Biography of William Jesse Curtis

William Jesse Curtis, attorney at law in San Bernardino, is the oldest son of Hon. I. C. Curtis and Mrs. Lucy M. Curtis. His father was for many years a prominent member of the bar of Marion County, Iowa, and represented that county for several terms in the State Legislature. His mother is the daughter of Jesse L. Holman, one of the judges of the Supreme Court of the State of Indiana, and a sister of Hon. William S. Holman, now a distinguished member of Congress from that State. Mr. Curtis was born at Aurora, Indiana, on the 2d day of August 1838. In 1844, he moved with his parents, to the then Territory of Iowa, and settled in Marion County, near the present city of Pella. The Central University of Iowa was afterward located at Pella, and Mr. Curtis attended that institution for several terms. He read law in his father’s office and was admitted to the bar in 1863, and immediately became a partner with his father in the practice of his profession.

In 1861 he married Miss Frances S. Cowles, a daughter of Leonard H. Cowles, of Delaware, Ohio. In 1864 he crossed the plains with ox and mule teams, came to California and settled in San Bernardino, where he has resided ever since. The first few years after his arrival in California, he devoted to teaching school. After this he engaged in farming for several years, but as a practical farmer he was a signal failure, though he still insists that he knows how a farm should be conducted. During all these years Mr. Curtis cherished the idea of at some time returning to his chosen profession-the practice of law but, owing to his financial condition and to the small amount of legal business in this county at that time, and to the further fact that there were more than a sufficient number of old and experienced lawyers then in practice in the county to attend to all the business therein, he hesitated to enter the race with these gentlemen who had already established reputations as safe and reliable lawyers.

He decided, however, during the latter part of the year 1871, to again practice law, and on the 1st day of January 1872, in connection with Judge A. D. Boren, he opened a law office in the city of San Bernardino. Clients came slowly, but his business gradually grew. In 1873 he was elected District Attorney of San Bernardino County, and was re-elected in 1875. After the expiration of his second term as District Attorney, he formed a partnership with Hon. H. C. Rolfe, which continued until September 1879, when Mr. Rolfe was elected Superior Judge. On the 1st day of October 1879, Mr. Curtis formed a partner-ship with Hon. John W. Satterwhite, which continued until October 1884, when Mr. Satterwhite retired from practice on account of ill health, and shortly after died. Mr. Curtis continued the business alone until February 1885, when, finding that he had a larger practice than he could well attend to, he entered into partnership with George E. Otis, Esq., and this firm is one of the most prominent and reliable in Southern California. Mr. Curtis has been connected with most of the important litigation that has arisen in San Bernardino County during the last ten years. He is a director of the First National Bank of San Bernardino, and vice president of the San Bernardino and Redlands Railroad Company. He has always taken an interest in educational matters, and has served as a member of the City Board of Examination and chairman of the City Board of Education.

He has a modest but pleasant home in the city of San Bernardino and enjoys the respect and confidence of those who know him best.



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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