John J. Whitney, proprietor of the City Planning Mill and lumberyard, and one of the principal manufacturers in San Bernardino County, was a native of Elmira, New York, and was born in 1843. He inherited a talent for mechanics from his father, and being a contractor and practical builder and the owner and operator of a large planning mill in Elmira, afforded him ample means of exercising and developing his innate tendencies. In 1862, in his nineteenth year, he enlisted in the army as a member of the Fifth New York Heavy Artillery; served till the close of the war, and, participated in many a hotly contested battle, and received three slight gunshot wounds. After returning home he turned his attention to lumber milling and building, and during the ten years he conducted it did one of the largest contracting and building businesses in Elmira.
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Late in 1881 he came to California, partly for his health and partly on account of the superior business inducements offered him. Reaching Riverside the last of December, he worked a few days for wages, then took the contract to build the large Riverside Pavilion. Subsequently he located in San Bernardino and was connected with W. J. Linville, on D Street, in a planning mill. In July 1886, he and another gentleman leased the City Mill, situated on F street between Fourth and Fifth streets.
At the end of a month his partner sold out to Mr. H. H. Linville, and two weeks later the mill was destroyed by fire, thus ending the partnership. The mill was rebuilt by W: G. Wight, and Mr. Whitney leased the job department in January, 1887, and in July of that year he bought the property. On April 13, 1889, the mill was again burned, with a loss of part of the machinery. Releasing the ground for a term of years Mr. Whitney rebuilt the mill and fitted it up with the latest improvements in machinery for all kinds of house-building work, and also erected a large storehouse, which he keeps well filled with sash and moldings (of his own manufacture), doors, glass and other building material. He has invested in the buildings, machinery and manufactured stock over $8,000. He also opened a lumberyard in 1888 in the rear of the mill between Fourth and Fifth and F and E streets, in which he carries a general assortment of lumber for house building. Being a thorough master of every branch and detail of his business, Mr. Whitney is enabled to carry it on at the minimum of expense and to understand and satisfy the wants of his customers in every case; hence he has a satisfactory and prosperous business.
He owns a fine homestead of fifteen acres on the Base Line, north of the city, which is occupied with a bearing vineyard and orchard; also has a joint interest in fifty acres of land about eight miles west of San Bernardino, twenty acres of which is planted to raisin grapes and thirty to orange trees. He also owns a 135-acre tract of land seven miles from the city, which is to be planted to a raisin vineyard.
Mr. Whitney married Miss Burdick, near Elmira, New York. They have had eight children’ four of whom are deceased. In October, 1882′ he returned to Elmira and brought his family here, after having tested California and its climate six months-a step which he never regretted. Mr. Whitney is a lover of music and has been a vocal leader in a church choir and on public occasions in San Bernardino for a number of years.