Steeped in Old Florida history, the Edna Pearce Lockett Estate consisting of 16.77 acres on U. S. 98 and County Road 721 was auctioned off by the South Florida Water Management District in February 2017 for $265,000. Purchased by Paul “Butch” Thompson with his desire to save as many of the buildings as he can and let the public also enjoy them.
Colonel Zachary Taylor in late 1837 departed Tampa under orders to pursue and capture any hostile native Americans to establish forts to support the campaign.
Along the Kissimmee River, Fort Basinger was established, named after Lt. William Basinger who was killed in the Dade Massacre. When the Second Seminole War ended, the fort was abandoned.
By the end of the Civil War, homesteaders started moving into the area around the town of Basinger. Quickly the area was in a boom with its location along the river, goods were being shipped in and out along the winding waterway. At its height, Basinger had hotels, a post office, a school, and a general store.
When the railroad was built in the early 1900s it bypassed Basinger in favor of Okeechobee City and goods where now being shipped in and out by rail. Like many other small towns at that time, it quickly became a ghost town.
One family that decided to stay was the Pearce family who owned land along the river just west of the fort. Edna Mae Pearce was born on the family homestead in 1908. An accomplished woman, before she married James Lockett in 1953, she served as an officer in the Highlands County and Florida Cattleman’s Associations was the third woman elected to the Florida House of Representative and served three terms.
Continuing after she was married; she was one of the founding members of Highlands General Hospital and the Youth Care Home in Highlands County. She was named Honorary Chancellor of her alma mater Florida Southern College in 1980.
The property consists of a two-story 4,050 square-foot wood-frame house built in 1897 by Lockett’s father, William Sidney Pearce, a schoolhouse built-in 1990 where Lockett taught for several years, a one-story wood-frame cottage built in 1940, and a detached garage built-in 1976.
Since Thompson purchased the property below are some of the extensive improvements he has made:
- He rebuilt the porch on the front of the house.
- Removed the yellow stained carpeting and exposed the oak floors.
- He has replaced the roof.
- The electrical system now runs on 110 volts instead of 220 volts and the lights work in the house.
- He demolished the horse barn but used the wood to construct a new outhouse.
In too bad of condition, he decided not to replace the plumbing and will not run water to the house.
When he won the bid for the property, part of the agreement was to maintain the Pearce family cemetery and to give visitation rights to relatives and friends. After cleaning the gravestones, he and his wife at times will place flowers on the graves.
Thompson has encouraged a 20-year tradition of the riders who re-enact the Florida Cracker Trail Ride each February to continue stopping by the Pearce Homestead for lunch.