Biography of James Porter Greves, M.D.
James Porter Greves, M. D., deceased, was familiarly known as the “Father of Riverside,” and well he deserved the title. He was the real founder of the Colony Association, the first to visit and select the land, and the first to occupy them, camping upon the desert plain now occupied by the city of Riverside, September 19, 1870. For nearly twenty years his life and life’s efforts were intimately interwoven with the history of Riverside and the colony. No man in the community was better known or more universally respected and esteemed than he. His death was sincerely mourned and left many an aching heart among his old friends and associates.
Dr. Greves was born in Skaneateles, Onondaga County, New York, September 6, 1810. When a youth he was apprenticed to a printer in Utica, New York, and served four years. In 1828 he began the study of medicine under the tutorship of Dr. Batchelor, a well-known physician of that city, and at the age of twenty-one graduated from the Fairfield Medical College, and commenced the practice of his profession.
In 1833 he marred Miss Helen Sandford, a native of Ovid, New York, and moved to Marshall, Michigan; there he followed his profession until the summer of 1845, when he removed to Milwaukee, and followed his profession there until 1859; then he went to St. Louis. Late in the fall he went to New Orleans, and spent the winter of 1859-’60; thence to Baton Rouge, with his brother, Samuel P. Greves, a lawyer, where he remained until June, 1860; thence to New York city. He remained there until March, 1862, when he went to Beaufort, South Carolina, in the employ of the Government, having charge of the sick of the colored race, until August of the same year, when his health failed, and he returned to New York. His health not improving, he sailed, in October, via Nicaragua route, to San Francisco, and went thence to Virginia City; in January, 1863, to Reese river, and stayed there until April, 1864.
During his residence in Nevada the Doctor was engaged in mining enterprises and compiled one of the most valuable abstracts of titles of mines of the Reese river district ever published. His health being much improved he returned to New York, and lived there until he located in Washington, in 1867. From there he went to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1869, where he was engaged as the general agent of the Equitable Life Insurance Company, of New York. During all this time he was in pursuit of health.
On leaving New York, he and Judge J. W. North conceived the idea of a colony in Southern California. He spent the winter of 1869-’70 in Marshall, Michigan, where he got up an excursion trip to California in April 1870, composed of nearly 100 persons. Judge North, Dr. Sandford Eastman and wife, E. G. Brown, A. J. Twogood and Dr. Greves proceeded direct to Los Angeles and explored that region for a suitable location of a colony. Not being satisfied, E. G. Brown and Dr. Greves visited the present site of Riverside, and being pleased, induced Judge North also to examine it. This was the 24th of June 1870. Negotiations were commenced for the purchase of about 8,000 acres of land from T. W. Cover and others, and was concluded September 13, 1870, and on the 19th of the same mouth Judge North and Dr. Greves arrived on the ground, and camped in the open air west of the present location of Burt Bros.’ store.
Having found the long sought for health resort, the Doctor turned his attention to fruit growing, and was one of the first to enter into horticultural pursuits. He purchased and occupied a two and one-half acre tract on Orange Street, between Tenth and Eleventh streets, and also fifteen acres of land two miles south of town. He was successful in his enterprise and the sale of his lands eventually secured him a modest competency. He was the secretary of the Southern California Colony Association for the first five years of its existence, and was identified personally with the establishment of the colony, survey and sale of the lands, and perfecting its admirable system of irrigation. He was the first Postmaster ever appointed in Riverside, receiving his appointment in September 1871. He filled that office until December 1881. For eleven years, from 1875 to 1886, he was Notary Public. He was also a member of the first Board of City Trustees elected in the city. In political matters he was a strong Republican.
The Doctor conducted his business enterprises until 1887, and was then compelled on account of ill health to retire from active pursuits. His life was always characterized by public spirit and liberality, ever foremost in anything for the public welfare-ready to spend and be spent for the public good. In private he ever lent a helping hand to the poor and needy, “never letting his right hand know what his left hand did;” and if such actions can be accounted as laying up” treasures above,” then to-day he is rich indeed. In his private life he was singularly free from animosity. No matter how he had been treated he had no ill-feeling in the matter. It was his nature to speak kindly to every one.
Dr. Greves died in Riverside, September 25, 1889. He left a wife and two sons, James S. and Lewis S. Greves, who are established in business New York city, and two sisters, Mrs. A. McCallum and Mrs. Clark, who reside in Marshall, Michigan, and one brother, Samuel P. Greves, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to mourn his death.