Biography of John J. Hewitt
Riverside County, CA Biographies





JOHN J. HEWITT
From an early period in the commercial development of Riverside up to the present time the name of Hewitt has been intimately identified with horticultural, business and financial undertakings, and it would be a difficult task to find any family more worthy than they of representation in the annals of the county. The founder of the family in the west was the late John J. Hewitt, born in Franklin county, Pa., February 15, 1828, and educated in the public schools of that county. Ill health prevented him from completing the regular course of study. During 1848 he went to Chicago and secured employment as clerk in the National hotel. Removing to Ogle county, Ill., in the summer of 1849, he bought one half interest in a yoke of oxen and began to break prairie. Before the close of the first season he had purchased the claim of his partner and also had bought another team. In the fall he sold both teams and went to Kentucky, where he bought tobacco, shipping it by river to Pittsburg, where he sold the entire shipment at a fair profit. After six months spent in the business he returned to Franklin county and from there went to Washington county, Md., where he engaged in teaching school, and remained there until he relinquished teaching for mercantile affairs.

Joining a brother and his father at Forreston, Ill., in the fall of 1854, John J. Hewitt became identified with the business growth of Ogle county. He was the first buyer and shipper of grain in Forreston, beginning in the winter of 1854-'55, after which he embarked in a commercial enterprise which was sold the next year. In 1855 his brother, Theodore, began to build the Central hotel, but died before he had completed the structure. John J finished the work and used it for hotel purposes. In 1858 he built another hotel, which is still in operation. In the fall of 1865 he went south and in Montgomery, Ala., invested about $50,000 in cotton plantations, hiring negroes to do the work and paying them regular day's wages. The business was not very successful but Mr. Hewitt retained his interest there until 1872, when. he sold out. During February of 1868 he opened the Bank of Forreston, and this he operated until 1872, when he disposed of his stock in the concern. In June of 1880 he established the Farmers' and Traders' Bank of Forreston and was chosen president of the same. Owing to impaired health he came to California in the fall of 1881 and traveled through the state until early in 1882, when he arrived at Riverside. The location and the town suited him and at once he purchased property, establishing the homestead owned by him until his demise.

From the first John J. Hewitt was prominent in affairs tending to promote civic progress. When the First National Bank was organized he became a director and continued in that position for years. In 1890 he was chosen to succeed Mr. Naftzger as president of the bank and that position he filled with marked success, until his death. With other progressive citizens he founded the Southern California Fruit Exchange and his helpfulness to the city was further enhanced by his association with the syndicate that built the first railroad into Riverside. As a financier he possessed remarkable capabilities. On the organization of the Riverside Savings Bank he aided in placing the concern upon a solid basis and in establishing it in the confidence of the people. Besides all of his other enterprises he was president of the Keeley Institute, and was the founder of the branches in Southern California and managed all of the branches on the coast. After a period of activity with the Arlington Presbyterian Church he and his wife became connected with the Calvary congregation, and in his death, which occurred September 11, 1900, that religious organization lost one of its most generous members and sagacious leaders. For years he also contributed generously to the Young Men's Christian Association of Riverside. He was a hard worker for the temperance cause and before the county was organized lent valuable aid to the leader to have Riverside created as a temperance county. While he did not take any part in polities he was stanch in his allegiance to the Republican party. In Illinois he became the first clerk of Forreston township upon its organization

The first marriage of John J. Hewitt took place in Ogle county, Ill., January 15, 1857, and united him with Miss Susan Emerick, by whom he had four children: Kmerick B., who died aged twenty one years ; Grace, Mrs. O. E. Rosenstiel, of Freeport, Ill.; Theodore D., of Riverside, and Philo, who died in infancy. Mrs. Hewitt died while yet in the prime of life. The second marriage of Mr. Hewitt took place in Freeport, Ill., December 3, 1872, and united him with Miss Martha E. Hutchison. The eldest of the two children of this marriage is Buelah Woods, wife of Dr. William Wallace Roblee of Riverside; they are the parents of three sons and two daughters, Milo Hewitt, William Wallace, Jr., Abigail, Ralph Woods and Frances. Ethel Milroy married G. C. Dennis, and they with their four sons, Guy Hewitt, Charles Milroy, George Theodore and Robert Eugene, are residents of Los Angeles.

Mrs. Hewitt, who is a descendant of ancestors of Revolutionary fame, is a native of Center county, Pa. She was educated at Olome Institute at Canonsburg, that state. Her father, George W. Hutchison, died when she was a small child and her mother, Nancy M., became the wife of W. W. Smythe and the family removed to Illinois in 1864 and settled in Freeport, in which city she was married to Mr. Hewitt. For two years thereafter they lived in Forreston, after which they returned to Freeport and made their home until coming to California. Mrs. Hewitt has been very active in the civic development of Riverside and was the founder and is still a member of the Woman's club. For years she was active in W. C. T. U. circles and it was mainly through her energies that when the county was created it came in as a prohibition county. For twelve years she has been president and an energetic worker in the woman's auxiliary of the Y. M. C. A. Ever since becoming a resident of Riverside she has been a prominent worker in the Presbyterian church and its societies. No woman has been a more interested observer or more zealous worker in the general development and moral uplift of the citizens of the county than has Mrs. Hewitt.

From:
History of Riverside County, California
With a Biographical Review
History by Elmer Wallace Holmes
And other well known writers
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1912


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