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Like so many others, the namesake of Collier County first came to Florida on vacation.

Barron Gift Collier (born March 23, 1873) was originally from Memphis, Tennessee. His fortune came from advertising. What started as a small business in Memphis that printed and sold ads in streetcars quickly expanded into other cities, and eventually became the largest advertising company in the world with its headquarters in New York City.

In the early 1900s, Collier signed an advertising deal with a streetcar company in Chicago. Its owner, John Roach, invited Collier to vacation on Useppa Island. Roach had bought the island years earlier and had built an inn to accommodate his friends and other adventurers who come to fish the nearby waters for tarpon.

South Florida was largely swampy wilderness at the time. But Collier didn’t just enjoy his time on Useppa; he saw business potential. In 1911, he bought the island from Roach for $100,000. He turned the inn into a luxury resort, expanded the hotel and added a golf course and tennis courts. And, like so many others, that vacation became permanent. He moved to Florida, and he bought some more land. By 1924, he owned more than 1 million acres and helped guide Southwest Florida to become what it is today.

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