JOHN H. CRESMER
John H. Cresmer is a prominent representative of business interests in Riverside as vice president of the Cresmer Manufacturing Company, which had its inception under his direction nearly a third of a century ago. He was born in Creswell, Maryland, November 15, 1860, his parents being J. G. And R. Sophia (Hartling) Cresmer, both of whom were natives of Germany, the former born in Odenberg, Saxony, and the latter in Leipsic. They were farming people who crossed the Atlantic to the United States in 1838 and after their arrival in this country located in the neighborhood of Creswell, Maryland, where J. G. Cresmer spent the remainder of his life in agricultural pursuits. His widow eventually came to California, passing away in this state. Their family numbered four sons, as follows: Herman, who served in the Civil war with a Maryland regiment, resided for a time in Fresno, California and died in Los Angeles in 1930; Frank, who makes his home in Los Angeles; Edward, deceased; and John H., of this review.
Reared in Harford county, Maryland, John H. Cresmer attended its public schools, and at the same time learned the business of canning fruits and vegetables. When he left school he and his mother decided to go into the canning business for themselves, this move being necessary, as in the meanwhile the father and husband had been taken from them by death. Embarking in this enterprise, they followed this line of endeavor very successfully for six years, their pack being known as the “Forest” brand. They specialized in tomatoes, peaches and blackberries. At the termination of the six years the entire plant was destroyed by fire, resulting from spontaneous combustion. Their insurance did not cover their loss, and Mr. Cresmer was once more thrown on his own resources.
In 1882 he went to Weldon, DeWitt county, Illinois, and organized the Cresmer Brothers Canning Company, locating his plant in the midst of a very productive section of the country. He planned to can about four hundred acres of sweet corn, and planted some acreage himself. Unfortunately for the success of his project this was an extremely wet season and the corn all turned yellow, so it was unfit for packing. In preparing for the business he had purchased the tin and manufactured one million cans. Owing to the failure of the corn he bought pumpkins, apples and other produce to fill his cans, striving to retrieve his losses, but after two years of earnest effort he was obliged to adandon (sic) his project and began learning the carpenter trade.
California was beginning to attract settlers as a desirable place of residence, and in 1886 Mr. Cresmer came west to San Jacinto, where he worked in a planing mill, thus learning the mechanism of the sash, door and window construction. During his last year at San Jacinto he was associated as a partner with John Shaver. His residence at San Jacinto covered fourteen years, and after the earthquake he practically rebuilt the town, having eighty men working under him. In 1900 Mr. Cresmer came to Riverside, and here he found ideal conditions for the carrying out of a plan he had formulated. He bought his present site from the A. W. Miller Manufacturing Company, which was conducting a small planing mill, paying for it one thousand dollars in cash and the remainder in installments. Four years later he formed a partnership with George F. Ward, and during the following year incorporated the Cresmer & Ward Company. Two years later he bought out his partner, and changed the name to the present one of the Cresmer Manufacturing Company. He sold additional stock and erected his present modern and commodious quarters. In 1908 he added the contracting business to his other activities. Some idea of the growth of this company and the value of its operations may be gleaned from the following extract quoted in part from a newspaper article printed in 1921.
“The Cresmer Manufacturing Company of Riverside had a birthday during the past week. It was twenty-one years old, having been in business in this community during that length of time. This company has done more than five hundred thousand dollars worth of construction work during the past twelve months. It has had a payroll of more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, expended in Riverside. It operates throughout all of southern California, and has the credit for some of the largest buildings in this district, including the Santa Fe depot at San Bernardino, which cost two hundred and fifty-thousand dollars. It built the First Congregational Church building of Riverside. It built the University of California Experiment Station buildings of this city, at a cost of one hundred and fifteen thousand dollars. It erected the Southern Sierras Power Company building for forty thousand dollars, and recently the Sperry Flour Company buildings for thirty-five thousand dollars. It did eighty thousand dollars worth of interior work for the Goodyear Rubber Company factory at Los Angeles. It has built such outside buildings as the one-hundred-thousand-dollar music hall at Claremont, an eighty-thousand-dollar residence for Mrs. Fowler near Chino, forty thousand dollars in buildings at the George Junior Republic, a one-hundred-thousand-dollar Fifth Street grammar school at San Pedro, and many other structures of importance. Riverside is to be congratulated upon having a plant such as that of the Cresmer Manufacturing Company. It is an asset to the community. Local people having mill work to do should realize that it is not necessary to go to Los Angeles to have it done and that it can be done as well and as cheaply at the Cresmer plant. The fact that a large part of its work is in other communities, secured in competition with Los Angeles and other outside firms, shows what it is capable of doing.”
In addition to constructing and building the company deals in general mill work, plate windows and ornamental glass, hardwoods, office fixtures and mission furniture. The officials are: J. H. Urquhart, president; J. H. Cresmer, vice president; and J. W. Shrimp, secretary and treasurer.
On the 6th of June, 1881, at Creswell, Maryland, Mr. Cresmer was married to Miss Lena E. Gerhardt, a native of Baltimore, Maryland and a daughter of Theodore Gerhardt, a shoe manufacturer of Baltimore. Mr. and Mrs. Cresmer became the parents of eight children, as follows: Walter H., who is associated with his father in the mill business; Anna E., who died January 7, 1932; Eunice L.; J. Roland, who is a bricklayer of Riverside; Elsie R., who is the wife of A. M. Lines, a plumber of Riverside; Blanche, who is a stenographer and typist in the county assessor’s office; Delta, a school teacher and Clarence E., a musician.
Mr. Cresmer maintains an independent attitude in politics, supporting men and measures rather than party. While a resident of San Jacinto he served on its city council. He is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Men’s Association of Riverside, while fraternally he is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Woodmen of the World and the American Yeomen. He has been a lifelong member of the Christian Church and has taken an active part in the work of this denomination in the several communities in which he has made his home, serving while a resident of San Jacinto as secretary of the board of trustees, superintendent of the Sunday school and chairman of the church board. For the past thirty years he has been an elder of the Riverside congregation. An earlier biographer wrote: “Mr. Cresmer is a man whose remarkable success may be attributed in large part to his persistence and determination to win out in spite of obstacles. Disaster has overcome him more than once, but he has not been discouraged, but gone right along working hard to gain a new hold upon fortune. Not many men could have risen above the discouragements of business disappointments as has he, and all the more credit is due him for what he has ultimately accomplished because of these early failures. He is a citizen of the highest standing, and a man whose advice and support are sought by the leading and most responsible people of this and other sections, for his worth is fully appreciated.”
Transcribed 2-7-12 Marilyn R. Pankey.
Source: California of the South Vol. II, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 93-97, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 Marilyn R. Pankey.