Julius Hervey Preston

Biography of Julius Hervey Preston

Member of a family which is not only one of the oldest in America, but also one of the most ancient of record in Britain, Julius Hervey Preston continued in his active career the traditions of prominence long associated with the family name. The founder of the family in America was Roger Preston, descendant of a noble ancestry, who was born in England in 1614. In 1635, at the age of twenty-one years, he took the oath of allegiance in London, and sailed for America in the ship “Elizabeth and Ann.” His name first appears on the records of the town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1639. In 1657, however, he removed to Salem’ Massachusetts, and there died on January 20 1666. From him the line of descent is traced through Samuel, his son, John, son of Samuel, John (2), to John (3), who was born in 1737. He was a soldier of the Revolutionary War marching from Ashford in Colonel Thomas Knowlton Chester’s regiment, 6th Battalion General Wadsworth’s brigade, which went to reinforce General Washington’s army in New York. In 1777 he was in the Connecticut Militia, serving on the Hudson, being a sergeant in Captain Aaron Foote’s Company, of the regiment commanded by Colonel Hooker. He married, in 1759 , Sarah A. Eastman, daughter of Captain Peter Eastman.

Their son was John (4) Preston, and his son was Silas Preston, grandfather of Julius Hervey Preston, of this record. He was born on February 28 1798, in Ashford; married in 1820, and died on December 19 1893 at the age of ninety-six years. He was a pioneer manufacturer of shoes on a large scale, organized he bank at Eastford, serving as its first president, and was for several years connected with the bank at Stafford, Connecticut. By the purchase of soldiers’ land warrants, he came into possession of a large amount of land in Illinois which subsequently became of considerable value.

James H. Preston, son of Silas and Betsey (Wright) Preston, was born on September 3, 1826, in Westford. As a young man he went to Providence, and was there variously engaged, winning success m several independent ventures, including the manufacture of jewelry. In the panic of 1857, however, he lost heavily because of the delinquency of his debtors, and was obliged to start again practically from the beginning. In 1862 he established the firm of J. H. Preston and Company, commission merchants in Providence, and through the years built this business to prosperous proportions. He died in Providence on August 20, 1899, at the age of seventy-two years, having retired some years previously. Mr. Preston married, in Providence, on October 23, 1854, Sarah Ann Pearce, born on November 4, 1829 at Cumberland, Rhode Island, daughter of Jeremiah and Mary Ann (Craig) Pearce. She died in Providence on May 17, 1900. Children of this marriage were:

  1. Julius Hervey, of this record.
  2. Walter Lane, deceased, of whom a record appears elsewhere in this work, born on September 6, 1859, married Mary M. Hayden, of Willimantic, Connecticut, and has three children Marian Hayden, Whiting Hayden and James Hayden.

Julius Hervey Preston, son of James H. and Sarah Ann (Pearce) Preston, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on February 7, 1857. As a boy he attended the public schools of the city, and having acquired a competent educational training with special reference to the business career he intended to pursue, he became associated with his father in the fruit and produce enterprise established by the elder man during the Civil War. In this connection Mr. Preston not only mastered all details of the business immediately at hand, but with the breadth of vision which marked every phase of his career, he gained an insight into the various ramifications of the food industry and set out to associate himself with those which seemed most profitable. The range and extent of his interests were extraordinary. In Texas he devoted personal attention to sheep raising. In the Island of San Domingo, he helped to organize the Samana Bay Fruit Company, of which he became president, for the production of bananas. But he did not confine his efforts entirely to distant points, and in New England owned and operated, with his brother, the Connecticut Valley Onion Company at South Deerfield and North Hatfield, Massachusetts.

In California Mr. Preston was one of the organizers of the Anchor Oil Company at Bakersfield, and was president of that company from the time of his foundation until his own death. His activities also carried him to the great fruit-growing centers of Florida. He and his brother owned large orange groves at Palmetto, Tampa, and other sections of the State. He assisted in the organization of the Manatee Fruit Company of Palmetto, and was vice-president of that company. All these tributary interests, of course, were closely allied with the parent company, J. H. Preston and Company of Providence, of which Mr. Preston was president following the death of the founder in 1899. In the direction of its affairs his brother was constantly associated with him. This company was one of the most important of its kind in the world. The largest acreage of orange properties under any individual ownership was theirs, and they also own the largest orange packing house in the world.

Mr. Preston was also one of the founders of the United Lace and Braid Company, of Auburn, Rhode Island, manufacturers of “Beaded Tip” shoe laces, and was a director of the Textile Finishing Machinery Company, the old United National Bank, and of the Emery Theatre. All these companies greatly benefited through his connection. As president of J. H. Preston and Company and chief owner of its various subsidiaries, he guided their affairs with sure hand along the pathway of success and in his active career contributed no little to the development of national prosperity. In the prosperity which he helped to create he justly shared.

Fraternally, Mr. Preston was affiliated with the Mount Vernon Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons, while he also held membership in several clubs, including the Turks Head Club, the Rhode Island Country Club, the Wannamoisett Club, and the Providence Art Club.

On July 30, 1896, in Providence he married Elizabeth Louise Grant, daughter of Henry Thomas and Lavinia Webber (Reynolds) Grant. They became the parents of the following children:

  1. Julius Hervey, Jr., born on February 27, 1898, a veteran of the World War. He enlisted, at first in the American Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Section 7, attached to the 21st Division of the French Army. Later he became a cadet in the Inns of Court, Officers Training Corps, was commissioned lieutenant in the 2d Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, and joined the 204th Squadron of the Royal Air Forces. In the brief period of actual combat flight which remained to him before the close of the war, he was credited with bringing down two and a half planes, in accordance with the military method of recording aerial combats. He married (first), July 19, 1919, Beatrice N. Frawley, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and has one daughter, Jean Frawley, born on May 20, 1921; (second), in May, 1927, Dorothy McNamara, of Chicago, Illinois, and they have a son, Julius H., 3d, born August 16, 1930.
  2. Douglas Davenport, born on March 2, 1903, died on February 7, 1917.
  3. Ellen De Wolf, born on May 10, 1906; married in June 1, 1931, Noel MacDonald Field.
  4. Elizabeth Diman, born on August 27, 1907, who married Robert S. Holding, Jr., May 14, 1927. They are the parents of two daughters, Martha Preston, born February 25, 1929; Audrey Stowe, born November 6, 1930.

The Preston family has always been deeply interested in church work. Mr. Preston’s parents were charter members of the Central Congregational Church, of Providence, which he attended until his death. Mrs. Preston was formerly a member of the old Church of the Saviour (Episcopal).

Mrs. Elizabeth L. (Grant) Preston comes of old Rhode Island families, being a direct descendant from Christopher Grant and the Usher’s of Bristol, whose sons served as ministers of St. Michael’s Church over a long period of years. Through her grandmother, who was Elizabeth Diman, of Bristol, Rhode Island, she was a direct descendant from Mark Anthony De Wolf of Bristol, Rhode Island. Her father, born in Bristol, on February 28, 1853, was a son of Thomas C. and Elizabeth (Diman) Grant.

Julius Hervey Preston died at Providence, Rhode Island, on July 19, 1921. His passing brought to its close a life of useful service, and his death was deeply mourned by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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