Portrait from the San Francisco Call, December 6, 1897.
Arguably one of the strangest named men ever to serve in the California State Assembly, Caius Tacitus Ryland was for many years a prominent son of San Jose, being a pioneer of 1849. A two term member of the state assembly from Santa Clara County, Ryland would serve as Speaker of that body and later was talked of as a potential candidate for U.S. Senator from California.
Receiving his first and middle names in honor of the Roman historian and senator Caius Tacitus, Caius Tacitus "C.T." Ryland was born in Howard County, Missouri on June 30, 1826, being the son of John Ferguson and Elizabeth Ryland. A noted figure in his own right, John F. Ryland (1797-1873) was a circuit court judge who married twice and fathered a total of 18 children! Judge Ryland later served several years on the Missouri Supreme Court, and looks to have had an aptitude for giving his offspring odd names from history, including Erasmus, Xenophon, Manville Cass and last but not least, Caius Tacitus.
"C.T." Ryland was afforded a limited education as a child, working on his family's farm during the summer and attending school in Lexington during the winter months. He turned his attention to law at an early age and after a period of study was admitted to the Missouri bar. In 1849 gold was discovered in California, and, like so many other young men of the time, Ryland saw a bright future for himself out west. He is mentioned as being a "pioneer of July 30, 1849" and is also noted as having a "brief experience in the mines" prior to his resettlement in San Jose in 1850.
Upon his settlement in San Jose Ryland established a law practice in that city, continuing in his profession until 1869. Around 1850 he began service as a clerk to his future father in law, Peter H. Burnett, the first Governor of the state of California. Ryland continued in that post until 1851, and married in that same year to Letitia Burnett, a daughter of Governor Burnett. Caius and Letita were married for over four decades and later had ten children: Ada, Romie, John Wallace, Mary Norma, Joseph Robert, Frank Poe, Harriett, Charles Bernard, Caius Tacitus Jr. and Dwight Edwin.
After leaving the aforementioned post of clerk Ryland resumed his law practice and soon began treading the political waters, winning election as a Democrat to the California State Assembly in 1854. Serving on the committees on Internal Improvements and the Judiciary during the 1855-56 session, Ryland was also instrumental in his position as chairman of the Internal Improvements committee, reporting and helping to pass a bill "to build a wagon road across the Sierra Neva Mountains, for the relief of pioneers and migrants of the day."
Caius T. Ryland would win a second assembly term in 1866 and served as its Speaker during the 1868-69 session. He continued his political ascent in 1876 when he served as chairman of the California State Democratic Convention and was even talked of as a potential candidate for U.S. Senator from California, but was ultimately passed over for that position.
In addition to his time in politics Ryland gained further distinction in a number of civic and business endeavors both in San Jose and elsewhere. The Early Days and Men of California gives note to Ryland's contribution to the construction and completion of a wagon road extending from "Sierra Madre de Santa Cruz to the town of Santa Cruz" and also relates that Ryland dabbled in railroad promotion, serving as a director and an attorney for the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad (the first of its kind linking those cities) until its eventual absorption by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1870. Ryland was also a founding member of the Santa Clara Agricultural Society, a life member and three-time vice president of the California Society of Pioneers and a trustee of San Jose State Normal School.
Portrait courtesy of vendome.org
In the last years of his life Ryland was active in both banking and real estate, owning the Letitia, Ryland and Columbus blocks in San Jose. He reemerged on the political scene in 1888, when he served as a vice president of the National Democratic Convention that re-nominated Grover Cleveland for President.
Caius Tacitus Ryland died at his San Jose home on December 5, 1897, reportedly due to "due to a complication of diseases which affected the heart." He is recorded as having left an estate valued at over three million dollars was survived by his wife Letita, who died in 1910 at age seventy-seven. Both Ryland and his wife (as well as their children) were later interred at the Santa Clara Mission Cemetery in Santa Clara, California.
Ryland's obituary from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 1897.