Everglades Biographies

Barron Gift Collier

Born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 23, 1873, Barron G. Collier quit school at 16 and was a successful business owner at age 20. By the age of 26, he had amassed his first million by selling advertising card franchises to the nation's trolley, train and subway lines. Based in New York City, Collier's Consolidated Street Railway Advertising Company led the market in mass transit advertising with affiliates in over 70 American Cities, Canada, and Cuba. Collier married Juliet Gordon Carnes, a Memphis girl, in 1907. The couple had three sons who later carried on their father's empire.

In 1911, Barron Collier visited Useppa Island off the Fort Myers coast. He was immediately captivated by the region's subtropical landscapes, warm climate and golden sunshine. Over the next decade Collier accumulated over a million acres of of land in southwest Florida, making him the largest landowner in the state. His holdings stretched from the Ten Thousand Islands coastal area northward to Useppa Island and inland from what is now Naples into the Everglades and Big Cypress areas. He owned 90% of Marco Island.

Envisioning a vacation, agricultural and environmental paradise on Florida's last frontier, Barron Collier invested millions of dollars to transform and develop his untouched tracts of wilderness. He was instrumental in early efforts to drain the Everglades and he helped build the Tamiami Trail. When road construction on the western side of the Trail faced financial difficulties, Collier agreed to finish the highway on the condition that a new county be named in his honor. The Florida State Legislature obliged, creating Collier County on May 8, 1923, with Everglades (later Everglades City) as the County seat. Collier also established luxury hotels, resorts and exclusive fishing clubs in southwest Florida.

Barron Collier died on March 13, 1939, at the age of 66; he was Florida's largest landowner at the time of his death. In 1947, land that Collier had hoped to turn into a nature preserve was turned over to the state for management as a state park. Collier-Seminole State Park opened in 1947, offering visitors a glimpse of the natural, untamed beauty that had captivated the young advertising baron almost 100 years ago.

Biography prepared by Gail Clement, Florida International University


Barron G. Collier (right) and Florida Governor Cary A. Hardee (left) on Collier's yacht, 1924.

Photo courtesy of Florida Bureau of Archives & Records Management, Florida Photographic Collection

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