Biography of Hon. Elmer Wallace Holmes

Hon. Elmer Wallace Holmes is the accomplished editor of the Riverside Daily Press and Weekly Press and Horticulturist. He has been identified with the growth and prosperity of Riverside since 1875, and it is safe to say that there are few men in the community who have done more to advance the horticultural and other industries of that city, and show to the world its possible resources and productions of its prolific lands than Mr. Holmes. The subject of this sketch came to Riverside, broken in health and seeking a desirable home and quiet pursuits. He early saw the possibilities of horticultural enterprises in Riverside, and in July of that year, purchased a twenty-five acre tract in Brockton Square, at what is now the corner of Brockton and Jurupa avenues. There were scarcely any improvements in that locality at that early date, but Mr. Holmes commenced his horticultural pursuits by planting his land with orange and lemon trees, and a large variety of deciduous fruits. He was also one of the earliest to grow the raisin grape. He has proved himself a practical and successful horticulturist, and now has one of the finest orange groves in Riverside. In 1882 he sold off a portion of his land, reserving some seventeen acres as his home. Mr. Holmes has devoted both time and money, not only in producing some of the best results in orange growing, but in placing those results before the world. He was one of the original members of the Riverside Citrus Fair Association, and was a delegate accompanying the Riverside portion of the Southern California exhibit to the Chicago Fair in the spring of 1886, and performed a similar service for the county at New York in 1890. He has always taken the greatest interest in the growth and prosperity of his chosen city, and has been repeatedly called upon to hold positions of honor and trust.

Since 1880 he has been a member of the board of school trustees, and was chairman of the board for many years. At present he is the efficient clerk of the board. In this connection it is but just to state that to the strong advocacy and untiring efforts of Mr. Holmes more than to any other man in the community, is due the erection of the magnificent high-school building, which, being one of the of the best in the entire state; may well be the boast and pride of Riverside. He has, since 1884, been a member of the board of city trustees, and president of the board since 1888. He was one of the founders of the Riverside Library Association, and has been a trustee of the same since its organization, and is now clerk of the board of library trustees. In political matters he is a Republican, and has taken a lead as a worker in the ranks of his party is a member to both State and county conventions.

In 1888 he was nominated by his party as their candidate for the Assembly from the Seventy-ninth Assembly District, and was elected by a majority that fully proved his personal popularity. In Riverside, where he is best known, his majority was thirty-seven over the majority secured by the head of the ticket upon which he was elected. As a legislator Mr. Holmes did not disappoint his constituents. He was a member of several important committees, and devoted himself earnestly to his work. Among his labors, mention should be made of his introduction and management to a successful passage of the act that gives to the State the present admirable county horticultural law. Mr. Holmes is a member of the following societies of Riverside: Riverside Lodge, No. 282, I. U. U. F.; Evergreen Lodge, No. 259, F. & A. M., and Riverside Post, No. 118, G. A. R. In September, 1887, he became identified with the newspaper interests of San Bernardino County as the editor of the San Bernardino Index, which after a time he relinquished to attend to the care of his maturing orchard.

In the fall of 1888 he again took up newspaper work, and, associated with R. J. Pierson, and J. H. Roe, purchased the two leading dailies and the two principal weeklies of the city, and consolidating them has since published them as the Daily Press and the Weekly Press and Horticulturist.

As the editor-in-chief he has placed these journals in the ranks of the leading newspapers of Southern California.

The few facts gathered regarding the life of Mr. Holmes previous to his association with the Riverside colony are of interest. He was born in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, December 8, 1841. His youth, until the age of thirteen years, was spent in the public schools. At that time the death of his father occurred, leaving his mother and five children dependent upon themselves for a living. Mr. Holmes was the eldest of the children. He left his studies and sought work that he might aid his widowed mother in the support of the family. This he did by obtaining work in a printing office, and from that day became a man in all but years. The remaining portion of his boyhood was spent in unceasing labor. He became a thorough and skilled workman in the printer’s trade, and followed that occupation until 1862, when he felt it his duty to enlist as a soldier.

He entered the United States military service as a private in the Thirty-fifth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. His regiment was attached to General Reno’s Brigade, Second Division of the Ninth Army Corps, and took part in the Maryland campaign, participating in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. In the fall of 1862 Mr. Holmes was compelled to leave the field on account of sickness, brought on by over-exertion, but returned to his command after the battle of Fredericksburg. He served until the fall of 1863, when another hemorrhage of the lungs so incapacitated him that he accepted a discharge from the service. He returned to his home, and, after a year’s rest, his health being restored, he again enlisted for the war. Entering the artillery service in the fall of 1864, he was assigned to the Sixth Massachusetts Battery. His strict attention to his duties and soldierly qualities soon gained recognition, and he rose through the successive non-commissioned grades to be First Sergeant of the battery, and after holding that responsible position for some months, was in June, 1865, promoted to a lieutenancy, and discharged as such at the close of the war. After his discharge he returned to Massachusetts and was employed as foreman in the office of the Norfolk Register, at Randolph, which paper he subsequently purchased and conducted as its editor and proprietor until 1869. In that year he returned to Brockton and entered into partnership with A. T. Jones, in the publication of the Brockton Gazette, in connection with which he conducted a large job-printing business. Mr. Holmes was successfully engaged in that business until completely broken in health, which compelled him to abandon it and seek rest and a change of climate.

In 1875 he came to California and established his residence in Riverside. In 1864 Mr. Holmes married Miss Ruth C. Nickerson, of Harwich, Massachusetts. She died in January 1868, leaving one child, Elmer Elwood, who is now in the United States postal service and a resident of Los Angeles. Mr. Holmes’ second marriage was in 1871, when he married Miss Alice E. Odell, a native of Randolph, Massachusetts. From this marriage there are two daughters-Anne Lucia and Alice Bertha, the latter a native of his adopted State.


The Lewis Publishing Company. An Illustrated History of Southern California embracing the counties of San Diego San Bernardino Los Angeles and Orange and the peninsula of lower California. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. 1890.

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