Ulysses A. Lightsey
Ulysses A. Lightsey

By Spessard Stone

Ulysses A. Lightsey, a pioneer settler of Fort Meade and Bartow, Florida, was a cattleman, businessman, and civic leader.

Jacob Lightsey, paternal grandfather of Ulysses, was born June 17, 1810, Colleton District, South Carolina. He was a son of David and Mary Lightsey and a grandson of John Lightsey of Barnwell District, South Carolina. With his brother, Samuel Lightsey (1806-1878), Jacob moved in 1836 to Georgia, where he lived in Lowndes, Ware, and Clinch counties. While living in Lowndes County, he served in 1838 in Capt. David R. Bryan's Co.; then in the Ware County militia companies of Capt. James A. Sweeny, August 31, 1838, for four months, and again as a 1st lieutenant August 19 to November 18, 1840; November 1 to December 31, 1839 in Capt. David Johnson's Co.; finally, 1840 in Capt. Jonathan Knight's Co. Jacob served as a Justice of the Inferior Court of Clinch County (created from Ware County in 1850) from 1855-1857 and 1861-1862. Judge Lightsey purchased land in the new town of Dupont (first called Suwannoochee) after the railroad was constructed. He built and operated with his wife the town's first hotel. They were members of the Primitive Baptist Church. Judge Jacob Lightsey died April 27, 1892 and was buried at the North Cemetery.

Jacob had married on January 7, 1830 in Barnwell District, S. C., Christina Rice, daughter of John and Ann (Guest) Rice. She was born October 25, 1807 and died September 24, 1890 at Dupont, Georgia. Judge and Mrs. Jacob Lightsey had nine children: Cornelius B., Rebecca, Susannah "Ann" (m. 1st, William J. Knight; 2nd, David S. Copeland), Mary E. (Mrs. Mitchell S. Griffin), John J., Stephen J., Rachel (m. 1st, Lewis Sirmans); 2nd, John A. Whittington), Jacob S., George W.

Cornelius B. Lightsey, father of Ulysses, was born December 30, 1831 in Georgia. During the Civil War, he enlisted as 2nd sergeant at Savannah for 12 months on September 1, 1861 in Capt. Francis M. Jackson's Co. (Allapaha Guards), 29th Regiment, Georgia Infantry. At Screvens Ferry on May 7, 1862, he was elected 2nd lieutenant and appeared on the company records that exist until January 1865 at Wilmington, N. C.

With his friend, Sherod E. Roberts, and brother, Stephen J. Lightsey, Cornelius moved from Dupont in 1869 to Polk County, Florida. He and his brother first had a general merchandise store about one mile from the Alafia River on the Fort Meade road. From late 1869 to early 1875, he in partnership with Sherod E. Roberts had a store on the south side of Wire Street in Fort Meade. The Lightsey family was enumerated in household # 311 in the 1870 Polk County census. He was then engaged in the cattle business until his death at Fort Meade on October 17, 1890, with burial at Fort Meade's Evergreen Cemetery.

Cornelius was married twice. On April 12, 1854, he married Sarah Carter, born August 5, 1835 in Georgia, a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Knight) Carter. Their children were: Sol. E., Ulysses A., Meddie Elizabeth (Mrs. Richard Cabel Langford), Josephine (Mrs. Max Reif), John S., George W., William Cooley, Ney C., Leah (Mrs. Jesse Warren Earnest). Sarah died July 24, 1878. On January 1, 1882, Cornelius married Mrs. Nancy Virginia (Powell) Koon, born ca. 1855, widow of J. W. Koon. They had two daughters: Cleo P. (Mrs. Thomas Robinson) and Annie Ruby. (Nancy remarried on June 17, 1894 Edward A. Keller.)

Ulysses A. Lightsey, nicknamed "Doc," was born at Dupont, Georgia on February 8, 1860 and moved with his parents to Fort Meade in 1869. First employed with his father, he in association with William Henry Lewis entered the livery, cattle, and citrus businesses, in which he was very successful. In 1907, Lewis & Lightsey sold their livery business, which Mr. Lewis had managed fifteen years. They developed one of the first big citrus groves of the ridge section.

He was engaged in the commissary and wood business as the Lightsey, Swearingen Co. at the Palmetto Phosphate Co.'s plant. Then purchasing half interest in the Lightsey-Parsons Cattle Co., with a ranch on the Kissimmee River, he retained it for about ten years. U. A. initiated the movement for fenced pastures in cattle raising in the Kissimmee River Valley section with armed guards to prevent cutting by the free range men. Through fencing large acreage, he developed a cross breed type of beef cattle that led the way for a better grade of beef from Florida's pastures. At one time he was known as the "cattle king of Polk County."

In March 1922, he, though "retired" from business, was vice-president and director of the South Florida Cattle Loan Co., a director of the Polk County National Bank, as well as, a stock holder in the Polk County Trust Co., and a director of the American Motors Export Co. of Jacksonville. Until his death, he retained a few citrus groves.

U. A. was politically active. On December 8, 1884, he served as chairman of a committee which posted the notice of an election that was held on January 10, 1885, which unanimously voted for the incorporation of Fort Meade. From 1885 until his resignation on February 14, 1887, he was tax assessor of Polk County. On November 4, 1886, he was elected to represent Polk County in the Florida House for a two-year term and served on the finance, taxation and railroad committees. In 1891, he was Fort Meade City Assessor. After moving to Bartow in April 1893, he served on the City Commission.

Ulysses A. "Doc" Lightsey died May 26, 1928 at his Bartow home. He had been a devout member of the Methodist Church.

On January 4, 1893, he had married Helen Lydia Wilson, daughter of James Thomas and Adeline (Hendry) Wilson. She was born August 8, 1874 and died September 15, 1928.

Issue of Ulysses A. and Helen (Wilson) Lightsey:

1. Lucille Lightsey, born November 8, 1893; died October 1980, Bartow, Fla.; married Frank Alexander.

2. James Carlisle Lightsey, born October 3, 1897.

References include: Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume 1, pp. 168-169; Memoirs of Florida, Volume 1; History of Polk County Part 11, p. 280; Canter Brown, Jr.; Lightsey family file, Polk County Historical & Genealogical Library.

This profile was published in the Polk County Historical Quarterly of June, 1990.

Ulysses A. Lightsey & Cornelius B. Lightsey, from Canter Brown, Jr.'s, Fort Meade, 1849-1900, 1995, p. 58

February 13, 2001 & links = October 16, 2001 & photo May 20, 2004