California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
JOHN B. ODELL. — The name of John B. Odell is closely associated with the development of the orange industry of Riverside, and also with the general business life of this region, for he is a man whose energies have led him to take a dominating part in the various legitimate enterprises of the city with which he cast his lot in 1913, and prior to that date was a well-known figure in several of the large centers of industry of the country.
John B. Odell was born in Cleveland, Ohio, April 8, 1848, a son of John and Lydia (Cody) Odell, both of whom are now deceased. John Odell was born in Connecticut, and during his early life he was a teacher in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Later he was a general merchant of Twinsburg, Ohio, where he became a prominent man. The family is of Revolutionary stock and Scotch-Irish descent. Mrs. Odell was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and belonged to an old family of Scotch-Irish descent, the same one to which Col. W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) belonged.
After attending the public schools of Cleveland, Ohio, John B. Odell became a telegrapher, and worked as such and as a bookkeeper at Cleveland, Ohio, and Galesburg, Illinois. Subsequently he became train dispatcher for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, which position he held for fourteen years, and then went to Chicago, Illinois, where he was engaged in the manufacture of electrical supplies, and was closely connected with the Western Union Telegraph Company, supplying it with a number of manufactured articles. For fifty years he was connected with this company in different capacities. For a number of years he had charge of the telegraphic department at the republican national conventions, a position of great responsibility, and one which required a man with a thorough knowledge of the business. He was telegraph manager for the Associated Press at Chicago, and was the first operator for the Chicago American of that city, when that paper made its first appearance. While too young to serve during the war between the two sections of the country, Mr. Odell had three brothers in the service. Delos Odell, who is now deceased; Joseph Odell, who is trust officer of the Lincoln Bank of Cleveland, Ohio: and Theodore Odell, who is now a consulting railroad president of New York City, New York. He was general superintendent of the Northern Pacific Railroad; general superintendent of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad; president of the Pittsburgh & Erie Railroad; and president Of the Orient lines from Kansas City, Missouri, and is recognized to be one of the most experienced railroad men in the country.
In 1913 John B. Odell came to Riverside and purchased the old Colson place of 15 acres at 429 Indiana Avenue, and has so improved it that it is now one of the show places of the city. The house originally was of the Scotch style of architecture, but he had added many improvements, including pergolas, and the whole is covered by a profusion of beautiful flowers and vines. He erected a large fountain and a sunken fountain for water lilies and gold fish in the grounds. The exquisite beds of flowers stretch away into groves of deciduous and citrus trees, which include walnuts, grape fruit and six or seven varieties of oranges. It is an ideal home, and here Mr. Odell now spends a great deal of his time, further beautifying his property. While he has passed the age of three score years and ten, he is as active as a young man, and finds pleasure in operating a tractor, or doing any of the other kinds of work inseparably connected with the culture of oranges.
Mr. Odell was a director of the Peoples Trust & Savings Bank, of which his son, John Clayton Odell, was president, and when that institution become insolvent Mr. Odell and other members of his family voluntarily crippled themselves financially by putting up large securities so as to safeguard the depositors from loss, which honorable conduct gained him the approval of his fellow citizens in no unmeasured degree. Mr. Odell is one of the directors and was president of the Loring Opera House Company, which owns the Loring Block at the corner of Main and Seventh streets. He is also the owner of a 10 acre grove at Corona, California. During his younger years he was a member of the Odd Fellows.
On October 25, 1871, Mr. Odell married at Galesburg, Illinois, Miss Flora Lee, a native of Illinois, and a daughter of Joel Lee, who came of Revolutionary stock and English descent, and was born in New York State. Mr. and Mrs. Odell have three children, namely: John Clayton Odell, who married Deidre Flemming, a native of Iowa, and a daughter of John Flemming, a lumber dealer of McGregor, Iowa. They have two children, namely: Geoffrey, who is a business man of Los Angeles; and Gertrude, who is a student of the Riverside public schools. Rosemary, the second child of John B. Odell and his wife, married Carl A. Ross, an attorney of South Bend, Indiana, and they have three children, namely: Jane, Helen and Betsy, all of whom are attending school at South Bend, Indiana. Florence, the youngest of the Odell family, is the widow of Gilbert Hamilton Hoxie, and is living at El Mirasol, Santa Barbara, California. She has one son. Hamilton Hoxie, who is attending Thacher's School in the Ojai Valley, class of 1921. Following the completion of his studies in that institution he will matriculate at Yale University.
Mrs. Odell was a member of the executive board of the war Council of Defense during the World war. She is much interested in current matters, and is a member of the Wednesday Club. Having joined the Presbyterian Church at Chicago, she still retains her membership with that congregation. Both Mr. and Mrs. Odell stand very high in social circles at Riverside. Their lavish hospitality at their beautiful home is proverbial. At the same time their charities are numerous, and their names are held in grateful remembrance by the many who have benefited by their generosity. In all matters of public moment Mr. Odell has always shown a commendable interest, and he takes a deep pride in the progress of the city, and has great faith in its continued and increased prosperity.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011