Chapter 4,6a
   John Rorison Hedley  (1867 - 1938)
    Laura Eleanor Fitch (1871-1955)

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, 10-year-old George.
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 living: 
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:
                    (1) Nancy Rorison, born Sept. 13, 1925, m. Paul Mattison. Two sons:
                                       [1] Douglas Mattison b. 1949
                                       [2] David Mattison b. 1953
                    (2) Jane Rorison, born Jan. 22, 1931, m. Gordy Fredrick. Two sons:
                                      [1] John Fredrick b. 1955
                                      [2] 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:
                                     [1] Thomas Trout b. 1958 m. Fellisima Cocohosa, b. 1928. Five children:
                                     [2] Robert Trout  b. 1960              
                    (5) Tommy Rorison b. 1937
See Addendum 2 of this Chapter (4,6a) for more about the life of  Dorothy Marguerite Harrowell, James' 2nd wife. 
 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 State.

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 painter.
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; Mo.b.Can            
                Laura F
.   wife, 37, m 14 years, mother of 4 (3 living); MN; OH; 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
Fitch       Lydia      mother in law, age 68, widow, mother of 2 (2 living); b. OH; Fa.b.MA;  Mo.b.MA
Hedley   Anthony 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): Mich; Fa. b. in Ca; mo. b. in Can.
             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
Fitch     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 show six 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 Township Census:

       1930 U.S. Census for California State, Los Angeles Co. Long Beach Township

age at first
 of birth
 pl.of b.
 pl. of b.
Hedley,  John R.
Can. (Eng.)
Can. (scot.)

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 age 69.

Addendum 1 for Lydia Day's teaching Sioux children
Addendum 2  for Dorothy Marguerite Harrowell
chapter 4_6 to see parentage
Hedley Genealogy  Index Page

updated on August 22, 2010