Biography of Charles W. Rowe of Watsonville, California

Among the men now dwelling in the pleasant “evening time” of their lives who have watched the development of this region from the days of the early settlers there are few perhaps who have more vivid recollections of the “days of old” hereabout than has Charles W. Rowe, one of the veteran ranchers and landowners of the beautiful valley of the Pajaro at the jointure of the three counties in the vicinity of Watsonville. His father was one of the first settlers in that valley, and he was born there almost seventy years ago and has always made his home there. He thus has seen this region develop from its primal wilderness state to its present high state of development and has some mighty interesting tales to tell when in a reminiscent mood of the days that have long gone by.

Charles W. Rowe was born on a pioneer ranch in the immediate vicinity of the place on which he now lives at the junction of the Watsonville-San Juan and Prunedale roads just out of Watsonville in the year 1858 and is the third in order of birth of the eleven children born to William Henry and Rhoda A. (McFarland) Rowe, the latter of whom was born and reared in the state of Missouri. In the days of the early excitement over the discovery of gold in this state she had joined her brother in the long and wearisome journey with a caravan starting out of Missouri for the gold fields and had thus come to this state along with the pioneers. Her brother died not long after their arrival in California, leaving her alone so far as kinsfolk were concerned. Not long afterward she met and married William Henry Rowe and presently the two established their home in the Pajaro valley, where they spent the remainder of their lives, honored and influential pioneers, her death occurring there in 1881. William Henry Rowe, who in his generation was one of the leading citizens of the Watsonville neighborhood, was by birth an Englishman. When fourteen years of age he became a sailor and for some years thereafter sailed the seven seas. The first trip that brought him into the port of San Francisco following the discovery of gold in this state in 1848 was his last trip, for in common with many sailors of that period he straightway deserted the ship and struck out for the mines. He had varying success as a miner but liked the country well enough to become a permanent resident and after his marriage to Rhoda McFarland he established his home on a small tract of land he had bought in the Pajaro valley adjacent to a settlement which had been effected there by a trader who had set up a small store and had named his location Pajaro. It was in the year 1853 that William Henry Rowe and his wife settled there and Watsonville had not then found a place on the map. Having grown up on the sea William Henry Rowe knew nothing about farming but he had strong hands and a willing heart and he set about making a clearing in the bottoms and getting his tract in arable shape. His young wife, however, had been brought up on a Missouri farm and knew how to get things started in a farming way. While he was clearing his place she was looking after the cows and the garden and by the sale of milk and vegetables was able to contribute considerably to the upkeep. Before long Mr. Rowe succeeded as a rancher and about 1860 began adding to his property, in time becoming one of the most substantial landholders in the locality. At the time of his death he was the owner of no less than twelve hundred acres of land, the greater part of which was rich bottom land. He died in 1893, he then being sixty-three years of age, and his estate at that time was rated at about a quarter of a million dollars.

Reared on the home place in the Pajaro valley in the neighborhood of Watsonville, Charles W. Rowe received his early education in the local schools, supplementing this by private instruction in commercial forms, and he remained on the home farm until his marriage at the age of twenty-two, when he began ranching on his own account, giving his particular attention to vegetables and fruit. He has ever since been thus engaged, being now the proprietor of a fine ranch of two hundred and thirty acres of as good bottom land as lies hereabout. He has one hundred acres devoted to fruit. In addition to his land holdings Mr. Rowe has other interests of a substantial character, including his ownership of the handsome C. W. Rowe apartment building at Watsonville. His present home on the Monterey county side, where he and his wife are very pleasantly and very comfortably situated, is a handsome modern bungalow at the intersection of the Watsonville-San Than highway with the Prunedale road. Mr. Rowe is a member of the local lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and is also affiliated with the Woodmen of the World and with the Brotherhood of America.

It was on the 7th of November, 1880, on a neighboring farm, that Charles W. Rowe was united in marriage to Miss Mary Beer, who like himself was born in that same neighborhood, a member of one of the real pioneer families there. Mrs. Rowe is a daughter of Carl Beer, a native of Iowa, who had come to California in the days of the Argonauts and who at the mines had become acquainted with William Henry Rowe, an acquaintanceship which held so firm that he decided to become a settler in the Pajaro valley at the time his friend located here in the early ’50s, and the Rowes and the Beers thus became neighbors in their pioneer environment. To Mr. and Mrs. Rowe five children have been born, three of whom died in infancy, the survivors being two daughters: Lorena, wife of C. C. Hockabout, a well known rancher of the Watsonville neighborhood; and Myrtle, wife of H. C. Chapman, manager of the Corralitos Fruit Company of Watsonville. Mr. and Mrs. Rowe are affiliated with the Christian church.

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.

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