Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


A native of Austria who has made his mark in America is Mateo Lettunich, the wide-awake and progressive business man of 110 Maple avenue, Watsonville, well known throughout and beyond Santa Cruz county. He was born in Dalmatia on February 2, 1857, the son of Nicholas and Anna Lettunich, worthy folks who lived and died in the land of their nativity, Mr. Lettunich passing away when Mateo was about seven years old, while his wife died in 1894.

Mateo Lettunich attended the best schools available in Dalmatia but when many other boys were thinking of sport or leisure he had to begin work for a living, and the only work near his home was with the orchardist. When sixteen years of age, he crossed the briny deep to the much-talked-of United States, and for a year and a half supported himself amid the harsh competition of the grinding New York metropolis. He then went south to Aspinwall.Panama, and tried the heavy labor required of the longshoreman but on account of the fever prevalent there, he came northward to San Francisco, and in 1875 engaged in the restaurant business being employed by others for twenty-one months. He next moved on into the wilds of Humboldt county, and in Arcadia started a restaurant for himself but tiring of this he left the redwood forests and made for the more settled Eureka, even then rather remote from and devoid of the comforts and elegancies of civilization. There he remained for fourten years, while serving others with his appetizing meals and helping them along the log-wood thoroughfares of life

While in Humboldt county he engaged in the buying of fruit and timberland and in different lines he became a trader. By watching, he learned much in the trading game and to this training in the northern "back woods," he attributes no little of his later success. In 1891 he sold his interests in Humboldt county and departed with regret from a wholesouled and large-hearted, if somewhat primitive community, after which he made a visit to his aged mother in his native country, remaining at home for a year. On his return to the United States in 1892 he came direct to Watsonville, for as early as 1888 he had become interested, with his cousin, in the possibilities of fruit buying and fruit packing in Santa Cruz county.

It was not long therefore before these ambitious young men were the first to ship apples by the carload and, thanks to the impetus given them by their old neighbors, they shipped the first car of bellflower apples from this section, which has since become so famous for its apples. From a modest beginning they have gradually become the largest shippers and packers and growers of apples in this locality and now Mateo Lettunich is the owner of the celebrated Del Monte fruit ranch at Aromas, is one of the owners of the Lettunich building in Watsonville, the principal office building in that city and also has other large property interests in and about the city. He was one of the organizers of the Fruit Growers Bank of which he is still a director.

Mr. Lettunich married Miss Rose Farlan, a native daughter, who was born in 1875 and who died in 1900, leaving a blessed memory to their two children, Nicholas N. and Louis-the latter a volunteer in the World war campaigns of the United States army. He enlisted really before he was of age, and saw hard service in far-off Siberia. One grandchild, Mateo, gives joy to the grandfather. Mr. Lettunich is a member of the Knights of Columbus, of which he was a charter organizer. He is public-spirited and takes a live interest in all civic questions and local political affairs. In politics he votes for the man and the measure rather than according to any party's dictates. As one of the organizers of the Austrian Benevolent Society, he has done much for his native countrymen of this community, while himself doing his full duty as a loyal American by adoption. It is through such a useful, successful life as that of Mateo Lettunich, laid out on broad-gauged principles, and progressing in deep sympathy with mankind and in close touch with the spirit of the age, that one may see the valuable contribution frequently made by the Old World to the fortunate development, building up and upbuilding of the rapidly-transforming New.

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.