The Lesesne name was prominent in South Carolina during the days of plantations and slavery. During slave uprisings in Charleston, many white families left for Barbados, taking loyal slaves with them. Descendants of Scipio Lesesne believe this is how he came to be born in Barbados on December 26, 1859.
A granddaughter recalls being told that at a young age, Scipio stowed away on a ship leaving Barbados and for a time, became a seaman, learning new languages. He immigrated to South Carolina about 1871 where he married and began a family. This may be where he met Mr. Harleston, an investor involved in the development of the Hamilton Disston Sugar Cane Plantation in St. Cloud, Florida. Scipio became foreman and interpreter for the 400-man crew, some of those of Greek and Italian nationality. Although he spoke five languages and was able to communicate with them, he often had difficulty spelling their names, so they were identified simply by a number in an 1896 payroll log book.
After the closure of the Hamilton Disston Sugar Plantation in St. Cloud, Scipio moved to Kissimmee with his wife Nancy and their children. Continuing to work in agriculture, maintained a 100-acre potato farm near the site of the current Kissimmee Municipal Airport, which he later relocated to the northwest corner of Main and Vine. The family lived on the second floor of a 2-story building; Scipio ran a movie theater downstairs but the property was lost in the land boom bust of the late 1920s.
A friend and frequent visitor to their home on Brack Street was Seminole Indian Billy Bowlegs III. Scipio died on October 19, 1941 and is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery. The youngest of the ten Lesesne children, William Harleston “Buster” Lesesne started a taxi business and became a prominent and well respected businessman in Kissimmee also. Buster’s wife Malinda was the niece of Sarah, wife of Lawrence Silas.
On display at the Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum is the log book kept by Scipio. It is on loan by the family of William Harleston “Buster” Lesesne.
Sources: “Kissimmee Gateway To The Kissimmee River Valley” by Jim Robison, 2003
“The Osceola County Centennial Book”, 1987
“Osceola County The First 100 Years” by Aldus M. and Robert S. Cody, 1987
Find A Grave, Rose Hill Cemetery
Photo Courtesy: "Osceola County The First 100 Years" by Aldus M. and Robert S. Cody, 1987