Edward Lester was born at Covington, Kentucky, in 1829. His parents, Joseph and Elizabeth (Holmes) Lester, were natives of Yorkshire, England. They came to the United States in 1818 and settled in Indiana and later located in Covington. There his father was engaged in building, and later as an employee in the first cotton factory that was ever erected west of the Alleghany Mountains. In 1830 Mr. Lester’s parents settled in Hamilton County, Ohio, and engaged in agricultural pursuits. There the subject of this sketch was reared and schooled. His schooling was such as could be obtained in the common schools of that date, and from early life he was inured to the hard labor of an Ohio farm.
In 1852 Mr. Lester decided to try his fortune in the El Dorado of the West, and in the spring of that year he went to New Orleans, thence to Brownsville, Texas, and across Mexico to Mazatlan, and from there via sail-vessel to San Francisco. From San Francisco he proceeded at once to the mining districts. Not meeting with success in that calling, he turned to farm work and was for some years engaged in Marin, Yolo and Sonoma counties. In 1855 he went to South America and located at Lima, Peru, and there established the first American brickyard in that country. He successfully conducted his enterprise until 1858. In that year he returned to the United States and located in Lavaca County, Texas, where he engaged in the farming business.
In 1859, while on a visit to his old home in Ohio, he married Miss Ellen Clegg, a native of England, the daughter of Joseph Clegg, a well-known resident of Hamilton County, Ohio. Mr. Lester continued his farming operations in Texas until 1861. He was a strong Union man, and upon the breaking out of the war of the Rebellion and the seceding of the State of Texas from the Union he was subjected to many persecutions. To such an extent was this continued that he was finally compelled to sell his farm and seek refuge in Mexico. From there he slowly worked his way out, with his family, to California. He finally succeeded in reaching Guaymas, where he purchased an open boat and came up the Gulf to the mouth of the Colorado River. From thence he came by steamer to Yuma. There he paid his fare on an ox wagon and wended his way across the desert to the “promised land,” Los Angeles County. Stripped almost entirely of this world’s goods, he commenced to live anew. After about three years farming upon rented lands of the San Pasqual Ranch, San Gabriel Valley, he moved, in 1866, to San Luis Obispo County, and for nearly ten years was successfully engaged in stock-raising and general farming. In 1875 he returned to Southern California and located in San Bernardino County. Upon his arrival he purchased 245 acres of productive land in the Chino judicial township, about five miles east of Chino. He has since been engaged in general farming. His fine farm now comprises nearly 600 acres and is one of the most productive in that section. Thoroughly versed in the stock business, he has devoted most of his attention to that calling, raising good graded horses, cattle and hogs for market purposes. His fine orchard and vineyard, for family use mainly, attest the fact that he is well versed in horticultural pursuits.
Mr. Lester is a strong believer in the future growth and prosperity of Southern California, and he is an illustration of what may be done by one who is possessed of sound sense, energy and a strict attention to business. He came as a refugee from the Southern Confederacy with nothing but the manly qualities so characteristic of the man as his capital. His broad acres, well stocked, rich harvests, well ordered home, etc., is the result, and better still is the universal respect and esteem he has gained from a large circle of friends and acquaintances.
Mr. Lester is a Republican and takes an earnest interest in the success and welfare of his party. In San Luis Obispo he took an active part, and attended many of the conventions as a delegate. Mr. Lester’s wife was his companion and the sharer of his varying fortunes for many years. She was accidentally killed in 1880, leaving five children, viz.: Joseph C., a resident of San Diego County; Annie E., now Mrs. Max Dietrich, of the same county; William L., George H. and Agnes M. In 1881 Mr. Lester was again united in marriage with Miss Mary Taylor, a native of Delaware County, New York.