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Captain Lyman C. Waite is one of the pioneers of Riverside. His association with the foundation of the colony, the establishment of schools, churches, horticultural industries, banking, and other incorporations, commenced in the infancy of the colony, and his various enterprises, both public and private, have been conducted by that sound sense, trained business principles, and honest, straightforward dealings that are characteristic of the man. The facts obtained for a brief review of his life are of interest.
Captain Waite was born in Walworth County, Wisconsin, in 1844. His parents, Sydney and Parmelia (Barker) Waite, were natives of western New York. They were pioneers of Wisconsin, having established themselves in that State as early as 1836 or 1837. His father was a farmer by occupation, and during Captain Waite’s boyhood was a resident of Sheboygan Falls, Fond du Lac and Appleton. The subject of this sketch was reared to farm life, and being of a studious disposition was given the best advantages the public schools afforded in securing an education.
In 1860 he entered upon a course of study in the Lawrence University at Appleton. The war of the Rebellion and the call upon the nation’s sons to rally to the support of the old flag, and preserve our country from secession rule, enlisted the patriotic sympathy of young Waite, and he abandoned his college studies and promptly entered the service of his stricken nation. In 1862 he enlisted as a private in Company D, Twenty-first Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, commanded by Colonel Benjamin 1L Sweet. Captain Waite’s military life and actions were highly creditable and honorable, and form one of the many distinguished personal histories of that memorable war. Although but eighteen years of age, he entered heartily into the contest; his attention to duty, soldierly bearing and conspicuous bravery upon the field of battle gained him rapid promotion, and he rose through the successive non-commissioned grades to a Lieutenancy, and then won his Captain’s commission. His regiment was attached to the First Brigade, First Division of the Fourteenth Army Corps, in the Army of the Cumberland, and took a prominent part in the severest campaigns and hardest fought battles of the Southwest, under the command of such gallant Generals as Grant, Sherman, Thomas, Rosecrans and Buell. Captain Waite, during his military service, was engaged in no less than forty-two battles and skirmishes, among which were the battles of Perryville, Stone River, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Atlanta, and many others that are recorded in the history of the nation, terminating with Sherman’s march to the sea and the final battle of his army at Bentonville, North Carolina. The history of his regiment forms a bloody chapter in the annals of the war. Their losses in action were noticeably severe. One year after their entry into the service the regiment mustered but forty-two men for duty, and was commanded by a captain! His own company could muster only five enlisted men and two officers! The last two were on detached service, or it is doubtful if they would have been mustered among the living. At the close of the war Captain Waite received an honorable discharge, and returned to his home in Wisconsin.
He then re-entered the Lawrence University and completed his educational course of study, graduating three years later. He was then engaged as a teacher in the public schools. In 1869 he located in Belle Plain, Iowa, and was principal of the graded schools of that town. In 1870 he entered the law office of Clark & Tewksbery, and in October of the same year was admitted to the bar at Toledo, Tama County.
After a few weeks of practice in his profession, he decided to seek a home in California, and on December 8, 1870, he came to the Riverside colony. His capital was nothing; he had only $50 in money, but he was possessed of a ripe scholarship, sound practical knowledge, and an unbounded stock of energy and perseverance. In January he was admitted to the bar of San Bernardino County, and opened an office in Riverside. He was the first Justice of the Peace elected in the colony, and held the first notarial appointment made for Riverside. He held these offices for four years. In 1872 and 1873 he taught the public school in Riverside; he also during these years engaged in horticultural pursuits, and laid the foundation for the wealth he has since acquired. He first purchased a ten-acre tract (No. 25), and in 1872 established his first nursery, the pioneer nursery industry of the colony. In 1874 he purchased the fifteen acres on the north and east of his tract. He fully improved his lauds, planting largely in orange trees. In 1876 he sold twelve and one-half acres of his land to Dr. Shugart, and in 1883 sold the balance of his original twenty-five acres. In May 1884, Captain Waite purchased the two-and-one-half-acre block between Mulberry and Lime and First and Second streets, and erected his cottage home. This block of land is planted in oranges, and under his skillful care and attention is one of the most productive in Riverside, giving an average yield of $1,200 per year, and increasing with the age of his trees. But it is as a nurseryman that Captain Waite has gained his greatest laurels in the horticultural field. He has devoted years of study and research in that calling, and has produced some of the finest trees in the world.
The Sweet Stock Nurseries, Waite & Simms, proprietors, were established in 1887, and at this writing (1889) contain 60,000 budded trees and 60,000 seedlings. The character of these trees is unexcelled, if equaled, by any in the State. The nursery occupies twenty acres of land east of Riverside, that is owned by Captain Waite. He also has a forty-acre tract at highland, with a nursery stock of 50,-000 trees. This is one of the finest and most valuable young orange groves in San Bernardino County. He is bound to make it the representative and model grove of the State. Al-though but two years old in 1889, it is valued by would-be purchasers at $1,000 per acre, and this, too, not for speculative purposes, but as an investment in the orange-growing industry. Captain Waite has not confined his talents to horticultural pursuits alone, but is identified with many of the leading business enterprises that have had such an effect in developing the resources and building up Riverside and the country. He is an original incorporator and president of the North Fork Water Company, with a capital stock of $400,000; vice-president and original incorporator of the First National Bank of Riverside; vice-president of the East Riverside Water Company; formerly a director of Riverside Water Company, and of the Orange Growers’ Association, and associated with other incorporations of lesser note as a subscriber and stockholder.
He has for years been one of the active businessmen of Riverside, ever ready with his support in any enterprise that redounds to the credit of his chosen city. Riverside is indebted to the efforts of such men as Captain Waite for the prominence she has assumed in Southern California, and he is well deserving of the competency he has honestly gained. Captain Waite is a member of Riverside Post, No. 118, G. A. R.
The first marriage ceremony ever enacted in Riverside was by the Rev. 1. W. Atherton, as the officiating clergyman, April 5, 1872. The bride and groom were Miss Lillian M. Shugart, the only daughter of Dr. K. D. Shugart, and
Captain Waite. From this marriage four children have been born, three of whom are living, viz.: Marion P., Charles E. and Lillian Martha. The first child, Lyman S., died in 1876, at the age of two years and eight months.