Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


William Vanderhurst has been identified with every enterprise that has had for its object the development or benefiting of Monterey County, and has taken a leading part in the measures which have contributed the most good to the Salinas Valley. He is the senior member of Vanderhurst, Sanborn & Co., whose extensive interests have been noted elsewhere in this work. The position he occupies as head of the largest mercantile firm of the county implies the possession of that business capacity, enterprise, and self-reliance which are characteristics of but few people, and the prominent part he has taken in all public enterprises indicates that withal he is liberal and generous, and as much concerned in advancing the public welfare as in promoting his private interests.

Among the many things which have contributed to the prosperity of Monterey County, the moving of the county seat to Salinas, securing the right of way for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and the building of the bridges across the Salinas River, are the most important. Mr. Vanderhurst was a leader and untiring worker in all these measures.

He was born January 12, 1833, in Marion County, Mississippi, and in his early days attended such schools as they had in that country. His father was a merchant, but died when his son was six years old. At the age of sixteen the subject of this sketch went into a store as clerk, which business, except one year spent at school, he followed until.he started for California, December 31, 1852. His trip to this State via the Isthmus was an eventful one. Measles, small-pox, and yellow fever broke out on the vessel, and between Panama and Acapulco the passengers died at the rate of four and five a day. But Mr. Vanderhurst escaped with an attack of varioloid.

He arrived in San Francisco, February 5, 1853. He had letters of introduction to the mayor of San Francisco, but never presented them, as he started immediately after arriving for the mines at Jamestown, Tuolumne County. He went to Gold Hill in May, thence to the Middle Fork of the American River, and in November returned to San Francisco thoroughly disgusted with mining.

His next venture was in an agricultural part of the State. He went to Santa Cruz County, and secured employment with Cummins & Kitchen, contractors, to dig potatoes. But as he did not understand the business, he could not dig as many potatoes as the other dagoes, and was discharged, although the firm, liking his industry, retained him a few days on other work. He then worked for J. B. Tyus, who now lives in Indian Valley, Monterey County. He was in the redwoods two months getting out pickets, shakes, etc. He then made arrangements with Tyus & Poole to farm on the shares, they furnishing everything and receiving one-half the crop. The first year he made enough money to buy a team and farming utensils, and in 1855 leased land from Joseph Hatch. In 1856 he bought a squatter's claim, part of the Vallejo Grant in Monterey County, where he farmed until 1858, when he sold out, and moved to Watsonville the following year.

In July, 1859, he went into the mercantile business with Robert M. Griffin, in Watsonville, under the firm name of Griffin & Co., which business they continued until 1862. They invested their money, about $12,000, in mining stocks, and lost it, notwithstanding, Mr. Vanderhurst went to Nevada in 1863, and remained until the following year, trying to make something out of their interest there. He returned to Watsonville in 1864, and kept books for E. L. Goldstein & Co., and in January, 1865, was admitted to partnership. He remained here until January 1, 1868.

On the 1st of May, 1868, he formed a partnership with Chas. Ford and Lucius Sanborn (L. R. Porter being subsequently admitted to the firm), and went to Salinas. The town had been laid out the preceding February, and their store was among the first buildings to be constructed. Their store was opened for business August 25, 1868, and from the first has been the leading mercantile institution of the county. The firm has large interests outside of their regular lines, being one of the principal owners in the Gas and Water Company, which has recently put in the Thomson-Houston system of electric lights in Salinas. They have three stores in Salinas, and a branch store at Kings City.

Mr. Vanderhurst was one of the first trustees of the town of Salinas, and was one of the first Councilmen after the town was incorporated. He was a member of the Council at the time the streets were macadamized and the sidewalks laid out. He was also ex-officio Mayor of Salinas for six months.

He is a prominent Mason, and assisted in organizing a masonic lodge in Salinas in 1869, of which he was the first Senior Warden. He was the first High Priest of the Chapter of the R. A. M.. of Salinas, and the first Generalissimo of the Watsonville Commandery Knights Templar, subsequently filling the office of Commander for two years. He is the present Deputy Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter R. A. M., of California, and is also Grand Junior Warden of the Grand Commandery of California. He is also a member of the I. O. O. F. and A. O. U. W. He is a Director in the Bank of .Salinas, Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and owns considerable real estate i n the county, being largely interested in farming and stock raising.

He was married, December 3,1856, to Miss Jane Hatch, and ten children have been born unto them, seven of whom, four boys and three girls, are living; the oldest daughter is married, and lives in San Francisco.

Source: Monterey County : its general features, resources, attractions, and inducements to investors and home seekers. Salinas, Calif.: E.S. Harrison, 1889, 89 pgs.