The Dr. Washington Ayer papers include two handwritten letters, one from 1853, the other undated. The first discusses his
daily life, in very flowery language, and then goes on to talk about his spiritual life. The second letter seems to be notes
for a eulogy at a banquet. There is a typescript of the Society of California Pioneers' Record for Ayer, which gives biographical
information on him, plus a handwritten Addendum to that typescript, by Ayer, adding information on his biography. There is
also an undated, un identified newspaper obituary of Ayer.
Dr. Washington Ayer was born in 1823 in Haverhill, MA. He studied medicine at Harvard, and was about to embark on a trip to
Europe when the Gold Rush hit. Dr. Ayer traveled to California on the ship Leonore in July 1849. After arriving in California,
he tried prospecting and hotel-keeping, but then settled down in medicine. Dr. Ayer spent two years at Mokelumne Hill and
Volcano in Amador County. During the summer of 1852, Ayer was the appointed surgeon during the so-called "French War" of California,
a land claim dispute between French and American miners on French Hill. American miners succeeded in driving the French from
the coveted claim and "robbing them of $15,000 in one hour." During Dr. Ayer's residence in Volcano, he organized a vigilante
committee, which caught the murderer of an elderly man. He also helped to organize and was elected Master of the Volcano Lodge
of Free and Accepted Masons and was its first representative at the Grand Lodge at Sacramento. In 1856, Dr. Ayer settled permanently
in San Francisco. In 1863, he was voted a Member of the Board of Education, and served until 1868, when he refused a re-election.
From 1883 to 1891 Dr. Ayer filled the chair of Professor of Hygiene in the Medical Department of the University of California.
In 1890, Dr. Ayer was elected a Member of the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco and was made Chairman of the Hospital
Committee. He made many reforms in the various institutions of public charity. He helped organize the Medico-Chirurgical Society
and was its first president. He was the president of the Sloat Monument Association and presided at the Laying of the Corner
Stone of the Monument at Monterey, July 7, 1896. Dr. Ayer was also the president of the Society of California Pioneers. Dr.
Ayer, an accomplished writer, died in 1899 having published numerous essays in his field, as well as a small volume of poems
and a romance entitled, "Might Have Been."