In the last scene of the MGM film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale wakes up in her bed to find herself surrounded by her family. She looks around to see the faces of the people she loves and says, “there’s no place like home”. Melissa Holbrook in, The Place You Love is Gone: Progress Hits Home, touches the heart for anyone who has ridden around their childhood neighborhoods and knew each house, tree, corner store or roads and hills which form the memories of place – memories of home. So, how do new residents connect to their “new home” – a place where they don’t know about vanishing landscapes or the people who created the magic in this place, we call home? One way is through learning local history.
“Good morning. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to learn about the local history of your new home. As always, should you or any member of your family be caught enjoying one of Collier’s five history museums, Palm Cottage, or the Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center, I will not disavow
knowledge of your actions. This magazine will not self-destruct and will hopefully be on your coffee table for a long time.” (Cue Mission Impossible music.)
Countdown to May 8
When Florida was established in 1845, Collier County was part of Monroe County, and by 1887, it became part of the newly formed Lee County. Barron G. Collier took a keen interest in Florida’s ‘final frontier’ and its impending Tamiami Trail, and by early 1923, he had accumulated over one million acres of land in
south Lee. When Lee County ran out of funds to complete their portion of the Trail, Mr. Collier offered to fund the construction which was to run through the swamps of the Everglades in exchange for a new county to be formed and named in his honor.
On May 8, 1923, Collier County was officially partitioned from Lee County by the Florida State Legislature. Collier County will be celebrating its 100th anniversary throughout 2023 with programs and events observing this historic milestone.
The Commissioners invite all organizations to participate by displaying the Collier Centennial Emblem on their website, marketing materials, signage, merchandise, and even create their own special event which can be placed on their Centennial calendar. (For more details go to Collier100.com.)
One organization has already stepped up to the challenge, our Collier County Sheriff ’s Office. Check out their webpage on colliersheriff.org/centennial or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
100 Years of Safety and Service
Just as the Wild West sparked a need for powerful and unique personalities to control crime — think Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson — so too did Southwest Florida. But it wasn’t until 1923, when Collier County was formed, that our unique personalities came forth in an official capacity.
Collier County has had seven sheriffs, beginning with Capt. W.R. Maynard, who was sworn to duty in 1923.
Louis J. Thorp, noted for his bullwhip expertise, became our second sheriff when Sheriff Maynard resigned in 1928. Sheriff Thorp served until his death in 1954 and Chief Roy Atkins was appointed to fill the spot until E.A Doug Hendry was elected in 1956.
During Sheriff Thorp’s time, the Southwest Mounted Police was created after the completion of the Tamiami Trail. Their job was to secure the area from Everglades City to Miami on their Harley Davidsons. We now refer to them as Collier County sheriff ’s deputies.
Sheriff Hendry hired a young man to work in the Everglades jail. The sheriff had known Aubrey Rogers from years spent at the Fort Myers Police Department. Mr. Rogers soon earned the sheriff ’s trust and became his chief deputy. He replaced Sheriff Hendry when the sheriff resigned due to family matters.
Sheriff Rogers served until his retirement in 1989 and was succeeded by Sheriff Don Hunter, who served from 1988-2008. Our current sheriff, Kevin J. Rambosk, was elected in August 2008.
The Legacy Continues
In September 2022, Collier County School District’s new high school in North Naples was named Aubrey Rogers High School after former Collier County Sheriff Aubrey Rogers, who established the office’s Youth Relations Program in 1977. The program introduced the concept of putting deputies in schools.
The school’s mascot is the Patriots, which aligns with Rogers’ service in the United States Army.