the few farmers living there at the time moved to other areas. Across San Carlos Bay the small settlement of Punta Rassa was also devastated that day when a storm surge fourteen feet high destroyed most of the structures there. Captain John Smith, one of the unfortunate Punta Rassa settlers who lost their home, noted later that Pine Island was spared the storm surge due to the outer barrier islands such as Sanibel. He moved his family to St. James City later that year to become our island’s first modern day residents.
Another image of Captain John Smith.
Photo Credit Museum of the Islands