Born: May 14, 1811 in Georgetown, SC
Died: June 20, 1889 in Washington DC
Grandson of Rabbi Moses Cohen from London, England
The city of Fort Myers is named after Colonel Myers.
From the 2017 interview with Gerald Laboda:
“Well, a whole bunch of them …just ran away from the Army and went south and they were in Georgia for a while, then they were pushed south again and into north Florida and then they were pushed – and they would always give them a piece of paper and say, ‘oh, we’re going to give you and you’re going to be at the reservation and it’s yours, and we – we don’t even – our laws don’t even apply there…And so they kept pushing and pushing until they got to the Everglades and then you couldn’t push them anymore, because you were running out of ground. So there were skirmishes about that still and in this area particularly the River – the Caloosahatchee River – was the main way of getting around and so most of the settling that occurred along the River and yet the – the – the Seminoles were the tribe, which is a different discussion, and so that’s the reason.
The General in Fort Brook sent a hundred troops down, with a lieutenant, said, ‘you’re probably going to need to have an outpost down there because they’re really bothering our settlers down there.’ And they did and they found what was a good, flat area and it was good access to the River and they built a wooden- not much of a fort at all – down there and the General up there – daughter – who was a very pretty 17 year old, 18 year old girl had fallen in love with the Colonel who was the Quartermaster Commander, which in the Army the Quartermaster is the person who is in charge of supplies for the Army. He’s an Army Colonel, but he makes sure that the Army has, you know, guns and uniforms and food, and his name happened to be Abraham Myers. He was the Colonel and she fell in love with Abraham Myers and they were engaged.
So the General told the Lieutenant, who was building the fort – the fort down here, ‘call that fort … Fort Myers,’ … in the name of Abraham Myers, and that’s how it became Abraham Myers. That fort burned down and the – but then there was some more travel to – trouble and – and ended it ended up as a Civil War and they really fortified it and it was a real – real fort, and it was Abraham Myers; he still had never been here. He had no reason to be here because he didn’t – he wasn’t in command of the fort and he had a terrific dilemma also, just like Robert E. Lee had.
He was from South Carolina; his father was a Cantor in Georgetown, South Carolina, which is right on the border of North and South Carolina on the coast. His grandfather was a rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina, so his family was Jewish except for his new wife, who was not Jewish at all. And … they didn’t continue on with Judaism. He – obviously he himself it was not that important to him, and they raised their children as Gentiles.
But he had to choose whether he was going to be in the Civil – in the southern – the Confederacy or the Union; he was a member of the Union Army automatically, because that’s what he did. It was his career; he was a career officer. He chose to stay with the Confederacy, became a General in the Confederacy, but got the worst job again because he was an expert at Quartermaster; they made him the Quartermaster General of the entire Confederacy, which was an absolute loser because, they said, ‘you’re in charge of all this now. Now you’ve got it,’ and they didn’t give him any money.
The Confederacy was always poor, that’s probably the experts of the Civil War will tell you that’s why they lost the War. They were poor to begin with compared to the industrial north and secondly, there was an embargo. The – the – the – the north put their ships around and they cut off as much of the smuggling in that they could, and they cut down on their trade because their trade was cotton to Europe and all that, and so they were starving the south to death and the guy who really caught the worst of it was – they blamed it all on Myers. They said because they – they had guys didn’t have uniforms. They – they were always short of stuff. They – small, little side thing: Fort Myers was a cattle town and all of the Kissimmee area and the center part of the state was free=range. There was a lot of cattle, but these guys would two or three or four times a year, round up the cattle; they were cowboys – and run that cattle down through Fort Myers down to what is now Punta Rassa, which is right at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River – put them on barges and run it to Cuba. Cuba bought all their meat from here, so when the – but most of those cowboys and all those guys doing – in the cattle business – were Southerners. The first time when Myers would send his people to buy cattle for meat for his troops, the locals and the cowboys from Kissimmee sold it to the – the Confederate Army. That was thing to do. They got paid in Confederate money, which ended up to be not worth anything. They knew when they sold cattle to Cuba, which was Spain, they got paid in gold and so that was the end of that thing; they didn’t sell it to the Confederacy, so that just the typical thing of the problems that Abraham Myers had and when the War ended, he was so distraught of being blamed for all of this that he left this country, and – and moved to Germany with his family – with his whole family – and did not come back to the United States for 11 years, and then finally came back to the United States and everybody probably forgot about him, and they didn’t hate him anymore.
But his son, who I believe name was Jack Myers…went in the military and I believe he went to the Naval Academy, Annapolis, and became an officer, but in the Marines, because the Marines part of the Navy and he became – he worked his way all the way up, and he became a General himself and – and became famous for some battles and fighting that went on in the Philippines. The United States had fought over there. That’s how we ended up – for a while we had the Philippines from Spain; that was part of that Spanish-American War that didn’t go well for Spain. We had it, and then we made it independent, the Philippines. Jack Myers became very famous in the military history, but not too many people read the military history, other than the military.
But that’s the history of Abraham Myers, and nobody talked much about him. His picture would be on the wall in the courthouse, ‘Colonel Abraham Myers’, but nobody…I would talk to people about it. Abraham Myers. Did you know he was Jewish? And I get this blank look from the mayor, you know? The mayor says, ‘you’re kidding me!’ I said, ‘no, why would I kid you?’ I said, ‘and look it up.’ In fact, I’ll give him a website to look it up on the Internet. But he’s mentioned in the – there’s a history museum here that some – one of his relatives was Jewish or something. It’s a very vague kind of thing; they don’t give a lot of credit to it, because they’re wondering how did that happen? A Jewish guy? You know, become the founder of this town that’s a very prosperous, big, you know, Southwest Florida’s becoming a very important part of Florida right now – probably the quickest growing. But that’s the story of Abraham Myers. My – my version of Abraham Myers.”