Clipped From News-Press
Twice Upon A Time Luckey By BETTY HAWKINS Lack of transportation was no hindrance to a sturdy Irish lass and her young brother when in 1861, orphaned by the death of both parents, they left home in Texas to join their father's countrymen hundreds of miles away. No other means of travel available, Anne Luckey and 15 year-old Samuel took to the road with only necessary belongings in a knapsack and journeyed across four states on foot to their destination in Georgia. Shortly after being united with friends, the Civil War erupted and Sam enlisted in the Confederacy. Living up to the connotation of his surname the six foot-two, broad shouldered boy survived four years of battle without injury, and grown to manhood set out to seek his fortune. At Savannah he worked until he had money enough to buy a boat, married a pretty southern belle and soon after sailed down the coast to Florida. Reaching the mouth of the St. Johns River he followed its tributaries to Orlando where with the not so fabled luck of the Irish he was commissioned to establish a sawmill for the government and made his home base. Everything Sam touched, like Midas, turned into gold and in time one of the wealthiest men in the region, he built the first hotel in Orlando and sent for Anne to help run the housekeeping end of the inn. His wife bore him five children, William, Josephine, Clifford, Samuel and Nellie, who were" his pride and joy. When the eldest was six and ready for schooling which was non-existent, he sent for a private tutor, a widow with three children of her own. Differences ' of opinion and personalities eventually caused the Luckeys' marriage to dissolve and a lonely man, Sam was attracted to the woman who had been teacher and governess. After their marriage, Luckey got homestead fever and selling the hotel located a 160 acre claim at Fisheating Creek. For a while he ran cattle and raised live stock, then still beset by wanderlust was on the move again. He bought an "Island" in the cypress swamp near the Indian Reservation and contented himself with just hunting and trapping as he had ample reserve funds. The rustic life, however, did not appeal to his spouse and she accepted a teaching position In Fort Myers. On his own, Sam indulged his wim for frequent change and moved to 80 acres he purchased at Corkscrew. Loneliness finally caught up with him and wanting to be nearer civilization he bought 80 acres on the south side of the river at Alva in the late 1890's. Sam had a penchant for big houses and- although he was alone much of the time since his wife continued her teaching career, he built a roomy two-story dwelling. How- Family Had t 'Ik- I r . - - - - - iLL&r. i m, SAM LUCKEY'S SON, CLIFFORD ... At Corkscrew Marsh In 1918 ever, his children came at intervals for visits with him. William married Flossie Blount and made his home in LaBelle, Josephine became the wife of Radford Blount and the youngest, Nellie, married William N. Golden. Clifford and Samuel went off to Spanish-American War and returning home after the brief fray, the former wed a young widow, Susie Lewis Tillis. Samuel married Anna Christian, moved to LaBelle, raised cattle and later was prominent as a builder-realtor. Self-sufficient by the time he was 16, Clifford, born in 1880, had been working for Dr. Franklin Miles. Versatile in his abilities, after marriage he not only farmed, raised stock and trapped, but traded in real estate and acted as guide for sportsmen. As a consequence he furnished a good living for his growing family, Irene, Jesse, Cassie, Eloise and Oby as well as Susie's children by her former husband. They were one big, happy family until childhood diseases deprived them of the three Tillis boys and their own infant, Neoma. After some years, Sam Luckey sold his Alva property and came to Fort Myers where he had acquired the River-view Hotel. He bought a city block bordered by Dora and Jackson Street, built another substantial house and started a poultry and hog ranch. A buddy of Thomas Edison, he was gifted with so many rare plants from the inventor's estate that he set aside a portion of ground for a picturesque tropical garden to which he kept adding other unusual specimens from his friend, Fairchild of Miami. A colorful, unforgettable character, Sam was generous Stamina 4 and Courage, Too to a fault, but often obstreperous was mostly admired for his handsome appearance and few persons saw the kindness beneath his gruff exterior. Early in 1926, at the age of 80, virile Sam Luckey died in the big home he then shared with his grandson, William Golden, and the latter's wife, Dora, a native of Camilla, Ga. During his final weeks Sam reminisced over the past and he and Dora exchanged stories handed down from her grandfather, Obadiah Powell, who came from England, explored America from Oregon