Calvin W. Abbott

in Guinn, J. M. (1902)
Historical and Biographical Record of Southern California
Pp. 1263-1264


Among the architects and builders whose attainments have redounded to the credit of Southern California, none is more securely launched in the public esteem than Calvin W. Abbott, formerly one of the principal upbuilders of Pasadena, and now one of the creative forces of Long Beach. Preceded by his well earned reputation he came to this town in March of 1901, and although the intervening time has been relatively short, has abundantly substantiated prevailing expectations, as evidenced particularly in the Friends' Church and the Bowyer Hotel.

In his ancestral affiliations Mr. Abbott is fortunate, for among those bearing his name patriotism has played a conspicuous part, as well as the high moral courage and devotion to principle as lived and taught by the Society of Friends. The emigrating forefathers came from England, and evidently settled in the south, and some of their number carried muskets upon the gory battlefields of the Revolution. The paternal grandfather, John, was born in Georgia, and settled near West Milton, Miami county, Ohio, in 1817. He was a farmer by occupation, and in 1854 removed to Marshall county, Iowa, where terminated his useful and industrious life. While in Ohio he joined the Society of Friends, a faith to which his children and grandchildren have since adhered. On the farm developed by the grandfather near West Milton, Miami county, Ohio, Calvin W. Abbott was born January 21, 1840, and there also his father, Samuel, was born. The elder Abbott was reared in Ohio, and in 1852 removed to West Branch, Cedar county, Iowa, near Springdale, where he lived until his retirement. In 1884 he came to Pasadena, Cal., and died while on a visit to his son in Trinidad, Colo., three years ago. He also was a member of the Society of Friends. He married Rebecca Miles, a native of Miami county, Ohio, and daughter of William Miles, born in South Carolina. Mr. Miles was a member of the Society of Friends, and an early settler near West Union, Ohio, where he conducted a farm, and where he died in 1852. Mrs. Abbott, who died in Colorado shortly after her husband, was the mother of three children, of whom Calvin W. is the oldest, and all of whom have developed into capable members of society. One of the sons, Judge A. J., is an ex-judge of Kansas, and the father of Clarence Abbott, attorney-general of New Mexico. J. M. Abbott is chief engineer of the Walter Morgan System of Heating and Ventilating, in San Francisco.

Though reared on the paternal farms in Ohio and Iowa, Calvin W. Abbott was favored with excellent educational advantages, due largely to his studious habits and ability to earn the money for his advanced tuition. When seventeen years old he entered the University of Iowa, at Iowa City, and later taught school for a few years. During 1857 and 1858 he was one of those selected to run the underground railroad in Iowa, ten miles being the extent of his run. In this capacity he had many exciting adventures vastly pleasing to a boy between seventeen and twenty years of age, and he retains vivid recollections of an acquaintanceship with John Brown, J. H. Keage, and many others belonging to that notable following. In 1857 he began to learn the rudiments of architecture and building at West Branch, Iowa, and in 1860 started out on his own responsibility as a contracting architect and builder. In 1874 he embarked upon an ambitious planing mill enterprise at Muscatine, Iowa, and for five years did a large business in cutting lumber, making sash, doors and other acquisitions to buildings. In 1879 he began farming near Osage City, Kans., and at the same time he contracted and built, combining the occupations with considerable success. In 1884 the Kansas farm was disposed of and he came to Pasadena, Cal., where he was identified with the upbuilding of the town. During the first three years of his residence there he devoted himself to the sale of lots in the C. W. Abbott subdivision, for which he had purchased ten acres of land, and after that he devoted his time to building and contracting, and in all drew the plans and put up sixty or more residences in the city, besides numerous public buildings. Owing to impaired health he decided upon a change of occupation in 1892, and traveled for three years along the coast in the interest of Smead Heating and Ventilating Company of Denver, Colo. Upon returning to Pasadena he continued his former occupation of architect and builder, and in March, 1901, located in Long Beach.

In West Branch, Iowa, Mr. Abbott married Harriett Kirk, a native of Randolph county, Ind., and of this union there have been four children, three of whom are living. Everetta is now the wife of Mr. Keys, of Los Angeles, manager for the Westinghouse Electric system; Lenwood is agent of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company at Bakersfield; and Lillian is the wife of Albert Smith, of Berkeley, Cal. Albert Francis was a shoe merchant, and died in Pasadena at the age of twenty-five years. Mr. Abbott is a member of the Society of Friends, and is nationally and locally a Prohibitionist.