Dyer, Elisha, 1811-1890
Governor Elisha Dyer (1811-1890) and Governor Elisher Dyer, Jr. (1839-1909) traced their illustrious ancestry to William and Mary Dyer of Boston who settled Portsmouth in 1638 as exiled disciples of Anne Hutchinson. They eventually embraced Quakerism, and Mary repeatedly returned to Boston to preach the new doctrine in defiance of the Puritan magistrates. Such persistence earned her martyrdom.
Among the Dyers other famous ancestors was a prior Elisha (1772-1854), a textile manufacturer who founded and operated the Dyerville Mill in North Providence.
The first governor Dyer, despite being an invalid for the thirty-five years preceding his death in 1890, excelled in many walks of life–businessman, musician, world traveler, banker, railroad magnate, philanthropist, and a civic leader who was involved with innumerable boards and commissions, as well as with the temperance movement. He served as state adjutant general for the Law and Order government during the Dorr Rebellion and was elected Republican governor of Rhode Island in 1857 and 1858, declining reelection in 1859. When he left office the Providence Post, a leading Democratic paper, admitted that “We have from the first looked upon him as an honorable, high-minded opponent and a straightforward conscientious man; and candor compels us to say that he has never failed to reach the standard set up for him.”
Dyer, Elisha, 1839-1909
The second Governor Elisha Dyer (1839-1906) carved out a career that paralleled that of his father. After graduation from Brown University in 1856, he earned a doctorate in science at the University of Geissen in Germany, and later became a manufacturing chemist.
Elisha served in the Civil War as a sergeant and suffered a nearly disabling injury. Nonetheless, he maintained his interest and involvement with the military, eventually serving as Rhode Island adjutant general from 1882 to 1895 and later compiling a valuable reference book on The War With Spain.
A prominent Republican, Dyer was elected governor in 1897 and won reelection in 1898 and 1899. At various times during his amazingly successful career he won election as Providence school committeeman, alderman, state representative, and state senator. In 1905, a year before his death, he was chosen Mayor of Providence, thereby rounding out a political career unequaled in the annals of his native city.