Biography of George Edmund Otis
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George Edmund Otis, a leading member of the Southern California bar, is a descendant of one of the oldest New England families, his ancestors having emigrated from Somersetshire, England, about 1630. That he springs from a cultured family is evidenced in the fact that his paternal great-grandfather was one of the early graduates of Harvard University, as far back as 1752, and his father was a graduate of the same institution ninety years later. His mother was a direct descendant of Judge Sewall, who is associated in history with the hanging of the witches in the seventeenth century.
Mr. Otis was born in 1846, in the city of Boston, and was educated at the New England metropolis, graduating at Harvard University with the degree of LL B., in 1869, at the age of twenty-two years, notwithstanding his educational studies had been interrupted by a term of service in the Union army, which he entered during the closing year of the war, a youth of seventeen, as a member of the Sixth Massachusetts Infantry, and remained until the end of his period of enlistment. After graduating, Mr. Otis spent a year and a half perfecting his law studies in the office of Hon. Richard H. Dana, Jr., a leader of the Suffolk County bar, and well known as the author of Dana’s Wheaton’s International Law, and “Two Years Before the Mast.” Upon motion of Mr. Dana, Mr. Otis was admitted to practice at the Massachusetts bar in 1872. Opening a law office in the city of Boston, he conducted a successful legal business in the “Hub” until 1875, when he decided to cast his lot in the Golden State, and crossed the continent, landing in San Francisco. After spending a few weeks looking over the situation on the Pacific coast, Mr. Otis commenced the practice of his profession in California in the city of San Bernardino, and entered into a co-partnership with W. J. Curtis, which continued about eighteen months, terminating with Mr. Otis’ return to San Francisco.
Here he established and maintained a large and lucrative legal business for seven years. Then, upon the death of Judge Saterwhite, who had succeeded him as a law partner with Mr. Curtis, the latter gentleman requested him to return to San Bernardino and resume their former business relations. Mr. Otis consented to do so, and removed down in the spring of 1885. The firm of Curtis & Otis at once assumed a prominent position in the bar of Southern California, and they have for years been connected on one side or the other with nearly every important civil case in the higher courts of San Bernardino and contiguous counties. Since deciding to settle permanently in this county, Mr. Otis selected Redlands as the future home for himself and family, and has just completed the erection of one of the most elegant dwellings in that charming young city of orange groves. His place, appropriately named “Alderbrook,” from the spreading alders which border the old Mill Creek zanja running through his grounds, embraces some forty acres, beautifully laid out and partially planted to ornamental trees and shrubbery, and an orange grove just coming into bearing.
Besides attending to his extensive law practice Mr. Otis has found additional scope for the exercise of his active mind and energies in loyal and effective labors for the advancement and growth of the county and city. In 1888 he built the Otis block on Fourth Street, between D and E streets, one of the finest brick business blocks in the city of San Bernardino. The same year he erected the First National Bank block in Redlands, one of the first, and one of the best brick buildings erected in that thriving town. He also built the brick block on State street known as the Otis building, occupied by the Motor Railroad offices in Redlands. He organized the Monte Vista Land and Water Company, the Redlands Land Company, and the Terracina Hotel Company. These companies have extensive holdings of the choice citrus fruit lands in that popular orange district, on which they have expended large sums of money for improvements. Mr. Otis was also one of the prime movers in organizing and constructing the San Bernardino and Redlands Motor Road, and is a director in the company.
In politics he is a pronounced Republican and a member of the central committee; and while he has been a zealous supporter of the party he has never been an aspirant for office. He is a member of the San Francisco Bar Association, the San Francisco Harvard Club, and the California Historical Society; and within the past year has been elected a member of the American Bar Association. In his mental composition Mr. Otis is a typical son of New En-gland, possessing that quick perceptive and receptive intellect, acute reasoning powers and characteristic energy which have made the “Yankee” ” famous the world over. He is a. gentleman of polish and superior scholastic attainments both in and outside of his profession. He married Katharine, daughter of Hon. Alexander Johnson, formerly Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals of New York, and subsequently a Judge on the United States Circuit Bench in the Empire State.