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Tuolumne County








            That upright, sturdy, industrious, English character which is successful everywhere is exemplified in the career of the man whose name is the title of this sketch.  John W. Witney is a son of Edward and Mary (Harvey) Witney, descendants of old English ancestors, and was born in Oxfordshire, England, June 18, 1832, has lived in Tuolumne County, California, for forty-six years, and is a prominent and highly respected citizen of Quartz, where he has been long identified with the hotel and mercantile business.

            Mr. Witney was only a child when his father died and he gained his education mostly in the hard and thorough school of experience and has made his way to financial success by his own unaided efforts.  He came to America in 1846 at the age of fourteen years, and landed a stranger in a strange land without either money or friends.  His first work was as a waiter in a restaurant in New York City, but he was cheated out of his pay and sought other employment, which he found as baggage master on a vessel just about to put to sea, a position which he held for two years.  After that he took passage on the old Georgia for California, but the vessel was wrecked and put back to Norfolk, Virginia.  He pursued his journey successively on four other vessels, only the last of which was able to land him at San Francisco, where he arrived in March, 1854.  From San Francisco he went direct to Springfield, Tuolumne County, where he engaged in mining, but with such poor success that he made little more than a living.  After he had acquired a claim of his own, at an expense of eight hundred dollars, he was able to take out scarcely enough gold to reimburse him for the outlay.  After ten years’ experience at Springfield he joined that noted pioneer, Thomas Hardy, at Copperopolis, and mined with him for a time, until he came to Quartz and engaged in business as a hotelkeeper and general merchant.  He was prosperous until 1882, when his buildings and much of their contents were destroyed by fire.  He was able to rebuild, however, and he resumed business with every promise of success and has done well to the present time.  He has never given up mining entirely and has valuable mining interests at this time.  For years his was the only hotel at Quartz and he was a popular and successful “landlord,” supplying a large number of patrons with ample accommodations and gaining a wide reputation among men of the state.  He is still active in a business way and has won an enviable reputation as a merchant, miner and man of affairs.  He is a staunch Republican, but has never sought or held office, and has been an Odd Fellow for thirty-three years.  He was married in 1868 to Mrs. Charlotte Swank, a widow with three children:  Mary, Charlotte and Carrie, the last mentioned of whom married Richard Hodge.  Two children have been born to Mrs. and Mrs. Witney:  Minnie and John.  The first mentioned is now Mrs. Edgar Barton.  John has become well known in connection with mining interests.



Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: “A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of Northern California”, Pages 565-566. Chicago Standard Genealogical  Publishing Co. 1901.

© 2010  Gerald Iaquinta.




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