History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California Volume 2 Title Page

Biography of John Edmund Trafton of Watsonville California

In the memorial annals of the beautiful valley of the Pajaro in the vicinity of Watsonville there are few names held in better remembrance than that of the late John Edmund Trafton who in his generation was one of the acknowledged leaders of the community, enterprising in his land operations, public spirited in his consideration of civic problems, philanthropic in his attitude toward community needs, gentle in his intercourse with his neighbors, ever kind and generous toward his relatives, true to himself and true as well in his relations with his fellow men. Mr. Trafton was a bachelor and his affections were distributed throughout the community in such a wholesome way that all felt that he was a sort of a common kinsman, one of that fine type of mankind that just naturally come to be looked upon as “uncle” to everyone, and it was thus that at the time of his passing he left a good memory—a memory that long will be kept green throughout the community in which his life of service was spent.

John Edmund Trafton was born at Stanstead in the province of Quebec, Canada, July 18, 1837, and was a son of David and Sarah (Woodbury) Trafton, the former of whom was born in the state of Maine and the latter in Vermont. After their marriage they made their home at Stanstead, Quebec, until in 1840, when they returned to the United States and settled with their family in Boone county, Missouri. David Trafton was thus a Missourian when the Mexican war broke out six years later. He enlisted in the army and upon the completion of his military service returned to his Missouri home, where he was engaged in the hotel and mercantile business until in 1864, when he disposed of his holdings there and with his family joined an overland caravan to make the long trip to California with a view to establishing a new home in this very desirable region. En route cholera broke out in the wagon train and David Trafton fell a victim to the scourge, his death occurring while the caravan halted at Fort Kearney, he then being fifty-seven years of age. His widow came on with the other members of the family and upon her arrival here took advantage of a government land bounty due in consideration of Mr. Trafton’s services in the Mexican war and established her new home on that tract in the beautiful Pajaro valley in the vicinity of Watsonville. There she spent the remainder of her life, an honored pioneer mother of this district, her death occurring in 1891, she then being eighty years of age.

John E. Trafton was but three years of age when his parents moved from Canada to Boone county, Missouri, where he grew to manhood, taking a part in his father’s mercantile enterprises there. When he started with his parents for California in 1864 he was at the very height of his vigorous young manhood and upon his arrival here he helped get his mother established. He soon entered upon enterprises on his own behalf which in time developed until he came to be recognized as one of the most substantial figures in the community, a large landowner and general farmer and stockman and interested in enterprises of various sorts. Mr. Trafton made money easily it seems and was equally generous in its distribution. As an instance of this public-spirited generosity, it is recalled that when a fund was being created for a new building for the Young Men’s Christian Association at Watsonville—an edifice that was completed at a cost of forty-sever thousand dollars —Mr. Trafton headed the list with a subscription of five thousand dollars. At the time of his death his land holdings amounted approximately to twelve hundred acres of rich valley land and his general estate was valued at not less than three hundred thousand dollars, the beneficiaries of which were twenty-seven nieces and nephews.

Mr. Trafton was eighty-five years of age at the time of his death in 1922 and up to within a very short time of his passing had retained his vigor and good spirits, continuing to take an active interest in the operation of his ranches and in the direction of his other enterprises. He was one of the organizers and a director of the Pajaro Valley National Bank of Watsonville, the largest financial institution in that city, and also was one of the orgaiTiMrs -of- the Watsonville Creamery Company, of which concern he likewise was one of the original directors. He was a Knight Templar Mason and had for many years taken a warm interest in local Masonic affairs. He was given a Masonic burial, and his funeral, it is needless to say, was attended by one of the largest concourses ever gathered in the valley for such a solemn occasion, the whole community thus expressing a desire to pay a last tribute to the memory of a good man.

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.

2 thoughts on “Biography of John Edmund Trafton of Watsonville California”

  1. The post seems to indicate that David Trafton died in 1864 at Ft. Kearny. Although they have minor discrepancies in them, three documents disagree with that year and location for his death . 1) The 1852 overland diary of Sarah Jane (Woodbury) Trafton has a June 2, 1852 entry which reads “… gloom and sorrow is near and even now before my eyes, the unexpected sickness and sudden death of my dear husband, Mr. David Trafton, he suffered three hours pain and me here to mourn.” She was writing about 28 miles east of Ft. Kearny. 2) The November 23, 1852 issue of the St. Louis Intelligencer reported that “Dr. Traftan,” age 57, died June 31, 1852. Internal evidence in the article indicates the death took place a little east of Ft. Kearny. 3) An article by J.H. Hays in the Sacramento Daily Union of October 11, 1852 lists deaths on the trail to California and includes “Dr. Traftan,” age 57, June 3, 1852. From internal evidence in the article the death took place a little east of Ft. Kearny. Additionally, a post on Find A Grave https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5372033/david-trafton generally agrees with the above information and even includes a photo of his cenotaph (not grave) in Watsonville, California.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top