County HistoryCollier County was one of a dozen new counties created during the dizzying Florida land boom of the 1920s. It is the state's 62nd county and the third largest in total land area.
Vacationers and residents alike are often surprised to discover that this area's rich and colorful past actually stretches back thousands of years. Humans have lived here for centuries, beginning with the first hunters and gatherers who drifted down the Florida peninsula at the close of the last Ice Age in search of bigger game and warmer winters.
Remote and inaccessible, the first permanent settlements did not take root until the 1880s with tiny pioneer communities dotted along the coast at Everglade, Naples, Marco and Chokoloskee. Further inland at Immokalee and Corkscrew, farming and ranching became the principal means of livelihood.
Modern development began in the 1920s and by the end of the decade, railroads and the Tamiami Trail had pierced the rugged wilderness to begin unlocking the area's enormous agricultural and resort potential. Florida's first commercial oil well was drilled here in 1943, and the County's pine and cypress logging industry flourished well into the 1950s.
Collier County's economy boomed along with its population shortly after World War II. In the short span of thirty years, the number of residents swelled from 6,488 to an astonishing 85,971 by 1980.
A vigorous economy and sustained prosperity from agribusiness, tourism and real estate have made Collier County one of the fastest-growing areas in the country and a pacesetter in defining Southwest Florida's sophisticated new lifestyle.
- To find historical images and documents from the Collier County Museums Archives visit http://i.colliergov.net/museum/.
- To find historical photographs, maps and documents, visit the Florida State Archives at www.floridamemory.com.
- To find aerial photographs of Florida, visit www.floridamemory.com, www.usgs.gov/, www.uflib.ufl.edu/digital/collections/flap/, or http://www.skypic.com/florida.htm.
- To learn more about the Seminole Indians, their culture and their museum, visit www.seminoletribe.com.
- To find out more about the state of Florida's historical projects visit the Office of Cultural and Historical programs at www.flheritage.com.
- To find more books about Collier County and Florida history, visit the Collier County Library system at www.collier-lib.org.
- To learn more about the history of Marco Island, visit the Marco Island Historical Society at www.themihs.org.
- To learn more about the National Register of Historic Places, visit www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com.
- To find more information about the Collier County Veterans Council, visit www.colliervets.com.
- To read and listen to first hand accounts of World War II veterans, visit the WWII Capture Living History project homepage at www.colliergov.net/Index.aspx?page=238. This is an ongoing project. Collier County WWII veterans will always have the opportunity to schedule an appointment with the Communication and Customer Relations Department's office (239-252-8308) to conduct an interview for this living history project.
- To conduct historical research, visit the Publication of Archival Library and Museum Materials (PALMM) at palmm.fcla.edu.
- To find out more about Florida?s ancient people, visit www.trailofthelosttribes.org.
- Discover Florida's Indian Heritage - Interactive Trail Map of Florida archaeological sites you can visit with audio introductions to 7 featured sites. www.TrailofFloridasIndianHeritage.org.
What's in a Name?Many of Collier County's place names are rooted in the past or still retain their original Seminole names.Chokoloskee:
A Seminole word meaning "old house."Caxambas: One of the oldest place names on the Gulf coast, it first appeared on a 1771 chart of Florida as Caxymbas Espanolas. Derived from the Arawak Indian word casimba or cacimba, meaning a hole dug along the shore to find drinking water.Carnestown: Named for Barron Collier's wife, Juliet Gordon Carnes. The couple married in Memphis, Tennessee, on November 26, 1907.Copeland: Named for David Graham Copeland, chief organizer and engineer on the Tamiami Trail and Barron Collier's resident general manager for 23 years.Everglades: First used on a map of the area dated 1832. Derived from an old English word glaed, meaning an open, green grassy place in the forest. Seminole Indians called the Everglades the Pahayokee, meaning grassy water.Green River Swamp: Located south of Corkscrew Marsh, it's named for the pile of empty Green River Whiskey bottles deposited there by hunters at a nearby camp.Immokalee: The name was first suggested by Bishop William Crane Gray, an early Episcopal missionary, and is taken from a Seminole word meaning "my home" or "his home."Marco Island: The first post office here was known as Malco because postal authorities mistakenly thought there already was a place named Marco in Florida.Miles City: Named in the 1920s for Miles Collier, the youngest of Barron G. Collier's three sons.Ochopee: To the Miccosukee and Seminole, the name means "big field" or "farm."Naples: The inspiration for the name "Naples" is thought to have originated with a Fort Myers land broker and surveyor in the late 1880s. Like most Florida promoters of the day, he popularized the future town site with exotic newspaper ads describing the region as "surpassing the bay of Naples in grandeur of view and health-giving properties."
