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Location: San Bernardino County CA

Biography of James T. O’pry

James T. O’pry, one of the representative and enterprising merchants of Colton, has a well equipped general merchandise store, centrally located on Front street opposite the Southern Pacific Railroad depot. Captain O’Pry came to Colton in February 1888, after years spent in active business pursuits in New Orleans, and in the next month established himself in mercantile pursuits. He also purchased a five-acre tract of orange land from the Colton Water Company and commenced horticultural industries by planting it with budded orange trees; and he is also interested in real estate in Colton, Glendora and other places. He is a popular man, straightforward in his dealings, and has gained a liberal support and patronage from the Colton community. Captain O’Pry is a native of Georgia, dating his birth in 1849. His parents, James and Nancy E. (Brown) O’Pry, are also natives of that State. During the days of his infancy his parents moved to New Orleans, and he was reared and schooled in that city. Early in life, in his boyhood days, he was schooled in mercantile life, but when twenty years of age chose steam boating as his calling, and entered upon a three years’ apprenticeship as a pilot. He was ambitious and quick to learn, and rose rapidly in his profession until he was licensed as a master, and was then placed in command of various steamers...

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Biography of John E. Cutter

John E. Cutter, of the firm of Twogood & Cutter, nurserymen, Riverside, was born in Webster, Androscoggin County, Maine, in 1844. His parents were Dr. Benoni Cutter, born in New Hampshire, and Olive S. (Drinkswater) Cutter, a native of Maine. The death of his mother occurred in 1847, and of his father in 1851; and he was then reared under the care of his grandfather and stepmother. His boyhood and youth were spent upon the farm and in the schools. In 1862 he entered the military service of his country as a private of the Twenty-third Regiment of Maine Volunteers, and served for nine months in the defense of Washington. He was honorably discharged at the expiration of his term of enlistment, re-enlisted in the Twenty-ninth Volunteer Infantry, and shared in all its campaigns and battles. After hard service he was promoted to be Corporal, and then Sergeant. His regiment was assigned to duty in the Nineteenth Army Corps in the Department of the Gulf, and took part in the Red River campaign, and, with the Twenty-ninth Wisconsin, built the dam at Alexandria that saved Admiral Porter’s fleet. The regiment (with most of the corps) was then ordered north and joined General Phil. Sheridan’s army in the Shenandoah valley and participated in the battles of Opequan, Fisher’s Hill and Cedar creek. Mr. Cutter remained in the service until the...

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Biography of Joseph Heap

Joseph Heap is one of the representative mechanics of Riverside, and is the proprietor of a blacksmith shop on the south side of Eighth Street, between Main and Market streets. He is a native of England, and dates his birth in Manchester, in 1848. His parents, William and Hannah (Ward) Heap, are both natives of that country. In 1848 or early in 1849 his father immigrated with the family to the United States, and located at Council Bluffs, Missouri. The next year he moved to Salt Lake, where he remained until 1852. In that year he brought his family to San Bernardino County, and settled down to agricultural pursuits near the town of San Bernardino, where he has since resided. Mr. Heap was reared upon his father’s farm, and hard labor was his lot from early boyhood. His schooling was such as he could obtain in the common schools for a short term each year. At the age of seventeen years lie started in life upon his own account, and was engaged in rough manual labor, in teaming, lumbering, and working in the mills. When twenty-two years of age he commenced work at the blacksmith trade, with Stephen Jefferson, of San Bernardino. He was naturally a good mechanic, and by his industry and close attention he soon became a skilled workman and an expert in horseshoeing. In 1876 his...

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Biography of John Wasson

John Wasson, of Chino, is most widely known as an editor, but this accomplishment has been rather an incident than a design in his career. He was born in Wayne County, Ohio, August 20, 1833, on a farm. He received such education as the very common country schools afforded. Attendance on school was secondary to farm work in summer, and to some extent in winter. He was dissatisfied with farm life, but was notably a good worker with all farming implements. At the age of nineteen he went to California; spent 1852-’53 in the mines of El Dorado County. Sickness induced him to return to Ohio in November 1853, where he remained till late in 1854, when he went to Henry County, Illinois, and remained there till May 1862. These eight years were mostly employed in all sorts of farming and unskilled labor in summer, and teaching school in winter, with several months of clerkships in the county clerk’s and treasurer’s offices. He at an early age took active part in political discussions, and ardently supported Douglas for the presidency in 1860, and in all of his many addresses in that campaign warned the Buchanan and Southern Democracy that if Lincoln were elected and war ensued, the Douglas men would vigorously support Lincoln’s administration. He always determined to get back to California, and, although possessed of too much of...

