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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


HARRY C. HORNBECK. One of the first evidences given by a com- munity of its prosperity is the erection of handsome, modern buildings for business and residential purposes. As long as the people are satisfied with old, unimproved and decaying properties, they cannot be said to take much interest in their surroundings, nor are they regarded as very progressive by outsiders. When, however, old buildings begin to fall, and new ones go up in their place, the proof is positive that a new element has been injected, that a fresh start has been made, and it is remarkable what a change comes about not only in the appearance of the place, but the people themselves. Local pride is stimulated, competition is awakened, and outside capital is attracted. Newcomers passing through are impressed with the advantages of the region, and even if they do not become permanent residents, they carry forth the information regarding the locality, which is of so favorable a nature that others do come in resolved to remain. Connected with such improvements in a close degree, and oftentimes bringing them about, are the contractors and builders, without whom no real improvements of a lasting nature can be affected. One of these representative men of San Bernardino who has more than done his part in the improvement of this city is Harry C. Hornbeck, one of the most capable and experienced men in his line in Southern California.  

Harry C. Hornbeck was born in Hoopeston, near Danville, Illinois, July 1, 1881, a son of Newton and Sarah G. (Smith) Hornbeck. Newton Hornbeck was born in New York State, and is now a resident of Los Angeles, California. He is a veteran of the Union Army, having served in Company E, One Hundred and Fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Although only sixteen years old at the time of his enlistment, he finally was accepted, although it was his third time of trying. Like so many lads of that period, he was intensely patriotic and determined to be a soldier. His parents regarded him as too youthful for such service, so he ran away, and when sent back by army officials, again ran away, and repeated the action when he was again returned to his parents. In spite of his youth he proved a good soldier and participated in many important engagements, including those of Peach Tree Creek, Lookout Mountain, and those of General Sherman's campaign from Atlanta to the sea. He was wounded in the leg by a spent ball, but was otherwise uninjured. Becoming a contractor and builder, he followed that line of business for many years, and for years was a prominent figure in Livingston County, Illinois, where he served as sheriff and as a justice of the peace. For more than twenty years he served as commander of his post of the Grand Army of the Republic at Streator, Illinois. His father, Henry Hornbeck, established the family at Streator, coming to Illinois from New York State in 1855. The Hornbeck family is an old American one of Revolutionary stock.  

Mrs. Sarah G. (Smith) Hornbeck, mother of Harry C. Hornbeck, was born in Connecticut, and died in 1919. She, too, came of Revolutionary stock, and her family is of English descent, her great uncle being General Warren of the Colonial Army, and she was also related to the same family as General Wooster of Revolutionary fame. In addition to Harry C. Hornbeck there are three children of the family of Newton Hornbeck and his wife still living, namely : William E., who is a contractor of Los Angeles, California, is married and has three living children, one of his sons, Earl Hornbeck, having been killed in action in the Argonne sector in France September 28, 1917, by the side of his lieutenant; Claude C, who is a motorman of Los Angeles, is married and has six children; and Ida, who is the wife of Albert Plummer, an electrician of Los Angeles, and they have two children.  

It is interesting to note in connection with the Hornbeck family that during the historical debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, held at Ottawa, Illinois, there were thirty-six states represented by as many young ladies of the city, and nine of them were sisters of Mr. and Mrs. Newton Hornbeck.  

Harry C. Hornbeck attended the public schools of Streator, Illinois, and then went into the building and contracting business with his father at Streator, where he continued to reside for about six years. For the following three years he worked in different Illinois cities, and then located at Springfield, Illinois, and continued a resident of that city for ten years. While there he was engaged for a time in repair work on the old Lincoln home, and for seven years did cabinet and case work for the Powers planing mill. Leaving Springfield, he came to California and, settling at Long Beach, established himself in business as a manufacturer of furniture, conducting his factory for about eighteen months and then selling and locating permanently at San Bernardino, where for three years he was in the employ of Contractor Myzelle. Mr. Hornbeck then went into the contracting and building business for himself, and since then the greater part of his work has been in the erecting of dwellings and store fronts, and he has proven in it that he thoroughly understands every detail of his calling. He has established a reputation for being strictly honorable and for living up to the spirit as well as the letter of his contracts.  

Mr. Hornbeck has had a full and active life, and while acquiring a material prosperity has not neglected what is still more important than the amassing of money, the winning and holding of public confidence, and his standing is of the highest commercially as well as personally. In the course of his work he has met with twenty acci- dents, has had twenty-five bones in his body broken, but in spite of the serious nature of many of his injuries, has emerged with a cheerful spirit and so little evidence of any disastrous results that it is difficult to believe he ever met with misfortune of any kind. Formerly Mr. Hornbeck belonged to the Odd Fellows and the Modern Woodmen of America, but no longer maintains his membership in these orders.  

On July 2, 1905, Mr. Hornbeck married at Springfield, Illinois. Miss Melissa J. Shutt, a native of Illinois, and a daughter of Jacob Shutt. Mrs. Hornbeck belongs to one of the most prominent families of Macoupin County, Illinois, her people having been among the pioneers of Central Illinois. The Shutt family is one of the old and honorable ones of America, having been founded here long prior to the Revolution. Mr. and Mrs. Hornbeck have three children, namely: Luella May, who is a student of the San Bernardino High School, class of 1925 ; Lois E., who is a student of the San Bernardino High School, class of 1926; and Marian J., who is attending school.

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