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George Wells Potter

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George Wells Potter

George Wells Potter (1851-1924) was born in Groton, Massachusetts, and at 18, worked as a cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Because Potter suffered from asthma, his brother, Dr. Richard Potter, suggested they move to Florida. George homesteaded 150 acres in Palm Beach in 1884, south of today’s Southern Boulevard. He built a house with materials scavenged from the beach, named it Figulus (potter), and established a post office by that name.

When Potter married Ellen Dimick in 1893, he sold his Palm Beach property, in part to pay for their honeymoon to the Chicago World’s Fair. Potter built a house on the west side of the lake, on a bluff at the foot of Hibiscus Street. Seminole Indians occasionally camped under the pine trees on his lakefront. Potter maintained a citrus grove off Belvedere Road, which he visited in one of the town’s first automobiles.

Potter was then-Dade County’s first surveyor in 1888. His partnership with Captain O. S. Porter, Porter and Potter, was the county’s first real estate firm. Lainhart & Potter, which he started with George W. Lainhart, was the first lumber company and remains the oldest business in Palm Beach County, although Potter sold his share in 1921. With his siblings, Potter bought controlling stock in the Dade County State Bank, which he served as president when it was renamed Pioneer Bank.

George Potter was the Palm Beaches’ earliest resident artist. He illustrated Camping and Cruising in Florida (1884) by Dr. James Henshall, illustrated business advertisements, and made many sketches of early life on Lake Worth. Potter’s artwork, which is in the Historical Society’s collections, provides an excellent glimpse of everyday pioneer life.

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