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 Thomas A. Watson

Thomas A. Watson

Monterey, Monterey County, California, USA
Death 30 Aug 1910 (aged 76)
Monterey County, California, USA
Burial Monterey, Monterey County, California, USA
Memorial ID 110176721 · View Source
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*** Sheriff of Monterey County ***

Thomas was the son of James (Santiago) Watson, a British seaman, who had left a whaling ship at Santa Barbara in 1824, and walked to Monterey where he settled.

The elder Watson became a successful merchant and later married Mariana Escamilla, who had been born at the Presidio of San Francisco around 1805. He went on to build a two-story house on Calle Principal in Monterey, two doors from the Larkin House.

He eventually purchased the San Benito Ranch from Senor Garcia in the 1860s.

Jame's Watson's second son, Thomas established the first dairy in Monterey and sold milk and bread to the soldiers of the Presidio, as well as to the ship's crews anchored in the bay.

In 1849 he spent a short time working the mines on the Cosumnes River, In 1853 he married Luisa Moreno, the daughter of a prominent family and they raised 12 children.

In 1855 he was appointed Election Inspector for the San Antonio township and in 1865 he successfully ran for County Sheriff .

The August 4, 1865 edition of the Monterey Gazette had this to say about the election campaign. "There seems to be less haggling and more unanimity in this case than any other".

The election results were: Watson, 456; James Speegle, 206; James B. Smith , 173; J.O. Wheeler, 1.

At that time, the Office of Sheriff was a non salaried one and the incumbent derived his compensation by receiving a portion of the fines and fees collected.

One of his notable Deputy Sheriff's was Juan B. Pomber. Pomber was himself a county native and did much to "civilize" a sometimes lawless and chaotic Monterey County.

During Watson's tenure, the county was overrun with desperadoes and stages were often held up and the passengers robbed. With the aid of his swift horses, he captured several of these criminals, putting himself in great peril during the process.

His performance of duty was described at the time as "utterly fearless".

After leaving office, Thomas Watson purchased 560 acres of land, which he cleared, selling the white oak for buildings in the area. He enlarged his holdings by purchasing parcels from the government and private holders.

During his residency in Monterey County, Thomas found a lack of educational facilities and, at his own expense, started a school, organized a school district, boarded a teacher and, in later years, started a movement to acquire qualified teachers

He personally financed the construction of Washington School on Corral de Tierra Road as the Corral de Tierra Ranch was once his property.

At one time there were ninety children attending the school and his service as trustee, which covered a period of many years, was characterized by "efficiency and intelligent oversight".

In 1892, Sara Watson, Thomas's daughter, married Fred Henry Smith, the son of James Bennett Smith, also a former Sheriff of Monterey County.

Thomas died August 30, 1910. During his life he was an active worker in the Republican Party and a devoted member of the Odd Fellows Lodge.

Jim Watson, Ed and Sue Watson and Eloy Rogers, all descendants of Thomas Watson, still reside in the King County,WA and Cupertino, CA Areas respectively.

Much of what is known about Sheriff Watson is attributed to them. Thank you all very much for helping to preserve a fraction of the life of a great man.

Monterey Daily Cypress, Monterey, California
Saturday Morning, September 3, 1910

Written for the Cypress by C.A. CANFIELD

The death of Thomas WATSON of Corral de Tierra, Monterey county, removes the last surviving one of this noted family of eight members, leaving a long list of about sixty grand and great grand children and relatives, besides a host of friends to mourn his sudden demise.

Mr. WATSON was a man of excellent qualities and character, who was kind hearted and generous to a fault, leaving nothing undone to aid those in distress or want.Honest and fearless in the discharge of his obligations and duties, jolly and pleasant, clean in his morals and habits; his ideals were of the highest type, before all; yet he was the terror of all evildoers, who knew that Don Tomas had looked down the barrel of a gun on several occasions.

Mr. WATSON settled on a large farm at Corral de Tierra, in Monterey county. He was sheriff of Monterey for a long term of years, up to 1870. He filled the old stone jail at the old capital to its utmost capacity. He also hung several noted desperadoes and captured many hard characters.

