GEORGE HENRY AMERIGE
George Henry Amerige, prominent upbuilder of Fullerton, Orange County, was born in Malden, Massachusetts, March 22, 1855, a son of Henry and Harriette Elizabeth Giles (Russell) Amerige. The Amerige family is of ancient Italian origin, being one of the oldest Protestant families of Italy. Because of religious persecution, they were forced to leave their native land and settled in Germany, later going to England. Morris Amerige, the progenitor of the family in the New World, was born and reared in England and came to America in company with two brothers, with whom he settled in Boston, Massachusetts. Morris Amerige was a dealer in horses, conducted a livery business and later had a sugar refinery. The Amerige’s became recognized as one of the prominent colonial families of New England. Morris Amerige married Miss Sarah Brown, daughter of Solomon Brown, one of the early shoe manufacturers of Lynn, Massachusetts. George H. Amerige, an uncle of George Henry Amerige of this review, came to California by way of the Isthmus of Panama in 1849 and in the following year established in San Francisco the first steam power printing press in California. Later he and Charles Steadman founded the well known newspaper, Alta California, in that city. Henry Amerige, the father of George Henry Amerige, was a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and went to sea in young manhood, later becoming widely known as a manufacturer and as an outfitter of sailing vessels. He helped to develop the western part of Malden, Massachusetts, filled city offices and made a commendable record as a leading citizen. Amerige Park, named in his honor, and used as a playground, was donated to the city of Malden by his heirs. He was elected a representative to the Massachusetts legislature, but refused to serve owing to private business; was on the board of assessors of Malden; served as state highway commissioner and superintendent of streets for many years and stood high in the ranks of the influential and public-spirited men of his community. In early manhood he married Miss Harriette Elizabeth Giles Russell, who was born in the old Benjamin Franklin home in Boston, Massachusetts, and was a daughter of Benjamin Russell, a native of Salem, that state. Benjamin Russell married Miss Giles, whose father, Benjamin Giles, was a soldier of the Revolutionary War and married Miss Endicott, a cousin of Governor Endicott of Massachusetts. They were all of English descent and of old Puritan stock. Benjamin Giles gave the sounding board to Old South Church in Boston. Benjamin Russell owned several vessels and engaged in the merchant marine trade. He brought the first colored boys from Africa to Salem and educated them until they were able to make their own way. He also brought the first rubber from South America to Massachusetts. One of the great-grandfathers of George Henry Amerige in the maternal line participated in one of the old French wars and was so severely wounded in battle that the amputation of one of his legs was necessary. Fraternally he was affiliated with the Masons. The children of Henry and Harriette Elizabeth Giles (Russell) Amerige were five in number, as follows: Edward R., who died May 3, 1915; George Henry, of this review; Hattie Alice; Mary Ella, whose death occurred in 1922; and Albert B., a resident of Everett, Massachusetts. Of the above named, Hattie Alice is the wife of Albert B. Morgan, of Malden, Massachusetts, and the mother of three sons: Henry A. and Russell B., veterans of the World War, who are associated with their father in the drug business in Malden, Massachusetts; and Alva B., who attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was associated with the National Electric Corporation in New York for years and is now assistant engineer for the Edison Company in New York.
