One Man's Vision: Barron Gift Collier
Collier County, Florida’s 62nd county, is named for Barron Gift Collier – a pioneering businessman whose vision and personal fortune were tied to much of Southwest Florida’s early growth and development.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1873, Collier’s keen eye for opportunity led him into the street lighting business and ultimately, into printing and advertising. In just ten years, by the age of 26, he had amassed his first million by selling advertising card franchises to the nation’s booming trolley, train and subway lines.
Remote Southwest Florida first drew Collier’s notice in 1911 while vacationing with a business partner on Useppa Island off the coast of Fort Myers. Over the next decade he gradually bought up over a million acres of sprawling, untouched Florida frontier – eventually investing millions of dollars more to transform and develop the wilderness.
Acting on Collier’s personal pledge to finish the long-awaited highway between Tampa and Miami, the Florida State Legislature created Collier County on May 8, 1923, with Everglades (later Everglades City) as the County seat. By 1928, the Tamiami Trail was completed, along with countless other essential services to bring new economic vitality and home seekers to Florida’s last frontier.
Florida’s largest landholder, Barron Collier died in New York City on March 13, 1939, just ten days before his 66th birthday, and too soon to see his unshakable dream for Collier County fulfilled.