One of the chief factors in the upbuilding of Riverside and a leader in reclamation work in Southern California, William Irving ever directed his efforts into those channels through which flows the greatest and most permanent good to the largest number. Judged from the standpoint of service, his was a notably successful life. Born near Annandale, in the county of Dumfries, Scotland, in 1833, a son of William and Elizabeth (Browe) Irving, he acquired his early instruction in the excellent schools of that country. At the age of twelve he came with the family to the new world. At Kingston, Canada, he took a course of study which qualified him for the work of a civil engineer. Until his father’s death in 1874 he was associated with him in the designing and construction of many of the collegiate and public buildings which distinguish Kingston among Canadian cities. In 1881 he established the Kingston Car Works and as president and manager made this an industry of importance to the city in which it was operated.
In 1887 at the invitation of Mr. Matthew Gage, Mr. Irving came to Riverside to act as engineer of the Gage canal system. Under his direction the Gage canal was construed from the Terquisite Arroyo to its present terminus, and Arlington Heights was laid out in its present form. Later, upon the formation of the Riverside Trust Company, Limited, in 1890, he was made engineer of the new organization, which acquired Mr. Gage’s interest in Arlington Heights and the Gage canal. Immediately following the organization of the Riverside Trust Company, Limited, the horticultural development of Arlington Heights was begun and continued until upwards of five thousand acres of desert were converted into prolific citrus groves. Mr. Irving became manager of the company in 1894, retaining the title for seven years, and in 1901 assumed the duties of consulting manager, which he efficiently discharged until the close of his career. In 1901 he was requested by the United States government to make an investigation of and report on irrigation practice in southern California and was engaged in that work until his death, which occurred September 23, 1904, at the age of seventy-one years. His labors were manifestly resultant, and among those with whom business or social relations brought him in contact he was held in the highest esteem, for he possessed that strong sense of honor which is the vital essence of the gentleman. Of him it was said: “Mr. Irving was widely read in all branches of literature. His chief pleasure, however, was found in philosophical and scientific studies, and in the discussion of such subjects. Of a clear and logical mind, he followed the course of reason with relentless precision, regardless of the results to generally accepted dogma. The solution of the problems of life in the light of truth was everything to him, and no demand of expediency could cause him to hesitate in putting his decisions into action.”
In 1867 Mr. Irving was married at Kingston, Canada, to Eliza Gage, who was born in Coleraine, Ireland, in 1839, a daughter of James and Margaret (Orr) Gage. To Mr. and Mrs. Irving were born six children, all of whom are living. In 1897 their eldest daughter, Lilla, became the wife of John M. Mylne, who succeeded Mr. Irving as engineer of the Gage canal system. The second daughter, Margaret Eva, was married to Stewart E. Malloch of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and the youngest daughter, Kathleen, to Edward W. Trevelyan of Riverside, California. The three sons of the family are: William G. Irving, a prominent lawyer of Riverside, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this work; Robert M. Irving, an orange grower; and J. Norman Irving, a civil engineer.
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. III, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 85-86, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.
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