Another article from our favorite historical author, Marion Tomblin.
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History of Lue Gim Gong
It is believed that citrus originated in China. Perhaps that explains Lue Gim Gong’s fascination with the fruit. For whatever reason, this Asian horticulturist, and former resident of nearby DeLand, is considered the “father” of Florida’s citrus industry.
Lue Gim Gong was born in a farming village near Canton, China, in 1859. Fascinated by an uncle’s tales of opportunity across the Pacific, 12-year-old Lue begged his father’s permission to emigrate to the United States. His father gave the lad a bolt of silk to sell once he arrived, and in 1872, Mr. Lue boarded a boat bound for California.
After four years in San Francisco, Mr. Gim Gong worked his way across the states to Adams, Mass., where he got a job at the C.T. Sampson shoe factory.
Like many of his coworkers, Lue was exposed to, and then converted to, Christianity. Fannie Burlingame, Lue Sunday school teacher, noticed her pupil’s proclivity for plants, so she hired him to tend her family’s greenhouses. While in Ms. Burlingame’s employ, Lue contracted tuberculosis.
Doctors were consulted, and the standard prescription was given: move to a warmer climate. Due to his conversion to Christianity, Lue was not allowed to return to China. Luckily, Ms. Burlingame and her sister owned property in Central Florida. In 1886, Lue arrived here to convalesce.
For the next 40 years, Lue experimented with cross-pollination. In 1911, his “Lue Gim Gong strain of ‘Valencia’ ” won the silver medal from the American Pomological Society – the first time that award was given to citrus. That strain of fruit is still sold in Florida, under the name “Valencia.”
Mr. Sampson was a donor to Stetson University, and Sampson Hall is named in his honor.
Day trip: Oakdale Cemetery, DeLand, to visit Lue Gim Gong’s gravesite. There is also a beautiful gazebo honoring his memory.
Marian Tomblin is the author of “The Mystery at Hotel Ormond,” “Where’s Capone’s Cash?” and “Manatee Moon,” all selected for community-wide literacy campaigns. Her latest book, “Bull on the Beach!,” is a compilation of historical anecdotes discovered while researching her novels.
Copies of Mrs. Tomblin’s books and others of local interest can be purchased at The Book Store and So Much More!, 410 S. Nova Road, Ormond Beach; (386) 615-8320.
Contact her at www.MarianSTomblin.com or at (386) 615-0493.