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Coastal History

Spanish Fishing, Salt and Bureaucracy

Craig Woodward While most know that the Spanish discovered Florida and that the U.S. later purchased it from Spain, few know that for 20 years England owned and controlled the state, which they divided into East Florida (the peninsula) with its headquarters in St. Augustine, and West Florida (the panhandle) with its headquarters in Pensacola. These twenty years were a critical time for the U.S – from 1763 to 1783 – the years encompassing the American Revolution, a time when life might have been much easier if an ally like Spain and not England controlled the area south of ... Read More »

COLLIER COUNTY’S LARGEST DISASTER: Air tragedy at Hurricane pass

Craig Woodward During World War II, the U.S. Army Air Corps constructed training bases in Florida to try to fill the tremendous need for pilots and gunnery crews to fight in Europe. By the end of the war a total of 54 bases had been constructed with thousands of military men and women introduced to the Sunshine State for the first time. Buckingham Army Air Field, just east of Ft. Myers, opened in 1943 as home to the 2117th AAF Base Unit – a Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron. The air field was built for heavy bombers like the B-17, better ... Read More »

The Mystery of an 1890 Envelope Postmarked “Malco”

Craig Woodward  It was like an episode from PBS’s popular TV show – History Detectives, a local historical item with a large mystery behind it. The item: a very rare envelope with a most unique cancellation showing it was postmarked at Malco Florida and mailed in 1890 to a St. Clair Whitman of Cedar Keys, Florida. “Malco” was the official name of the first post office established on Marco Island October 20, 1888 at the request of Capt. W.D. “Bill” Collier (the builder of the Old Marco Inn). Capt. Collier, when asked why the name was “Malco,” said the post ... Read More »

The Headstone Project

Craig Woodward  I appreciate the many people who commented or called about the last article written about John Weeks and his family. One point that concerned readers was the comment that his wife, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Weeks Sawyer was buried in an unmarked grave at the Marco Cemetery. Clearly the wife of the first settler of Collier County, who moved here in 1862, deserves more recognition. Lizzie died in 1939 in the middle of the depression and although there were four generations of Weeks living on the Island at the time, the family was not affluent. However, her grave site is ... Read More »

Who was the first settler of present day Collier County?

By Craig Woodward Collier County’s First Permanent Settler – John J. Weeks Obviously, there were numerous Calusa, Seminole and other Indians who have lived here for centuries, so we need to narrow the question: who was the first permanent white settler of present times, “permanent” meaning someone whose family members still reside in Collier County. The answer is clearly John J. Weeks, who moved to what would later become Collier County in 1862. What brought him here? How did he make a living? Where did he live? If you read the last article published in this column regarding the incident at ... Read More »

The Maroons of Lostman’s Key & Capt. Jocelyn

By Craig Woodward If you are a frequent reader of this column you know that the last issue mentioned how Lostman’s Key and River were named. That information piqued my interest into researching this story and finding out more of the details. It turns out that the villain in the story was a notorious character in Southwest Florida around the late 1800s. Captain Jocelyn (also sometimes spelled Joselyn) was described in 1875 as having “fame in Florida rivaling that of the most bloodthirsty pirate of the China Seas.” While he claimed to be an Englishman from Plymouth, the locals believed ... Read More »

The origin of local place names

By Craig Woodward A few issues back I wrote an article about a former settlement known as “Grocery Place,” now located in Collier Seminole State Park, and pondered about how this name came to be given to such a remote location considering it was never a place to get groceries! As it turns out, persistence paid off, as a series of four articles written in January of 1927 for The Koreshan Unity’s newspaper “The American Eagle,” published in Estero, provided the answer: Grocery and Sugar Bays, at the entrance to Palm River, were “named by a mishap to the supplies of ... Read More »

William R. Maynard, the rest of the story…

COLLIER COUNTY’S FIRST SHERIFF By Craig Woodward It was a case of history repeating itself and, frankly, sort of surreal:flying 2,000 feet over Marco Island with Wayne Riley Maynard taking aerial photos out of the pilot’s window as his son and co-pilot, Ryan, flew the single engine Cessna we were in, a repeat of what had occurred exactly 85 years earlier when their respective Grandfather and Great Grandfather, the first Sheriff of Collier County, William Riley Maynard, also flew a single engine plane, shooting the first ever aerial photos of Marco Island in 1926! I had written my December 2010 ... Read More »

Are You REALLY a Marco Old Timer? Conclusion

By Craig Woodward Time to announce the BIG WINNERS…. Drum roll…… and they are…… (in no particular order): Roy Bartlett, Lou Woessner, Tara O’Neill, Diane Chestnut and Roy Radlovacki!! We gave up trying to select Grand, First, Second, and Third place winners as everyone was coming in so close on scores. So, the major gifts, certificates from Bistro Soleil, The Blue Heron, Café de Marco and DaVinci’s were supplied by Coastal Breeze News and were randomly given out to these winners. Further prizes of Marco Movie tickets, the Chamber’s Marco History Books, etc. were given out to many other winners. ... Read More »

Are you a “Marco Old Timer”?

