Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


An experienced, farseeing and conservative banker is Joseph Ramon Somavia, the vice-president in charge of the progressive and fast-growing Bank of Italy, in Salinas, having charge of all the Monterey county branches of the parent institution in San Francisco. He is fortunate in having been born in the old historic town of Monterey, and so having early acquired the California spirit through a familiarity with the institutions and the trend of affairs in Monterey county. His birth occurred January 11, 1863, his parents being Joseph Anthony and Josefa (Ramona) Somavia, the former a native of the Basque provinces, born December 13, 1820, and the latter a native of Spain, born August 25, 1831. Mr. Somavia first emigrated to Chili, and from there to Mexico and, coming north, arrived in California in 1851. He engaged in the cattle business in Santa Barbara county, and then, continuing in the same enterprise, went over into Monterey county, near Gonzales. In each lccality he left a record for efficient, honest dealing. He had two sons, both of whom are still living: Joseph Ramon, of this review; and John Ignatius, an esteemed resident of San Jose.

Joseph Ramon Somavia graduated from Santa Clara College in 1886, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree, while later he took a postgraduate course, that resulted in his receiving the degree of Master of Science. He made a specialty of engineering. Starting out in the business world, he joined the staff of the Commercial and Savings Bank of San Jose, with which he was associated for eight years, when it was merged with the Bank of Italy, being one of the first banks outside of San Francisco, of the long series now making up the splendid showing of this powerful fiscal institution. Joseph Somavia, on leaving San Jose, located in Gonzales, Monterey county and for eleven years was with his father and brother in the cattle business. Returning to Santa Clara, he became a member of the firm of Fatjo & Somavia, and together they organized the Mission Bank of Santa Clara which was later acquired by the Bank of Italy. Then he returned to his ranch at Gonzales for two years, and afterward bought a controlling interest in the Bank of Gonzales, of which he was president. This bank was subsequently sold to the Monterey County Bank.

Locating in Salinas in 1918, as appraiser for the Bank of Italy, Mr. Somavia was employed to look after the loans in the Valley. The Bank of Italy bought the First National Bank of Kings City, some three years ago, this being the first bank in Monterey county, acquired by the Bank of Italy. Thereupon, Mr. Somavia assumed the management for the Bank of Italy in this vicinity. In the Fall of 1923, the First National Bank of Salinas was sold to the Bank of Italy, and Mr. Somavia was made vice-president and placed in charge. In the spring of 1924, the Bank of Italy acquired a bank in Monterey, making three banks owned in Monterey county, and all this is a matter of interest and pride to Mr. Somavia for he has been associated with the Bank of Italy in this valley for many years, and he well knows the satisfaction of the public in its experience as patrons of these institutions. Now Mr. Somavia is vice-president and has charge of all three of the banks of the Bank of Ita.y in Monterey county.

In 1903 Mr. Somavia was married to Miss Maria Rosa Nuttman, a native of Georgetown, Pennsylvania, and a daughter of the president of the San Francisco Casket Company. They have three children, Joseph Ramon, (III), now a student at Stanford University; Martin Eduarda and Juanita Ramona. Mr. Somavia is a public-spirited man, and during the World war, he was chairman of the Red Cross for Monterey county, and did valiant work in that connection. He is president of the Salinas city library board, and he donated the land and built the school in Somavia school district. Later serving on the board of trustees. He belongs to Salinas Lodge, No. 614, of the Elks, and is generally esteemed for his fraternal feeling.

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.