Perhaps the worst of all was VALENZUELLA, who on the gallows confessed to murdering eighteen men and who had the chains riveted on his legs, as he repeatedly liberated himself with a pocket knife which he had concealed on his person.

Jake LEESE, who now holds a responsible position in the assessor's office in San Francisco, was deputy sheriff, and so was Alonzo ALLEN.

On one occasion Sheriff WATSON came into the old jail to open the cell so that the prisoners could go to their meals. As he approached VALENZUELLA's cell he perceived that he was not in his accustomed place, but happened to spy him back of the door with the handcuffs in his hands ready to brain Don Tomas as he would enter the cell.

Don Tomas said to him: "VALENZUELLA, I will give you the command three times to come forward; if you do not obey me I will kill you." It was by some act of Providence that Sheriff WATSON happened to look back just in time to see one of the most desperate prisoners creeping up from behind ready to grab his arm, take his pistol away from him, while VALENZUELLA and the others would murder him and Jake LESSE.

With the sheriff's pistol in their possession they were to make their escape to the pine forest back of the Reservation.

Sheriff WATSON blew the whistle, pointed his revolver and Jake LESSE and Bob HAMMEL, the jailer, came to his aid.

Upon another occasion VALENZUELLA had removed a large stone from the wall with the aid of others and had pasted the hole over with paper and whitewashed so that it could hardly be seen.

The whitwash or lime had been used for disinfecting the rooms, and Mr. WATSON noticed a few drops on the floor. Suspicious of some conspiracy he thrust his stick through the ceiling and found they were going to escape that night to Jake LESSE's office, murder him and secure their freedom.

VALENZUELLA was lying in bed, his handcuffs were off and in his hands ready to brain Don Tomas as he would reach under the bed upon some fictitious pretense while VALENZUELLA played off sick.

The officers were in constant danger of their lives, as VALENZUELLA was a crafty, fearless, desperate and daring criminal. As Jake LESSE and HAMMEL were constantly near him, it was an era of relief to them when VALENZUELLA was finally hung.

Tiburcio VASQUEZ with his gang was in the calera on the Austin rancho, Corral de Tierra; Frank, David and Tom WATSON, and a sheriff's posse were in close pursuit. They had trailed them up the creek by the WALLACE cabin and found the spread of good things where they about to enjoy a feast. The prisoners escaped to the brush and were kept in information by a Mexican who lived close by and was a friend of VASQUEZ in his boyhood.

Mr. WATSON's mother had baptized Tiburcio VASQUEZ, and though VASQUEZ had the drop on Don Tomas several times, yet he always spared his life on this account.

Alonzo ALLEN and Don Tomas, as the Mexicans called him, were out collecting the county taxes down in the southern part of the county. There were no railroads then. They had reached the crossing in their buggy at the Salinas river where the willows grew thickly.

VASQUEZ had read the papers and knew that the sheriff would come along that way with much money. Suspecting the intent of his gang to murder ALLEN and WATSON, he sped his white horse and reached the spot just in time to see his gang with arms already leveled to murder them as they would drive by.

The gang was greeted thus by VASQUEZ. "Alto Alli, Senores, el que mate a Don Tomas me mata a mi tambien, abajo con sus armas, dejelo que pase;" which means "Halt, Mr., who kills Mr. WATSON must also kill me; down with thiose arms; let him pass on."

Mr. WATSON bore a charmed life and had many narrow escapes; many of the desperate characters respected him very highly on account of his personality, and gave him much useful information with regard to other characters. When Tiburcio VASQUEZ was in jail in San Jose he sent for Mr. WATSON and made many confessions.

A desperado was riding his horse into a saloon shooting right and left. Sheriff WATSON came along, calmly smoking his pipe, unarmed and alone, and arrested him, though he asked Mr. Watson to allow him to be arrested by the San Benito county sheriff, against whom he had a grudge.
Mr. Watson had a way of looking at his man in the eye, and that was the secret of his success in arresting the dangerous criminals in the early days.

