Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


When the final history of the great oil development movement in California comes to be written it undoubtedly will be found that the name of Charles A. Ryan, geologist, president of the Monterey Products Company and an honored veteran of the Spanish-American war, will be found high up on the roster of those farsighted individuals who first sensed the value of the underlying products of this favored region. For years Mr. Ryan had made a careful and analytical study of the geological formations hereabout, with particular reference to the diatomaceous earths in which the local canyons abound, and which are the principal source of all oil. His researches along these lines convinced him that conditions for oil in this locality were unusually favorable. With this knowledge well in hand he began to talk up oil development with so much enthusiasm that he presently aroused the interest of others. Mr. Ryan is a geologist with true, fine artistic tastes and impulses and he has been able to turn this inclination to such practical advantage as to create here several valuable industries based upon the infusorial and diatomaceous earths found here in such valuable marketable quantities, and as president and executive head of the company above mentioned, as well as of the Insulated Brick Company of Monterey and the Calitom Products Company of that city, has done much to promote the material interests of the community of which he elected to become a part something like ten years ago and of which he since has been a helpful and influential factor.

Charles A. Ryan is a Connecticut yankee by birth, born in the city of Danbury in the old Nutmeg state, September 4, 1873. His mother, Mary A. (Very) Ryan, now deceased, was a native of (Leeds) England, first locating at Norwalk, where becoming united in marriage in Bridgeport to his father, John Ryan, a native of Montreal, Canada, and settled at Danbury, Connecticut. John Ryan was an expert molder in iron and bronze and followed that craft; the cathedral at Plattsburg, New York, showing his handiwork. He was living in Connecticut when the Civil war broke out and he at once offered his services as a soldier in behalf of the Union and went to the front as a private in Company A of the Eleventh Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, with which gallant command he participated in the battle of Bull Run, where he was severely wounded in the left instep. Upon the termination of that first period of enlistment he reenlisted for service and was elected a lieutenant of Company K of the Seventy-first Connecticut, with which he returned to the front. At the battle of Antietam he was seriously wounded in the throat, the bullet passing through the right lung, and also wounded in the left arm and right leg, the shock rendering him unconscious. He thus was regarded as one of the dead in the first clearing of the battlefield and it was three days before his distressing plight was discovered. The injury to his leg necessitated amputation and reamputation until this operation eventually had been performed no fewer than six times.

Reared at Danbury, Charles A. Ryan received his education in the schools of that city, going on through the high school. He early became interested in art, with particular reference to sculpturing, and for six years made a study of art forms and plastic technique, beginning under the direction of his father and continuing his studies under Haddon, during which time he also received the benefit of the advice of the great John Q. Ward. In the meantime his adventurous spirit prompted him to enlist in the United States army and he served an enlistment in Light Battery F, Third Artillery, in Texas and California. He had just received his discharge and was at San Antonio, en route to his old home when the call for volunteers for service in the Spanish-American war came in the spring of 1898. He at once re-enlisted in Light Battery K, First Artillery (Regulars) which was the first detachment to reach Cuba and was the last to return. During this term of service Mr. Ryan contracted a severe rheumatic affliction and incurable injury to right ankle and upon his discharge from the army as incurable came to California for recuperation, locating at Lemoore in Kings county on the 1st of February, 1900. There he remained for seven years, at the end of which time he moved to Orosa, Tulare county, in which place he made his home until the first of May, 1917, when he took up his residsnce at Monterey, where he has since remained.

From the days of his youth, when under his father's direction he became interested in the plastic arts with relation to clay products, Mr. Ryan has been a devoted student of geology and has made a special study of such clays as lend themselves best to such uses. He found in the Monterey country an abundance of valuable earth formations and realized that they could be turned to commercial uses. It therefore has been in this form of manufacturing activity and enterprise that Mr. Ryan has impressed himself most notably upon the community of which he elected to become a part and he has done a valuable work in forming the various companies, above referred to, for the commercialization of the underlying products of the county. The Monterey Products Company, of which Mr. Ryan is the president, has holdings of no less than four thousand acres in Monterey county, an area in which it is scientifically estimated there are no fewer than seven million tons of diatomaceous earths available for commercial uses on one hundred acres alone. It is from these earths that insulating brick and other similar products are manufactured, products that are widely distributed and which have gone far toward adding to the fame of Monterey in general commercial and industrial circles. These infusorial and diatomaceous earths -sometimes called tripolite or tripoli powder (kieselguhr)-are extremely light and extremely porous chalk-like materials composed of pure silica, which has been laid down under water when in its infusorial and diatomaceaous forms, in the geologic (Miozene) age thus represented. The principal commercial use of this material is as an absorbent and insulator. It also is employed in the manufacture of scouring soap and polishing powders, for filtration purposes, in making some classes of refractory brick, and as an insulating medium both in heating and refrigeration. It is a first class nonconductor of heat and as such finds a ready market in the manufacture of fire clay for retorts and furnaces in the steel and glass factories. The product in the local field is prepared in powdered form under trade name of Calatom and thus shipped to the establishments all over the country into whose processes it finally enters as finished products too many to enumerate.

On October 22, 1899, at Greenfield, Missouri, Charles A. Ryan was united in marriage to Miss Lula Ragsdale, daughter of B. Franklin Ragsdale, and to this union five children have been born; Nellie Opal, Frances, Charles A., Jr., Mary Elizabeth and Lois, the last three of whom are still in school. Miss Nellie Opal Ryan, now engaged as a teacher in the schools of Greenfield and Miss Frances Ryan, at home, are graduates of the teacher's college at San Jose. Mr. and Mrs. Ryan are republicans and take a proper interest in general civic affairs as well as in the social and cultural activities of the community. Mr. Ryan is a Mason and a Forester and is affiliated with the local society of the Veterans of the Spanish-American War and with the patriotic order of the Society of Santiago de Cuba.

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.