For over a quarter of a century, the name DeWitt Porter was closely associated with Rocklin’s business and commercial development. A native Californian, porter was born on the old Norris Grant (Sacramento County) on February 4, 1858. His father, DeWitt Porter, Sr., had crossed the plains to California in 1852 and engaged in mining before talking up farming. When squatters, including Mr. Porter, were required to vacate the Norris Grant, DeWitt Sr. removed to Mariposa County but soon came back to the Dry Creek Region near Roseville where he rented a farm. In 1870, the family moved to Section 1 in Allen’s Precinct east of Rocklin.
In the 1880’s, Dewitt Jr., who had married Elizabeth Cook, daughter of prominent Rocklin area agriculturist and businessman, William Cook, entered the saloon business on Rocklin’s Front Street. Following the fire of March 1887, which leveled Front Street, Porter, in partnership with his father-in -law, built a fine new stable and entered the livery and saloon business. In 1893 he was elected to the newly incorporated Rocklin’s first Board of Trustees (City Council).
Burned out again (1893) in still another of Rocklin’s destructive fires, Porter rebuilt bigger and better than ever. Over a new livery stable was “Porter’s Hall” a 36 X 80 public meeting hall which reportedly seated between 400 and 500 people. A saloon and barber shop operated by Exiber Jodoin, and a shoe repair shop conducted by Frank Pollins, were also erected at the same time as the Porter Hall and livery stable building. Between 1893 and 1914 when another conflagration leveled Front Street, Porter’s Hall was the social center of Rocklin.
In 1908, following the relocating of the railroad division point in Roseville, Mr. Porter built the Porter House in that city which remained a leading business fixture there until it, too, was destroyed by fire in 1942.In the meantime, DeWitt Porter, who had retired from Rocklin’s business community after the 1914 fire, occupied himself in farming on his 80 acre ranch in Allen’s precinct. In 1923, he sold the ranch and moved to Sacramento where he died on April 19, 1926, at the age of sixty-eight. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth N. Porter, and his daughter, Mrs. Merle Jennings, wife the roadmaster of the Sacramento Division of the Southern Pacific Railroad. A son, LeRoy, preceded him in death by 2 years.
From: Rocklin: Past, Present, Future by Leonard M. Davis. Published by the Rocklin Friends of the Library, Rocklin Ca., 1981.