Biography of Otis T. Dyer

No historical work claiming to he a true record of the growth and prosperity of Riverside for the decade of years preceding 1890, and claiming to record the establishment of many enterprises, industries and incorporations that have been the leading factor in placing her in the ranks of the leading cities and colonies of Southern California, could be considered as anything but glaringly incomplete without a more than passing mention of the gentleman whose name heads this sketch. His association and connection with Riverside’s leading enterprises form an interesting chapter in the annals of the city and county. Mr. Dyer’s life, since Riverside received its first impetus, has been closely interwoven with every important enterprise or movement that tended to benefit the city and add to the welfare and prosperity of the community. The few facts obtained relating to his life and successful career are of interest.

He was born in Portage, Genesee County, New York, in 1844. His parents were Leman W. and Philena (Green) Dyer. His father was a native of the Green Mountain State, and was a mechanic, a marble and granite worker by calling. When the subject of this sketch was four years of age his father moved to New London, Connecticut, and it was there where young Dyer received his early education, in the public schools. In the winter of 1857-’58, his father becoming dissatisfied with his success in the East, moved to Illinois, where he located in Stark County. The family were commencing to get settled and accustomed to their new home, and everything progressing in an even tenor, when the father, in obedience to the Divine will, departed this earthly sphere, leaving a wife and six children, three boys and three girls. Mr. Dyer then abandoned all prospect of further schooling and engaged as an apprentice at the blacksmith’s trade. He toiled arduously and advanced rapidly in mastering the details of his calling. Then came the clouds of war and the call of his stricken country for the aid of her patriotic sons in saving a nation’s honor. The call was not in vain. Thousands abandoned their quiet and peaceful pursuits and offered their lives, – should the Goddess of Battle so decree, as a sacrifice that the glorious Union might be preserved, and but one flag wave over the nation. Mr. Dyer was one of those volunteers. In 1863 he enlisted for military service in the One Hundred and Thirty-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and served his term of 100 days, after which he re-enlisted in Company B, Thirty-third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, under command of Captain C. J. Gill (now a prominent physician of River-side), and later under Captain N. G. Gill. He fought faithfully for his country and was engaged in several of the severely contested battles which chronicled signal victory for the cause of the Union, besides a number of minor engagements. His regiment was assigned to duty in the Department of the Gulf, under command of Generals Canby and A. J. Smith, and participated in the siege of Mobile and the capture of Fort Blakeley, the last battle of the Great War. At the close of the war in 1865 he was honorably discharged and returned to Illinois. He first established himself in business at his trade in Toulon.

His health had been greatly impaired during his army service, and he was unable to undergo severe manual labor. He therefore sought other occupations and established a hardware store at Wyoming, Stark County, Illinois. In 1869 he entered the banking-house of A. B. Miner & Co., as a clerk. Of a quick and active mind, bold to conceive and prompt to execute, he seemed born for a banker. He rose rapidly from clerk to cashier, and from cashier to general manager. In 1876 he organized the Farmers’ Bank of Wyoming, which he conducted until his severe labors had so broken his health that it became an absolute necessity that he suspend his efforts and seek a change of climate.

His banking experience in Illinois was one of unqualified success, and the institutions under his admirable management ranked as second to none in the county. In 1880 he came to the Pacific slope, and after considerable search for a desirable place to open up a banking business, he settled upon Riverside as the most eligible location, and opened up the Dyer Bros.’ Bank, with a capital of $30,000. In this enterprise he was associated with his brother, W. H. Dyer. In 1885, desiring to enlarge his operations, he sought the support of the Riverside capitalists. It was promptly accorded, and the Riverside Banking Company was organized. (A history of this company is included in this volume.) Mr. Dyer was elected a director of the bank and promptly placed at the head of its affairs as general manager. The bank, under his management ranks as the soundest moneyed institution in San Bernardino County. He is also an original incorporator and director of the First National Bank of San Bernardino.

Mr. Dyer was one of the first movers in the incorporation of the city, during the time when the discussion as to the advisability of incorporating was rife, and he was foremost in the organization of the Citizens’ Water Company, which never ceased its endeavors for two years to arbitrate the differences between the old Irrigation Company and the people, and he was afterward elected a member of the board of directors of the Riverside Water Company which succeeded the old Irrigation Company in interests. He was elected treasurer of the water company, and was instrumental in placing its bonds and conducting its financial affairs. He was also chosen to represent the water company on the board of directors of the Riverside Land Company.

He was one of the original incorporators of the Riverside & Arlington Railway and the California Marble and Building Stone Company, and was one of the first to place the products of the Slover Mountain marble quarries before the people of the Pacific coast, and add another source of wealth to San Bernardino County.

Politically he is a strong Republican, and may always he found allied with the best elements of that party. In religious worship, Mr. Dyer is a Baptist. He is a hearty supporter and advocate of churches of the different Christian denominations, and has for a number of years been superintendent of the Baptist Sunday-school and a trustee of the church. He is a strong supporter of the fraternal societies, and is a member of the Masonic lodge, chapter and commandery of Riverside, also the Odd Fellows lodge and encampment, lodge and Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias, and Riverside Post, No. 118, G. A. R. Mr. Dyer has large real-estate interests in Riverside and other sections of the county. His different tracts at this writing, under successful cultivation- in the valley, will aggregate 160 acres, about equally divided between oranges, grapes and deciduous fruits. His residence, which is on Main Street, between Eleventh and Twelfth streets, in the second block below the bank building, is a model of neatness and beauty. A passerby cannot but be struck by the care and taste displayed in the trimming and arrangement of the thick cypress hedges which surround the house. His home, embowered in orange trees and adorned with all the beauty which the combined powers of nature and art can devise, looks the embodiment of comfort and domestic felicity.

Mr. Dyer’s family consisting of his estimable wife, nee Miss Mary Weed, whom he married in Neponset, Illinois, in 1870, and four children, viz.: Fannie E., Leman W., Gracie G. and Mary J.


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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