Biography of James B. Summons, Jr.

James B. Summons, Jr., is one of the early pioneers of Riverside, having located in the colony in 1870. He is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, born in 1845. His grandfather, Captain John B. Summons, was a prominent and well-known citizen of Cincinnati, an owner of river steamers carrying the mail, and commander of same. He was a member of the city council of that city for more than twenty-five years. He was a Kentuckian by birth, who in his early manhood settled in Cincinnati. Mr. Summons was reared and educated in Cincinnati until 1861, receiving his education in the public schools and in Professor Herron’s Seminary. He was then sent to New York, and entered upon a course of study in commercial college.

In 1862, although but seventeen years of age, his patriotic and ambitious spirit impelled him to respond to the call of his country, for defense, and he enlisted in Company C, One Hundred and Thirty second New York Volunteer Infantry, in New York city, September 9, 1862. To do this he ran away from school and assumed the name J. B. Lovell, so as to avoid the pursuit of his guardian. His manly qualities and soldierly bearing soon gained him promotion, and he rose to a position on the non-commissioned staff as R. G. G. and Sergeant-Major of the regiment, and later, in 1864, as acting aid-de-camp on the staff of acting Brigadier-General P. J. Classen, commanding in the district of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Mr. Summons’ service was mostly in North Carolina. He belonged to the Twenty-third Army Corps, and was with General Sherman’s army in southeastern Virginia. He participated in the battles of Blackwater, and in many of the engagements; also at Newbern, and later at Goldsboro, Kingston, Raleigh, Little Washington and Batchelor’s Creek. The latter is memorable as one of the hottest and most obstinately fought engagements he ever participated in. There were less than 600 Union troops against nearly 15,000 Confederates. Despite the immense odds the Union troops held their position for nearly six hours, and cut their way through the Confederate forces and made good their retreat. Their losses were severe, and but a remnant of the brave band escaped.

Mr. Summons was mustered out of service at the close of the war, in Salisbury, North Carolina. He then returned to New York and soon after went to Falls Village, Connecticut, and there engaged in agricultural pursuits, and also in the market business. In 1867 he located at Glens Falls, New York, and engaged in auction and commission business under the firm name of Staples & Summons. In the latter part of 1869 he established himself in mercantile pursuits, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This proved a disastrous undertaking. The feeling at that time in the South was strong and bitter against Northern men, or ” Yankees,” as they were styled, and Mr. Summons’ strong Union sentiments, which he did not palliate or deny, coupled with his being a veteran of the late war, made him a special mark for persecution. Their enmity was so persistent and pronounced that he was compelled, in order to save himself from violence and possible death, to seek safety in the North. He was compelled to abandon his stock of goods, and was financially ruined. Be then proceeded to Washington and besought the aid of the general Government in redressing his wrongs.

Failing in that, he came, November 30, 1870, to California, with J. W. North and family, and located in Riverside. At that time there were scarcely a dozen persons in the colony, and the contemplated improvements had not been inaugurated. Without means for the purchase of colony lands, had he so desired, Mr. Summons sought land upon the Government tract, and took up 120 acres about three miles south of Riverside. This proved to be railroad land, and at a later date he purchased from the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, at $30 per acre. He erected a cabin on his tract and sought the means of support for his family, and was engaged in such labor as he could secure in Riverside, and later engaged as a clerk in stores. During this time he was engaged in horticultural pursuits upon his land to the extent of his limited time and means. In 1879 he established the well-known Arlington nurseries upon his land, and was conducting them until 1889.

In 1882 he sold eighty acres of his land to O. T. Dyar and Dr. Gill, receiving $15,000, less $500 taken out by O. T. Dyar, for commission, as the purchase price. This enabled him to carry forward his improvements upon the balance in a much more rapid and substantial manner. He how has thirty-six acres located on Palm avenue, between Central and Sahara avenues, all under cultivation and productive in yield. Many of his trees are young and not in full bearing, but his older trees, which are seedlings, produce a wonderful crop. As an illustration of what he is doing in orange-growing, it is worthy of note that in 1888 he gathered from eighty-four seedling trees, ten years old, from the planting, 25,000 pounds of fruit, which sold for two cents per pound, bringing him the sum of $500. The improvements upon his place, consisting of a fine two-story residence of modern design, and well ordered outbuildings, are first-class in every respect, and attest the success that has crowned his efforts in Riverside.

He is well and favorably known in the community, and his earnest efforts have ever been extended in aiding in the growth and prosperity of his section. In political matters, Mr. Summons is a stanch Republican. He was clerk of the first election ever held in Riverside, in 1872, and cast the first Republican vote polled at that election. It is worthy of mention also, that the first United States flag ever hoisted in the Riverside colony was the banner he flung to the breeze from the staff erected over his little cabin on December 1, 1870. This was in honor of the naming of Riverside, and was the old soldier’s baptismal ceremony, well fitted to the man and to the occasion. He is a member of Cornman Post, No. 57, G. A. R, San Bernardino, and is an aid-de-camp on the staff of the Department Commander. He is also a consistent member of the Congregational Church. In 1865 Mr. Summons married Miss Harriet E. Tibbits, daughter of Luther C. Tibbits, a well-known pioneer of Riverside. She died in 1875, leaving one child, Daisy, who met a sad death by drowning in the Santa Ana River in 1876. In 1878 Mr. Summons wedded Miss Lydia M. D. Wilbur, daughter of John Wilbur, of Riverside. He has five children by this marriage, Clara T., Frank J., Oliver W. L., Albert B. and Lilly A. The fourth child, John W., died in 1885, at the age of six months.


The Lewis Publishing Company. An Illustrated History of Southern California embracing the counties of San Diego San Bernardino Los Angeles and Orange and the peninsula of lower California. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. 1890.

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