On Thanksgiving Day, Monday, Oct. 13th, 1919, about 8 o'clock in the morning, Mr. John Hewitt, one of the best known and most highly respected citizens of the Niagara District, passed into his long rest at his home, Deer Park, North Grimsby, after but a short illness and having almost completed his 78th year. Although Mr. Hewitt had been in declining health for the past year and had been confined to his room for the past two weeks, yet his death came as a tremendous shock to the community, as everyone was hopeful that he would soon be restored to health and be able to be up and about again. The late John Hewitt was the third son of Thomas Hewitt, and was born in Grimsby Township on October 23, 1842, and spent the early part of his life in this locality. From his very earliest childhood he exhibited a remarkable capacity for business which grew and developed with age and through his life had handled many big schemes and shown an unusual business acumen. Mr. Hewitt amassed a large fortune and died a very wealthy man.
Mr. Hewitt's first business venture was when he spent six months in learning the trade of carpenter, but from this line of business he turned to that of saddlery and soon opened a shop of his own in Grimsby Village, in a building where the Hotel Grimsby now stands. At the age of about 20 years he gave up this line and went to Toronto where he engaged with the Tremaine Map Company, and later compiled maps of the different counties of Ontario himself and had them published by the Tremaine people. From Toronto Mr. Hewitt proceeded to Chicago and engaged in wholesale and retail merchandising and later turned to real estate. From Chicago he went to Pittsburg where he manufactured sad irons and crimping irons and other lines of goods of a like nature. In this business he was assisted by his younger brother, Thomas C. In due time, Mr. Hewitt disposed of his interests in this manufactory, returned to Chicago, where he again engaged in the real estate business, and in the purchase of lands for railroad companies and large manufacturing plants. His line of operation was to buy Chicago property at what he thought was a good purchase and wait for a rise in value; and his judgment and keen insight was so good that he often made large amounts on his transactions. At the time of the World's Fair, Mr. Hewitt and his brother Thomas C. built and operated the Plantation Hotel, which became the headquarters for Canadians, and was one of the few hotels operated at a profit during the Exposition. The famous leader of the Independent Order of Foresters, Dr. Oronyteka and his staff and family made their headquarters at the Plantation Hotel and this made ... also the headquarters of the I.O.F., which, at the time, was one of the most prosperous fraternal organizations in America or the world. Sir Oliver Mowat, at that time Premier of Ontario, was initiated by Oronyteka into the mysteries and secret work of the Foresters in the Plantation Hotel, and who was assisted in the initiatory services by many prominent Canadians, amongst others being the late Nicholas Awrey, M.P.P., for South Wentworth. Immediately following the close of the World's Fair, Mr. John Hewitt became interested in the Miehle Printing Press Company and his conduct of this manufacturing plant was really the masterstroke of his life. In 1893 the then proprietor and manager of the Miehle Company frequently appealed to Mr. Hewitt for financial assistance, as the company was passing through a very critical stage in its career, and although it was turning out high class presses, it was in a very precarious financial condition. Mr. Hewitt thus became interested in the plant and eventually decided to buy up the stock, which he did at a low figure. As soon as Mr. Hewitt secured control of the Miehle Company he immediately commenced a system of reorganization and in due time his efforts were crowned with success as the Miehle became the leading flat bed press of the world, and after its careful management by Mr. Hewitt as president and treasurer for many years, he retired and sold his stock for 11 times what he paid for it; one block of $100,000 worth bringing him the handsome sum of one million, one hundred thousand dollars. At the time of Mr. Hewitt's retirement from the management of the affairs of the Miehle Company, the plant was turning out 85 percent of the entire flat bed printing press output of the world. During the time that Mr. Hewitt was conducting the affairs of the Miehle Company, he had secured large blocks of real estate in Chicago, Ill., St. Louis, Pittsburg and Canada, and at the time of his death he still held considerable interest in these places, having