Fort Myers Restaurant History… Who is Jake Summerlin?
“I am nothing under the sun but a native-born, sun-baked old Florida cracker,” he once told a New York journalist.
Jake Summerlin, aka the “King of the Crackers,” was the first child born in Florida, after the second Spanish occupation ended, on February 20, 1820. He played a major part in many events which helped shaped the young state.
An astute businessman, Civil War blockade runner and Seminole War veteran, Summerlin was born to the cowman’s saddle. By the age of 7, he learned to crack a cattle-driving whip. It was claimed by Paul Bunyan and Davy Crockett that Jake could de-wing a fly with a cow whip from 18ft away! It was with these skills that Jake Summerlin made his fortune, becoming one of the wealthiest men in Florida before he turned 40.
In this pre-banking era, Jake kept his gold and silver at his cabin in tin meat cans, trunks, cigar boxes and wool socks, behind door frames, in the rafters, or just tossed in a corner. He used his amassed wealth to purchase large areas of land sprawling from Fort Meade to Fort Myers. He purchased a thousand acres nearby for cow pens, some of which he rented to other cattlemen. He also bought the wharf at Punta Rassa in Lee County, where he shipped his cattle to Cuba. Just down the road, Summerlin owned riverfront property, which was eventually sold to Thomas Edison.
The local waters surrounding the wharf are famous for being the home to big game fishing, where the first tarpon was caught on rod and reel in 1855. The word spread quickly, and people began traveling from all over the globe to the area, demonstrating their intense fascination with big game fishing and their massive appetite for adventure.
Summerlin Jake’s pays tribute to the rich history of the area by serving succulent seafood and well-marbled steaks.