Thursday, November 14, 2019

Rich Uncle, Elected Nephew

As we follow the immigrant trails of the earliest Canadian settlers in the riverside valley locale eventually known as Lodi, California, we begin to see connections between these families. Just yesterday, not only did we realize that John Hutchins of Ontario, Canada, arrived along with his entire family, but that his oldest sister had married another of Lodi's early landowners, Ezekiel Lawrence. It was these two men, along with some others, who apparently secured Lodi's downtown site as stop along the way for a new Central Pacific Railroad route in 1869. If nothing else, John Hutchins was rich in land and ingenuity.

After their 1857 marriage and move to San Joaquin County, John's sister Mary Hutchins and her husband, Ezekiel Lawrence, had three children: William, George, and Nettie. The middle child, George, became focus of one of the many biographical sketches in George Tinkham's History of San Joaquin County. From that resource, we learn that George was born on his parents' property in Elkhorn Township—eventually to become the city of Lodi—and attended "district schools" until his enrollment in Saint Mary's College. After receiving a bachelor of science, George Lawrence returned to his hometown to study law. He soon was elected Justice of the Peace of Elkhorn Township, the same place where his parents had settled, back in 1857.

By the time citizens of Elkhorn Township were ready to entertain the possibility of incorporating the city of Lodi, it was 1906. The vote passed, by a margin of two to one, and immediately after the official date of incorporation on December 6, the new city's board of trustees elected George Lawrence as their first mayor.

By the time George Lawrence was elected to the first of his two terms as mayor, both his dad and his uncle—the two neighboring landholders who had been so instrumental in the formation of what would eventually become the city of Lodi—were gone. His dad, Ezekiel Lawrence, passed in 1899, as did his uncle, John Hutchins.

It will take a lot more reading between the lines to learn what roles, if any, were played by these two brothers-in-law in the political success of Lodi's first mayor, George Lawrence, but that is all the same as the original quest which introduced me to this research project in the first place: just who the city had in mind when they named one of their major streets after someone named Hutchins.

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