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September 15, 1900:


John J. Hewitt died at his home in Riverside, California, Tuesday morning, September 11th, from congestion of the lungs, after an illness of only a few days. His son, T.D. Hewitt and daughter, Mrs. O. E. Rosenteil of Freeport, left for California last Saturday afternoon, but were informed by telegram while flying across Arizona, that their father was dead, and thus they were denied the opportunity of seeing him alive. Mr. Hewitt was laid to rest in a cemetery in Riverside, California, Thursday afternoon, Sept. 13.

From a biographical sketch published in an Ogle County History of 1886, this historical sketch and reminiscence of the Hewitt family is evolved, and as John J. Hewitt’s death marks the decease of the last member of the old family, it seems proper to take this occasion to record in this paper the history of the family that was instrumental in bringing Forreston into existence. The name Hewitt is the first to appear in the collected records of the town, and is an inseperable part of the history of the north-western portion of Ogle County.

John J. Hewitt was born February 16, 1828, in Franklin county, Penn. He was the third child and eldest son of George W. Hewitt, who was one of the settlers of Ogle County about the year, 1855. His father, Geo. W., was born in Windham county, Conn., March 17, 1799. Robert and Abigail (Meech) Hewitt, his parents were also natives of Connecticut, and were of English decent. Robert Hewitt was a soldier during the Revolutionary war and served seven years. He was a cavalryman, and as such, did scouting duty. During the entire course of the war he did not hear from his home. His marriage to Abigail Meech took place in December, 1783. She was born in Connecticut, and was 11 years old when the capture by the British occurred. While she lived she had a distinct remembrance of the taxation by British government, and all the attendant excitement. Among her reminiscences of that period was the “tea party” in Boston harbor. She was the mother of 13 children, the first of whom died in infancy. Following is the record of their births in the order of occurrence: Elizabeth, June 11, 1786; Thomas, March 24, 1788; Appleton, June 18, 1790; Robert M., Feb. 25,1792; Lucy, Dec. 20, 1793; Charles, July 6, 1796; Geo. W., March 17,1799; Abigail, Nov. 19, 1800; Appleton (2d), July 28, 1802; Sarah Ann, Sept. 19, 1804; Maria, Dec. 9, 1806; John S., Sept. 16, 1810. After the close of the Revolutionary war, Robert Hewitt resumed his former occupation, that of a farmer. He died at his home in Franklin county, Penn. His widow was his survivor for many years, and lived with her son for a long time. She accompanied his family to Ogle County, and died in the vicinity of Mt. Morris, in the fall of 1855, at the age of 95 years. In nationality she was of Scotch descent, and in religious views a Baptist.

George W. Hewitt was reared and educated in Connecticut. He was an accomplished scholar, and was prominent as a teacher. He commenced that vocation in his native state, and after the dissipation of all the property owned by his father previous to the period of the Revolution, he earned sufficient to remove his parents with their family to Pennsylvania. Previous to that he had gone to the state of Maryland, where he was engaged in teaching. After going to Pennsylvania, he continued to teach there, and was one of the first to advocate the school system which still prevails there. Later, he became a merchant in Franklin county, Penn., and was engaged in its prosecution at Middleburg until his removal to Illinois. During the two years preceding he was operating also as a speculator. He succeeded in amassing a comfortable fortune, and was considered as one of the solid business men of that locality. In the year named he located in Ogle county, where he began operations in real estate. His first purchases included four quarter-sections. He added to this acreage by later purchases until he was, at the time of his death, the owner of 600 acres. A large amount of landed property passed through his hands in the course of his operations, and he had speculated in various ways with successful results. At the date of his decease, his possessions were valued at $195,000. The townsite of Forreston was originally the property of Col. John Dement of Dixon. The Illinois Central Railroad Co. had established a station and made a town plat calling it Forreston. Geo. W. Hewitt bought 86 (?36) acres and platted an addition. The Central House and Forreston House are located on this plat. He built on this property the first brick house erected in the township, where he and his son Philo and daughters lived for many years. The house is at present occupied by F. A. Heilman.

The full history of this noted family as recorded would be too lengthy for a newspaper article gotten up in one day. Suffice it to say that Geo. W. Hewitt, as long as he continued to live, was active in the development of Forreston, and was ever alive to all issues that promised a permanent advantage to the place.

