Joseph H. Brewer

Pages 201, 203 - Joseph H. Brewer has prestige as one of the representative citizens and men of affairs in his native city of Grand Rapids, as is evident when it is noted that he is here president of the Grand Rapids Trust Company. Mr. Brewer was born in Grand Rapids, April 19, 1875, and is a son of Lucian B. and Annie (Escott) Brewer, the former of whom died November 29, 1905. Lucian B. Brewer’s home was in the state of New York until 1844, when he came, from Canandaigua, that state, to Michigan, and became an early settler in Grand Rapids, where he was for many years a representative merchant and where he remained until his death, secure in the high regard of the community in which he had long maintained his home, both he and his wife having been communicants of the Protestant Episcopal church. Mrs. Brewer was a daughter of the late Deacon Henry Escott, who was born in England in 1796, and who became one of the earliest settlers in Walker township, Kent county, Michigan. Deacon Escott reclaimed and developed what is now one of the finest farm estates of that township, and the place is now known as the Covell Farm. The substantial house that Deacon Escott there erected in the pioneer days remains as one of the well-preserved landmarks on West Leonard road. He served as township clerk and was otherwise influential in community affairs. Deacon Escott finally removed from his farm to Grand Rapids, and he owned and conducted one of the first drug stores in the city – at the corner of Canal and Bridge streets. In that period a druggist was called upon to function as chemist, doctor, manufacturer of pills and other medicines, as well as extracts, and his service was of genuine professional order – far different than that of the druggist of the present day, when a drug store is known more for miscellaneous merchandise and for semi-restaurant service. Deacon Escott long continued [as] one of the honored and influential citizens and representative businessmen of Grand Rapids, where Escott street was named in his honor, and he was for twenty-five years a deacon in the Fountain Street Baptist church. He attained to the patriarchal age of ninety years, his death having here occurred in 1886.

Joseph H. Brewer gained his early education by attending the public schools of Grand Rapids, and his initial experience in practical business was in his service as a newsboy, a work that he assumed when he was a lad of seven years. He early developed versatility and turned his attentions to various occupations that would render financial returns and contribute to his advancement. He studied stenography, and at the age of sixteen years he was appointed court reporter, a position in which he continued his efficient service fifteen years, in connection with the circuit courts of this district. Upon his retirement from this office he turned his attention to public utilities, and in 1912 he effected the organization of the American Public Utilities Company, of which he is the president and which, under his able and progressive administration, has grown to be one of the strongest and most influential corporations of its kind in the United States. The operations of the company now extend into several states of the Union and are based on large capital and most effective executive control.

Through his own ability and well-ordered activities, Mr. Brewer has become one of the substantial and influential businessmen of his native city. In addition to being president of the Grand Rapids Trust Company, he is also a director of the Grand Rapids Savings Bank. His loyalty to Grand Rapids has been expressed in appreciation and in liberal support of measures and enterprises that have conserved civic and material progress. His political allegiance is given to the Republican party. He is an active member of the Peninsular Club, and he and his wife are communicants of St. Mark’s church, Protestant Episcopal. He has given several years of earnest service as a member of the vestry of this parish, besides being a member of the board of trustees of Butterworth Hospital. In 1894 was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Brewer to Miss Augusta Hillyer, whose mother, Mrs. Frances Hillyer, M. D., was one of the representative women physicians of Grand Rapids at the time of her death, October 26, 1924. Mr. and Mrs. Brewer have one son, Joseph Hillyer Brewer. Joseph Hillyer Brewer is a graduate of Dartmouth College and also of Oxford University, England, and he has gained high reputation as a journalist and general writer. He was for some time connected with the great London paper, the Spectator, and he is now located in New York.

Transcriber: Mary Huizen
Created: 3 February 2003