September 7, 2007

About Collier County Founder Barron Gift Collier

Collier County was named after Barron Gift Collier. Well who was Barron Gift Collier?

Barron Collier was a pioneering entrepreneur who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. He dropped out of school and began working for the Illinois Central Railroad at age 16.

Some of the highlights of his accomplished career are:

  • Barron Collier acquired the patent for using gasoline for street lamps that made lamps brighter and wangled a franchise from the city of Memphis for street lighting.

  • Barron Collier also gained advertising experience working with an uncle on a Memphis newspaper, and then acquired a half-interest in a small print shop.

  • Barron Collier pioneered advertising placards for the horse-drawn streetcars, an innovation, which was to make his fortune. This successful business expanded as a franchise to many other states in short order.

  • Barron Collier set up a company for streetcar ads there, and eventually owned the franchises for such business in most American cities. If you recall ever reading these cards on some boring streetcar or bus ride, chances are the Collier companies placed them there.

  • Barron Collier was invited to Florida in 1911 by John Roach, head of the Chicago State Railway Company, to visit his home in Useppa Island, a small island north northwest of Ft. Myers. Barron Collier was so intrigued with the place that bought the whole package for $100,000, and it became his winter home until 1926, when he moved to Florida permanently.

  • Quietly Barron Collier purchased up just over a million acres in Lee and he hoped to develop the land by improving transportation.

  • Collier convinced the state legislature to create a new county called Collier in exchange he promised to finish the Tamiami Trail. Collier County was officially established on July 8, 1923, with the Everglades (now Everglades City) as the county seat. This designation remained in effect until after Hurricane Donna, when the seat of government was transferred to Naples.

  • Barron Collier owned all the area newspapers: Collier County News, Fort Myers Tropic and the Fort Myers Press and a string of hotels among his many business enterprises.
    Of international importance, he founded the international organization of law enforcement agencies which today are known as Interpol.

  • The Tamiami Trail was completed in 1926 with some state and local help, but owing largely to Collier’s determination and financial backing.

A man of tremendous energy, Barron Collier was also instrumental in the national Boy Scout movement. He served as Special Deputy Commissioner for Public Safety in New York, and is credited with the introduction of white and yellow traffic divider lines on highways. Barron Collier died in 1939, the state's largest landowner, at the age of 66, too soon to see his unshakable dream for Collier County fulfilled.

The tomorrow of Florida is dawning," he wrote in 1925. "In its soft light we see the forms of men literally hurling back the wilderness, draining large tracts, building homes, planting great gardens and orchards. Soon will come the blaze of the full mid-day. Picture, if you can, the scene as it will be then!"

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