J. W. Towner the subject of this sketch, now Judge of the Superior Court of Orange County, is a native of Essex County, New York, born in 1823, in the town of Willsboro. When he was fifteen years old his father moved to St. Lawrence County, same State. His education was only that of the common school except one term, in 1841, at the Malone Academy, Franklin County. In 1844, he and an older brother went to Cleveland, Ohio, where he remained until 1854, when he went to West Union, Fayette County, Iowa, remaining there until August, 1861, when he entered the army, becoming Captain of Company F, Ninth Iowa Infantry Volunteers. At the battle of Pea Ridge he was disabled by the loss of his left eye. After his recovery he was commissioned by President Lincoln, Captain of Company B, Second Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps. This commission he held till July, 1866. Then he returned to Cleveland, Ohio, and in 1874 went to Madison County, New York, where he resided until 1882. He then came to Santa Ana.
During these years his occupations were, from seventeen to twenty-six, teaching school winters and working by the day or month summers; in 1849 he began preaching as a Universalist, and continued thus until 1854, when, his voice failing, he engaged in the lumber and steam saw-mill business in Iowa, till 1859, and was then admitted to the bar at West Union; and since that time to the present, excepting the five years he was in the military service, he has practiced law. While in Cleveland, Ohio, he was Judge of the Municipal Court two years. At the first election held here in Orange County, July, 1889, he was chosen Judge of the Superior Court. He received the nomination on a non-partisan ticket, having two opponents, and in the election received 500 majority over both. As a lawyer he has had practice in all the Courts of Iowa, Ohio, New York and California, and in the United States Circuit Courts in all these States but Iowa.
He was married in Ohio, in 1850, to C. A. Sweet, of Lorain County, that State, and has had three children: Arthur J., married, and living at Santa Ana; Frederick E., died in 1876, and Lillian S. married G. D. Allen, now of River side.