Biography of Judge J. W. North
Riverside County, CA Biographies





JUDGE J. W. NORTH
The real founder of Riverside, the man who conceived the idea of building a city out of the desert lands and who became known as the leader in all public affairs of this locality, was Judge North. He was born in Sand Lake, Rensselaer county, N. Y., January 4, 1815, a son of Jonathan North, a man of clear mind, equable temper and great firmness and a local Methodist preacher. His mother was of French descent and an emotional warm hearted woman, and both were affectionate, upright and conscientious.

The Norths originated in England, where several of the name were distinguished statesmen and lawyers. In America they were usually found in the middle class, although there were several who became very prominent in educational circles and the law. The progenitor of the family in the United States settled in Hartford, Conn. After the Revolution the grandfather of J. W. North removed from Litchfield county, Conn., and settled in Rensselaer county, N. Y.

At the age of two years J. W. North was taken by his parents to a farm near Sand Lake and here he was sent to the common school and later, upon the removal of the family back to the village, attended the school there and still later was privileged to attend a select school in that town. He was of a very studious nature and anxious to improve every opportunity offered him for an education and when but sixteen years of age he was selected to teach the school in the district where he had first attended. He received the princely sum of $10 per month and "boarded round." Later he taught near Albany for a time. He entered Caenovia Seminary for a course of study and in 1841 he was graduated from the Middletown College, where he had paid his way through a three years course by working and teaching. Thus equipped he was enabled to enter upon the duties of manhood and make his own way through life and that he succeeded later events show for themselves.

Judge North was a strong abolitionist and the last two years in college developed that belief so strongly in him that he attracted the attention of the leaders of the party and was engaged for the two years following his graduation in lecturing throughout the state of Connecticut. In 1843 be located in New York City, having determined to study law, and entered the offices of John Jay and later those of Benedict and Boardman. Ill health compelled him to relinquish his studies and he joined his father on the farm in Preble, Cortland county, where he remained until be had regained to some degree his normal condition, after which he went to Syracuse and entered upon the study of his chosen profession in the offices of Forbes and Sheldon. He was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the state of New York and at once opened an office for practice, forming a partnership with Hon. Israel S. Spencer, of Syracuse, and they continued successfully until 1849, when Mr. North withdrew and disposing of his holdings went to Minnesota.

Locating in the village of St. Anthony Falls (now Minneapolis) Judge North established an office and from the start took a lead ing and prominent part in affairs political and legislative in the territory. In 1850 he was elected to the legislature and during the session introduced and managed the bill founding the University of Minnesota. Six years later he located in Faribault, purchased an interest in the town site and conducted the business of the projectors with eminent satisfaction. Selling his interests he established the town of Northfield, Minn., and erected many of the first buildings there. In 1857 he was elected a member of the constitutional convention that framed the state constitution. He became an acknowledged leader of the Republican party and took a very prominent part in the convention. The following year he was elected president of the Minneapolis and Cedar Valley Railway, of which he was one of the incorporators. In 1860 he was chosen chairman of the Minnesota delegation in the Republican national convention that was held in Chicago and that nominated A. Lincoln for president, was chosen one of the committee that conveyed the news to Lincoln and was present at the inauguration in 1861. In May of that year he received the appointment of United States surveyor general of Nevada and held the office until it was discontinued. While in Nevada he became a leader in politics and advancement and formed a partnership with J. F. Lewis in the practice of law, which continued until President Lincoln appointed him one of the judges of the Supreme Court, holding this important position until the state was organized. While on the bench he was elected a member of the constitutional convention of Nevada and was made president of the body. In 1865 he closed out his interests in Nevada and spent one year in the east, after which he went to Knoxville, Tenn., and engaged in the foundry and machine business. Being a pronounced Republican he was not received in that section with cordiality and he soon sold out.

After selling out his business Judge North conceived the idea of forming a colony in Southern California and entered upon the fulfillment of his plans with energy. In March, 1870, he sent out his first circulars from Knoxville and soon had many interested in the project and within a very short time he, with others, made a trip of inspection for the purpose of deciding upon a suitable site for the new colony. Riverside was finally decided upon as best suited for the proposed town and the deal was negotiated at once and soon the settlers began coming in and he began to see the fruition of his plans. Later he interested C. N. Felton of San Francisco in the matter and for several years he was the financial backer of the colony, although Judge North was the life and brains that put the plan on a sound basis. In 1875 he established an office in Riverside, San Bernardino and San Francisco for the practice of law. In the meantime he had purchased property in Fresno county and finally became a resident of that city and there he passed away, February 22, 1890. In his passing the state lost a valued citizen, the legal profession a profound exponent of the law, and those that knew him best, a stanch friend. He was a man of large ideas and one who was always able to carry those ideas to a successful culmination.

Judge North was twice married, first in 1845 to Emma Bacon, who died without issue in 1847. The second marriage took place in 1848 and united him with Ann H. Loomis, a native of New York state, and of this union there were born six children who grew to maturity, viz: Emma B, George L., John G., Charles L., Edward and Mary.

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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