Marco Island's History

In the mid 1500s, when Spain was exploring most of Florida, the Spaniards stumbled upon a large island which contained two cool artisan springs located near what is now known as Caxambas Pass. The island became a favorite place to fill casks with fresh water for their return trip to Spain.

It eventually became known to all future sailors as La Isla de San Marco (the island of Saint Mark), named for Saint Mark, the Christian evangelist and traditional author of the second gospel in the bible. As the years went by, the site became known as San Marco Island (Saint Mark's island) and finally, just Marco Island.

It is believed that at least 2,000 years before Christ, the ancestors of the fierce, warlike Calusa Indians inhabited this remote island. Calusas were thought to be seven feet tall sporting three-foot high ceremonial headgear thus contributing to their fierce appearance. Evidence of their existence was first discovered in 1895 when Captain Bill Collier, son of Marco's founder. W.T. Collier, was digging on his property known then as Key Marco. Today, this area is called Old Marco and was the site of one of the most successful archeological digs in North America.

In 1870, W.T. Collier brought his wife and nine children to Marco Island. In 1896, his son, William D. "Captain Bill" Collier opened a 20 room hotel that is known today as the Olde Marco Inn and registered as an historical landmark.

Barron G. Collier (no relation to W.T. Collier) purchased most of Marco Island in 1922. With the onset of rail service (the Atlantic Coast Line) to Marco Island in 1927 plans to develop Marco Island were in process. However, the depression put a damper on development and it wasn't until 1964, when Deltona Corporation, led by the Mackle brothers, put modern Marco on the map.

Marco Island is the largest of the Ten Thousand Islands, measuring 24 square miles. Due to the influence of the Calusa Indians and their propense toward shell mounding, the highest elevation in S.W. Florida is right here on Marco - at Indian Hill, which is 51 feet above sea level.


One of the artifacts from the Calusas found is the famous Key Marco Cat in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. This small wooden carving was discovered in 1896 by Dr. Frank Cushing on the property owned by Captain Bill Collier.

Calusa Cat found on Marco Island

back to Marco Islands Home Page

last updated May 20, 2005