John Rorison Hedley was born
April 8, 1867 (died Aug. 6, 1938, age 71) in Charlevoix, Michigan,
the first son of James William Hedley and Mary Umstead Rorison.
After Mary's death, two months after the birth of their second son
James Umstead Hedley, James William
Hedley took his two young sons to Canada, to the home of his widowed mother,
Margaret (Grierson) Hedley and her five now-adult children. It
was perhaps during his stay in Canada that the young John Rorison Hedley
developed a bond with his uncle, thirty-year-old Anthony Humble
Hedley--a bond that lasted over forty years.
Some time after returning to his farm in Michigan, James William Hedley
married 21-year-old Harriet Wood Dec. 5, 1870. Harriet, born
in New York State about 1849, had a
three-year-old son, George Nickerson, whom James
adopted. Unfortunatly the marriage of Harriet and James Hedley lasted only six
years. Harriet died Aug. 2, 1877 at age 28, leaving a daughter, five-year-old
Mary Margaret Hedley, as well as her half-brother,
James William Hedley's third marriage, April 1878, was to
Emma Hays in Charlevoix, Michigan. Emma was 27 and James 41.
The 1880 US Census for Charlevoix shows James and Emma Hedley with a
family of five: John Rorison, age 13, James Umstead 10, George 13, Mary Margaret
age 8, and a new son, one-year-old Frank Hedley.
In the early 1880's James Hedley, his wife Emma and their family of five
children left their farm in Michigan and moved to Black Jack, Kansas, where John
Rorison and James Umstead Hedley probably spent their teenage years.
By November of 1893, and possibly earlier, John R. and his brother
James, in their early twenties, were in Butte, Montana, where their
uncle, Anthony Humble Hedley, had been living for many years (See Chap.4,9)
John R. and James U. apparently joined in their uncle’s enthusiasm for
placing mine claims and conducting real estate transfers. The Land
Management Database for Jefferson County,
Montana shows land
purchases by both John R. and James U. in 1893. As "The Helena Independant"
observed, John R., after becoming
interested in mines in the vicinity of Whitehall, "did well enough
to became the envy of most young men." He invested his money in Butte
real estate and entered Montana Wesleyan University, where he met
23-year-old Laura Eleanor Fitch, graduate of New York's Silver Lake
Art School and teacher at Wesleyan University for three years.
On Jan.23, 1896 John Rorison Hedley, age 29, married Laura Eleanor Fitch
age 25, born May 1, 1871 in Sheridan, Madison, Montana, the daughter of
Lydia Amelia Day and Henry M. Fitch who were
married in Sheffield, Lorain, Ohio in 1861. Lydia Day, Laura’s mother,
was the daughter of Julia Ann Root (b. 1805) and Norman Day (b. 1803)
both natives of Sheffield, Berkshire, Massachusetts; however, they must
have moved to Ohio before Lydia’s birth. The 1880 U.S. Census for
Sheffield, Lorain, Ohio
shows Laura, age 9, living in the household
of her grandfather, Norman Day, age 78, along with her mother Lydia
Day, 38, and her mother’s twin sister Mary Day. ( See Addendum 1
of this Chapter to read Lydia Day's amazing account of her experience teaching Sioux children in 1875-6)
Local newspapers expressed praise for the newly-wed couple, Laura and John
Rorison Hedley: "The bride is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry M. Fitch.
Mr. Fitch is a mining man of Sheridan, Montana. The groom was not only one of
the best students of the Wesleyan University, but a prominent member of the
football team ..." and "Miss Laura E. Fitch, one of our foremost young
ladies has grown from childhood to womanhood in Sheridan and is universally
beloved ...," "Miss Fitch ... a most estimable young lady, cultured and
possessed of a sweet disposition ..."
A family member has provided the following brief observations
of events in the early days of John and Laura's marriage:
At first John and Laura lived on a ranch in Centennial Valley, Montana, where
they lost Margaret, their first baby. A small marker near the cabin showed
the location of the grave. Laura also made an oil painting of a winter scene of
the ranch, with the barn and cattle in the snow, and Odell creek nearby. One day
some college students who were hiking stopped by to see them. Overheard was the
remark, "Can you imagine finding books of this kind here in this God forsaken
place!" The interior of the cabin had additional surprises for visitors as
Laura had decorated it with many of her lovely oil paintings, beautifully
mounted with elegant gold leaf frames. John and Laura later moved to Butte and
finally back to Sheridan, Montana, where their three children were born at the
home of Laura's mother, Lydia Day Fitch. Eventually the whole family moved
to Long Beach, California. While there, Laura received an inheritance from a Day
estate, Mrs. Lydia Day Fitch of Sanhouss Obisbo. Some of this money was used to
buy their first automobile, a second-hand, 1911 Pierce Arrow. Later, it was
traded for a lot on "a Signil Hill" (sic). A few years later an oil well was
drilled on the lot which produced until about 1974. Several homes were
constructed, moved, bought, and sold on the lot on Carol Park South, but
eventually Laura and John made 2314 Carol Park South their permanent home,
although John "returned to Montana almost every year to look after his business
interests in his beloved Montana."
