In 1860, Lue Gim Gong was born in China. He sailed to San Francisco when he was 12 at the suggestion of his uncle who came to visit. He worked his way across the country to North Adams MA where he worked in the Sampson shoe factory. Mr. Sampson was a Stetson University benefactor.
Lue Gim Gong was frail and became ill (perhaps TB) and the daughter of a local farmer, Miss Fanny Burlingame took him in and nursed him back to health. He became a Christian and a citizen of the US while under her care.
In 1884, he returned to China to see his mother, but returned to the US. The winters in MA were too much for Lue, and in 1886, he and Miss Fanny moved to DeLand, He and Miss Fanny's brother-in-law Mr. William Dumville planted oranges and other fruit trees. But the freezes of 1894 and 1895 killed most of the citrus trees in Florida, and Mr. Dumville also died about this time.
Fondest memory: Miss Fanny and her widowed sister Mrs. Cynthia Dumville returned to MA, and when Miss Fanny died in 1903, she left her property in FL to Lue. His only companions now were a rooster and his two horses Baby and Fannie. He broke a hip in an accident and walked with a crutch for the rest of his life.
In 1911, he produced a new orange which ripened in the early fall and was more resistant to cold. It received the Silver Wilder Medal for the USDA. He also developed a grapefruit that grew singly on the branch rather than in a clump. But he was not a good businessman, and friends kept having to pay his taxes to keep him from losing his property.
Lue Gim Gong died in 1925 and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in the southwest corner. The people planned to erect a bust to his memory, but due to the depression and intervening events, the bust was not done until 2000. This bust is now in a gazebo in the DeLand House garden
He is also the subject of one of the murals that have been painted in town, along with his rooster.
We did not visit Stetson University, but I found its history interesting.
Henry DeLand founded Florida’s first private university in 1883 as the DeLand Academy. But in 1885 there was a bad freeze. Due to the fact that DeLand made good on his promise to settlers that if they didn't like the area they could sell the land back to him within the first two years of settlement, he lost a quarter of a million dollars and could no longer support the DeLand Academy.
John Batterson Stetson of Stetson hat fame was one of the trustees of DeLand Academy and donated generously to it. At the request of Mr. DeLand it was renamed in 1889 to John B. Stetson University.
The main campus is a nationally designated National Historic District. On the main campus:
* College of Arts & Sciences
* School of Music
* School of Business Administration
* Graduate College
There are over 60 undergraduate majors and minors offered on the main campus.
Fondest memory: Historic DeLand Hall which opened October 13, 1884 is the oldest academic building on campus, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places both as a part of the District and as the oldest building in Florida in continuous use for higher education. It was restored to its original appearance for Stetson’s centennial in 1983. It cost Henry DeLand about $8,000 when it was built.
Designed by John P. Mace, an Ohio architect who was Lake Helen’s first mayor, this “Grand Old Lady of the Campus” is one of two Second Empire-style buildings on campus (also see Chaudoin Hall), and is considered one of the finest examples of this type of architecture in Florida. Three stories tall (two floors and an attic), it has the traditional cruciform floor plan and mansard roof with hip extension. Other distinctive features include: four gable dormers, with louvers and cloverleaf caps; a central pavilion with crested mansard roof; and decorative trusses and cloverleaf caps trimming wall dormers at the roof and entrance. Exterior walls are in wood clapboard: patterned wood shingles define the second floor.