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Biography of David H. Wixom

David H. Wixom, the tenth of a family of twelve children of Nathan J. and Betsy (Hadlock) Wixom, was born in 1848 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In 1850 his parents started with their family, consisting then of ten children, to cross the plains to California. They loaded three ox teams and one horse team with their effects, and brought fifty cows, ten head of horses and a small flock of sheep over as far as Salt Lake, where they spent the winter, and there their eleventh child, Charles W. Wixom, was born. In the spring of 1852 they resumed their journey to the Golden State, and settled in Monterey County, near San Juan Mission, and lived there two years, Mrs. Wixom and her daughters carrying on the dairy business with their cows, making butter and cheese, which they sold at very high prices, to go to the mines. They also kept a public house for the entertainment of travelers. Mr. Wixom devoted his attention to mining. In the spring of 1854 they removed to Los Angeles and two years later came to San Bernardino, and settled on a half block of land they purchased on the corner of Ninth and F streets. In 1857 Mr. Wixom sold out and took his family to Salt Lake, but returned to San Bernardino in August 1858, having been gone ten months. He...

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Biography of Benton O. Johnson

Benton O. Johnson, one of Redlands best known and highly respected citizens, is a native of Connecticut, born at Bethlehem, April 20, 1855. His parents were David and Sophia (Stone) Johnson, both of whom came of old Connecticut families, and the father a merchant. B. O. Johnson was but two years of age when his parents removed to the South. They resided at various places throughout the Southern country, among them New Orleans, Matamoras, Brownsville, etc., and the outbreak of the civil war found the elder Johnson carrying on the dry-goods business. In 1863 the family left the South and returned to Connecticut, trade being much interfered with on account of the war. They located at Middlebury, whence they afterward removed to West Haven. At the last named place and at New Haven, the subject of this sketch was educated. He commenced his business career as a drug clerk with Dr. Shepherd, at West Haven, with whom he continued for five years; then went in business for himself at Deep River, Connecticut. There he remained until 1883, when he came to California, locating at Redlands. He followed ranching two years, but then gave it up to resume mercantile life. He purchased the store formerly conducted by George A. Cook, in Lugonia, and was in business there until February, 1889, when he sold out to V. L. Mitchell, with whose...

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Biographical Sketch of Henry A. Keller

Henry A. Keller is a “native son of the Golden West,” born in Santa Clara, Santa Clara County, in 1859. At fourteen yeas of age he entered a telegraph office as messenger boy, with the purpose of learning telegraphy. At sixteen he was in the Agent’s office as operator, and when eighteen years old was train dispatcher on the Central Pacific Railroad. Later he was in the employ of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company; and for sixteen months was train-dispatcher for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company at San Bernardino. He has filled that difficult and responsible position nine years altogether. In May 1888, Mr. Keller was appointed chief deputy tax collector of San Bernardino County by Mr. Stetson, and is now serving his second term in that capacity. He has charge of the official correspondence chiefly, and does a large share of the bookkeeping. Mr. Keller married Miss Willard, a Sacramento lady, the present year-1889. His parents were natives of Germany, and immigrated to America to escape the revolutionary troubles of 1848. His father, who was born in 1828, now resides in Idaho; his mother died about eighteen years...

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Biographical Sketch of Harry G. Crafts

Harry G. Crafts, one of Redlands most enterprising horticulturists, was born in Jackson, Michigan, in 1853. His father, Myron H. Crafts, was the first settler in Crafton, California, which place was named after him. The subject of this sketch is extensively engaged in farming and fruit raising, and lives four miles west of...

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Biography of Belden D. Burt

The subject of this sketch is one of the pioneer merchants of Riverside, and is the senior member of the firm of B. D. Burt & Brother. This is now the oldest mercantile firm in the city, having been established in 1875, and been continuously in business since that time. The first brick block erected in Riverside was that occupied by Mr. Burt, on the corner of Main and Eighth streets. For many years he conducted a general mercantile business, but in the later years, has confined his business to dry goods, clothing, boots and shoes, etc. Mr. Burt’s partner in his business is his brother, Benjamin Franklin Burt, and it is safe to say that there is no business firm whose standing is higher in the community than B. D. Burt & Brother, nor is there one that has inspired more confidence or gained a heartier support than this firm. The brothers are well known, and their years of dealing has been characterized by honest, straightforward business principles. Their word has ever been as good as the strongest bond; their name is synonymous with integrity and stability for years before the advent of banking institutions in Riverside. They were made the custodians of the funds of their customers, and even now their books show a large list of depositors. The subject of this sketch was born in Orange...

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Biography of William P. Russell

This well known pioneer of Riverside is one of the leading horticulturists of the colony, and has for the past eighteen years been identified with the growth and progress of the city, and has held a prominent position in her municipal government since the incorporation in 1884. He is a native of White County, Indiana, dating his birth in 1849. His father, William Russell, was also a native of that State. Mr. Russell was reared as a farmer, and educated in the public schools of his native county. In 1869, when twenty years of age, he struck out in life upon his own account, and his first move was for the Pacific coast. Upon his arrival in California he came to San Bernardino County and located in TiaJuana valley, and there, in partnership with his uncle, P. S. Russell, entered into the nursery business. Upon the founding of the Riverside colony, in 1870, he was induced to visit the lands, and upon an inspection he became satisfied that a prosperous future awaited the orange-grower in the Riverside Valley, and the next year, in February, 1871, he purchased a twenty-acre tract on the east side of Spanish town avenue, now Orange street, and on the north of Russell street. This street was given his name in honor of his being the pioneer in improving that section. He commenced his preparations...

