Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Flying Sheriff and Maynard Island

Collier County’s first Sheriff W.R. Maynard 1923-1928. Submitted photos

Collier County’s first Sheriff W.R. Maynard 1923-1928. Submitted photos

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 River, and he worked along with his chief deputy, his wife Blanch. Once, when he was out of town and word got out that three prisoners had escaped, Blanch rounded up a posse and headed out combing the swamps for the convicts. Apparently she could not find a baby sitter, so she took along her two year-old son as part of the expedition! In a little over 30 hours she had them back in jail.

The Tamiami Trail was being built during this time and hundreds of construction workers were brought in to construct the trail, as well as numerous people who hired to supply those workers with meals, supplies, and keep the dredges and equipment working. Sheriff Maynard was in charge of keeping order over this growing frontier county as well as handling the usual domestic disputes (in the first three months of his job he was reported to have made ten arrests), but his major job became battling bootleggers who were setting up their moonshine operations and stills in remote locations throughout the Ten Thousand Islands. The Sheriff’s chief weapon for patrolling the county were his hound dogs.

Sheriff Maynard had been a former WW I fighter pilot who had successfully shot down a German aircraft and his flying skills may have been one of the key reasons that he was chosen by Barron Collier to be the county’s first sheriff. Before becoming Sheriff and during his five year tenure, Maynard and his assistant took photos of Southwest Florida from an airplane Barron Collier rented for them which was used to create the county’s first accurate maps. Before aerial photography, it was almost impossible to survey and map all of the mangrove islands, numerous bays, inlets, estuaries, etc. An accurate county map was a major project of Barron Collier’s chief engineer – David Graham Copeland – during his service

“1926 photo mosaic of Marco Island - scale of 1 inch equal to 2,000 feet”.

“1926 photo mosaic of Marco Island – scale of 1 inch equal to 2,000 feet”.

on the Collier County Commission. Obviously, it was also a key goal of Barron Collier since he owned the vast majority of the county (over 75% of it), much of which was unmapped at the time of purchase!

Maynard took the shots taken from his plane, developed the black and white photos and assembled them into a collage by putting them together. In order to keep the scale the same, he had to fly at a consistent altitude and the photos had to be shot straight down avoiding any angled shots. His photo mosaic of 1926 of Marco Island was discovered by the Deltona Corporation and reproduced by them showing a scale of 1 inch equal to 2,000 feet illustrating the accuracy.

These aerial photos and others were used by Copeland to create large official maps of the entire County, which were first published in April of 1947 and printed on canvas. The Copeland County map was so remarkable that it was reviewed in April of 1948 by John M. Goggins who said: “It is the writer’s opinion that no single Florida map of any period can approach this one in either interest or factual value. Both Mr. Copeland and the other officials of Collier County are to be commended for this excellent work. It is a worthy goal towards which other counties can aim.” The map is remarkable as it shows the vegetation of the county with symbols for mangroves, cypress, pineland, saw grass, etc., as well as the historic footpaths and trails used by Seminole Indians, the railroads and roads (even those abandoned), locations of oil wells, U.S. forts during the Seminole wars, and much more. Fortunately, an original of this large canvas map (4 ½ feet high by 6 ½ feet wide) was donated to the Marco Island Historical Society by local engineer and author Todd T. Turrell, and can be seen in the Rose History Auditorium on Marco.

In a like fashion to other early surveyors and mappers before him, i.e. John Henderson (Henderson Creek), and Bernard Roman (Cape Romano), Sheriff  W.R. “Clyde” Maynard also had an island named for him – “Maynard Island”– which today contains some of the largest homes and most valuable real estate on Marco Island. Development brings many changes and one of those was to change the name of Maynard Island, which was renamed by the Deltona Corporation, to be the well known “Caxambas Island” in the estates area of Marco Island bordering Caxambas Pass.

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