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John Hartley Smith, the founder and president of the First National Bank of San Bernardino, and one of the most thorough business men and experienced bankers in Southern California, was born in Jackson County, Virginia, in 1835. He came to Ohio at the age of fifteen, and in 1853 he came to California and spent two years in the gold mines, chiefly in Mariposa County. He was quite successful, and in 1855 returned to Ohio with considerable money and a fund of experience which has proved of great value to him in his subsequent business career, as well as fraught with pleasant memories. Coming he sailed from New York by way of Panama, crossing the Isthmus on foot. He returned by the same route, but the railroad had been completed across the Isthmus in the interval. For many years Mr. Smith was extensively engaged in steam boating and operating barge lines on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, he superintending the business, in which there was $250,000 capital invested. After the war he was also interested in the banking business for a number of years in Meigs County; and was actively and largely identified with coal mining and the manufacture of salt in south-eastern Ohio. The daily output of the coalmines was 10,000 bushels, and the salt works turned out 500 barrels a day. The labor and nerve force necessarily consumed in the management of these various large enterprises proved too much for Mr. Smith’s naturally strong constitution, and he was compelled to dispose of his very prosperous business interests, and seek by rest and the most favorable climatic advantages to repair his broken health.
He came to Southern California in 1880, and the same year organized the Santa Ana Commercial Bank, the first bank started in that city. Eighteen months after opening the bank failing health again forced him to retire from business, and he sold out and remained out of business a year. He then established the Pomona Valley Bank as a State bank in 1884. In 1887 it was reorganized into a national bank, and its name changed to the First National Bank of Pomona. Selling out his interests there Mr. Smith organized the First National Bank of San Bernardino, of which he has been president since it opened. Each of these three banks founded by him and of which he has been successively the managing head has become prominent among the banking houses of this part of the State, Though devoting his attention almost exclusively to the bank, Mr. Smith has some outside investments, one of which is a large interest in the Southern California Motor Road, one of the finest pieces of property in this region.
Mrs. Smith, whose former name was Roberts, is an Ohio lady. Their family consists of three sons: Pearl, Harry and Hudson, all boys of school age. Mr. Smith also has a stepdaughter, who is married and resides in San Bernardino.