Even without the name at the head of this sketch thousands of Californians and others in reading what has
been said would have mentally anticipated that one eminently fitted and deserving of such a place in the hall
of fame is Wilbur W. Ayers of Highgrove, Riverside County. As a poet his work has been done quietly in the
intervals of a busy commercial career, but the products of his pen have been widely published in magazines
on the coast and elsewhere. On important occasions in Southern California he is regularly importuned to
"tune his lyre," and his responses have never failed to charm. Mr. Ayres thoroughly enjoys the work of
creating beautiful word and verse forms, but is duly modest of his achievements, and recognizes that he is
"of the earth earthy" and possessed only with the vision, the passion for all beauty and the added gift of
power of expression and that illusive "spark of heavenly fire" which makes the true poet.
Some of his most graceful verse is in praise of California, Riverside and California wonders. Though not a
Californian by birth, from her first smiling welcome, his first glimpse of her radiant loveliness, he has been
heart and soul her son, from choice not by birth. He has brought her fresh glory and triumph, added another
star to her celebrated literary firmament.
His poem on California has been given wide publicity
—California by the Sea:—
On the east the grand Sierras
Rear their snow-caps through the clouds;
On the west the mighty ocean
Lies beneath its misty shrouds;
South the turbid Colorado
Rushes through its canyons grand;
North, the Siskiyou towers skyward
Ever guarding this fair land.
Land of sunshine and of flowers,
Land of gold and precious stone,
Land of history and romance—
Constant lure wherever known.
Here the sandal-footed padres
In the dim of long ago,
Placed the cross on mission towers,
Which today their hand work show.
Here the sturdy "Forty-niners,"
Sought and found the "Golden-Fleece,"
Here the golden wheat now ripens
With a magic-like increase.
Here the golden orange glistens
In its bower of darkest green,
And the golden poppy nestles
Mid the hillside grassy sheen.
Here the rose in matchless beauty,
Over fence and trellis climbs,
And the songs of birds are mingled
With the sweet-toned mission chimes.
Land of beauty, love and gladness,
How my heart goes out to thee,
Naught can woo me from my sweetheart—
California by the Sea.
Many of his poems show a passion for ideals, many flame with the spirit of opposition to tyranny, many
indicate a deep knowledge of the things of God, others show a new orientation. He can imprison the colors of
the rainbow, the heart of a rose, the white lace of the waterfall, the music of the birds and of the spheres, and
all the wonder and beauty of God's handiwork and weave them into a shimmering robe of poesy of graceful
line, leaving a lesson for all men to read and love.
Mr. Ayers is a valued and honored member of many clubs and societies, not alone because of his poetic gifts
but because he is one of nature's noblemen, a true son of the Southland. One of his poems sung to the air
of "Maryland, my Maryland," is sung at the Present Day Club—
"Riverside, my Riverside." Two of the six stanzas are:
I know a city wondrous fair,
Where orange bloom perfumes the air,
And birds are singing everywhere,
Riverside, my Riverside.
Above her towers Mount Rubidoux
Where Easter pilgrims ever go,
While mission bells ring sweet and low
In Riverside, blest Riverside.
At the Lincoln Day program in Corona and the unveiling of the Lincoln portrait Mr. Ayers' poem on Lincoln
was an unusual feature, one verse of which is here given :
A hand reaches down through the mist of the years
A hand that steadies, a hand that cheers,
A hand that relieves all our doubts and fears,
'Tis the hand of the martyred Lincoln.
His patriotism is deep and strong, typically Californian. His poems "After the War, What?" "The New Battle
Hymn of the Republic," "The West's Battle Cry," "What is the Cause?" "A Prayer for Peace," have been
published everywhere for the message they carry. "America is now Awake" was a favorite. His poems on
mother love touch the heart, from "To Mother Mine," "Mother of Men," to "Mother's Birthday." His poems on
religion carry conviction to the soul. Very rarely he pens some humorous verse, and they are really that. His
verses are published, some of them, in an artistic volume, "Some Dreams of a California Poet," and the
public is waiting for the volumes of all his verse to be published and placed on the market. One of the most
symbolical of his poems, published recently and attended with wide publicity, is "The Potter and the Clay"
The Potter wrought with patience and care
Beautiful vessels of clay,
They were made for the King, and in their design
They were fit for a King to display.
But before they were used, these vessels rare
Must be burned in the fire's fierce ray.
From the hardening fire some vessels came
More beautiful than before,
But some were scarred and some were marred
With flaws no hand could restore
And these the potter would cast aside
They were useful to him no more.
