Milton John Daniels, his wife, and three children came to Riverside for health reasons, following the Reverend George Deere from Rochester, Minnesota. Daniels had been highly successful in Minnesota. In 1856, he was appointed deputy postmaster in Rochester and when the Civil War erupted in 1861, he raised a company for the Union Army, Company F, 9th Regiment, Minnesota Volunteers and was commissioned second lieutenant. He took command of the 3rd Minnesota Mounted Infantry in the Indian War of 1862, rejoined his company at St. Louis in 1863, and in 1865 was commissioned captain and commissary of subsistence by President Lincoln.
His business career in Minnesota included the presidency of Union National Bank in Rochester and he was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1882 and the state Senate in 1886. In 1890, Daniels moved to Riverside and purchased 10 acres of citrus grove on Brockton Avenue and built a turreted Queen Anne Victorian home. Architect A.C. Willard designed the house and H.A. Westbrook was the builder.
On July 3, 1891, Daniels organized and became president of the Orange Growers National Bank. The directors were George Frost, H.W. Huston, J.D. McNab, C.M. Loring, W.S. Sweatt, J. R. Newberry, W.P. Lett, and Gaylor Rouse. Frank Miller and W. Hayt were among the stockholders. H.T. “Tom” Hays was hired as cashier and D. H. Herlihy as assistant cashier and bookkeeper. In 1899, Daniels broadened his business interests by buying an interest in The Enterprise, a Riverside newspaper, where he installed his son-in-law, Pember Castleman, on the staff.
In 1903, Daniels again entered politics, running for and winning election to the Fifty-Eighth Congress. In November of that year, Hays was caught double-dealing in the acquisition of rights-of-way for the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad. Hays had falsified purchase prices for land and pocketed the difference, costing the railroad as much as $60,000. Hays admitted the difference but called it “commissions,” and offered a deed for $12,000 of his orange grove property to the railroad. When informed, Milton Daniels was away in Washington, D.C., and Gaylor Rouse as acting bank president asked for Hays resignation.
The Los Angeles Times named several leading citizens as also profiting: W.W. Wilson, Jacob Van de Grift, B.B. Bush, and Frank A. Tetley. As a result of the Los Angeles Times story, bank examiners started to review the accounts of the Orange Growers Bank and found instances of embezzlement totaling almost $100,000. While Hays was acquitted in federal court, his defense strategy was based on the suggestion that others had profited as much as he.
This defense cast a shadow over Daniels. The reporting at Daniels’ newspaper, The Enterprise, by Daniels’ son-in-law, Pember Castleman, portrayed Hays in a favorable light and supported Daniels. Nevertheless, Daniels did not stand for reelection. The Citizens Bank, later called Citizens National Trust and Savings, took over the Orange Growers Bank, sparing depositors but leaving stockholders to bear the loss of the Orange Growers Bank failure.
Daniels managed to keep his house, despite his losses, and joined his son-in-law in the real estate business.