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George Woodward Hotchkiss (1831-1892)
Among Bay City's earliest lumber business men, later prominent Chicago newspaper man.

1912 biography. (Added May, 2010)

Chicago: Its History and Its Builders (1912)

George Woodward Hotchkiss.

Probably the best known man in the lumber trade in Chicago is George W. Hotchkiss, a pioneer lumber dealer, journalist and association man, who recently retired from twelve years' service as secretary of the Illinois Lumber & Builders Supply Dealers' Association. The American Lumberman of February 15, 1911, published the following sketch of his career:

Embarrassment overcomes one who undertakes to write of a man who has been prominently identified with the lumber industry for sixty-four years – for sixty-four years in American lumber history are more than a “cycle in Cathay.” During the last six decades lumbering has spread from the pine, spruce and hemlock forests of Main and northern Appalachians to the northern pine and hardword forests of the south to the fir, spruce, cedar, pine and redwood forests of the Pacific west and northwest. Though at the beginning of the period the magnitude of the great northern pine forests was unknown, sixty-four years of lumber operations have been sufficient to reduce those magnificent forests to a point at which their complete disappearance may be forecast with a lamentable approximation to accuracy.

Men who have lived through and explained all these changes of the last sixty-four years are few in number. One of those few none is more widely and favorably known than George W. Hotchkill, of Chicago, secretary of the Illinois Lumber & Builders Supply Dealers' Association. Mr. Hotchkiss has been so long and prominently identified with the lumber industry in all its branches that no one could well have been engaged in the lumber business during the last – say forty or fifty years without knowing him – and profiting by the acquaintance.

He always has been in the forefront as a worker for the advancement of the industry in which he early cast his lot. His first venture in the lumber business was as a clerk in his father's yard in 1847. Two years later he was among the pioneers who went to California and there engaged in merchandising for a couple of years. In 1852 he entered the employ of his brother-in-law, at Port Dover, Canada, and leared “Albany inspection.” In 1856 he bought out the business, continuing the purchase of lumber and wheat until the outbreak of the Civil war, which suspended commerce between Canada and the United States. During his residence there he became very active in general Sunday school work as a general organizer and a reviser of methods, introducing many modern ideas, and was widely known as the “Moody” of that section.

In 1862 Mr. Hotchkiss went to Bay City, Michigan. Recently commenting upon the lumber business of the Saginaw valley in 1861, Mr. Hotchkiss said: “At that time there were no circular saws in the mills here; the best mill was operated with an old upright saw. These mills used to handle logs which ran from twenty-five to thirty inches. In those days we did not endeavor to cut everything. If we got two good logs that cut twenty-five per cent uppers were satisfied. We had no call for the coarser variety in Michigan at that time. There were no retail yards then. The retail lumber business was almost entirely done by the mills. I had the only retail lumber yard that existed here, and it did not exist very long, I can assure you, for the mills were all my competitors and could sell a good deal more lumber and do it cheaper than I could. I have seen the growth of the country, and of the city (Bay City), from a village of one thousand in 1861 to about forty or fifty thousand, which in one lifetime, you will agree with me, is 'going some'” -- which it is.

The retail business, on account of the war, not offering the opportunities that were afforded later, Mr. Hotchkiss took charge of two schooners, which he owned, sailing them during the seasons of 1861 and 1862. In 1862 he took charge of the Michigan end of a barge line then being established by transforming the old-time steamboats of Lake Erie into barges for lumber carriage, settling at Bay City. Two years later he formed the inspection and commission house of Hotchkiss, Hunter & Mercer, incidentally cornering the lightering business of the river.

Mr. Hotchkiss remained in Bay City fifteen years, during which time his experience covered substantially every branch and phase of the lumbering industry. The first few years were occupied in the lake cargo business, which involved the buying and inspecting of lumber as well as its transportation. In fact, Mr. Hotchkiss is said to have delivered the first cargo of lumber at the Tonawandas – the delivery being one of necessity rather than choice – for the vessel was wrecked at that point and the only means of realizing on it at all was to sell it where it lay.

At that early point little was known of Michigan's timber resources. Recently speaking of that period – 1866 – Mr. Hotchkiss related that an acquaintance, county surveyor at Bay City, one day told him he was “going across the state to Manistee, and did not see a single white man, but saw lots of timber.”

In 1870 Mr. Hotchkiss while for two years manager of the Saginaw Daily Courier, became associated with Henry S. Dow in publishing the Lumberman's Gazette, the first venture ever made in lumber journalism. In 1871, in connection with his journalistic work, he built a mill at Greenwood, Michigan, on the northern extension of the Michigan Central railroad, and organized the township of Edwards. At that time his health failed, forest fires destroyed his mill, and his work for several years following was confined to Journalism – in connection with the Bay City Tribune and doing editorial work on the Lumbermen's Gazette.

In 1877 Mr. Hotchkiss came to Chicago and in the next year he compiled for the Northwestern Lumberman “The Lumberman's Hand Book of Inspection and Grading,” the first work of its kind, which was received with much favor and passed through several editions. In 1879 he became connected with the editorial staff of the Northwest Lumberman, in which position he continued until 1881, when he was elected secretary of the Lumbermen's Exchange. He remained with exchange during the period of its greatest influence, until 1887, when he resigned and with Walter C. Wright bought the Lumber Trade Journal, of which he was editor until its removal to New Orleans in 1894.

