Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


Among the substantial landowning farmers and capitalists of Monterey county there are few who have a wider acquaintance throughout this section of the state than has Manuel Fontes of Salinas, who for fifty years has been recognized as one of the leading citizens of the community. For a half century and more he has been a witness of and a participant in the development of that section.

Manuel Fontes was born in the Azores but has been a citizen of the United States and of California since the days of his young manhood. He grew up on his native island in the eastern Atlantic, becoming familiar with island farming methods and particularly the raising of sheep, but when little more than a lad took to the sea and was for several years engaged as a sailor on vessels trading off the west coast of Africa and the east coast of South America. When nineteen years of age, about the time of the close of the Civil war, Mr. Fontes took service with a whaler sailing out of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and later went out with a ship sailing around the Horn for San Francisco. Upon his arrival in California he left the sea and became a sheep herder on the great ranch of Jesse D. Carr near Salinas in Monterey county. It was not long until he began putting his savings into sheep and undertaking operations on his own account. These initial ventures prospered and about 1872 he began buying land. After his marriage in 1878 he established his home on his place adjacent to the city of Salinas and gradually extended his land holdings until he became the owner of a fine place of six hundred acres, much of which has been devoted to grazing purposes but a third is fine rich irrigable land worth about eight hundred dollars an acre. He also owns a forty cow dairy, which he leases, and has other substantial interests in and about Salinas, including an important block of stock in the Salinas City Bank, of which institution he is one of the directors.

Mr. Fontes has been twice married. As noted above, his first marriage took place here in 1878, his wife, Mary Bordges, also having been an Azorian. To that union were born two sons, Manuel and Michael. Following the death of the mother of these children Mr. Fontes married Constantine Bordges, his deceased wife's sister, and to this union three children were born, two sons, George and Frank Fontes, and a daughter, Mary, now the wife of M. R. Bailey of San Francisco. About 1910 Mr. Fontes erected a handsome dwelling house at the corner of Alisal and Capitol streets at Salinas and there he and Mrs. Fontes have since made their home, very pleasantly and very comfortably situated. Mr. Fontes's three elder sons, Manuel, Michael and George, are associated with their father in the operation of his ranch interests and the younger son, Frank, is engaged in the practice of law at San Francisco.

Source: History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California : cradle of California's history and romance : dating from the planting of the cross of Christendom upon the shores of Monterey Bay by Fr. Junipero Serra, and those intrepid adventurers who accompanied him, down to the present day. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1925, 890 pgs.