Aug 01

J.J. Ayers, The Tribune’s second editor, family details

The previous two postings on former Tribune editor and western journalist J.J. Ayers were woefully skimpy on details from his personal life. His observations of life in the Gold Rush west leave out all family details. By scraping information from digitized newspapers and books from the era a more complete picture emerges of the pioneer newspaper editor and publisher.

James J. Ayers wrote an editorial when he took over The San Luis Obispo Tribune. in October 1871. Of the dozen or more papers he worked at, owned or founded this would be one of his shortest tenures. He would be out by the end of the year.

He was apparently married twice with a daughter from the first marriage during the time he lived in San Francisco. It is unclear if they survived. Medical care in the middle of the 19th century was little better than barbaric.
Ayers would marry again much later in life.
Two stories from his book “Gold and Sunshine” talk about fishing. The first was when his becalmed boat en-route to the gold country found a school of fish, averting starvation. Another story talks of a successful fishing expedition in San Francisco Bay. He continued to enjoy fishing in his later years in Southern California.
Ayers returned to performing by giving speeches based on his memoir. At least one notice invited women to come to the lecture, it was not strictly a boy’s club event.
He lived close to an aunt while in Los Angles and hosted her funeral when she passed away.
Another woman entrusted the guardianship of her sons to the editor so that he could pursue legal action on behalf of the children.
After he sold his interest in the Express he continued to be an editor at the Herald for some years before retirement.
Several articles after his death ask for a publisher to step forward and print the memoir to support the Ayers family though the articles are not specific enough to know if he had children.

Daily Alta California – March 24, 1858

In this city, March 20th, the wife of Mr. James J. Ayers, of a daughter.

Los Angeles Herald – June 11, 1878

A Candidate Who Takes.
We have rarely seen any candidate take more universally than Col. Ayers, of the San Jose nominees for the Constitutional Convention. To the qualification of being an accomplished journalist Col. Ayers adds the training of a lawyer and the experience of a Pioneer. Col. Ayers is billed for a lecture on “Pioneer Times,” tonight, at the Hall of the Society. Our own people have heard this lecture and their appreciation was moat flattering. That tho San Francisco public will be equally gratified we would have no doubt. Speaking of it the Alta says: We are pleased to announce that Colonel J. J. Ayers, of the Los Angeles Express, will deliver his lecture on “Pioneer Times,” at the Hall of the Society of Pioneers, next Tuesday night. The lecture Will be free, and the Colonel hopes to entertain the auditors for an hour with a graphic picture of our State at that interesting period when it was the goal for the miscellaneous thousands who Hocked to it from all parts of the world. He will delineate the character of the pioneer as it really was, and not as the distorted thing a class of successful writers have tried to make it. We feel sure that those who attend will not only recognize the truthfulness of the Colonel’s description, but thank him for a rare literary treat. The San Francisco Examiner, though Democratic authority, has the following pleasant things to say of Col. Ayers:
Among the candidates for at large delegates to the Constitutional Convention, nominated in the Fourth Congressional District, are James J. Ayers, of Los Angeles, and Byron Waters, of San Bernardino. Of the last named gentleman the Examiner has already given special and favorable mention, which was fully merited. We now in similar spirit commend to the support of the Democracy of California, for the delegateship, Mr. Ayers. He is a pioneer of 1849, and among the oldest, most experienced, most successful, and ablest journalists in the State. He was one of the founders of the Calaveras Chronicle, and also of the Call, of this city. He is now the owner and editor of the Los Angeles Express, one of the best dailies published outside of San Francisco. He is a Democrat, and has never departed from the ancient faith. Mr. Ayers is a gentleman of much more than ordinary ability, and is conversant with the history, the geography, the characteristics, the resources, the interests, the industries, the requirements of the State. No man is more truly devoted to the cause of labor, or more firm and consistent in opposition to the aggressions of monopolists. His great popularity in his own county is demonstration of his standing as a citizen, and wherever known he commands respect for his integrity and solid worth. And because we personally know him to be well qualified for the place, we heartily endorse him as a candidate for the Convention, as a delegate at large, and hope that ho will be elected. The foregoing pleasant notes are reinforced by the Ventura Signal, which says: The nominations made at San José are, in the main, good and acceptable. The nomination of Mr. J. J. Ayers, of Los Angeles, was made by acclamation, and we hope he will get every vote in Los Angeles county. He is worthy of confidence and will till the place to which he will undoubtedly be elected with credit to himself and to the people.

Daily Alta California – May 12, 1884

This morning, at 11 o’clock, at” the Westminster Church, Sacramento, Miss Charlotte Slater will be married to Col. James J. Ayers, Superintendent of the State Printing Office.

Los Angeles Herald – August 11, 1888

Colonel Ayers’ Splendid Luck at Catalina.
Colonel James J. Ayers, one of the editors of the Herald, is spending a few days at Santa Catalina Island. On Wednesday he and Mrs. Ayers went out fishing, and had a splendid run of luck. The result was twenty-three fish, of which four was fine “yellow tails.” These weighed from thirty-one to forty pounds each. The honors of the catch were even between the Colonel and Mrs. Ayers, as each caught two fish. The same is true of sixteen fine rock bass, of which each captured eight. When the editorial fishing party drew in to the shore in front of the hotel, enthusiastic admiration ran high among the guests. All the people at the island take much interest in fishing. A lucky fisher caught a “yellow tail” weighing seventy – five pounds ii front of G. W. Remington’s house, not one hundred yards from the shore.

