Most of the pioneers came to the shores of the lake called Lake Worth from the North, especially from Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.
The Potter family was among the earliest to settle on the shores of Lake Worth. They did not all come at once. First was George Wells Potter and his older brother, Dr. Richard B. Potter (See his story). They were the sons of Luther Fitch and Lydia Ames Potter of Groton, Massachusetts, where George was born 12 November
When George was very young, his father moved the family to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he had a hardware store. Because of his poor health, George attended private or special schools. His artistic talent was evident at an early age. He was hired as a cartoonist by the Cincinnati Enguirer at age eighteen. We are greatly indebted to him for the sketches he made in what became Palm Beach County, while working as the first official surveyor. His great grandson, David A.Willson, inherited this artistic ability and is generous about sharing the sketches.
By 1874, George was in such poor health due to asthma that he and his brother, Richard, traveled to the warmer climate of Biscayne Bay, Florida. They filed a homestead claim on the bay-front, built a house and put in a garden. Dr. Potter, however, had a hard time making a living as there were few settlers, all apparently in good health. When he and George heard of the beautiful country around Lake Worth, with more inhabitants, they decided to move north. They claimed 160 acres (a short distance south of today’s Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach) running from lake to ocean, with one mile of ocean frontage. They were the first to build a house facing the ocean, and they named it “Figulus,” meaning “place of the potter.”
When the brothers were joined by their mother and their sister, Ellen, they all bought adjoining properties on the west side of the lake, running from Lake Worth to Clear Lake, between Fern and Hibiscus in what became West Palm Beach.
On 10 August 1893, George married Ella May Dimick, daughter of pioneers Frank and Anna (Geer) Dimick. They built a large home at 606 South Olive where they were to live the rest of their married lives. They had one daughter, Marjorie, born 1898, who married Jack Sloan Willson, a childhood friend. Although Jack’s parents were not pioneers of the lake area, they were long-time residents who came from Kissimmee. Marjorie and Jack had three children: Elizabeth May Willson Minnis, Jack S. Willson, Jr., father of artist David A. Willson, and George Potter Willson. Jack Sloan Willson died in 1952, and in 1954, Marjorie married Ben Cromwell Stewart of Macon, Georgia. She died in 1990.
Besides being an artist and surveyor, George formed a real estate partnership with Owen Sylvester Porter about 1883. They put out a delightful booklet, Under the Cocoanuts, describing the land around the lake, the climate, the fishing, the flora and fauna. Illustrations were drawn by George W. Potter. Potter also served one term as mayor of West Palm Beach and was a director of several banks, including The Pioneer Bank, of which he was president. With George W. Lainhart, he established Lainhart and Potter Lumber Company, which is still in business in 1994 in Palm Beach County, though Potter sold his share in 1921.
George Wells Potter died at Ashville, North Carolina, in July 1924 after a long, useful life. He left an historical treasure, his paintings, drawings, maps and surveys.