Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


All honor is due the pioneer settlers of California who braved the hardships, trials and privations of frontier life and planted the seeds of civilization in hitherto undeveloped and remote regions. Of this hardy type of men was James Waters, a "Forty-niner," who became one of the earliest fruit growers of the Pajaro valley and wrote his name large on the pages of Watsonville's history. He was a man of broad vision and keen business sagacity, with a natural kindness of heart which endeared him to all with whom he was brought in contact, and his death in August, 1911, was the occasion of deep and widespread regret.

Mr. Waters was a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and in his youth served an apprenticeship to the carpenter's trade, which he followed in San Francisco, California, earning twelve dollars a day. He joined the rush of prospectors to the mines but was unsuccessful in his search for gold and wisely decided to resume work at his trade in San Francisco. In 1855 he came to Santa Cruz county and obtained work in a sawmill in the mountains, subsequently securing employment as a carpenter in Santa Cruz. He arrived in Watsonville in 1860 and purchased a small place east of the town, building a ranch house on his land. The old home is still standing and constitutes one of the interesting landmarks of this region. In 1867 he embarked in the nursery business and from time to time increased his holdings until he became the owner of eighty acres. He was one of the most progressive horticulturists of the county and raised the first strawberries shipped from the Pajaro valley. He was equally successful as a financier and was one of the organizers of the Pajaro Valley Bank of Watsonville, whose destiny he wisely guided for many years, building up an institution that has long rendered valuable service to the residents of this locality. During the early days of his career as an agriculturist his crops were often destroyed by floods but adversity spurred him on to renewed effort and ultimately success rewarded his determination and perseverance. He worked along constructive lines and was rigidly honest in his dealings with his fellowmen, considering his verbal promise as binding as his written word.

On September 9, 1860, Mr. Waters married Miss Malinda J. Short, a native of Illinois, and in point of continuous residence the oldest settler in the valley. Her parents were Stephen and Nancy (Prunty) Short, the former a Virginian and the latter a native of Kentucky. In 1852, with six of their eight children, Mr. and Mrs. Short started across the plains, placing their household goods in wagons, which were drawn by oxen. Mrs. Waters, the youngest of the children, was at that time but ten years old and remembers many interesting incidents connected with the journey to California. Her parents had joined a large party of emigrants and were six months in making the trip to Santa Cruz, which they reached on October 24, 1852. Her father raised a fine crop of wheat on the spot where now stands the lighthouse, which is situated on the point, at Santa Cruz harbor. In 1854 he moved to the Pajaro valley, settling near Watsonville, where he engaged in farming. Eight children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Short and two came to California after 1852, but Mrs. Waters is the only living member of her family who located at Santa Cruz in that year. Mr. and Mrs. Waters became the parents of three children: Lola and William, both deceased; and Adele, who resides with her mother.

Mr. Waters was identified with the various branches of Masonry and was one of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He was a devoted husband and father, a steadfast friend, and a loyal, public-spirited citizen. In manner he was modest and unassuming, ever avoiding the glare of publicity, and his was a strong and serviceable life that won for him the unqualified respect and admiration of his fellowmen.

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.