The perfect vessels were given the King
And they graced his palace fair,
But the scarred and marred were ground to dust
In the mill of the potter there,
That out of the dust might be shaped again
Forms that were passing fair.
The nations today are the vessels rare
That the potter has sought to glean
And the fires of God are testing them out
Ere their beautiful shapes are seen,
And some will come from the testing fire
More perfect in form and sheen.
But some will fail in the testing time
And their beauty will pass away
And into the hopper they'll go again
To be ground to original clay,
That the potter may mould their shapes once more
Fit for the King's display.
And the dust of the nation's ground again
Will be wet with blood and tears
And the shapes they form 'neath the potter's hand
Will be filled with hopes and fears,
For the testing time will come again
In the passing of the years.
The potter is true and the King is wise
And naught that is false shall endure
And the vessels that grace his palace fair
Must be faultless, clean and pure.
It is only such that can stand the test
Which to each remaineth sure.
His Americanism is in part the product of several generations of rugged contact with the frontier of American
life. Mr. Ayers was born in Linn County, Kansas, September 25, 1874, son of William H. and Mary M. (Minnie
Newell) Ayers. His father was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania, in 1845, and his mother in Iowa in 1846. His
grandfather, Dr. Samuel Ayers, moved with his family to Ohio, and in 1857 established a home in "bleeding
Kansas," and in the days of border warfare was associated with members of the John Brown family. William H.
Ayers during the Civil war was a member of Company M, Fifteenth Kansas Cavalry. He married in Linn
County, and he and his wife lived there until they came West to Highgrove, California. Their children were: S.
F., now at San Diego; Augusta, wife of J. W. Adams, of Los Angeles; Rollin H., a Methodist minister at Fort
Collins; Wilbur W., and E. L., at Santa Ana.
W. W. Ayers acquired a public school education in Kansas, also attended normal school, and for a time
taught in his native county. It was in 1897 he came West, first locating at Albany, Oregon, where he was
employed in the Albany Woolen Mills. A year later he moved to San Francisco, where he was connected with
a Great American Tea Importing Company. Then, in 1898, he took charge of the Riverside branch of that
business, and that was his active business connection for six years.
Following that he opened a merchandise store in Highgrove with his younger brother. Soon afterwards he
was appointed postmaster, an office he filled seventeen years. The quarters of his first store were soon
outgrown, and he erected a more adequate store building and the business has steadily increased in volume
Mr. Ayers has associated himself with many of the movements and undertakings that have best expressed
the community ideals of Highgrove. He is an official of the Methodist Episcopal Church and for twelve years
has been superintendent of the Sunday School. He is secretary and treasurer of the Highgrove Improvement
Association, under whose auspices many of the civic enterprises have been launched and brought to
successful issue. This association bought and paid for the community hall, where all community gatherings
are held and which has been of great value in fostering community spirit. Mr. Ayers is a republican, and is
affiliated with Riverside Lodge No. 282, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Mrs. Ayers is very active in Red
Cross work, also in church, and a member of the Woman's Relief Corps.
December 25, 1898, he married Miss Stella Stephenson, a native of Sedgwick, Kansas. Her father was
Homer Stephenson, one of the prominent citizens of Riverside County. Her mother was Adora A. (Morgan)
Stephenson, a native of Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Ayers have four children: Ronald W., who graduated from the
electrical training school at Mare Island as a second class electrician; Arthur M., who graduated in 1921 from
the Riverside Polytechnic High School; W. Walter, a member of the class of 1924 at the Riverside High
School; Newell Morgan, a grammar school boy.
|Wilbur W. Ayers—The people of this day and age are prone to bewail
the undeniable fact that this is an age of commercialism, that the
money changers again throng the temple undisturbed, that the
materialists are in the majority. They assert that the people have lost
all desire for the finer, the worth-while things of life, that art of any kind
has no opportunity to express itself, either by brush or words; and
drawing the deadly comparison they predict that the world is about due
for another overthrow, particularly that part known as America. They
claim, with much truth, that the penny-a-liners, the cubists, the
ultrafuturists, and the weird verse libre addicts fill the public eye, gain
the public ear. Mournfully they quote "without vision the people perish"
and ask "where are the poets and the painters to be found in these
decadent days? Where are the gifted of the Gods to take the place of
While they are right in many of their premises and deductions, they are
not wholly so, for there are poets and painters, and, while sadly few,
when they write or paint the giddy world stops to listen and to look.
Very rare indeed is the man or woman reading true poetry who is not
enthralled, and the man who can crystallize his dreams in verse is set
apart in the honor and regard of his fellowmen.