Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


William J. McGrath, one of the well known and substantial ranchers of the Watsonville neighborhood, in Santa Cruz county, and joint owner there of a fine tract-the old Casserly ranch-where he is actively engaged in general farming and fruit raising, has been a witness to and a participant in the amazing development that has taken place thereabout since the days of his boyhood. He is a son of William and Mary (Lean) McGrath, the latter of whom is a native of California, born in Redding, a daughter of one of the real pioneers of this state.

The late William McGrath, who died at his home in the Watsonville neighborhood in 1904, was a native of Ireland, born in 1840, and was but a child when he took passage for this country with his parents, who both died on the way over. The young William landed in the city of Detroit, Michigan, where he lived until he was sixteen years of age, when (in 1856) he came to California, attracted by the lure of the mines, coming by way of the Isthmus, and became engaged in mining in what was then the vigorous camp surrounding Sutters Mill. He also had some experience at the Virginia City camp and in the Nevada City "diggings", and at the end of two years of strenuous life in the mining camps he decided to turn his attention to agricultural pursuits. With that end in view he came into the Salinas valley and in the Alisat district became employed at farm labor, remaining there for six years, at the end of which time he bought a tract of land in Green valley near Watsonville and there established his home. Three years later he was put in charge of the great Casserly ranch of several thousand acres and in time subdivided the same and sold it out in varying lots and parcels for small farms. He took a farm of four hundred acres for himself on this deal, a tract consisting almost wholly of a jungle of sycamore and willow trees in the lowlands, with a heavy redwood growth on some upland, and set about getting the place in shape for cultivation, in time developing there an admirable piece of property, which is still kept in the family. Among the pioneers of that district William McGrath was regarded as one of the leaders. He was for thirty years and more school trustee in that district and in other ways rendered well his part as a good citizen. This pioneer is survived by six children: William J., of this review; Kate, the wife of George P. Martin of San Francisco; Nell, the wife of Dr. Otto Gotsch of San Francisco; Elizabeth, the wife of Robert Howell Craig of Los Angeles; and Eugene R. and George R., who also are making their home on the old home ranch.

Reared on the home ranch, William J. McGrath supplemented the education he received in the Watsonville public schools by a course in a business college and has from the days of his young manhood devoted himself to the affairs of the home ranch. After the death of their father the heirs kept the place intact and the brothers now are operating it in behalf of the estate, the sisters still retaining their interest in the place also. The great McGrath ranch now comprises right around four thousand acres, three thousand acres of which are devoted to grazing, two hundred and fifty acres to general farming, one hundred acres to the cultivation of fruit, and fifty acres to hops, some of the farm extending over into the adjacent county of Santa Clara.

In 1913 William J. McGrath was united in marriage to Miss Frances Thompson of San Francisco, and to this union three sons have been born: Stephen T., deceased; and William and John McGrath. Mr. and Mrs. McGrath have a very pleasant home surrounded by thirty acres of well kept grounds and Mr. McGrath there cultivates a choice bit of orchard land of his own and a fine walnut grove, in the excellence of the products of which he takes a very proper pride. He is widely known as an experienced grower and ranchman and has had success in his undertakings. He is a member of the lodge of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks in Watsonville and takes a proper interest in the affairs of that popular organization.

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.