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Barron Collier and the Boy Scouts

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The Boy Scouts of America are 100 years old this year. And their birthday is almost the same as mine in February. I guess that means that the scouts are Aquarius? (Joke.) But I am a few years younger than the BSA.

Until July 31st, there is an exhibit in the Collier County Museum of Barron Collier and his connection to Scouting.

I am an Eagle Scout myself, spend summers in college working at Camp La-no-che in the Ocala forest, a Vigil Honor member in the Order of the Arrow, and have my Woodbadge beads. So I have many years and fond memories from the scouts. It is like my larger family or a clan (Seminole thinking.) The troop I came from was really gung-ho, and has a strong tradition of outdoor camping. I am from the “River Rats,” Troop 625 in Maitland, Florida. (Seminole War connection: Maitland is one of the cities in Florida named after a Seminole War fort, Fort Maitland.)

One of the early influential leaders in scouting was Barron Gift Collier. Yep, the guy that Collier County, Florida, is named after. If you are not familiar with him, he was a contemporary with people that developed southwest Florida like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and other northerners who came down to southwest Florida and took advantage of the mild climate, fish, and spent lots of money. And like most of them, he made his own fortune after coming up with a few brilliant ideas. Collier’s idea was advertising on streetcars.

Below: President Franklin Roosevelt with Barron Collier. Collier wears his Silver Buffalo award around his neck. Collier was good friends with Roosevelt, although they totally disagreed with politics. This is my favorite photo from the exhibit because FDR is a distant cousin of mine.



To show the contrast between Roosevelt and Collier: Collier didn't want anything to do with the CCC, but was a big supporter of the scouts. One organization was government run, the other is private.

Collier did not stop with advertising for what he did. He was Police Commissioner of New York City, and developed Interpol, the international police intelligence agency. And every day you see Collier’s legacy right in front of you. He is also the guy who came up with the idea of the lines in the roadways. Those yellow or white solid and dashed lines in the roadway were his idea.

Collier came down to Florida and invested in citrus at Deep Lake, off what is now highway 29 north of Everglades City. He purchased Ussepa Island and built a mansion that still exists off the coast of Fort Myers. So when the state of Florida did not have the money to complete the monumental task of building the Tamiami Trail highway across the Everglades, they approached Barron Collier. And he got the job done. In exchange for investing and building the trail, he was given 1.4 million acres, what is now Collier and Hendry Counties.

The Tamiami Trail created the county. We would not be here without it.

As NYC Police Commissioner, Collier was also interested in the future of our youth, and a big supporter of scouting in the early days. He received the Silver Buffalo award, which is a national award issued by the national BSA council. Only a few hundred people have received this award.

Below is an original silver buffalo award, on loan by local scouter Don Craig.



Below: Scouts building a log cabin with Seminole Indians for the fair in Everglades City, when the Tamiami Trail first opened. The scout in back, standing up with the hammer, is Charles Collier, Jr. Not related to Barron Collier, but the Collier family who settled Marco Island and had a hotel and cannery. Collier City was named after the other Colliers, not the Barron. Collier City was swallowed up by Marco Island years ago.



Below: A scout troop in front of the Collier County courthouse, now town hall of Everglades City, 1926. Two years before the Tamiami Trail was completed.

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