Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


"The oldest inhabitant," is a mythical character often referred to, but his portrait and biography have never before been presented to the public. He is an Indian, and an inmate of the County Hospital of Monterey County. His name is Gabriel, and he is between one hundred and forty-five and one hundred and fifty years old. Unfortunately, the exact date of his birth is unknown, but sufficent evidence has been adduced to prove the truth of the above figures. Father Sorrentine, the parish priest of Salinas, and Mrs. W. S.Johnson, furnished the editor of the Monterey Democrat with the following facts:

"It is well authenticated that at the landing of Junipero Serra at Monterey he was a grandfather, and when the first chapel was built on the site of the present Carmelo Mission, in 1771-72, he was present and assisted in erecting the adobe walls.

"As the Indians did not marry until they were at least fifteen years of age, he would necessarily be thirty-two years or more before he could possibly be a grandfather. He is a native of Tulare County, but came to Carmelo when quite young, for what reason cannot be ascertained, for he does not seem to know, or at least has not told. Under the instructions of Junipero Serra he learned to cut and lay stone, so that he was one of the principal workmen at the building of Soledad and San Antonio Missions. When it came to the erection of the Carmelo Mission he was so well skilled in the use of the tools of that day that he often now speaks of his ability as a stone-cutter during that work. At the time of the building of the Soledad Mission (1791) he had his second wife, and in this connection Father Sorrentini states that in 1845, when Bishop Amat and himself arrived at Monterey, they were met by a large number of the native population, the oldest of whom was Gabriel, reputed as then having his sixth wife, but this wife has been dead now about thirty years. In conversation with the oldest inhabitants at that time they all averred that Gabriel was more than one hundred and ten years of age. Ex-Tax Collector Manuel Castro's mother died about four years ago, aged ninety-five years, and the old lady often spoke of knowing Gabriel when she was a child, and that he was then called 'old Gabriel,'' and his grandchildren were older than she herself. An old lame Indian, who died years ago, aged one hundred and ten years, once asked by the Rev. Father how much older he was than Gabriel, laughed heartily and said, 'Gabriel was an old man when I was a child.'"

The picture presented herewith is from a photograph made a couple of years ago. He is feeble, although able to walk without assistance. During the past year he has nearly lost the faculty of memory, and the power of speech, but there is not that evidence of physical decay which would lead one to believe that his days of life are nearly numbered. He is a living exemplification of the age to which a person with a strong constitution and hygienic methods of living can attain. He has never used liquor nor tobacco. His diet has been of the simplest and plainest food, and his habits regular. He has paid particular attention to bathing, in earlier days, within the recollection of people in the county, having a sweat-house on the bank of a stream near where he lived. Even now, when circumstances and old age deprive him of this hygienic regulation, he scrapes himself with an old case-knife, thereby keeping the pores open and the skin active.

I have deemed it a fitting conclusion to this work, to present the above facts, and the accompanying picture of this old relic of Monterey County's early days. If it be true, as averred by some metaphysicians, that the human mind never forgets, but only temporarily ceases to remember what it has seen and heard and thought, what a fund of fact and fancy is stored away in this old Indian's brain.

Source: Monterey County : its general features, resources, attractions, and inducements to investors and home seekers. Salinas, Calif.: E.S. Harrison, 1889, 89 pgs.