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Biography of Simeon Cook

Simeon Cook, of Redlands, is a native of Richmond, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, born April 14, 1821; his parents being Simeon, Sr., and Rachel (Holman) Cook. Both parents came of old New England families, and the father of our subject went with his parents from Billingham, Massachusetts, to New Hampshire, when he was but three years of age. He was born December 8, 1770, and died March 18, 1859. Our subject’s mother was the daughter of Elijah Holman, who lived on the line between Winchester and Richmond, New Hampshire, and before her marriage to Simeon Cook, Sr., was the widow of Ebenezer Barnes. She died March 18, 1839. Simeon Cook, whose name heads this sketch, spent his early boy-hood days on the farm at his native place. He attended public schools at Richmond, and private schools at Winchester and Swansea, after which he attended the Academy at Amherst. When twenty years old he went to Boston, where he was engaged for seven months as a clerk in the grocery store of Robert Cummings. He next went to Waltham, where for a year he was in a general store with Robert Cummings, in Old Rumford Hall. From there he returned to Boston, and engaged in the grocery business on Chambers street at the head of Poplar, in partnership with a nephew. After three years there he sold out to his...

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Biographical Sketch of Eugene B. Waite

Eugene B. Waite, one of the enterprising young men of Redlands, has been a resident of the Golden State since 1882, and owns a fruit ranch on Cajon avenue and Palm street. He was born in Walworth County, Wisconsin, in December 1860. His parents, Russell and Adaline (Herrick) Waite, were from Genesee County, New York. His father was successfully engaged in farming and stock-raising in Wisconsin for over thirty years. He is now retired from business and resides on the corner of Seventh and E streets. Our subject first went into the nursery business in Redlands with his brother, but has since sold his interest and given his attention to mining and prospecting in Alaska and Aleutian...

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Biography of Milo Eugene Davis

Milo Eugene Davis, of San Bernardino, was born in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1841. His father, Asa M. Davis, was a Vermont Yankee, and married a French lady by the name of Salinas. When Eugene was a lad of twelve years, they moved from Ohio to Nebraska, then a wild frontier territory, and settled in Beatrice, which place Mr. Davis laid out and named. Their nearest neighbor lived thirty miles distant, and the city of Omaha was then but a mere hamlet. Mr. Davis died years ago upon the homestead he then founded, and being a distinguished Mason, was buried there with high Masonic honors. After graduating from Eastman’s Business College in Chicago, and a year’s experience in a mercantile house in that city, the subject of this memoir commenced railroading as an employee of the Lake Shore Company. At eighteen years of age he was running a passenger train as conductor on the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. Drifting into the construction department, he was employed on construction for the Sioux City & Pacific, now a branch of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, for several years. In 1861 Mr. Davis enlisted in the Union army under the call for three months’ volunteers, and served as a member of the Eleventh Wisconsin Infantry until broken health compelled him to resign in 1863. He served in the capacity...

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Biography of Jacob Polhemus

Jacob Polhemus, deceased, was one of the pioneers of Colton, who located in that thriving city when the only buildings in the place were a saloon and eating-house, and the Pioneer Lumber Yard office. This was in 1875. He was a carpenter and builder by occupation, and was employed in the erection of the pioneer buildings of Colton. He built the first store opened in the town for Hathaway & Davenport, and many other well-known old-time buildings. In 1877 Mr. Polhemus purchased lots on the corner of Eighth and I streets and built his residence and shop upon them. This location, as the city enlarged, became valuable as a business center, and in 1886 he erected the well-known Polhemus block, a fine two-story edifice devoted to business and office purposes. This block was the first brick business block erected in the city. He was one of the leaders in building up the city, and a liberal and strong supporter of Colton enterprises. He was one of the stockholders and original incorporators of the Colton Building and Loan Association that has done so much to encourage improvement in the city. In his enterprise in Colton he was successful, and secured a modest but well deserved competency. His business was always characterized by a manly and straightforward dealing that secured him hosts of friends and gained him the respect of the...

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Biography of George W. Sparkes

George W. Sparkes, living two and a half miles southeast of San Bernardino, came to California in June, 1857. He was born April 19, 1819, in Monroe County, Mississippi, a son of Aaron and Mary (Stipson) Sparkes. His father, a native of South Carolina, moved to Mississippi in an early day, and died there when George was sixteen years of age. His mother was a native of Virginia. He was married in that State, August 26, 1842, to Miss Lorena Roberds, a native of Alabama, who was principally reared in Mississippi. Her parents were Thomas and Annie (Nix) Roberds, of Alabama. Four years after his marriage Mr. Sparkes started to California with teams across the plains, wintered at Fort Pueblo, and in the spring of 1847 started for Salt Lake City. Remaining there until 1850, he came on with others, comprising his wife and three children, Joan Roberds, wife and seven children, and Mr. Jackson, wife and three children, and completed their journey at Diamond Spring, building the first house at that point and naming the place. There they spent the winter of 1851, while Mr. Sparkes kept a boarding house. He next went to Suisun valley, where he remained about a year and a half; then he went to Russian river, and from that point came to San Bernardino, arriving here June 26, 1857, and has ever since...

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