Naples Florida 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.

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