By 1902 John Rorison Hedley, age
35, and Laura, age 31, had been married for six years and had started a family.
According to the 1910 census, Laura had four children, although only three were
1- John Harold
Hedley, the eldest, was born Nov. 6, 1901 in Montana
(died 1948, age 47). In his late teens John decided to change his
name to James Murray Rorison,
to express his pride in his maternal
family's name and his respect for an uncle whom he admired.
M.1 James Rorison's first
marriage was to Marjorie Sweet
Lawler. Two children:
Nancy Rorison, born Sept. 13, 1925, m. Paul Mattison.
Douglas Mattison b. 1949
 David Mattison b. 1953
Jane Rorison, born Jan. 22, 1931, m. Gordy Fredrick.
 John Fredrick b. 1955
Mark Fredrick b. 1961
M.2 Following the early
death of his first wife in 1932, James Rorison Hedley married Dorothy Marguerite Harrowell (b. July 1906) on
June 25, 1933. Three children:
(3) A daughter who died at age 3 months
(4) Frances Rorison b. 1934, m. Lloyd
Trout b. 1922 . Two sons:
 Thomas Trout b. 1958 m. Fellisima Cocohosa, b. 1928.
Robert Trout b.
(5) Tommy Rorison b. 1937
See Addendum 2 of this Chapter (4,6a) for more about the life
of Dorothy Marguerite Harrowell,
2- Helen F.
Hedley, b. 1903 in Montana, married (-?-) Jenkins. One son:
1. John J. Jenkins
3- Donald Henry Hedley, b.
April 19, 1905 in Montana; died June 1, 1989 in Wenatchee, Douglas, Washington
The 1902 Butte City Directory
shows John R. Hedley living at 611
W. Park and working for the H.J. Blume Co.
It is interesting to
note that twenty years earlier, the 1880 Census for Butte showed John’s
uncle, Anthony Humble Hedley, age 41, single, living in the same
boarding house as Henry J. Blume, who was then 24 and employed as a
In 1904-7 the Beaver County Archives
show five land claims by
John R. Hedley.
In 1910 John and Laura and their three children were living in Los
Angeles. Laura’s widowed mother Lydia Fitch was living with the
family as was John’s uncle, Anthony Humble Hedley whose wife Emma
had died the previous year. John R.’s occupation was listed
as “vacation,” and Anthony’s occupation was listed as manager in the
Oil Wells Industry.
1910 U.S. Census for
California State, Los
Angeles County, Los Angeles Township
Headley John R. head,
48, m.14 years; occ. none; industry vacation; b.MI; Fa.b.Can;
wife, 37, m 14 years, mother of 4 (3
living); b.in MN; Fa.b.in OH; Mo.b.in OH
John H. son, age 8, born in MN; Fa. born in
MI; Mo. born in MN
Helen F. dau. age 7, born in MN; Fa. born in MI;
Mo. born in MN
Donald H. son age 4, born in MN; Fa. born in MI;
Mo. born in MN
Lydia mother in law,
age 68, widow, mother of 2 (2 living); b. OH; Fa.b.MA;
H. uncle, age 68, widower, manager in Oil Wells
industry; b.Can; Fa.b.Can; Mo.b.Can.
Ten years later, in the 1920 census, John R. and Laura and their three
children were living in Long Beach Township, Los Angeles County,
in their own mortgage-free house. John’s work is listed as “rancher,”
working on his own account. Laura’s mother is still living with them,
but Anthony Hedley is no longer part of the household.
1920 U.S. Census for California State, Los
Angeles County, Long Beach Township
Hedley John R.
head , 58, rancher, (on own account): b.in Mich; Fa. b. in Ca; mo. b.
Laura wife, 48; b. in Montana; parents
both b. in Ohio
John H. son 18 attending school
Helen F. dau. 16 attending school
Donald H. son 14 attending school
Lydia, mother in law, 78, widow, b. in Ohio; both
parents b. in Mass
Apparently John R. and Laura returned to Montana temporarily some
time between 1920 and 1924. The Beaver County Archives
land claims made by Laura E. Hedley in March 1924, and the 1928
Butte City Directory
lists John R. and Ora F. Hedley living at 612
Park. John is employed as collector for Charles Steele, Realtor;
Rentals, Insurance and Investments.
However, in 1930 John R. and Laura are again in the Long Beach
1930 U.S. Census for
California State, Los Angeles Co. Long Beach Township
|age at first
pl. of b.
|Hedley, John R.
Laura (Fitch) Hedley, born May 1, 1871 in Montana, died April 21, 1955
in Los Angeles at age 84. John Rorison Hedley, born April 8, 1867 in Michigan, died Aug. 6, 1938 at