Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


William A. Trafton, veteran miller at Watsonville, formerly and for years mayor of that city and in other ways an active and influential factor in the general leisure and. industrial life of the city and of the community at large, is a native son of Watsonville and has lived there all his life, thus having been a witness of and a participant in the development of that community during the whole of what properly may be regarded as the "modern" period. As a member of the old board of trustees before the village had attained its present civic status, he was thoroughly familiar with the needs of the growing municipality and when the city charter was adopted nearly a quarter of a century ago his acquaintance with the requirements of the situation made him the natural and logical choice of the people for mayor and he thus was elected first chief executive of the city, a position in which he was retained by subsequent elections for many years, thus becoming one of the best known municipal administrators in this section of California.

Mr. Trafton was born at Watsonville, January 24, 1864, and is a son of George A. and Melissa (Matthis) Trafton, pioneers of California. The mother was a native of Illinois, a daughter of J. V. Matthis, and came to this state in 1852 with her parents, the family settling at Sacramento, where in 1858 she married George A. Trafton and the same year became a resident of Watsonville, where she still is living, one of the honored pioneer mothers of California.

George A. Trafton, who also is still living at Watsonville, of which place he has been a resident for nearly seventy years, was born in the dominion of Canada in 1834 and is thus now in his ninety-first year, the oldest resident of the beautiful valley of the Pajaro. His parents were natives of Maine, members of old American colonial families, who had established their home in Canada. Later they removed to Missouri, and in 1852 started for California with a view to making a new home here in the then rapidly developing coast section. The father, David Trafton, died on the way, a victim of the dread scourge of cholera that was sweeping the country in that year, and his widow and the children located at Sacramento. George A. Trafton was eighteen years of age when he came to California and he did well his part in getting the family established in their new home. He took his part also in pioneer development work in and about Sacramento, and became widely known as one of the active young men of that section during that period. In 1856 he made a prospecting trip to the Watsonville settlement and liked the situation of things there so well that following his marriage in 1858 he established his home at Watsonville and started in to develop a farm. Not long afterward he and his brother, J. E. Trafton, became engaged in the mercantile business at Watsonville, opening a hardware store there and carrying on business under the firm name of Trafton Brothers. In 1889 George A. Trafton erected a feed mill on Maple avenue and engaged in the milling business. This mill presently was destroyed by fire and was at once replaced by the present mill which now is operated by the founder's son, Wihiam A. Trafton, and the father carried on his business there until his retirement. Diligent in his own business, he ever found time to give a good citizen's attention to the general local needs of the community, was long a member of the old beard of village trustees and for some time was president of that body. He is a Royal Arch and Knight Templar Mason, was for many years interested in Masonic affairs, and is one of the oldest Masons in California. Of the children born to him and his wife four are still living, the subject of this biographical review having a brother, Howard Trafton, sheriff of Santa Cruz county, and two sisters, Mrs. Alice Evans of Watsonville and Mrs. Ida Trimble of Oakland.

Reared at Watsonville, William A. Trafton attended the excellent schools of that village and early became associated with his father in the operations of the mill on Maple street, an industry with which he ever since has been connected, one of the veteran millers of this region, and upon his father's retirement succeeded to the control and management of the business, in which line he still is quite successfully carrying on. Following in his father's footsteps in his interest in local civic affairs, William A. Trafton may properly be regarded as one of the real community builders here. During the old village board days he served for some time as a member of that board, one of the town trustees, and was for three terms president of the board. In the election following the adoption of the city charter in 1902 he was elected mayor of the city and thus was chief executive when the new city government was set up. By reelection Mr. Trafton has served as mayor of the city of Watsonville for more than twenty years, his last term in that administrative office having expired in May, 1924, and it thus very properly may be said that no one in the city has had a more influential hand in shaping the destinies of the municipality than has he. He also is locally regarded as the "father" of the free public library, for it was largely through his strenuous efforts in that behalf that the initial fund was created for the establishment of this institution. For many years Mr. Trafton has been recognized as one of the leaders of the democratic party in this section of the state and he is now a member of the state central committee of that party. In addition to his milling and other interests he has also done much in the way of local development and extension work and as one of the organizers and the president of the Watsonville Realty Company opened up and put on the market that fine residential section known as Watsonville Heights, in which there are now more than two hundred homes. When the Watsonville creamery was established he was a member of its board of directors and was elected secretary of the same, a position he occupied until the company sold out to other interests.

In 1892, at Watsonville, William A. Trafton was united in marriage to Miss Annie Cox, a daughter of Peter Cox, one of the pioneers of the Pajaro valley, and he and his wife have a very pleasant home at Watsonville. Mr. Trafton is a past president of Watsonville Parlor, No. 65, Native Sons of the Golden West, and has for years taken an earnest interest in the activities of that patriotic organization in California. He is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, past eminent commander of Watsonville Commandery, No. 22, and is a Noble of the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, affiliated with AAhmes Temple at Oakland. He also is affiliated with the Knights of Pythias, the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks and the Woodmen of the World.

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.