Prominent among the leading citizens of Redding, California, is the gentleman whose name heads this sketch. The place of his birth was on a farm fourteen miles from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and the date was April 5, 1855. His father, Jacob Wiley, and his grandfather, Isaac Wiley, were both natives of the State of New York, and the latter was a soldier in the war of 1812. His father married Catharine Growall, of German ancestry and a native of Pennsylvania. They became the parents of seven children, of whom five are living. Harley R. is the youngest. In 1865 Mr. Wiley’s father with his family emigrated to California. He was ten years old at that time and has a vivid recollection of the sad sights and bitter experiences they met with on their overland journey. They were menaced by the Indians, and a part of their train was cut off and destroyed.
Upon their arrival in California they settled in Ventura County, then a new and undeveloped country. Young Wiley remained with his parents until he was fifteen years old, when he went to Los Angeles County and spent a year with his brother-in-law. He then returned to his father’s farm, remained there a year and at the age of seventeen started out in life for himself. His brother-in-law, Captain Kittredge, was keeping the American Hotel at Petaluma, and to that place Mr. Wiley went and clerked for the captain a year, until the house burned down. At the age of eighteen he went to San Francisco and tried to make a living there at book-canvassing. Not liking the business, however, he secured a position in Mr. Van Schaack’s store. They began work at half past seven in the morning and closed at half past ten in the evening, having only thirty minutes for meals, and on Saturdays they worked until twelve o’clock at night. He remained with them three months. Then he attended the Pacific Business College a short time, after which he was in a store for a few months. His brothers started a small mercantile business at Santa Paula and for a time Mr. Wiley purchased good for them in San Francisco. At his brother’s urgent request he joined them in Santa Paula. It was his intention to remain only until he could go to college. After being with the firm of Wiley Bros. four months, his friend, Joseph Bradshaw, then professor of mathematics in Christian College at Santa Rosa, used his influences to have him come to the college and work his way through. When he arrived at Santa Rosa he was nearly out of funds. With some other young men he bached in a spare room in the college. They boarded themselves at an expense of from $2 to $5 per month. His good mother kindly sent him a little money to help him along. After the first five months the faculty learned that he understood book-keeping, and he was given the charge of the book-keeping classes and two classes in arithmetic and algebra. The following year he was regularly installed as tutor by the Board of Regents. So he taught four classes and kept up his studies and made his course in three years, also taking some extra studies outside of the regular course. Mr. Wiley received the degree of A.B. in 1877. J. W. Butler, of Illinois, was president of the college during the year 1874-’75. He was succeeded by J. M. Martin, formerly of Hesperian College.
At the age of seventeen, Mr. Wiley became a Christian. The college he attended was a Christian institution, and he was there persuaded to join the ministry and was ordained a Christian minister. At the time of his graduation, he was offered a church at a salary of $1,000 per year. Previous to that, however, he had promised a friend to go to Los Angeles and start a college. Before they reached that city to enter upon their proposed work his former professor of languages had preceded them and was already engaged in the development of a similar plan. On ascertaining this fact Mr. Wiley went to Santa Ana and had charge of the church there a year, and also started a private high school. The work of both proved too much for him, and his physician advised him to try some lighter labor for a time. He went before the board of examiners at Los Angeles, obtained a certificate, and took a school at Orangethorpe, which he taught two years, after which he taught two years in the public schools of Napa County. Then he went to Redding as principal of the schools there and taught one year. At the end of that time he opened a normal institute for the instruction of young teachers, having for assistants several prominent educators of the State. Among those who lectured at his normal class was Fred Campbell, State Superintendent. The Educational Journal, referring to Mr. Wiley’s school, says: “To Prof. H. R. Wiley, principal of the Redding School, belongs the credit of holding the first Normal Institute in California. He held these schools four successive years, in the meantime delivering a number of lectures both before the normal institute and before the annual Teachers’ Institute of Shasta County. Then he closed his educational labors to commence the practice of law. He had been reading law six years. Three years before he began the practice of that profession he was admitted to the bar by Judge Aaron Bell. He has been in regular practice since 1886, and has also engaged in land speculation to some extent, in which he has been very successful. He entered into partnership with L. W. Frisbie, but this partner met with misfortune and left Mr. Wiley to pay off the debts of the firm. He subsequently sold a half interest in his law business to Mr. T. B. Dozier, his present partner. With his law practice and the care of his property Mr. Wiley has more than he can attend to. He has in all 2,000 acres of land. He owns a commodious home in Redding and a summer cottage at Dunsmuir. Redpath, the historian, on the occasion of his visit to California in company with the Horticultural Society, listened to an address by Mr. Wiley, which he afterward described, in writing of it, as “eloquence and good sense in rare combination.” The publishers of this volume sincerely wish they had extracts from Mr. Wiley’s addresses, as well as for further details of his interesting life career.
December 26, 1885, Mr. Wiley was united in marriage to Miss Villa Chappell, a daughter of the late Hon. J. N. Chappell. Their union is blessed with a daughter, Villa Elizabeth, and a son, Don Esmond, both born in the city of Redding. Mrs. Wiley is a member of the Presbyterian Church, of which her husband is a trustee. Mr. Wiley is a conservative Republican, a leading temperance worker, and a successful lawyer.
Source: Memorial & Biographical History of Northern
California, The Lewis Publishing Co., 1891
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler