Biography of Dr. J. C. Hawthorne

For many years the subject of this sketch held a prominent place among the most distinguished medical men of the Pacific Coast. His high professional attainments were matched by a life of conspicuous rectitude and of great public usefulness. He was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, March 12, 1819, and was a son of James and Mary (Donald) Hawthorne, who were of English and Welsh descent. His father was a farmer, but a man of literary attainments and a graduate of Washington College, Pennsylvania.

The early life of young Hawthorne was spent in Mercer County, where his elementary education was received, and where he was prepared for college. He commenced the study of medicine under Dr. Bascom of his native place, and after a brief course of instruction under his direction, entered the Medical University at Louisville, Kentucky, from which institution he subsequently graduated. He commenced practice at Louisville, where he remained until 1850, when he went to California. For some years thereafter he lived at Auburn, Placer County, engaged in a large general practice and hospital work, where he became widely known and gained an enviable reputation for professional skill. In 1851 he was elected State Senator from Placer County and served for two terms, the late Lansing Stout being at that time a member of the Lower House from the same county.

In 1857 he came to Portland, and with the reputation he had already earned, he at once took a high place among the medical men of that day in this portion of the Pacific Northwest, and soon acquired a large private practice. In 1858 he took charge of the county hospital under a contract from the county court. Later on he established a private asylum for the insane. So successful was he in the management of this institution, that the State, during Governor Whiteaker’s term, made a con-tract with him to assume the care of the insane of the State, at which time Dr. A. M. Loryea became associated with him as partner. This contract was from time to time renewed by the State Legislature, and until the time of his death Dr. Hawthorne had practically the sole superintendency of these unfortunate wards of the State. He was associated with others in the work, but the chief responsibility rested upon him, and admirably did he discharge his trust. It was in this connection that he performed a great public service and achieved his highest triumphs, and was best known as a physician. The amelioration of the condition of those whose mental powers had become deranged was a subject which strongly appealed to his kindly nature, and he earnestly devoted the best years of his life to the work. All that experience, study and natural love for his calling could do were freely given to his chosen field of labor. That he became eminently proficient in this most difficult branch of medical science was but a natural sequence of his faithful devotion to his work. During the twenty years and more he had charge of the State Insane Asylum of Oregon, it became widely known and was regarded as one of the best institutions of its kind in the United States. Indeed, while Dr. Hawthorne was a most capable physician and highly proficient in every department of his profession, he will always be best remembered by medical men and the public by the record he made in connection with the State Insane Asylum of Oregon. His work in this direction place him among the few who have gained national renown in the treatment of insanity.

Dr. Hawthorne took a lively interest in public affairs. He was a man of great business sagacity, whose affairs and judgment were rarely at fault as to private undertakings or public enterprises. To great natural force of character was united an abundant fund of that rare practical sense which made him a leader in the community, looked up to, followed and respected. Politically he was originally a whig, but after the overthrow of that party he became a democrat. He was firm and consistent in his political convictions, but was far removed from narrow party bigotry. Although his views were well known and he had nothing of the time-server in his nature, the respect his honesty of character commanded made him strong with the best element in both parties and he was retained in office during many years when the State was under republican rule. Had he desired political preferment he could easily have obtained his desire, but with the exceptions named he declined all suggestions of becoming a candidate for high public stations. He was devoted to his profession and outside of the laurels to be gained within it, he had no ambition.

Dr. Hawthorne was tall in stature, a man of imposing presence, and to a certain reserve and dignity of manner was united the social qualities and generous impulses which created the warmest friendships. There was an air of sincerity, and an evident desire to do the right thing regardless of consequences about the man which made him universally trusted, and by no a a of his life did he ever betray the confidence reposed in him. He was a Christian as the result of the clearest and most deliberate convictions and for many years was a consistent member of the Episcopal Church. He died at the summit of usefulness and in the prime of manhood, on February 15, 1881, universally regretted, and with those who knew him he has left the memory of a broad minded courageous man gifted with great talent, whose career was eminently useful to his fellows and in every way worthy of emulation.

Dr. Hawthorne was twice married. His first wife, Miss Emma Curry, a niece of Congressman Kelly, of Pennsylvania, died in Portland in 1862, only a few weeks after her marriage. He was married to his second wife, formerly Mrs. E. C. Hite, of Sacramento, in 1865, who with two daughters, Louise H. and Catherine Hawthorne, survive him.


Biography, History,

Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

Search Military Records - Fold3

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top