Search billions of records on


 Biographies Index  



California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


JAMES BIRNEY DRAPER That a good name is to be chosen rather than riches is in a peculiar sense exemplified by the career of Ontario's well known citizen James Birney Draper, who has lived in this community for over a quarter of a century, and thus personally and through his business has earned a host of friendships and has enjoyed every degree of success.

Mr. Draper was born May 16, 1855, in County Gray, Ontario, Canada, son of Charles and Eleanor (Birney) Draper. His father was a farmer who moved to the village of Drayton in County Wallington, and died before his son James was twelve years of age. The latter had only a common school education at Drayton, and at the age of eleven went to work for a farmer, his wages being three dollars a month for a period of nine months. Out of this meager income he saved twenty-five dollars, which he invested in sheep, subsequently destroyed by dogs. He continued working as a farm laborer until he was about twenty years of age, and then learned the tailoring trade in the village of Chesley, Ontario. Subsequently he was in business for himself in the country village of Pinkerton, where he met his future wife, Miss Louisa Mutrie.

From Pinkerton he returned to Drayton and for eight years had charge of the tailoring department of John Whyte's department store, and in the spring of 1889 went west to Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, to open a men's tailoring and men's furnishing goods and fur store. He remained in that western province five years, and in the spring of 1894 arrived in Ontario, California, and on the 13th of May of that year engaged in business as a merchant tailor.

In the fall of 1898 Mr. Draper bought the undertaking business of Fred Clark, succeeding Isaac Garbuth, who had charge, but was incapacitated through illness, and Mr. Draper had voluntarily assisted at a number of funerals and his qualifications for the special service demanded of a funeral undertaker were so evident that though he had no funds to buy the business several Ontario townsmen gave him the money needed without requiring security. He has since developed a model funeral service, and in the spring of 1911 he erected a building of his own, containing an appropriately equipped chapel, at a cost of twenty-seven thousand dollars. The building is ideally located for his business, away from the main thoroughfare but accessible to all points of the town. During the first year Mr. Draper directed thirty funerals, and his business patronage is such that he now handles on an average three hundred such occasions annually. Recently, at the urgent request of ministers of all denominations, bankers and business men, he bought the funeral establishment at Upland from L, C. Vedder, and his son, Fred E., now has charge of the Upland business, and Mr. Draper's youngest daughter, Ella, has charge of the books. Mr. Draper has in every sense been a self-made man, and the integrity of his life has justified the confidence so frequently reposed in him.

He was president of the Southern California Funeral Directors Association, also vice president of the State Funeral Directors Association, and was a member of the legislative committee that was instrumental in placing the present embalmers' bill on the statute books. He is also a member by invitation of the National Selected Morticians, with headquarters at Pittsburgh, Pa. He has for years been bitterly opposed to the liquor traffic, is a republican in politics, and a member of the Official Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was the first treasurer of the Volunteer Fire Department of Ontario.

Mr. Draper married Miss Louisa Mutrie at Pinkerton, Ontario, Canada, in 1884. They bad a family of five children, three sons and two daughters, named Harold Mutrie, Olive Louisa, Ella Martin, Fred Earl and Ewart Blake. Harold M. was killed in an automobile accident on October 16, 1916. Mrs. Draper was born in the Township of Nichol, County of Wellington, Province of Ontario, Canada, January 28, 1858, and was educated in public schools there.


History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011