The Reverend George Henry Deere came to Riverside in 1881 at the request of a local group of Universalists. A year earlier, a visit by a Universalist minister from Minnesota has spurred the request and a group of women formed the Universalist Working Society to raise the necessary funds.
On July 31, 1881, the first Universalist Church in the southwest U.S. was organized as the All Souls Church with Reverend Deere as the minister.
S.C. Evans donated a lot on the southeast corner of Mission Inn Avenue and Market streets and the group purchased a building, Riverside’s 1871 first schoolhouse, for $300 and moved it to the lot. The structure was remodeled and dedicated on April 29, 1883.
George Deere was the strength and inspiration behind the construction of a new building that took shape in 1891 at the corner of Lemon and Mission Inn Avenue. The $25,000 Norman and English Gothic church was designed by A.C. Willard and built by Augustus Boggs. That same year, George H. Deere became a founding trustee for the California Institute of Technology.
The walls are brick faced with red sandstone quarried in Flagstaff Arizona and the floor in the vestibule of marble quarried in Colton. Riverside residents Seneca LaRue, Priestly Hall, Keltia D. Shugart, Lyman C. and Lillian Waite, Joseph S. Dennis, Albert S. White, and George Deere himself are memorialized in the stained glass windows.
George Deere was the first President of Riverside’s Board of Library Trustees, appointed in 1888. He served with other early Riverside pioneers Albert S. White, Elmer W. Holmes, and Lyman Evans. He served for 14 years until 1902. During that time he saw the advent of the first reading room with 1,500 volumes in the Loring Building, owned by his friend Charles Loring, whom many say was first lured to Riverside by Deere. In 1897, federal documents were added to the collection and the collection grew until in 1899 there were 10,000 volumes in open stacks. In 1899, as Andrew Carnegie began to distribute $4 million to 30 American libraries, the Riverside Woman’s Club formed a committee to begin to correspond with Carnegie. Carnegie gave $20,000 and Riverside’s first dedicated library building opened in 1903, built to house 20,000 volumes.