to Georgia and raised 15 children along the way. Filled with strength almost to the last, Sam Luckey was proud of the sturdy stock from which he had sprung and repeated often, "Only the strong survive the weak just die." Even more durable than he, however, was his sister-in-law who lived to be 106. The Goldens and their little daughter, Willie Dora, left Fort Myers after Sam's death and settled in Moultrie, Ga. They had three more children, Vivian Grace, who lived only five years, Margaret and Richard, then William died. Sam had bequeathed her husband considerable property and Dora returned to Fort Myers with the idea of disposing of it, but the country in the grip of a depression there were no buyers. Despite the disappointment she liked the town and in 1936 negotiated for a house and sizeable plot of ground on Lora Street which was modestly priced if she made repair sherself. In a financial bind, Dora held her home together by dressmaking, working at the library and practical nursing. She carried a heavy load as mother and provider until her husband's aunt, Mrs. Clifford Luckey (Susie) came to live with her and assumed management of the household. It was a tender, equable relationship that lasted for 27 years up to Susie's death in her 90's. Although they had met previously, it was not until after his mother made her home with Dora that Jesse Luckey and his cousin's widow became friends. A rancher at Devils Garden on his trips down river he always stopped by to visit Susie and was much favored by the young Goldens. Love followed friendship and after her children were in high school Jesse and Dora married in 1941. At the end of his service in World War II, Jesse went back to ranching for a brief time before resuming the trade of metal craftsman he had learned earlier by apprenticing to specialist, William Balke. For 22 years in all he . worked at Lee County Metal and Roofing, then prior to his retirement in 1970 was employed 10 years by young Golden who is owner of Richard's Roofing Service. Even though Jesse and Dora had no children he knows the joy of fatherhood through her family who have been as his own and affections are mutual. Willie Dora married to Jesse Hires is the mother of two daughters and a teacher at Riverside school. Margaret, also has two daughters and lives with her husband, Thomas Georgeades in Santa Maria, Calif. Richard, the father of two daughters and twin sons, is a resident of Naples where he has his business. Jesse's parental pride extends beyond his step-children to grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and even to in-laws, one of whom, a grandson by marriage, Major Larry Brugh, is an instructor at Annapolis. The Luckeys are now enjoying a leisurely and companionable life in the bungalow on Lora Street nestled in the spacious yard they long ago transformed into a miniature paradise. More than 1500 varieties of exotic plants grow in their three-tiered garden on the ground, from the trees and in between and the many tropical fruit trees indigenous to Florida shade the delicate blooms that are in profusion summer and winter. To make sure nothing is neglected they have "his and her's wells" to facilitate their daily rounds of watering. A hospitable and friendly couple, Jesse and Dora (who calls him Lucky) welcome visitors and seldom a day passes that someone doesn't come to feast on beauty. Their home is also the first port of call for out-of-town kin. "There was a time," laughed Dora, "when there seemed to be progeny of Grandfather Sam on every palmetto patch in South Florida. Now they are scattered everywhere and the only ones in this area are his great-grandsons, Stafford Jr. (J.R.) at Alva, Owen on Palmetto, their mother, Mrs. Irene Luckey of Luray Street, Oby at LaBelle and three great-great-grandsons, William on Daniels Road, Larry at Ortona and Franklin in Naples." Tending their growing things Is not work to the Luckeys and the hours spent in the garden are sheer relaxation. Each has a separate hobby, too. Dora sews, makes patchwork quilts, does pretty needlework and fashions rugs from odds and ends of carpeting she collects. Jesse In spite of his years on the range when he led a rugged life drinking from water holes, foraging for food and staving off predatory animals is a man of artistic bent. In his woodworking shop he turns out exquisite replicas of antique chests, china cabinets, book racks, ornamental metal silhouettes and numerous useful as well as beautiful Items for his wife. His various pastimes are so fulfilling that he scarcely has time for his favorite sport, hunting. A pioneer himself, Jesse Luckey is the descendant of early settlers on both sides of the family. In 1890 his maternal grandfather, Mack Lewis, homesteaded 160 acres at Still Lake Hammock which are now the heart of the budding metropolis, Lehigh Acres.