John J. Hewitt received a good primary education in the public schools. On account of illness he had to abandon educational pursuits, and in the fall of 1848, he went to Chicago and engaged as clerk in the National Hotel. He retained that position until the summer of 1849, when he came to Ogle County. He had received $15 per month for his services in the hotel, and with the principles of thrift and an eye to business, which he had imbiled from his father, he had saved his money. He bought a half interest in an ox team, and engaged in the business that seemed in most pressing need--that of breaking prairie. Before the close of the second season, he had bought the claim of his partner, and had also become the owner of a second team. He sold the team the same fall and went to Kentucky. He made purchases of tobacco there, which he shipped by river to Pittsburgh, Pa. He continued operations in this direction six months and realized a good profit. Upon the close of his business in Kentucky, he returned to Franklin county, Penn., and engaged in teaching school in Washington county, Md. After a short time he relinquished the scheme of teaching and embarked in a mercantile venture. He remained there in business until the fall of 1854, and had been reasonable successful in his business operations.

His father had made a location and investment at Forreston, as has been stated,and the advent of the railroad had paved the way for business enterprise. He discontinued his business in the east and came to Forreston. He bought from his father an undivided half interest in the townsite. In 1855, his brother Theodore commenced the erection of the Albion (now the Central) House, but died before its completion, and John J. became the
purchaser of his interest. The building was completed and leased for hotel and store purposes. He was the first buyer and shipper of grain at Forreston, which enterprise he commenced in the winter of 1854-55. A little latter he embarked in a general merchandise business, associated with his brother-in-law, B.F. Emerick, which was sold the following year to his cousin C. M. Haller, who is still conducting it, but only as a drugstore. Then it was about the only store where about everything was bought and sold, and at one time was good for $25,000 a year in receipts. In 1858 Mr. Hewitt
began the erection of another hotel, which is now operated as the Forreston House.

In 1868, he opened a private banking house known in business circles as the Bank of Forreston, and which he continued to manage until 1872, when he sold his interests to other parties. In June, 1880, he opened the Farmer’s and Trader’s Bank at Forreston, which he continued about seven years and then sold to J.W. Harrenstein.January 15, 1857 Mr. Hewitt and Miss Susan M. Emerick were united in marriage. She was born in Franklin County, Penn., April 20, 1830 and was the daughter of Peter Emerick, who, with his wife, was a native of the same county in which Mr. Hewitt was born. They were of German extraction. Four children were born: Emerick B, was born Oct. 27, 1857, and died Feb. 27, 1879. This boy was a child of great promise. He was educated at Normal, Ill., and entered upon his collegiate course at Harvard, where ill health compelled him to seek recuperation in Colorado, where he died from the ravages of consumption.

Grace, the eldest daughter, (now Mrs. O. E. Rosenteil of Freeport) was born July 18, 1859. Theodore D. now one of the firm of Woodmanee & Hewitt, Freeport, was born Oct. 12, 1860. Philo was born March 15, 1863, and died Nov. 10th of the same year. The mother died Aug. 20, 1863. She was a life long member of the Lutheran church. Both the remaining children are graduates of the Normal University. Mr. Hewitt always honored the educational system, which was one of the dearest and closest to his father’s heart, and which he advocated and assisted in every way in his power. In the fall of 1865, he went south. The death of his wife had affected him deeply, and time brought no relief from the sharpness of the loss. His business acumen, always alert and watchful for opportunities to develop business advantages in any locality caused his to calculate the chances in the southern section of this country then open to the enterprise of whom soever should choose to make the venture, and he determined to test the idea of the labor element that had been made free being made self-sustaining. He proceeded to Atlanta, Georgia, and to Montgomery, Alabama, and invested an aggregate of $50,000 in cotton plantations. He hired negroes, paying them regular wages, and planted several hundred acres of cotton and corn. The outlookk was fair, but the results proved to him the pith and pathos of that most graphic account of a similar experiment, “The Fool’s Errand.” He retained his interests in the south until 1872, when he sold out. His business interests were practically confined from that time to 1881 to Forreston. His health became impaired, and in the fall of that year he went to California to recuperate. He made his headquarters at Riverside, and the following year brought a fruit ranch near there, which he maintained and improved up to the time of his death.

Dec. 3, 1872, the second marriage of Mr. Hewitt was consummated. He was at that time united with Miss Martha E. Hutchinson a native of Center county, Penn. She was educated at Cannonsburg, Penn., where she graduated. She came to Forreston in 1868, where she was organist in the Lutheran church and made the acquaintance of Mr. Hewitt, which finally culminated in their marriage. The issue of their marriage was two daughters, Beulah and Ethel. The former is now Mrs. Dr. Robles, and all reside at Riverside, California. Mr Hewitt’s wealth is variously estimated at from $800,000 to $1,000,000. He owned 130 acres of orange groves in Calfornia. He was also president fo the First National Bank of Riverside, and also held a like position in a Savings Bank. Thus ends the life of an active, industrious, therefore prosperous man whose 50 years of successful business life should stimulate the rising generation to gain fame and prominence in the financial world by emulating his example of industry, patience and frugality.

Submitted by Morgan

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