Richard Buckley Potter was one of the four children of Luther Fitch and Lydia Ames Potter. He was born 15 January 1845 in Groton, Massachusetts, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he graduated from medical school in 1867.
A younger brother, George Wells Potter (See his story) suffered from asthma, and Richard decided the climate of South Florida would be good for his health. The two travelled south via the Mississippi River, New Orleans and Key West and reached Biscayne Bay in 1874.
They chose a homestead on the bay and built a house. George, an artist, painted a picture of the house which is on the cover of Biscayne Country by Thelma Peters (1981 Banyan Books). Dr. Potter was the first and only doctor there, but business was slow due to the scarcity of people and the healthful climate. To supplement their income, the brothers went into making starch from the coontie root.
Dr. Potter heard there was the need for a doctor up on the shores of a lake named Lake Worth, so, in 1881, he and George moved north. They claimed a homestead in what was to become Palm Beach, 160 acres running from lake to ocean. They were the first pioneers to build their house facing the ocean, rather than the lake.
Dr. Potter’s mother and his sister, Ellen, joined Richard and George about 1885. They all bought land on the west shore of the lake, and in 1893, Dr. Potter built a home and office at the foot of present day Gardenia Street in West Palm Beach.
Dr. Potter, a gentle, caring man, was an immediate asset to the lake community. He travelled around the lake by naptha motor launch, visiting patients, and was assisted by a black mid-wife, Millie Gildersleeve, who was ready to go anytime he tooted the whistle at her dock. Dr. Potter was also trusted by the Indians, who would travel for miles to be treated by him.
In 1896 and again in 1900, Dr. Potter was elected to the state legislature. The only Republican among all the Democrats, he was elected for his fine character, not for the party. In 1895, he was a United States Customs Collector. He also was the official surgeon for the Florida East Coast Railway. He served as a director of the first bank, The Dade County State Bank, and was, at one time, Clerk of the Circuit Court. He never married.
Dr. Potter’s mother, Lydia Ames Potter, who had come to Florida for her health, lived to be ninety-three, and died 18 January 1907. His sister, Ellen, who also never married, sold 5 acres of her land for $5,000 for a school building site. Later, she decided that wasn’t big enough and donated an additional 5 acres. Twin Lakes! Palm Beach High School was built on her property.
Dr. Potter had another brother, Bernal (Ben) Miller Potter.
Early in 1909, Dr. Potter became ill himself and went to Jacksonville for an operation. He died there on 12 July 1909 of cancer. His body was returned for burial at Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.