Sunday, June 1, 2003

Ohio Moments


Hamiltonian found his greatness in San Diego

Oliver S. Witherby, one of the first American lawyers to practice in southern California, arrived in San Diego County from Hamilton, Ohio, on this day in 1849. He became known as the "Father of San Diego Jurisprudence."

Born in Cincinnati in 1815, Witherby graduated from Miami University in 1836 and was admitted to practice in Ohio in 1840. Witherby was elected Butler County's prosecuting attorney in 1843, and re-elected in 1845.

The following year, he went to fight in the Mexican War as a first lieutenant with the volunteer Army. A year later, he was dischargedafter being wounded and returned to Hamilton, where he worked as editor of the Telegraph newspaper.

He arrived in San Diego on June 1, 1849, after he was appointed quartermaster and commissary of the U.S. Boundary Commission. He practiced law for a short time in California and was elected San Diego's first representative in the state assembly. He was later elected first judge of the 1st San Diego-Los Angeles Judicial District.

Witherby also served as president of a railroad and a bank, a county supervisor and San Diego customs collector. He died in 1896.

- Rebecca Goodman

E-mail: rgoodman@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8361.




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