William Rea, one of California’s prominent pioneers, residing at Forest Hill, came to the state in 1854. He is a native of the state of Maine, born on the 25th of March, 1833, of English ancestry. His parents, Robert and Mary (Hawks) Rea, were born in England, and in early life immigrated to New Brunswick, Canada, where they subsequently married, and whence they crossed the boundary line into Maine, where he followed the occupation of millwright for many years. He died in the sixty-fifth year of his age and she reached the ripe age of eighty-four years. They were the parents of twelve children, nine of whom reached maturity and of that number three sons and a daughter are now living.
William was the sixth born in the above family and in his native state was reared and educated, learning in his youth the business of saw-milling, his father owning and operating a saw-mill. On reaching his majority young Rea left home and came west to California, making the journey by way of New York City and the Isthmus of Panama. Having arrived in the Golden state, he first located in Greenwood Valley. He afterward went to Sacramento Valley and was at Lake Park four months, while there helping to build a saw-mill, after which he came to the Forest Hill Divide. For a few months he worked for wages at this place, then purchased some horses and engaged in teaming, doing job work, which he found more profitable than working for wages. Later he bought a saw-mill, and for twenty-five years was engaged in the manufacture of lumber. At the end of that time he rented the Forest House and turned his attention to the hotel business, which he conducted successfully for a number of years. The Forest House he conducted five years, after which he built the large Rea Hotel in Forest Hill, the same being conducted under his own personal management until 1896. That year he rented his hotel and retired from active business, taking advantage of that period of rest which should come at the close of every busy, active life. Another successful business venture in which Mr. Rea has long been engaged and which has been a profitable one for many a California pioneer is that of staging. For twenty years he has been interested in a stage route, his line of operation being from Forest Hill to Auburn, and from Colfax to Forest Hill and Michigan Bluffs. Progressive, enterprising, honorable and upright in all his business transactions, Mr. Rea has had a successful career, acquiring at the same time a competency and a host of warm friends.
In his native state he married Miss Augusta Rice, by whom he had two children, one of whom was killed by an accident in his father’s mill, while the other James F., is a mining man in California. After seven years of happy married life Mrs. Rea died, and in 1863 Mr. Rea wedded for his second wife Miss Ann Allen, of St. John. The children of this union are five, namely: Elida, wife of George W. Murdock, a resident of Port Henry, New York; Minnie, at home; Ida, wife of Thomas Brown, of Bath, Maine; and William H., a resident of Forest Hill. In his pleasant home in this sunny land Mr. Rea is surrounded with all that goes to make life happy. Politically, Mr. Rea has always been in harmony with the principles advocated by the Republican Party and has given his support to it. Fraternally, he is a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, being a charter member of the lodge at Forest Hill.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.