George H. Amerige was reared in Malden, Massachusetts, and acquired his education in the public schools, Chauncy Hall, a private school, and took a business course at Bryant & Stratton. Early in life he formed a business association with his brother, Edward R., a relation which was maintained until the death of the latter in 1915. They became wholesale and retail dealers in grain and hay in Boston, beginning operations on a modest scale, but within a short time success attended their undertakings and they made shipments in car-load lots, also operating a grist mill. They owned four stores in Massachusetts and also erected warehouses in that state. Early in May, 1886, the brothers came to California. From an interesting and valuable historical paper prepared some years ago by George H. Amerige the following facts relative to his early business activities are gleaned: He and his brother made a thorough inspection of what is now known as the Fullerton district, with the result that they decided that this was an admirable location for a new town, not only because of its splendid natural site, but also because of its proximity to the well developed Placentia district. In the spring of 1887 they bought found hundred thirty acres of land, a part of the old Miles estate, and soon afterwards negotiated with and induced the Santa Fe Railroad Company, which was about to build a line through Orange County, to change its route so as to run through the new tract. The townsite was surveyed and platted and the first stake was driven in this survey, at what is now the corner of Spadra Street and East Commonwealth Avenue, by Edward Amerige on July 5, 1887. The land was soon cleared of the wild mustard which covered it, streets laid out and various buildings erected, one of the first of which was built by the Amerige Brothers and used by them as an office. Mr. Amerige donated this building to the Women’s Club of Fullerton and moved it to the city park on West Commonwealth where it is used as a restroom and museum. If this building could talk, many interesting historical facts would become known. Soon after these preliminary steps had been taken the boom began to subside and the railroad company failed for a year to complete its line as agreed upon to Fullerton. The town was seriously handicapped by a lack of transportation facilities to and from Los Angeles, but the future of the new town seemed so promising that Wilshire Brothers prevailed upon the Amerige’s to sell them an interest in the venture. To better facilitate the development of the new town, all interests were merged into the Pacific Land and Improvement Company. The place was named Fullerton in honor of George H. Fullerton, then president of the Pacific Land and Improvement Company, which was really a subsidiary of the Santa Fe Railroad Company. At a subsequent date Wilshire Brothers and C. C. Carpenter purchased the Pacific Land and Improvement Company’s interest and the Fullerton Land and Trust Company came into existence. The Wilshire’s failed to carry out their contract with the Pacific Land and Improvement Company and their holdings were taken over by the land company. Then the interests of Amerige Brothers and the Pacific Land and Improvement Company dissolved, Amerige Brothers staying with the new town. Fullerton really received no natural benefits from the boom, which subsided before the railroad came in. The first train reached the town in the fall of 1888, and the first building of any importance to be erected was the St. George Hotel, costing over fifty thousand dollars and named for George Amerige. This building was wrecked in 1918 to make room for a modern business block, erected by George H. Amerige. The Wilshire Block, at the corner of Spadra Street and Commonwealth Avenue, was also built in 1888. The first bank to be established was the First National and the Fullerton Savings Bank, affiliated, which came into existence largely through the efforts of Amerige Brothers. They named most of the streets of the town after the streets in or near their native town. Thus Commonwealth Avenue derived its name from the famous thoroughfare of Boston; Malden Street and Highland Avenue were named for the city and street where the founders formerly lived, and Amerige Avenue perpetuates their family name. Amerige Brothers also planted and developed a sixty-acre walnut orchard and sent walnuts to the east in carload lots. They erected a number of business blocks in the town and George H. Amerige individually built and still owns some of the best structures in the city. He still owns property also in Malden, Massachusetts, and has other business interests in that state. Through the years he has devoted his attention closely to the welfare of Fullerton, and among the improvements initiated by him were the installation of the first water-works and the planting of the first trees along the avenues of the city. He has a large collection of photographs showing the development of Fullerton.
On the 12th of September, 1894, in Boston, Massachusetts, Mr. Amerige was married to Miss Annette Jackson, who was born in North Searsport, Maine, but was reared in Boston. She comes of a very old and prominent New England family, the ancestors of which served in the colonial and Revolutionary wars. Her father, Joseph Jackson, was a shipbuilder in Searsport, Maine, and later in Boston. He also came to St. Louis and built boats to ply on the Mississippi River, where he continued in business until his retirement. The mother, Mrs. Eliza Thorndyke (Sawyer) Jackson, was born in Thorndyke, Maine, and was a daughter of Rev. John and Elizabeth (Gilman) Sawyer, the former a well known Baptist minister. They were closely related to Ex-Governor Sawyer of New Hampshire and the Chabborn’s and Hamlin’s of Maine. The Gilman family is of English lineage. When the great-great-grandfather, John Gilman, and three of his sons sailed in their own ship from England to Beverly, Massachusetts, they were given a grant at Ipswich, Massachusetts, which they developed. Later the oldest son, Edward, went to New Hampshire and proceeded to colonize land, was thus it was that Gilmanton, New Hampshire, was named for them. Mrs. Annette (Jackson) Amerige, the youngest of a family of six children, was reared and educated in Boston, where she resided until her marriage. She is a member of the Order of the Eastern star and the P. E. O. She has always been greatly interested in Fullerton, taking a leading part in its civic and social activities, and is highly esteemed throughout the community. Mr. Amerige gives his political support to the Republican Party and has always manifested a keen interest in public affairs. He is a member of the Board of Trade, also belongs to the Fullerton Club and fraternally is identified with Fullerton Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, of which he was one of the five charter members. The period of his residence in Orange County now covers forty-seven years and he has long been numbered among the leading and influential citizens here.
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. IV, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 311-316, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.