Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Flying Sheriff and Maynard Island

EDITORS NOTE: This article originally ran in Coastal Breeze News on December 17, 2010. It has been updated and revised by the author for this reprint.

Photos by the Coastal Breeze News.
| Collier County’s first Sheriff W.R. Maynard 1923-1928.


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 the town of Everglade—now 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 the Sheriff was out of town, word got out that three prisoners had escaped, so Blanch rounded up a posse and headed out combing the swamps for the convicts. Apparently, she was not able to find a babysitter, so she took her two-year-old son along as part of the expedition. In a little over 30 hours, she had the prisoners back in jail!

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

The Tamiami Trail was being built at this time and hundreds of construction workers were brought in to construct the trail, as well as numerous people hired to supply the 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 also handling the usual domestic disputes—in the first three months of his job he was reported to have made ten arrests. With Prohibition as a federal law, his principal job became battling bootleggers who were setting up moonshine operations and stills in remote locations throughout the Ten Thousand Islands. The Sheriff’s chief weapon for patrolling Collier County were his hound dogs.

Sheriff Maynard had been a former WW I fighter pilot with a record of successfully shooting down a German aircraft. 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; photos used to create the county’s first accurate maps. Before aerial photography, it was almost impossible to survey and map the County’s numerous mangrove islands, bays, inlets, estuaries, and remote lands. An accurate county map became a major project of Barron Collier’s chief engineer—David Graham Copeland—during his years as County Commissioner for Collier County. 

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 his purchase!

Maynard took the aerial shots taken from his plane, developed the black and white photos and assembled them into a large collage by piecing them together. In order to keep the scale of the map the same, he had to fly at a consistent altitude and shoot the photos straight down to avoid angled shots. His photo mosaic of 1926 of Marco Island was discovered by the Deltona Corporation in the U.S. government archives and reproduced by them. That map shows a scale of 1 inch equal to 2,000 feet illustrating the great accuracy obtained.

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 map of Collier County was so remarkable that it was reviewed in April of 1948 by John M. Goggins who stated: “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 marking the location of historic footpaths and trails used by Seminole Natives, 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 viewed today in the Marco Island History Museum. 

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 a location, in this case 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.


Craig Woodward moved to Marco Island in 1968 and has practiced law in Collier County since 1980.  For many years Craig has led a history tour of the Island for the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Marco program.  He also has a home in Everglades City and has a deep interest in local and Florida history. He has written a variety of interesting articles on Collier County history to provide ‘essential information’ for new and old residents alike.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *