Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


The historian of the future in making up an estimate of the basic elements of the population of the state of California will be compelled to give proper credit to the influence exerted in the development of the state by that sturdy Alpine strain so prominently represented throughout this section by many of this ancient Swiss stock who have become leaders in development work here, particularly in those great interests and industries based upon the dairy and horticultural products of the state. Any analysis of the commercial and industrial situation here will prove convincing of the important part taken in its development by the hardy and resolute representatives of this Alpine strain who got a start here when the land was being made to give up its treasures of field and orchard and who now in the second and third generation are found to be the leaders in much of this continued development, being among the most influential factors in the creation of conditions that have helped so largely in achieving California's present supremacy in her own distinctive field. Among these leaders in the Santa Cruz country there are few who are better known or who have been more influential in local development than A. E. Morelli, secretary and manager of the great Coast Dairies & Land Company of Davenport and for years one of the important agents in the conspicuous promotion of the dairy and horticultural interests of this region. It therefore is but proper and fitting that in this definite history of the region in which his services have so long and so usefully been rendered there should be presented some modest review of Mr. Morrelli's life.

A. E. Morelli is a native son of the republic of Switzerland, born in the canton of Tessin, January 20, 1868, and is a son of Michael and Santina Morelli, also natives of that Alpine country, whose last days were spent in Switzerland. Michael Morelli when fifteen years of .age made his way to Australia with his father, remaining there for about eight years and returning to Switzerland in 1864. There he married and three children were born to the union. When A. E. Morelli, the youngest of the three, was only an infant his mother died and soon after the father came to the United States and in California went into the dairy business, remaining in it until 1878, when he sold out and went back to his children in Switzerland. In 1882, after having received a fair education, A. E. Morelli decided to leave the town of Cevio, Switzerland, and come to California and be as successful as his father. On arriving here he went to work in the dairy that was formerly owned by his father, remaining there for four years. He afterward went to Oregon and was connected with construction work. Returning to California he tried the dairy, grocery and hotel business, with some success.

In 1906 Mr. Morelli joined the Coast Dairies & Land Company of Davenport and in time was elected secretary of that organization, the affairs of which he since has been managing. This has brought about the development of a new and important industry and the distribution of a product which has become famous as a food delicacy throughout this country. For some time after its establishment this company confined itself to the dairy industry, the lumber and hotel business, but in 1916 began in a small way to experiment in the culture of artichokes, starting with a tentative bed of fifty-two plants. It was found that soil and climate in the Davenport region were particularly well adapted for the proper cultivation of this toothsome vegetable and the products of these initial beds passed so admirably all the tests provided that it was determined to pursue their culture on a commercial basis. The introduction on the market of the Davenport artichokes created an instant demand and that demand has increased with the growing fame of this particular brand of edible until now the company has about one thousand acres devoted to artichoke culture in Davenport. Other farmers have become interested in the business and today there are over three thousand acres in Santa Cruz county planted in artichokes, so that the business now exceeds two million dollars annually. Nine hundred acres of this land was formerly used for pasture and had to be cleared of brush and greasewood. Where first only five men were employed to care for the crop there are about four hundred men engaged in this work today.

In addition to his extensive interests in this company Mr. Morelli has considerable holdings in other lines and has long been recognized as one of the substantial citizens of Santa Cruz county and of this section of California. He is the vice president of the Ocean Shore Canning Company of Half Moon Bay, is a member of the board of directors of the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce and in other ways takes an interested and helpful part in the general affairs of the community.

It was in 1892, at Salinas, that A. E. Morelli was united in marriage to Miss Eugenia Leoni and they have five children, Lilly, Michael, Roy, Adelina and Mable, and ten grandchildren in whom they take much pride and delight. Mrs. Morelli is a native daughter of California, born at Watsonville, Santa Cruz county, and is a daughter of John Leoni, who was one of the early settlers in that section. He was of Swiss birth and his wife, Juanita Artellan, was of French stock, though born in Monterey, California. The Morellis are republicans and have ever taken an interested part in local civic affairs. Mr. Morelli was one of the organizers of the local lodge of the Foresters of America at Davenport and has long been active in the affairs of that 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.