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TRAILBLAZERS

By INEZ MAGILL 1984

In the forests dim, amid the glades
Beneath the palm trees verdant shades
Where dim the tropics lie,
A winding trail from coast to coast
Leads onward, where no traveler boasts
Or dares to make his way.

Yet on that trail, some years ago,
Where still no footprints time could show
A little bans went through;
In mighty mystery the glades,
Its treacherous bogs, its gloomy shades
Lay right across the trail.

They heeded not, the call was strong,
The way was rough, the trail was long
And to the world unknown.
Through forests dim, o’er prairies wide,
Through treacherous bogs by hammocks side
They blazed a trail to Miami.

Trail Blazers, we have heard the call,
The monarchs of the forest fall
Along the winding trail.
The moonlight falls in sylvan glory
Upon a pathway famed in story
Where fast the night is fading.

Now through the cold gray mists of morning,
The day upon the trail is dawning,
The night fogs lift away.
Seen through the mist a light is shining,
Falls on a highway slowly winding
Through forests deep and cool.

Behold, the trail, our trail of dreams,
Seen through the morning’s silver screens
Now slowly lifting upward.
A boulevard through gladelands winding
‘Neath tropic sun in splendor shining
Upon the trail, the Trail you made To Miami.

In the early nineteen- twenties, southern Florida was a mecca for many winter visitors from the north, as is also true of the present day. But there were no roads! One might reach Miami by rail down the east Coast., But Fort Myers, further down the west coast to the south had few roads , and what few they had were bad. If one were in Fort Myers and wanted to go to Miami, they must go north around Lake Okeechobee. So Citizens of the Fort Myers area were considering a road east from Naples , past Everglades City and across the impassable Everglades to Miami. To this end Captain Jaudon and Allen Andrews, with the help of Seminole Indian guides , had made a tour of inspection of the route of the proposed road in February 1919, with the approval of County Commissioners of Lee County and Fort Myers public, and all interested citizens.

They were accompanied by the County Engineer of Lee County. Preliminary surveys showed the only feasible route lay well to the south of the Everglades and directly west from Miami, there being less depth of muck, and rocks there lying near the surface and easily available for paving purposes.

Commissioners of Dade County became interested, and a bonding issue was carried for such a highway west to the Dade-Lee County line. A reciprocal arrangement was effected with Lee County to complete their part from the western end to the Lee-Dade County line. Because of ultimately connecting Tampa and Miami , the proposed road was called the Tamiami Trail.

But the world war intervened shortly thereafter, and there was a shortage of labor and other difficulties. There was also a shortage of funds, but Barron Collier interests (for whom Collier County was named) agreed to take over financing arrangements of Lee County at actual cost, but naturally insisted building of the trail along the original survey line through Lee and Dade Counties, contrary to the wishes of Monroe County , who wanted to link through that county.

To show that such a road was feasible, the Trail Blazers motorcade set out from Fort Myers on 1923, determined to reach Miami over the approximate route of the Tamiami Trail, to explore the intervening country, note obstacles encountered, log the distance across, and publish information gained.

Ten cars set out with the motorcade, nine lightweight “Tin Lizzies”, and one heavy Overland car; a party of men from 16 to 65, including two Seminole guides, as follows:

ANDREWS Allen Estero
ASSUMHATCHEE Big Cypress
AYER Maurice Fort Myers
CHAPIN Ora E Fort Myers
CHRISTENSEN Alfred Estero
CORNAPATCHEE Big Cypress
CORRIGAN C P Fort Myers
COSDEN J P St. Michael’s , MD
DUNHAM George W Fort Myers
GARMON F C Fort Myers
HACKNEY Grover Fort Myers
HANSON W Stanley Fort Myers
HILL J W Fort Myers
HOUGH E B Fort Myers
HUNT Charles H Estero
KAY Russell Tampa
LEWIS Frank Estero
PRIME George B Sarasota
SHAWCROSS Cyril Fort Myers
SMITH George Everglades City
TAYLOR Clark Fort Myers
THOMPSON Milton Fort Myers
WHITMAN Frank Tampa
WHITNEY L A St. Petersburg
VAN DUYL L J Fort Myers
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Copyright © 2002 - Updated: August 12, 2002 0:03 AM