The Immokalee Chamber of Commerce strives to be the voice of the Immokalee Region, maintaining and strengthening Regional, National, and International relationships to develop a climate that fosters business, industry, agriculture, tourism and entrepreneurship.
Immokalee, Collier County’s largest non-coastal community, has long been associated with sprawling cattle ranches and a thriving agricultural economy. The region was originally occupied by the Calusa Indians and, centuries later, by the Seminoles, who set up temporary camps on the high prairie land during their seasonal hunting expeditions.
A colorful mix of hunters, trappers, cowmen, missionary, and Indian traders established the first permanent settlement in the area by 1873, and provided much of its early frontier character. William Allen showed up, fleeing from the hurricane of 1873 from Sanibel. From this permanent family, a new community began to grow. Some have names lost to us today; other descendants are still among us. The Carson’s settled in the area that carried their family name, Carson’s Gully. The Wilson’s moved to the north end of Lake Trafford. William Brown, the Indian Trader, moved his family to the new community, also. In 1897, the federal government acknowledged the community as “Allen’s Place”. Prior to this time it was known as Gopher Ridge. Gopher Ridge was so name by the Miccosukee Indians, for the abundance of tortoises in the area.
The 1900 census listed the name of Allen’s Place and acknowledged approximately 25 families on and around what is now known as Immokalee. The town changed its name from Allen’s Place to Immokalee in 1897, after a Seminole word meaning “My Home” or “His Home.” Like other people of those days, everyone was mostly self-sufficient. Hogs and chickens were raised to supplement beef. Everyone had a garden, and most families hunted and fished to help change the menu a bit. Sugarcane provided syrup, sugar, and molasses. Citrus trees were in the yard,and pineapples were raised out back. Pork was cured, and some turned into sausage.
Immokalee’s population grew slowly and in relative isolation, until 1921, when the Atlantic Coast Line Railway extended its service south from LaBelle, and opened a direct overland route to both trade and communication. Further improvement followed, as a result of Collier County’s creation in 1923, and Barron G. Collier’s combined efforts to provide a paved, north-south highway and railroad, from Immokalee to the county seat at Everglades City.
Over the next twenty years, Immokalee’s ranching and farming industries continued to move progressively forward, with lumber and oil production also becoming an important segment of the local economy.
Immokalee, and its residents, are now looking toward the future with renewed confidence and determination.
The community is coming together to make the most of important economic opportunities, such as a designation as an “Enterprise Zone” www.floridaenterprisezones.com, “Florida Tradeport” (www.floridatradeport.com), and a “Brownfield Area”.
Immokalee is, indeed, facing the future “Where Worlds of Opportunity Begin”.