The Story of Us
Our History and Spirit
Nature reserve in Saint Marteen, in the Caribbean
The Story of Us
It’s a short story. In fact it’s so short, it can be told in one paragraph. And one picture, because as we ALL know, a picture speaks a thousand words.
We began as one. One with a vision. A vision which had zero chance of getting fulfilled without the participation of like-minded individuals who recognized it, and believed in it. Who were ready to be part of a team.
A team focused on Service and excellence. And so it goes, as we grew, more people came on board, good people who “got it”.
Today, we are many, today, we are diversified, today, we as a team are looking forward to tomorrow.
In the meantime, we continue to bring experiences to you, our guests… our extended family in the best possible way we know.
We did it when we were one, and we continue to do it as many. And we thank you, for being the most important characters in
“The Story of Us.”
Nevertheless, he stuck it out, and went on to become a “working actor”, which, as he points out, means that you can quit your job waiting tables to focus on acting, and of course, surfing. Surfing became his zone of Zen, a place where he could escape the madness of L.A. It’s where he found his peace and the entrepreneurial gears started churning.
“Surfing was virtually nonexistent in SXM back in the early eighties. I remember being the only guy out at Mullet Bay when there were giant westerly swells produced by distant cold fronts, and people would stand at the shoreline watching me in a sort of awe. It got me thinking.” William Welch
And so, the seed was planted for the very first “Beach Stuff Surf Shop” which opened at the Old Street Mall in 1987. By the spring of 1995, William had opened 12 stores scattered around the Caribbean and South Beach Miami. Business was booming, but William was getting complacent, bored, and frustrated. The business that he created from his lifestyle, had stolen his lifestyle.
It was just a business filled with all of the pressures of a large, multi-national organization, leaving little time to enjoy the lifestyle that brought him there. The bane of most entrepreneurs. So, he decided to sell, and pursue other visions which included the construction of a “retreat” in the elevations of Pic Paradis on a piece of land that he had purchased from Nellie Fleming Engle.
Here, he would build a compound from sustainable materials, using wind and solar power, and developing an organic gardening endeavor for demonstrative purposes. In the late summer of 1995, an offer was made on the retail business, and negotiations began. It looked like William’s vision was to become a reality. For him, it seemed almost too good to be true. He was living the dream.
Little did he know, that the dream was about to become a nightmare of astronomical proportions on September 5, 1995.
Enter, Hurricane Luis. We all know the extent of the destruction, devastation, despair, and even the death of the passing of Hurricane Luis. We needn’t beleaguer it. It happened.
It’s now an important part of the natural, social, and economic history of the island. For some, it signaled the end; time to abandon the island; pack the bags, and leave. For others, it was an eye-opener, an awakening, a rebirth. And so, it was for William.
His dream had crumbled around him. The stores were all destroyed. The sale of the business fell through. He was facing certain bankruptcy following the discovery that his insurance company was criminally fraudulent. Life as he knew it was over.
Or was it? William eventually made his way to Pic Paradis, where his project was in the beginning phase before the hurricane, and where he had constructed a wooden shack that housed all his tools. To his utter surprise, the shack was still there, and all his tools still in place.
As he describes it, he had an epiphany. The shack and the tools were a symbol, a crystal-clear sign that he could rebuild, rebuild a new, and entirely different life, but what would that life be? And how would it happen? He was halfway down the arduous on-foot journey from Pic Paradis when the “lights came on again”.
Glancing to his left while descending the debris-covered road, he spotted an old house in the distant valley below. He had never seen this house before. And for good reason, decades of growth had obscured the view of the valley from Route de Pic Paradis. Luis had annihilated all of the vegetation.
The hillsides and valley had been ripped bare. And there was this forlorn and sad house sitting there alone and lonely surrounded by fallen trees and haphazardly strewn rocks.
But as William describes, “I could see, I could sense, that the property had a magnificent history, a certain kind of grandeur, a life that was yearning to be revived.”
And so it began. Much to William’s surprise, he discovered that this property, Loterie Farm, was owned by Nellie Fleming Engle, the very same woman who had sold him his dreamland on Pic Paradis.
