” Nature was lavish in supplying Collier County with many unusual
physical characteristics and natural resources, but so much of the county
was remote and inaccessible… nature made Collier County a part of America’s last frontier.”
— DR. CHARLES TEBEAU, author of Florida’s Last Frontier: The History of Collier County
OH, WHAT A HISTORY IT HAS.
Dr. Tebeau, noted Florida historian and one of Florida’s 50 most influential people of the 20th century, believed that history was where you found it, and all history begins with local history. When we think of the history of Collier County it is important to note that the modern version of the city of Naples’ history began in the mid-1800s, as did her surrounding areas we now call Marco Island, Everglades City, and Immokalee. Collier County’s history has a definite beginning on May 8, 1923, when a portion of Lee County was parceled off to advertising tycoon Baron Gift Collier in exchange for completing a portion of the Tamiami Trail.
Since most residents and visitors are unaware of the boundaries of the city and county, much less its respective histories, each with its own unique characteristics and socio-political cultures, we will be exploring a series of articles in 2023 on This Land (and County) of Impossible Charm, the name given to the Town of Naples by Florence Henderson Price, granddaughter of the founder of Naples, Walter Haldeman. Won’t that be fun?
It is hard to imagine that this land of impossible charm was once America’s final frontier along with her sister townships. Marco Island, once called Collier City after Confederate General William Thomas Collier (no relation to our county’s namesake), is perhaps best known for the most important archaeological sites in the Southeastern United States, when in 1896, Frank Hamilton Cushing discovered the Calusa culture artifacts, including the infamous Marco Cat. Its clamming industry
was the underpinning of their local economy until the late 1940s.
Everglades City, which was originally named Everglade, was founded by George Washington Storter, the former valet of the Confederacy President, Jefferson Davis, who built the famous Rod and Gun Club. The name change came after the purchase by Mr. Collier.
The township of Immokalee (Seminole name meaning ‘my home’) also grew after the Civil War when many former Cow Calvary, both Confederate and Union soldiers, were sent to the area to round up scrub cattle for food during the war. They later returned to build the area into a productive cattle and farming community.
Naples, Marco, and Everglades City were connected by water while Immokalee, the highest elevation in the county, was connected to Everglades City via HWY 29, the area some say was the birthplace of Collier County. Eventually the entire county was connected when the Tamiami Trail was completed in 1928.
In honor of our home’s upcoming Centennial, the city of Naples 2022 Christmas Parade theme will pay tribute to 100 years of Christmas in Paradise. Each entry may pick their own period, theme, or story, which will no doubt showcase the magic in this place we call home and its unparalleled charm.