MilestonesImportant Dates In Collier County History
February 26, 1521: Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon set sail from Puerto Rico with 200 colonists to explore and settle Southwest Florida's lower Gulf coast. Calusa Indians immediately pounced on the uninvited newcomers, driving off the Spaniards and mortally wounding Ponce. March 24, 1837: Old Fort Foster, the earliest military post in present-day Collier County, was activated by the U.S. Army during the Second Seminole War. March 23, 1873: Barron Gift Collier, the founder of Collier County, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. November 6, 1886: The Naples Town Improvement Company was organized in Tallahassee, Florida. June 25, 1888: Work began on building the first Naples pier. May 8, 1923: Florida's State Legislature partitioned Lee County to create Collier County. July 7, 1923: Collier County's new Board of County Commissioners held their first meeting at the Rod & Gun Club in Everglades. July 25, 1923: The County's first newspaper, The Collier County News, began publication. April 13, 1925: First meeting of the Naples Town Council. January 7, 1927: The Seaboard Air Line Railway's flagship locomotive, the Orange Blossom Special, became the first passenger train to arrive in Naples. April 26, 1928: The Tamiami Trail was officially opened to traffic in Everglades, completing the first paved highway from Tampa to Miami. August 1, 1933: Episcopal missionary Deaconess Harriet Bedell opened the Glade Cross Mission in Everglades to begin her work with the Seminole Indians of Collier County. April 24, 1938: The ferry boat to Marco Island was replaced by a new bridge and highway across Marco Pass. March 13, 1939: Collier County's founder, Barron Gift Collier, died in New York City, ten days before his 66th birthday. September 26, 1943: Florida's first commercial oil well was drilled near Sunniland, in eastern Collier County. December 23, 1943: The U.S. Army activated a military base at Naples Army Air Field to train combat pilots during World War II. December 6, 1947: President Harry S. Truman dedicated Everglades National Park in Everglades City. May 25, 1949: The Florida State Legislature approved a new charter for Naples, changing it from a town to a city. November 28, 1951: The State Farmer's Market was opened in Immokalee. July 4, 1953: Naples Airport was dedicated as the Naples America Airport. October 14, 1954: Collier County's first commercial broadcasting station, WNOG, went on the air. September 10, 1960: Hurricane Donna scored a direct hit on Naples and Collier County. April 7, 1962: The Naples Hotel, one of the city's oldest landmarks, was closed after 73 seasons. September 30, 1962: Collier County's seat of government was officially moved from Everglades City to East Naples. February 11, 1968: Alligator Alley was opened to traffic. February 15, 1978: The Collier County Museum was opened at the County Government Center. August 29, 1997: Marco Island incorporated to become Florida's 398th city.
Just The FactsCollier County was created from the southern portion of Lee County by an act of the Florida Legislature on May 8, 1923. The decision was signed into law by Governor Cary A. Hardee, Florida's 28th governor. It is Florida's 62nd county and the third largest in total land area - 2,305 square miles.
Year County Naples 1925 1,265 157 1930 2,883 390 1940 5,102 1,253 1950 6,448 1,465 1960 15,753 4,655 1970 38,040 12,042 1980 85,971 17,581 1990 85,971 19,505