Biography of William A. Hayt

There is no man more deserving of mention among the representative citizens of Riverside than the gentleman whose name heads this sketch; nor is there a man in the community who has done more to promote the growth of the city than he. He is always alive to its interests, and his name is generally the first among the subscribers to any enterprise that is conducive to the welfare and prosperity of the community. Such facts as have been gathered regarding his life are of interest.

Mr. Hayt was born in Putnam County, New York, in 1832. His father, Harry Hayt, was a native of that State and a descendant of an old colonial family. He was a farmer, miller and merchant, well and favorably known in Putnam County. The subject of this sketch received a good common-school education until the age of fourteen years. At this age his speculative and trading disposition rendered the humdrum life on a farm insupportable, and he entered the store of his brother as a clerk. In 1852 his father died, and the next year, upon reaching his majority, Mr. Hayt purchased from his father’s estate the mills, store, and other enterprises, and was successfully conducting them when the floods of 1855 swept away his dams and flumes and wrecked his mills. The losses were more than lie could support and he was compelled to suspend his business. Nothing daunted he started anew in life, and seeking the great West, he located at Hastings, Minnesota, where he established himself in the lumber business.

He remained in that place until 1859, and then determined to seek his fortune on the Pacific coast. He started from St. Paul for his trip across the plains, driving his own team. Crossing the plains in those days was fraught with dangers and hardships, but he successfully overcame all obstacles, and August 15, 1859, found him in Sacramento. He spent that fall and winter in San Francisco and Folsom, dealing in mining properties. In the spring of 1860 he took a stock of goods to Nevada and engaged in mercantile pursuits. This was too quiet, however, for his speculative temperament, and he engaged in prospecting and developing mines, and was at one time secretary and superintendent of the well-known Overman Mine. He made fortunes quickly and as rapidly lost them in disastrous ventures. In 1864 he returned to his native place and settled in more quiet pursuits, but he was not satisfied, and in 1868 he returned to California, and spent a year in the commission business with Mr. E. Caldwell, in San Francisco. He then returned east and for several years engaged as a contractor in Patterson.

In 1876 he returned to the Pacific coast and devoted the next three years in prosecuting mining interests in California and Nevada. Tiring of his pursuit of the fickle goddess of wealth in the mines, in October 1879, he came to Southern California and located in Riverside. At that time he was blessed with but little of this world’s goods, but he had an unlimited capital in energy and ambition. His first business operation was the opening of a meat market on the west side of Main Street, where the Hayt block now stands. This business was conducted in partnership with his sou Charlie F. Hayt, under the firm name of Hayt & Son. The next spring the firm entered into the livery business, on the corner of Market and Eighth streets. Their stock in trade was limited to three horses and two wagans. From this small beginning Mr. Hayt and his son built up one of the most extensive livery enterprises in San Bernardino County. In 1887 Mr. Hayt found his other enterprises demanding so much attention that he retired from the livery business.

In 1888, in connection with J. H. D. Cox, he established the commission house of Hayt & Cox, and has since been an extensive dealer in flour, grain, coal, lime, etc. Mr. Hayt has acquired some of the most valuable business property in Riverside and has been noted for the class of buildings he has erected. In 1882 he built the Hayt Block, on the corner of Seventh and Main streets, and in 1885 enlarged the same. He has been identified with the various corporations that have made the improvements so valuable to Riverside. He is an original incorporator and president of the Riverside Railway Company; director of Riverside Heights Water Company; president of Riverside Gas and Electric Light Company, and was the prime mover and promoter of that enterprise; he is also an incorporator and treasurer of the Riverside Building Association.

Politically he is a stanch Republican. In 1884 he was elected a member of the Board of City Trustees, and has held the position since that date. He is a charter member of Sunny-side Lodge, No. 112, K. of P., and also a member of Evergreen Lodge, No. 259, F. & A. M., of Riverside. He is a member and warden of the Episcopal Church. Mr. Hayt has been very successful in his business enterprises in River-side, and ranks among the wealthiest residents of the city. It can be truthfully said that he never knowingly wronged a human being, and his kindly nature and genial temperament is shown in every act of his life. He is well worthy of the respect and esteem awarded him by the community in which he is so well known.

Mr. Hayt has been twice married; his first marriage was in 1853, when he wedded Miss Mary E. Pugsley, a native of New York. She died in 1877, leaving one child, Charles P., a sketch of whom is included in this volume. Mr. Hayt’s second marriage was in 1878, when he was united to Miss Julia A. Cox. There are no children by the latter union.



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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