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Immokalee: Country Comfort

Immokalee downtown

Immokalee, Collier County's largest inland community, has long been associated with sprawling cattle ranches and a thriving agricultural economy.

The region was originally occupied by the Calusa Indians and centuries later, by the Seminole who set up temporary camps on the high prairieland during their seasonal hunting trips. Seminole and Miccosukee Indians referred to the area as Gopher Ridge for the numerous land turtles that lived in the deep sand.

A colorful mix of hunters, trappers, cowmen, missionaries and Indian traders established the first permanent settlement by 1872 and provided much of its early frontier character. A cattleman and Confederate veteran, Charles W. Hendry, was one of the first to arrive followed by William Allen and the William H. Brown family who later started an Indian trading post near Boat Landing, thirty miles southeast of town. The settlement opened a post office and changed its name in 1897 from Allen's Place to Immokalee, a name suggested by Brown's eleven-year-old daughter, Rose, and phonetically translated from a Seminole word meaning "my home" or "his home."

Immokalee's population grew slowly and in relative isolation until 1921, when the Atlantic Coast Line Railway extended its service south from Sebring and opened a direct overland route to the town for both trade and communication. Further improvements followed as a result of Collier County's creation in 1923 and Barron G. Collier's ambitious efforts to provide a paved, north-south highway and a railroad line from Immokalee to the County seat at Everglades.

Over the next twenty years, Immokalee's ranching and farming industries boomed with lumber and oil production becoming an important part of the County's economy.