Biography of Hon. Pierce H. Ryan, Sr.
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





HON. PIERCE HOWARD RYAN, SR - Through years of effort in private mercantile affairs Major Ryan was equally effective in other activities and the same qualities that distinguished his business record were conspicuous in his political life. The Ryan family is of ancient Celtic lineage and he himself was proud to claim Ireland as his native land, yet there could be found no citizen more loyal to the United States and particularly to California than this almost lifelong resident of the new world and pioneer of the west. At the time he was brought across the ocean by his father he was a child of three years and his early recollections were of Boston, where he received his education and where he married. It was not long after the discovery of gold in the west that he resolved to leave the Atlantic coast for that of the Pacific and so the cosmopolitan tent city of San Francisco became his temporary headquarters early in the '50s, while in 1855, at the age of twenty four years, he arrived in Humboldt county, self reliant and thoroughly capable of earning a livelihood by business enterprise. Mercantile pursuits engaged his attention throughout the balance of his busy and all too brief existence. As the founder of the firm of Ryan & Dawson, which was later absorbed by the Ryan Dry Goods Company, and the proprietor of the concern popularly known as the White House, he was a pioneer merchant of Eureka and a leader in all the movements for the enlarging of patronage and the attracting of country customers to this excellent trading place.

Many men would have found the management and developing of such a business an all sufficient task, but Mr. Ryan found ample leisure for participation in public enterprises and political movements, in addition to filling the office of commissioned major of the National Guard in California, a position that gave him the title by which he was generally known. At the time of his arrival in Eureka he found the city absolutely without fire protection and one of his first acts was to promote and assist in the organization of the volunteer fire department, a company that later did much to prevent undue loss by fire in the city. A forceful public speaker, with the ready wit of the Hibernian and the eloquence so often noted in the race, he united with this gift a splendid command of language, a thorough familiarity with national problems, a keen insight into the best methods of meeting public needs and an intense desire to promote the welfare of his county. As a member of the state assembly for one term and as state senator for two terms, he ably represented the interests of this district in the state legislature, where he promoted many valuable measures and was the author of the logging lien law to protect the rights of laborers in logging camps. His helpful life came to an end in 1889, when he was fifty eight years of age and removed from Humboldt county one of its leading men, whose name is worthy of remembrance in local annals. By his marriage to Annie B. Rice, who was born in Nova Scotia and died in Humboldt county in May, 1913, he had six children, three of whom, Pierce H., Jr., George R. and Margaret I., are now living.

Pierce Howard Ryan, Jr., now city attorney of Eureka, was born in this city December 28, 1873, received a high school education here and in 1896 was graduated from the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, being admitted during the same year to practice before the supreme court of California. Elected city attorney of Eureka, in 1897, he was afterward chosen his own successor for four successive terms. In the practice of his profession he has gained a reputation, not only as an orator, but also as one of the leading lawyers of Northern California. He is a widower with one son, Pierce Howard, representing the fourth generation to bear that name in the Ryan family. Fraternally Mr. Ryan is identified with the Eagles and Elks, of which latter fraternity he is Exalted Ruler of Eureka Lodge, while along investment lines he has become associated with the Humboldt National Bank as a stockholder and director.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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