purchased only last year $180,000 worth of real estate on Wabash Avenue, Chicago. During his life Mr. Hewitt also dabbled a little in gold mining having at one time owned two mines in Idaho, one of them being a very rich property but so far from the railway facilities that it was impossible to work it at a profit and so it was abandoned after a considerable amount had been expended in developing it. In later life, Mr. Hewitt turned his attention to the place of his birth, Grimsby, Ontario, and in many ways his activities were beneficial to the community. He built, at heavy expense, and without thought of financial remuneration, the Village Inn, which has always been and is yet one of the finest hotels in Ontario, and is known far and wide by tourists and travellers. Mr. Hewitt spent large sums of money in building piers and dredging at the lake, for the convenience of those who wished to use the harbor. He had been most liberal to all our churches and educational institutions and was ever ready to extend a helping hand to anyone in need. To Mr. Hewitt's generosity, the 44th Regiment band became a subject when he presented them, some years ago, with a complete set of the finest brass instruments that could be procured, and at a late date he again became their benefactor by presenting them with a complete outfit of uniforms. The late Mr. Hewitt held large real estate blocks, not only in Grimsby, North Grimsby, but in other parts of the County of Lincoln, and in the cities of Hamilton and Brantford. Although Mr. Hewitt had no children he has followed a systematic program of liberal assistance to all his relatives and he had a large circle of them and by these he has always been held in the greatest love and reverence. Mr. Hewitt was a man of most likable disposition being quiet and unassuming and without any ostentation, living a very plain and quiet life. He was most highly esteemed by those who knew him best. In business matters, Mr. Hewitt was a man of remarkably quick decisive quality, deciding almost instantly on matters of business, whether large of small, and acting without delay. Although he became a millionaire yet his business career was a most checkered one and up to the time that he became interested in the Miehle Company, in 1893, he had engaged in a great many lines of business, and even after he assumed control of the Miehle Company he still held heavy financial interests in other manufacturing concerns and big real estate deals.
Mr. Hewitt had been married twice; first, in his early youth to Miss Fannie Rarey of Columbus, Ohio, who died about three years after their marriage; and he married the second time to Miss McIntosh of Chicago, but formerly of Hamilton, Ont., and she predeceased him about 8 years. Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt were greatly loved by the people of Grimsby and the surrounding country and their periodical visits to this District, from Chicago, were always looked forward to with great pleasure and the sudden death of Mr. Hewitt, while on a visit to Chicago, was a tremendous shock to the residents of Grimsby. The late Mr. Hewitt was a member of a family of 8 boys and 4 girls. The boys were all clever business men and were William of Beamville, Simeon of Brantford, John and Thomas C., of Chicago and Grimsby. William and Thomas C. survive. The girls of the family are all deceased, and were Mrs. Bancroft, Mrs. Wm. Carpenter, Mrs. Thomas Gagan, and Mrs. Harvey Bridgman.
Many years ago Mr. Hewitt purchased a large part of the Bowslaugh Farm, at Grimsby Beach Corner, and this he kept as his summer home, when he resided in Chicago and it had become his home for the past 15 years. Immediately surrounding this property Mr. Hewitt purchased large tracts of land and became deeply interested in fruit and grain farming in a large scale; using the wooded portions of the properties as a game preserve into which he imported deer, buffalo and other animals fast becoming scarce on the American continent.
His enormous wealth, a portion of which has already been distributed to his brother, nephews and nieces, and other relatives, will probably all or nearly all go to these relatives. His executors are Mr. Charles Worter, of Chicago, who married the eldest daughter of Mr. Thomas C. Hewitt, and a lawyer, Mr. Crompton, of Chicago.
The funeral of the lately deceased gentleman is taking place this afternoon from the home in North Grimsby to Queen's Lawn Cemetery; and when the casket is lowered into the grave many a one who stands around will acknowledge to themselves that John Hewitt had been one of their best friends as he had been a great help in a financial way, to many in this community.