We are going to use the term “mail boat” and “steamboat” interchangeably, as in addition to these boats delivering the mail, they were also your taxi and trucking company of that era.
In the early years the mail boats were the only outside contact for most of Pine Island’s residents. And waiting for the mail boat was a social event. Whiteside’s General Store (where St. James City’s post first office was housed) even added a balcony so people could gather and gossip while they waited for the mail boat to steam into sight. As the boat approached it was common for to blow their steam horn to alert of their arrival. Settlers from the surrounding islands would row or sail over to St. James City to pick up their mail and packages. The last mail boat to call on St. James City was on December 9, 1963.
These boats were also the source of transportation for early settlers of Pine Island and the surrounding islands. Whether they were traveling a short distance to Fort Myers, or for extended trips to Tampa and beyond, the steamboats were the most practical means of travel.
These boats were also how the Pine Island farmers shipped them crops to Fort Myers and beyond.
Not all of the steam boats listed in this section stopped at Pine island on a regular basis, but all would have traversed the waters of Pine Island Sound and the Caloosahatchee River, so we felt it best to include them.
The Steamboat “St. Lucie”
The “Alice Howard”
Menge Brothers Steamboat Line
The Steamboat “Thomas A. Edison”
The Steamboat “Uneeda”
The Steamboat “Suwanee”
The Steamboat “Grey Eagle”
The Steamboat “Anah C”
Kinzie Brothers Steamer Line
The Steamboat “Gladys”
The Steamboat “Dixie”
The Passanger Ferry “Echo”