William Thomas Collier was born on March 12th, 1815 at Franklin County Tennessee. He attended school through the age of 16 before quitting to begin work in a carriage manufacturing company. He next tried his hand as a millwright, planning and building mills and making a name for himself in north Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. He married Barbara Elizabeth Hedick on April 5th, 1849. His work required the family to move quite frequently. They were living in Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida when the Civil War broke out. When he enlisted, Mr. Collier sold his property and moved the family to his wife’s family home in Hernando County.
He was was mustered into service of the state of Florida as a Private on July 20th, 1861 with Captain James P. McMullen’s Company for three month’s service. The company was stationed at Clearwater until their term of service expired on October 20th, 1861. He was mustered into Confederate service on May 14th, 1862 when was enlisted as a Private in Captain Smith’s Company (Key West Avengers), 7th Regiment Florida Infantry by Major R. B. Thomas at Tampa, Florida for a period of 3 years. He is reported present for the period May and June 1862 and due $50 bounty and clothing money. He was promoted from the ranks to 5th Sergeant on August 8th, 1862 ( likely as a result of the vacancies resulting from the numerous non-commissioned officer transfers to the C.S. Navy on August 5th). is is reported absent on the Company Muster Roll for the period April 30th through November 14th, 1862, being captured at Lawrenceburgh, Kentucky about October 12th, 1862. He was reported as being discharged due to diagnosis of phthisis pulmonalis [ref and wikilin - “TB”] under Surgeon’s Certificate issued on November 12th, 1862 at Knoxville, Tennessee. On this certificate, he is described as being 5’ 10” high, fair complexion, blue eyes, dark hair, and by occupation an engineer when enlisted.
After the war, he relocated the family to Hatchet Creek, near Gainesville. Unhappy with his workers at the mill, Mr. Collier heard of a man in Savannah who might be able to assist him in hiring other workers. It was here in Georgia that Mr. Collier was shanghaied — knocked unconscious and picked of his watch, gold pencil and $100 cash. He awoke and found himself in the hold of a ship destined for the Bahamas, where he was dumped. Though penniless, he was able to take passage on a ship bound for the coastal town of Veracruz in central Mexico. From there, he boarded a small schooner and sailed to Galveston, Texas. And from there, Collier made his way back to his family at Hatchett Creek. in 1870, Collier and his family in their two-masted schooner, the Robert E. Lee, for the state's southwest coast from coastal northeast Florida. After briefly staying in the Fort Myers area, the family moved south, settling on Marco Island. Collier was 55 years old when he arrived on the northern end of the island. Collier was 55 years old when he arrived on the northern end of the island; the only people they encountered were four Negro squatters. Mr. Collier eventually purchased their land claims and also paid for their passage to Fort Myers. The Collier’s first home, built within three months of their landing, burned down. The family’s second home, a palmetto shack, was destroyed in a hurricane. Their third home survived, and times became more prosperous. They grew crops, especially cabbage sold in Key West. One haul went for $10,000, another for $12,000. For three decades, William T. Collier survived the cough that his caused his discharge from military service. Collier and his wife had three more children, bringing the total to 12. He saw his sons build a 20-room hotel and a general store, which started attracting tourists. He died on October 30th, 1902 at the age of 87.