Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


Among the pioneers who helped settle and develop Monterey county few are better remembered than the late Charles Underwood, rancher, cattle breeder, hotel owner and general man of affairs in and about Monterey for many years and a resident of California from the days of the golden '50s. Mr. Underwood was a native of the Empire state, born in the old town of Schoharie, in the county of that name, May 10, 1828, and was a member of one of the Colonial families of that state. He grew up at Schoharie and being a lad of adventurous bent early became attracted to the sea; as a young man he took service on a merchant vessel and for years thereafter sailed "before the mast," three years of this period being spent on a war frigate.

Upon giving up his seafaring ventures Mr. Underwood became attracted to the golden possibilities then opening up in California and came to this state, presently setting at Redwood City, where for nine years he was engaged in the milling business and where he laid the foundation for the considerable fortune which he eventually built up. While milling at Redwood he became interested in the development of sheep lands and bought a third interest in the great Los Tularcitos ranch of twenty-eight hundred acres, whereon he was for several years actively engaged in the sheep raising business. Meanwhile he acquired other land interests and in 1868 was compelled to contest a claim for the Spanish grant commonly known as Corral de Tierra, a claim which dragged through the courts for eleven years, the litigation finally terminating in a judgment in Mr. Underwood's favor. In 1876 Mr. Underwood retired from his ranch and moved to San Francisco, where he became engaged in the piano business but it was not long until he grew weary of the city, deciding that there was more of freedom and pleasure in the more open spaces. It was then that he located at Monterey, later assuming charge of his large farming and ranch interests. He also overhauled and rebuilt the Central Hotel at Monterey, that popular hostelry which has for years been operated under the management of his son, Alexander R. Underwood. In addition to the interests he developed at Monterey, Mr. Underwood became engaged extensively in the breeding of Hereford cattle on his great ranch and made a distinctive success of that venture, a line in which he maintained his interest until the time of his death.

In 1856, at San Francisco, Charles Underwood was united in marriage to Miss Catherine Armstrong, who had come to this country from Ireland and who died in June 25, 1911. To that union were born five children: Margaret, wife of A. W. Brown of San Francisco; Alexander R. Underwood, of Monterey, concerning whom further mention is made elsewhere in this work; Mary, Edward and Lily, all deceased. Mr. Underwood passed away at his home in Monterey, December 5, 1904. In politics he was a stanch republican, having become devoted to the policies of that party upon. its organization in the late '50s, and in many ways was an active and helpful parties pant in the civic affairs of the community in which he so long resided and to the advancement of the interests of which he gave the best that was in him. He left an honored memory and his family received not only the material results of his active life but also the priceless heritage of an untarnished name.

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.