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The Life of Lue Gim Gong

Lue Gim Gong was born in 1860 in Canton, China, where his parents were farmers. In 1872 his uncle came from San Francisco to visit the family and suggested Lue come to the United States.

Just a lad of 12, he sailed to San Francisco with several older boys. He worked his way across the country to North Adams, Massachusetts, where he found employment at the C.T. Sampson shoe factory (Mr. Sampson was a donor to Stetson University and Sampson Hall is named in his honor).

Miss Fannie Burlingame, daughter of a prosperous farmer and merchant, met Lue at her Sunday school class. He was very frail and when he became ill (probably tuberculosis), Miss Fanny took him into her home and nursed him back to health. Under her care, he became a Christian and a citizen of the United States.

Lue longed to see his mother and, in 1884, he returned to China but after a short visit he returned to his country.

The winters in Massachusetts were too harsh for Lue and, in 1886, he moved with Miss Fanny to DeLand where she had property next to her sister, Cynthia, and Cynthia's husband, William Dumville.

For several years Lue and Mr. Dumville planted orange trees and other fruits. In December of 1894 and February of 1895, Florida suffered the worst freezes in recorded history. Ninety-five percent of the citrus groves in Florida were lost, including Lue's grove. Mr. Dumville died about this time, also, and his wife returned permanently to North Adams. Lue continued his work alone. Mother Fannie, as Lue called her, returned regularly to the North but she always watched over Lue until she died in 1903. Fannie and her sister left Lue the property in DeLand and $10,000 but, still, her death devastated him for now he had no one to take care of him.

Lue's only companions now were a rooster and his two horses, "Baby" and "Fannie." He broke his hip in an accident and walked with a crutch for the remainder of his life. Nevertheless, he spent all his time experimenting and developing his groves.

In 1911, as one of his outstanding accomplishments, he cross-pollinated a "Hart's Late" with a "Mediterranean Sweet" and produced a new orange, the "Lue Gim Gong" which ripened in early fall and was more resistant to cold. It was propagated by Mr. George Tabor of the Glen St. Mary's Nursery. As a result the nursery received a Silver Wilder Medal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the first time such an award was made for citrus.

Lue also developed a grapefruit that grew singly on the branch rather than in a clump, an aromatic grapefruit that had little juice but smelled wonderful. He also propagated roses and other flowers and fruits. He claimed to have a cure for skin cancer.

Lue was not adept at business and friends had to pay his taxes to keep him from losing his property. He was a devout Christian, however, and many people attended the prayer services he held on Sundays in a little gazebo behind his home.

Lue Gim Gong died in 1925 and was buried in Oakdale Cemetery. The people of DeLand who knew of his work and were so impressed by it planned to erect a bust in his memory but the depression began and the project was forgotten. It has taken seventy-four years to fittingly honor Lue, "The Citrus Wizard."

Lue lived by a proverb we all should adopt:

"NO ONE SHOULD LIVE IN THIS WORLD FOR HIMSELF ALONE, BUT TO DO GOOD FOR THOSE WHO COME AFTER HIM."

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West Volusia Historical Society, Inc.

Henry A. DeLand House Museum
Robert M. Conrad
Educational Research Center
Lue Gim Gong Memorial Garden
137 W. Michigan Avenue
DeLand, Florida 32720
Phone or Fax: 386/740-6813
www.delandhouse.com
e-mail: delandhouse@msn.com

Visiting Hours
Tuesday through Saturday
Docent led tours.
12 noon till 3:00 p.m.

Last tour begins at 3:00 p.m.
Group tours by appointment

Conrad Educational & Research Center Building
Tuesday Through Saturday
12 noon till 4:00 p.m.

Closed Sunday and Monday

 

 

 

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