FLGenWeb Digital Library and Archives
AYERS, Capt. Preston
Presented by Nancy Rayburn
Transcribed from: The History of Florida: Past & Present, The Lewis Publishing Co., Vol.
II, page 231, 1923.
AYERS, Capt. PRESTON, proprietor of the Ayers Electric Company at Orlando, is a military man
and has a record of service and experience that has been almost continuous for a quarter of
a century. He has long been an officer in the Florida State National Guard, was on duty in
the Spanish-American war, in the Philippines, on the Mexican border and in France during
the World war.
Captain AYERS was born on a farm in Colquit County, Georgia, October 29, 1882, son of THOMAS
BROOKS and ABBIE (CROSBY) AYERS, both parents natives of Georgia. His grandfather, J. E.
AYERS, was a Confederate soldier and was killed in the battle of Gettysburg. Both the AYERS
and CROSBY families were identified with the colonial settlement around Jamestown, Virginia.
THOMAS BROOKS AYERS was a Georgia planter and was killed when his son PRESTON was only three
years old. The widowed mother soon afterward removed to Bartow, Florida, and married for
her second husband BARTOW HAMILTON, an orange grower of Polk County.
PRESTON AYERS was reared in Polk County, attended public schools there, and lived with his
mother and stepfather until about the time of the great freeze of 1895, when the Hamilton
orange grove was destroyed. His stepfather meeting with heavy financial loss on account
of this calamity, young AYERS at the age of fourteen went to sea as a sailor before the mast.
At the beginning of the Spanish-American war he enlisted under the name of HAMILTON, his
stepfather's name, in the Twentieth Infantry, United States Regular Army. He was on duty
in Cuba and served about seven months, receiving an honorable discharge. Following this
chapter of his military experience he was on a steamship plying between Miami and Key West,
Nassau and Havana, Cuba, as quartermaster, and in 1890 went to New Orleans, shipping as a
sailor on a steamship to Galveston, thence to New York and to New Orleans, and in 1900 Captain
AYERS made a voyage half way around the world to Capetown, South Africa. For two months in
South Africa he was employed by the British government as a civil scout. Not long after his
return to New Orleans, Captain AYERS took up the profession of bicycle rider. At the Pan
American Exposition at Buffalo in 1901, he met with an accident while riding, injuring both
arm and knee, which compelled him to quit the profession.
Following this he returned to Florida, attended a commercial school at Tampa a year, and
was again employed by a steamship company. In 1902 he enlisted in the regular army in
Company E, of the Twenty-first Infantry, and went to the Philippine Islands, where he had
some arduous service during the concluding days of the rebellion. In 1905 he returned to
the United States and was given his honorable discharge September 25th of that year.
On October 3, 1905, Captain AYERS located at Orlando. Since then he has been in the electrical
business. He was employed as a lineman by a local electrical firm and was later made general
superintendent of the same company, and engaged in the business later as a contractor. The
Ayers Electric Company now does a large contracting business over this section of Florida and
has a high class electric shop at Orlando.
Even with his second honorable discharge from the army Captain AYERS had not satisfied his
military ardor. In 1906 he became captain of Company C, of the Florida National Guard. He
commanded this company when it was on duty at Jacksonville during the street car strike of
1912. In 1916 the company was ordered to the Mexican border and he went along as first
lieutenant, refusing a captain's commission in another company. Soon after the return from
the border he was again elected captain of the company in March, 1917, and shortly after
United States entered the war with Germany the company was mustered into the National army
as Company C, of the One Hundred Twenty-fourth Infantry, with Captain AYERS in command of
the company. He was trained at Camp Wheeler, and in August, 1918, the One Hundred Twenty-fourth
was ordered overseas and became replacement troops in the First Division. Captain AYERS
was returned to a training school, and after the armistice was placed in command of a
provisional engineering battalion. He returned to the United States May 25, 1919, and was
discharged with the rank of captain at Camp Jackson, June 25.
March 25, 1921, Captain AYERS organized Company K, of the One Hundred Fifty-fourth Infantry
of Florida state troops and is captain of that company. He is a charter member of Orlando
Post of the American Legion.
Captain AYERS is a Master Mason, Knights of Pythias, a member of the Chamber of Commerce,
the Baptist Church and is a democrat. In 1919 he was elected city commissioner of Orlando,
entering upon the duties of that office January 1, 1920.
At Orlando in 1908, Captain AYERS married EDITH AGNES KELLEY. Of the two children born
to their marriage OSWALD died in infancy, and the other is EDITH AGNES. Captain AYERS during
his military experience has seen nearly every quarter of the globe, his travels taking him to
Japan, China, India, Australia, Spain, Italy, Alaska, Africa, Philippine Islands, France,
Belgium, Germany, England, New Mexico, and he has also traveled in Central America and has
been in all the large cities in the United States.
This page created August 22, 2010
© 2010 Fran Smith