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History

Speed Menefee (Naples first mayor) on left with Aldman (guide) standing in shallow fishing boat "Elisabeth". Fishing pole and large fish thrown over front of boat. Naples, c. 1910

Collier County was one of a dozen new counties created by the Florida land boom of the 1920s. It is the state’s 62nd county and the third largest in total land area.

Vacationers and new residents alike are often surprised to discover that Collier County’s rich and colorful past actually stretches back many 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, sprawling cattle ranches 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 and unlocked the area’s enormous agricultural and resort potential. Florida’s first commercial oil well was drilled here in 1943, and the County’s 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, construction and real estate have made Collier County one of the fastest growing areas in the United States, and a pacesetter in defining Southwest Florida’s new lifestyle.

Many of Collier County's place names are rooted in the past or still retain their original Seminole names.

Chokolskee
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." 

All text and most photographs courtesy Collier County Museum. Any use of this information without written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. Copyright 2002 - 2017 ExploreNaples.com.
 
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