George Woodward Hotchkiss was born at New Haven, Connecticut, October 16, 1831, and is therefore eighty eight years of age. His father, Elias Hotchkiss, a native of New Haven, established a lumber and West India business there in 1808, and brought up his five boys in the lumber trade. He died there in 1865, at the age of eight-four years. The Hotchkiss family were of English and Welsh origin and were Huguenots who emigrated to Switzerland during the religious persecutions, and then to Plymouth colony, settling at Guilford, Connecticut, at an early date. In 1642 Samuel and Elizabeth Hotchkiss removed to New Haven, Connecticut, where the family have since resided. The great-grandfather of our subject, Jonah, was a son of Caleb Hotchkiss, who was killed in an attack on New Haven by the British in 1779. Our subject's mother, Almira Woodward, was a native of Middletown, Connecticut. She died in 1847. George W. Hotchkiss was the sixth in a family of eight children, of whom he is the only survivor. He was educated at the Lancasterian school and the Russell French Academy of that city.

Mr. Hotchkiss married August 18, 1856, Miss Elizabeth St. John, of Ellsworth, Connecticut, and had one son, Everett St. John Hotchkiss, engaged in the cement business in Chicago; one daughter, Julia D., who died in 1901, was the wife of W. H.. Hogle, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, manager of the De Long Hook & Eye Company. Mr. Hotchkiss has several grandchildren: Maud Smalley, William Smalley and Lawrence Everett Hotchkiss, the children of his son, and Everett William, Elizabeth St. John, Eugene Shutterly and Eulita Hogle, the children of his daughter, Julia D. He also has three great-grandchildren, William Smalley Hotchkiss, having two infant daughters, and Everett Hogle having one.

1922 - 65th Wedding Anniversary. (Added May, 2010)

Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 14, 1922


George W. Hotchkiss, 90 years old, with gray locks and spry physique, and Mrs. Hotchkiss, two years his junior, celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary at their home, 1015 Elmwood Avenue, Evanston, Illinois, on August 14, 1921.

Mr. Hotchkiss has three distinctions. First, he is among the last of the “Forty-niners”; second, he is one of the oldest living lumbermen; third, he is the man who first published a lumber journal. He still writes for publication. Mr. Hotchkiss is secretary emeritus of the Illinois Lumber and Materials Dealers Association. When seventeen years old he started around Cape Horn for California. It took 154 days to make the journey. He signed the petition for the admission of California as a state. In 1877 he came to Chicago and has been here ever since, living in Evanston.

The first lumber journal in the country was edited by the old gold miner in Michigan. It was the Lumberman's Gazette.

Additional Notes.

    1867 - Directory: Michigan State Gazetteer.

  • Hotchkiss & Mercer (G. W. Hotchkiss and William Mercer), lumber dealers and inspectors, 405 N. Water, Bay City.

    1870 - Census: Bay City, Mich.

  • Hotchkiss, George, age 39, lumber merchant
  • Elizabeth, age 36, keeping house, b. Conn.
  • Everette, age 13, attends school, b. Conn.
  • Julia, age 9, attends school, b. Conn.
  • Mary, age 62, without occupation, b. Conn.
  • Dunbar, Erastus, age 23, surveyor, b. Conn.

    1887 – Historical Review of Chicago and Cook County, Vol. 3, 1908

  • In 1887 James Elliott Defebaugh, of Chicago, and owner of “The Timberman” publication, purchased the Lumberman's Gazzette, which absorbed into The Timberman.

    1920 – Census: Ridgeville Town Evanston City, Cook, IL.

  • Hotchkiss, George W., age 88, b. Conn.
  • Elizabeth, wife
  • Everette S., Son

Related Pages/Notes

George W. Hotchkiss

Related Pages:
Dow, Henry S.
Dunbar, Erastus L.
Nochchickame, Jane
People Referenced
Defebaugh, James E.
Dow, Henry S.
Dunbar, Erastus
Hogel, Elizabeth S. (g-dau.)
Hogel, Eugene S. (g-son)
Hogel, Eulita (g-dau.)
Hogel, Everette W. (g-son)
Hogel, William (son-inlaw)
Hotchkiss, Caleb (gg-gfather)
Hotchkiss, Elias (father)
Hotchkiss, Elizabeth
Hotchkiss, Everette S. (son)
Hotchkiss, Geo. W. (subject)
Hotchkiss, Jonah (g-gfather)
Hotchkiss, Julia D. (dau.)
Hotchkiss, Lawrence E. (g-son)
Hotchkiss, Mary
Hotchkiss, Maud S. (g-dau.)
Hotchkiss, Samuel
Hotchkiss, William S. (g-son)
St. John, Elizabeth (wife)
Woodward, Almira (mother)
Wright, Walter C.
Subjects Referenced
American Lumberman
Bay City, MI
Bay City Tribune
Bay Co., MI
Cape Horn, CA
Chicago, IL
Civil War
DeLong Hook & Eye Co.
Edwards, MI
Ellsworth, CT.
Evanston, IL
Greenwood, MI
Guiford, CT
Hotchkiss, Hunter & Mercer
IL Lbr. & Bldr Sply Assoc.
IL Lbr. & Matls. Dlrs. Assoc.
Lake Erie
Lancasterian school
Lumberman's Gazette
Lumbermen's Exchange
Manistee, MI
Michigan Central RR
Middletown, CT
New Haven, CT
New Orleans, LA
Northwestern Lumberman
Philadelphia, PA
Plymouth colony
Port Dover, Canada
Russell French Academy
Saginaw Daily Courier
Saginaw Valley, MI
The Timberman
West India
Related Internet Sources
Book by George W. Hotchkiss,
Industrial Chicago:
The Lumber Interests.
Pub. 1894.
Contains several references to Saginaw Valley:
  • James Fraser pg. 40,352
  • Bangor Mill pg. 44
  • Henry S. Dow pg. 186
    [Google Books]
  • WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.