She had inherited it from her brother, Mayor of St. Martin, Ellie Fleming in the early 1980s. Yet, already living her entire adult life in Miami, she had no possibility to move back to Loterie Farm and take over her brother’s thriving dairy farm business.
So, she sold the cows, and locked the gate, and thus began two and a half decades of neglect, decay, overgrowth, and vandalism. But because she and William had developed a trusting relationship over the years, when William proposed to her the idea of bringing the property back to life, respecting the family heritage, she agreed.
The proposition was, to say the least, daunting, even for a team of experts with enormous resources. Now, here was this sole individual, with no expertise, and certainly, no resource. But, with a vision in his head, and a machete in his hand, so began the Loterie Farm. As William describes, that journey is worthy of a novel, and at some points seemed impossible to continue. Floods, fires, more hurricanes, threats, voodoo, haunting, loneliness, and a general skepticism almost took its toll on William’s psychology.
Yet, there were moments of discovery, enlightenment, and spiritual rebirth punctuated by ancient wisdom spoken to him without words that kept him going. And THAT would be his mantra. One which would pay homage to every single human being whose existence on Loterie Farm has made a definitive impact on the state of being of Loterie Farm today.
People look at Loterie Farm today with admiration which is rewarding for me, but when they’re looking, they don’t see the struggles, and sacrifices that thousands and thousands of human spirits went through to get here, including myself. And, why should they? That’s my private journey, one that gave me a totally unique perspective of life than the one I had before hurricane Luis.
When I look back now, Luis was a gift. I would not be half the man I am today without him. And as WE, the Loterie Farm Family, continue to move forward in our goal of pursuing sustainable tourism, in the face of the challenges brought our way by even more natural disasters and dramatic social change, we never forget where we as individuals came from, and where we as a team, as a family, are going.
It’s a large family, and if you have ever set foot on Loterie Farm, if you have seen what we see if you have felt what we feel, then, YOU are in our family. Our goal is to employ to the greatest possible advantage, the natural, historical, and sociological elements of Loterie Farm for the greatest possible benefit of ALL participants. For ALL of our family.
Spirit of Loterie Farm
Loterie Farm is probably the only example on St. Martin of a private nature reserve.
At Loterie Farm, we’ve made it our business to protect all 54 hectares of this beautiful countryside set deep in the interior of the island.
Housed at Loterie Farm are the old residence of one of the former mayor’s of St. Martin and the former home of L.A. Fleming.
Today our purpose and goal are to safeguard the history and environment amidst abundant trees and thousands of different species.
To do that, we have opened the property to the public and we invite people to enjoy the natural surroundings and participate in all the different activities we offer which covers everything from hiking our beautiful trails to riding one of our three Zip Line Adventures.
Nelly Fleming Engel who passed away right after I acquired the property in the form of a lease is buried here in the family plot along with her mother, father, grandmother and grandfather.
Now these are descendants of the Fleming family of course but the history of the property goes way way back before even their existence here.
In fact , the entrance sign to Loterie Farm reads “established in 1721”, as we have significant records that suggest that the first owner of Loterie Farm was an Englishman, by the name of Richard Bailey, who actually won the rights to establish a sugar plantation here in a loterie and that’s why it’s called Loterie Farm.
Of course it wasn’t always called Loterie Farm. It was called Loterie Plantation and operated as a diary plantation but the word plantation is indicative of forced labor so we don’t like to use that word anymore.
Plantation slavery was abolished in 1865 more or less in most parts but here on the French side it was abolished earlier — in 1857. The freed slaves vacated. Now sugar cane if you don’t take care of it falls over and dies. Other kinds of vegetation took back the property very quickly, that’s how mother nature works around here.
As a result, this forest is made up of thousands and thousands of years of natural evolution and trees arriving here through different forms like high winds from hurricanes and actual human seed distribution.
One way or another the Australian pines that frame the Fleming cemetery plot, also known as Whispering Pines, made their way here. If there were any kind of breeze going on right now they would be speaking to us – making this mystical mysterious sound.
It’s not infrequent that it happens to me when I come here to visit my surrogate family and I visit them often because it’s important that they understand that I’m trying preserve the same spirit that they had when they were alive.