Los Angeles Herald December 12, 1889

O’DONNEL-In this city, December 10, 1889, Miss Sarah O’Donnei, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, aged 76 years. The funeral will take place from the residence of her nephew, Col, James J. Ayers, 933 Pearl street, corner of Ottawa, at 10:30 a. m, today, Thursday.

Los Angeles Herald December 7, 1890

The Appointment of a Guardian Asked for Pendente Lite.
Mrs. Elizabeth H. Howard has petitioned Judge Clark that Colonel James J. Ayers be appointed guardian of the estate and personal property of her two minor children, James L. Howard and Ernest Raymond Howard. These boys are the sons of Colonel J. G. Howard, who died in this city several months since. The petitioner prays the court to make the appointment in order that certain suits may be commenced for the benefit of her children.

From the book “A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs”
By James Miller Guinn
Historic Record Company, 1915

March 15, 1875, J.J. Ayers and Joseph D. Lynch purchased the paper [Los Angeles Express founded March 27, 1871 and the oldest daily paper in LA as of 1915] from Tiffany & Co. The new firm enlarged the paper to eight columns and later in the year it was enlarged to nine columns to the page. On October 3, 1896, Mr. Lynch retired from the Express and took editorial charge of the Daily Herald; Ayers continuing in charge of the Daily Express which was virtually an evening edition of the Herald. In 1882 Governor Stoneman appointed Colonel Ayers state printer and Mr. Lynch, who had retained his interest in the Express, conducted both papers, but with separate editorial and local staffs. In 1884 H.Z. Osborne and E.R. Cleveland bought the Express.

Los Angleles Herald – November 13, 1897

Our local columns contain news of the passing away of Col. James J. Ayers, at his home In Azusa, at 5 o’clock yesterday morning.
The salient Incidents of his life are given in a short biographical sketch.
The death of Colonel Ayers removes from the sphere of earthly activities one of the most notable characters in the history of this state. He came to the coast among the earliest of the pioneers and at once took a place among the leaders of thought and enterprise in the
heterogeneous population which gathered here from all shores.
Colonel Ayers’ character was composed of all the elements that go to make a great man, and It was singularly free from all smallness. He was one of the best read men In America, and one of the best versed in the affairs of the world. His intelligence was of remarkable keenness, and his grasp of principles most thorough. He formed clear views of things through profound penetration into their meaning and a farreachlng comprehension of their relations.
But, keen as was the mind of the late journalist, it was on the side of his moral perceptions and of his affections that he was greatest. Colonel Ayers’ instincts were all pure; his impulses were all good and his aspirations all noble. Without parade or ostentation, he was a reformer and a philanthropist to the deepest recesses of his soul. To be on the side of right and truth and humanity was a thing for which he claimed no credit, no merit, no distinction, for the reason that to be there was as natural to him as to breathe. The true, the beautiful and the good had for him a fascination irresistible, and to go counter to this influence would have done violence to his nature.
It is superfluous to eulogize Colonel Ayers. He is known in all parts of California, and the admiration of his character and the love for his personality ore as wide as the circle of his acquaintance. Hundreds of thousands of readers for half a century have read his classic leaders in many newspapers with an admiration which was practically without bounds. It was not alone the polished diction which charmed, but even more so the pure vein of golden thought and sentiment that flowed with each perfectly rounded sentence. He was one of the most forcible and convincing orator that the state has possessed. His periods, flowing with natural spontaneity, charmed the mind and convinced the heart of his hearer. In after dinner speech he had few equals, and he spoke In French as fluently and as eloquently as in English. His pen often ran in numbers, and his verse was full of inspiration and of beauty. While on his feet speaking his thoughts frequently were expressed in blank verse with a music so Shakespearean that his listeners were entranced.
Colonel Ayers’ life work is impressed on the history of the state in characters which are indelible, and so broad that they must be seen and read of all men. His deeds possess the quality of living truth which will make them fruitful for good long after the earthly form has crumbled into dust. In the constitutional convention of
1878 no members more deeply influenced that body than Colonel Ayers and his friend, Volney E. Howard, also a Los Angeles delegate. The Influence of Colonel Ayers’ work and writings was always for the best Interests of the people of this state, and did much to mould Its destiny.
The present editor of The Herald was a close associate of Colonel Ayers for many years in newspaper work, and can bear testimony to the fact that his character was noble and Inspiring In the everyday walks of life, no less than on greater occasions which are supposed to develop the heroic virtues. It has been so with all who came near enough to Colonel Ayers to know the true nobility of his soul, the greatness of his intellect and the beauty of a character so free from all that was base and small, so simple, so void of conceit, so kindly In all its impulses and so naturally true to the best interests of our race.
In his death this community has lost a man who wrought long and wisely for its good, and the state has lost one of the most useful citizens it ever held within its borders.

Los Angeles Herald – November 14, 1897
Funeral of Col. J. J. Ayers

The funeral of Col. James J. Ayers will be held this afternoon at 2 o’clock from Immanuel Presbyterian church, Rev. Mr. Clellan of Azusa officiating. The pall-bearers will be J. C. Lynch and O. W. Burton, representing the press of this city: W. D. Merriman and Z. D. Mathus, the church of which Col. Ayers was a member, and H. D. Barrows and Frank Coulter, the pioneers.

Related posts:

  1. James J. Ayers, western journalist, Tribune editor part 2
  2. James J. Ayers, founder of the San Francisco Call, editor of San Luis Obispo Tribune
  3. Benjamin Brooks, longest serving editor-proprietor The Tribune
  4. Bruce Davis, former Manson Family member on path to parole