From time to time some of my friends in Goodland have provided me with historical materials, which they thought might be useful to me in writing my bi-weekly articles about Goodland. Debby Pappy and Stacia Kellet, kindly provided me with title abstracts to their properties which stand next to each other at the west end of Coconut Ave. That was what initially piqued my interest about what gave us Goodlanders the right to own the land on which we live. I have concluded that most if not all of our thanks should go to Andrew Jackson.
On April 2, 1513, Spanish Explorer, Juan Ponce de León, landed on Florida’s east coast and promptly claimed the land for Spain, naming it La Florida (Flowery) the flowers then being in bloom. Spain’s claim was uncontested until the 18th and 19th centuries, when both France and England also exerted periods of colonial rule over Florida. The War of 1812 brought things to a head leading to military incursions into the panhandle against the Seminole Indians, who had sided with England. After the war, the Seminoles continued raids into the state of Georgia, which led, in 1818, to the authorization for Major General Andrew Jackson to enter Florida to suppress the Seminole raids. Jackson ended up destroying villages, seizing Spanish settlements, and removing the Spanish governor from power, none of which were requested in his commission. Jackson’s unauthorized rampages ended in an 1819 treaty, which transferred control of Florida to the U.S. Jackson had single handedly wrested the sovereignty away from Spain and, as a fait accompli, handed it on a platter to the U.S. He was, of course, appointed as the first governor of the Florida Territory, which then included an extended panhandle, known as West Florida clear over to the Mississippi River. (In 1845, Florida was admitted as the 27th state.)
Consequently, Major General Jackson (in my opinion one of our greatest generals) appears as the first recorded owner of the Pappy and Kellet properties by ordinance (presidential fiat of President James Monroe) dated 1821. Goodland was located in St. John’s County then, Monroe County was carved from St John’s in 1883, Lee County was carved from Monroe in 1887, and Collier County was carved from Lee in 1923. It is kind of mind boggling to reflect that 6 nations, England, Spain, France, the U.S., and the Confederate States of America (never recognized by the U.S.) plus four Florida counties all have claimed jurisdiction over the land on which Goodland is perched.
Finally, in 1870 (the same year Bill Collier arrived on Marco Island), the settlers started to arrive in the person of John W. Roberts, who set up “squatter’s rights” on the 40-acre Calusa Indian shell mound, which he started to farm. He called it Goodland Point, because under the shell mound he found good farming soil. In 1885, Roberts decided to become the record owner of the land he was farming. But how was he to get good title to it, and from whom would he get it? It was a wilderness area in which no one had ever been interested. How was he to get good title to a piece of land no one had ever owned?
What happened next, set the tone for the hundreds of residents who followed Roberts, who as he did, had a vision for Goodland, and used their ingenuity and determination to bring it about. We have such people in Goodland today. Roberts didn’t fool around; he went right to the top, the top being the president of the United States. One can only guess at the battery of lawyers he employed or the politicians he had to visit to bring this about. In any case, on May 9, 1885, Roberts received a deed to the property he was farming, signed by President Grover Cleveland himself, then beginning his first term as the 22d President of the U.S.
The parcel, known as Lot 14 of section 18, Township 52 South, Range 27 East, charmingly described as “Beginning at a large rubber tree which stands 186 1/3 yards North (sic) from old landing (sic) on the North (sic) side of Goodland Point………” was thereafter conveyed in succession to William W. Walker, J.H Doxsee, S.M Pettit and his large family, Barron Collier and his equally large family, and a few others. There was quite a bit of contentiousness along the way until everyone seemed to be suing everyone else to determine who owned what. It was mainly the Collier clan who were doing most of the squabbling.
In 1963, Ted Curcie, the no nonsense owner and operator of Drop Anchor Trailer Court and a founder of the Goodland Civic Association, bought a portion of the property with the intent to develop it. He took the contesting parties to court and successfully quieted title on the portion he had bought. Curcie, who was by any definition an early and influential Goodland mover and shaker, then formed Goodland Inc., which subdivided the section on which the Kellet and Pappy properties exist, called it Goodland Isles, and commenced selling building lots along the entire length of Coconut Ave. and a portion of Goodland Dr. West.
A delightful aside: The Judge S.S. Jolley for whom the Marco Island Bridge is named, pops up in here also. He is Seward Stokly Jolley, the Collier County Judge who in 1950 took a whack at trying to straighten out all the conflicting claims on this tract. Why was he singled out for recognition by having Marco Island’s main bridge named after him? Probably because he served as judge from 1935 to 1959 and was likely the only judge which tiny Collier County could support during that period. The county had only 6,488 residents in 1950. The county seat was in Everglades City until 1962.
Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.