By Craig Woodward We want to thank everyone who has submitted their answers to the “Are you a Marco old-timer quiz” by the March 25th deadline. The Coastal Breeze staff is currently reviewing them and will be announcing the winners in our next issue – so be sure to look for that issue. Meanwhile, I know from all of your comments, that many of you enjoyed this tour through the “old days,” recalling memories of Marco’s past that not many current residents know of or have even heard of. The work that went into compiling the questions and the photos was ... Read More »

Are you a “Marco Old Timer”? FINAL QUIZ! – PART 3

By Craig Woodward This is your last chance to take this professionally and scientifically developed test to see if you are an “Authentic Marco Old Timer” or a simple “Wannabe.” You need to combine your scores on Parts 1 & 2 & Part 3 (below) so you have a total of 75 questions answered, complete the form at the end of this quiz and submit everything by March 25, 2011 to Coastal Breeze by either mail to 310 Royal Palm Drive, Marco Island 34145 or by hand delivery to their offices Mon-Wed-Fri 9-12 or call 393-4991 for the hours they ... Read More »

Are you a “Marco Old Timer”?

By Craig Woodward Hope you did well on Part One! Now take Part Two to pick up points to find out if you are really an “Authentic Old Timer” or just a “Wannabe.” Remember you take the test at your own risk, understanding that it might bring back a flood of nostalgia. If you are Newbie, please take the Quiz to learn more, someday you may be anointed as an “Authentic Old Timer.” (See Part One at Coastalbreezenews. com – under Coastal History) SIMPLE RULES: Grade yourself 1 point for YES on an “Old Timer” question and an additional 1 ... Read More »

Are you a “Marco Old Timer”?

By Craig Woodward How many times have you been at a party to hear someone telling everyone they moved to Marco in 2003 (or so) and are a “know it all.” This test has been both professionally and scientifically developed to sort thru the “Wannabes” and find the “Authentic Old Timers.” Take the test at your own risk. WARNING: it may bring back old memories and a flood of nostalgia. If you are new to the Island, not to fear, you can take the Quiz to learn more so you can someday be anointed as an “Authentic Old Timer.” SIMPLE ... Read More »

Biking the Picayune and Fakahatchee Strands

by Craig Woodward Last Saturday morning, Matt Walthour, from Island Bike Shop joined me and we biked along with 21 members of the Naples Mid-Day Optimist Club from Naples to Everglades City. The club had done the same ride last year, and the enthusiasm to see the incredible scenery so close to Naples had spread, resulting in ten more riders this year. We left from Sabal Palm Drive off of SR 951 (just north of Verona Walk) and biked east about 4. miles, turning to the left on a meandering road that was in very poor shape. We continued through ... Read More »

A Reflection on the Year 2010

by Craig Woodward The year 2010 is now concluded, and as one looks back, it is sad to reflect on the incredible loss of so many of Marco’s leaders, community and business titans. We are closing not only another decade, but also closing a chapter on Marco’s recent history, and it leaves one to wonder if the large void left by these larger-than-life leaders can really be adequately filled? Looking back, we review a group of citizens who left a legacy here, each in their own way, making our island a better place to live. The most recent to pass, ... Read More »

The Flying Sheriff and Maynard Island

by Craig Woodward In July of 1923 the Florida Legislature carved Collier County out of Lee County as its own County. Appointed by the Legislature were the five officers required by the Florida Constitution to operate each county – the Clerk of Court, Supervisor of Elections, Tax Assessor, Tax Collector and the Sheriff. Handpicked for the job of Sheriff by Barron G. Collier (the county’s namesake) was William Riley (“Clyde”) Maynard. He and the other constitutional officers set up their offices in Everglades City, the new county seat. Maynard’s job was to patrol the largest county east of the Mississippi ... Read More »

Southwest Florida Cable News Flash

See under Coastal History if you missed Part 1 of this story on the installation of the submerged cable to Key West. The successful installation of the Trans-Atlantic cable in 1866 started the first revolution in telecommunications worldwide; submerged cables sunk through the seas and telegraph lines installed over land allowed residents of civilized countries to be only a “few clicks away” and, for the first time in human history, information was transmitted almost instantaneously. After the installation in 1867 of submerged cables from Ft. Myers to Key West and Key West to Cuba, there was regular direct communication ... Read More »

The submerged cable to Key West

Our local Collier County history normally starts with: W.T. Collier and his family traveling by schooner down the coast, settling on Marco Island in 1870, finding four black squatters on the Island and paying their way to Ft. Myers. In addition Collier reported finding no white person living between Punta Rassa (the point of land that is now the east side of the Sanibel Island causeway) and Marco. John Weeks near Chokoloskee was said to be the only person living at that time between Marco Island and Key West. The above description is typically provided to show how isolated Southwest ... Read More »

“Grocery Place” – the remote pioneer settlement located between Royal Palm Hammock and Goodland

It is difficult to believe, as one travels by boat through our local mangrove islands, that many years ago almost every high piece of ground in the Ten Thousand Islands was inhabited by early pioneers who chose to settle on property that had once been inhabited by the Calusa Indians.  As we traveled down the Blackwater River through Palm Bay (formerly known as Grocery Bay) and then headed up Royal Palm Hammock Creek, it seemed unreal that this extremely remote location would be where people might choose to live. But, as we approached Grocery Place, we could clearly spot the ... Read More »

The Next Hurricane

This is a continuation of a series on the history of hurricanes in our area.If you missed part you can find it online at under Tales told Twice archives. The “Greatest Storms on Earth” – Part VIII If you are the least bit superstitious, then 2010 is not a good year. Not only is it the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Wilma, which was the last hurricane to make landfall in Collier County; but also it is the fiftieth anniversary of Hurricane Donna, whose impact in a lightly populated Collier County is still legendary. In addition, 2010 is also the ... Read More »