The historical ruins of the old San Benito Adobe, where Mr. WATSON and the eriter were born. on the banks of the Salinas river, near San Lucas, now the Trescony estate, looms up in the distance almost under the shadows of the Santa Lucia and Gabilan ranges. The shadows began to deepen as I approached this famous landmark, tinted with the glories of the setting sun.

A solitary bittern in the Salinas river stood sentinel, a few ground squirrels, crows and hawks and the night owls had their accustomed place of perch there.

The fallen pile stands like the sphinxin the center of the valley with te annals of the past generations, buried in the memories of a few survivors. The autumn zephyrs seem to whisper in sweetest cadence the glories of the past, and echo back its sweet romance.

Sheriff WATSON was major domo of the rancho. consisting of several thousand acres. His brothers and sisters had their own flocks of cattle, sheep and horses. Each had a vaquero and a servant. Barbecues, rodeos, fiestas and dances were of common occurrence.

A tailor and a baker were constantly employed; medical aid was received from Dr. CANFIELD, a graduate of Yale, connected with the Smithsonian Institute at Washington, D/C/, who married Senorita Anita WATSON, a sister of the sheriff.

The barefooted padres strolled there and always found a pleasant welcom as they ministered to the sick or afflicted, or at a wedding. Indians were kept as servants and vaqueros, and everyone on the place knew that Don Tomas had to be obeyed or they would suffer the consequences. Open house was kept for all who came along, as the adobe was the only station between Monterey and Southern California.

Mr WATSON and his father, Mr. James WATSON, an Englishman, would not permit any charges to be made to any of their guests.

Joaquin MURIETTA, the noted bandit, made Thomas WATSON, Jr. a present of a gold piece and always insisted on paying for his meals. The desperadoes often came here for shelter, but were well behaved and courteous to the senoritas and the inmates of the rancho.

The Spanish carts with wooden wheels could be heard way down the valley as they were drawn by oxen and were always as plentiful around the place as the automobiles are around a roadside inn. John KINLOCK and his sisters, the late E.L. WILLIAMS of Santa Cruz, James GLEASON, Mr. HARTNELL and others lived on the place and married into the family.

Bears, wild horses, antelope and deer were plentiful, Indians frequently came to the place, and alarge porthole in the walls of the adobe marks the place of defense in those times.

With the loss of the rancho the adobe fell into decay when the WATSONS moved away. An immense fortune, the possesion of Mr. James WATSON was left in England, but because nothing was done in time, it was left to the heirs.

An English gunboat was once in the harbor and an Englishman named FORBES sent word to Tom WATSON who was then conducting a small store in Monterey, asking Mr. WATSON to raise the English flag and they would make this an English possession.

Mr. WATSON was an American whose father was English, but he refused to comply with this request because his sympathies were with this country.

Mr. WATSON's mother was Senora Mariana ESCAMIA, on of the oldest Spanish families in California. Mrs. Anita WATSON was one of the first white women born under the American flag in this state.

Mr. WATSON's mother was a relative of General CASTRO, who was an early commandant at the old fort and is mentioned in early history of Monterey.

Ex-Sheriff WATSON is survived by his widow, Senora Louisa Moreno WATSON, and a family od eleven children, one of them dead, thus completing the twelve.

Mr. WATSON was father-in-law to attorneys TREAT and SARGENT, also to Fred SMITH and Fred GATES of Salinas. He was an uncle of the writer and of C.E. CANFIELD of Santa Cruz, and of the WILLIAMS brothers, of Mrs. PIODA of Salinas, Miss Nance WATSON of San Jose, and Mrs. OEST of San Mateo and many others throughout this state.

The funeral was held at the Catholic Church in Monterey by Re. Father MESTRES, interment being at the San Carlos Cemetery in the family vault.

Mr. WATSON was 79 years of age and was born on the old San Benito rancho.

Kindness: To Montereygenealogist who created this memorial.

Gravesite Details Watson Plot see also Nason and Sargent in Watson plot




  • Maintained by: Ben Martinez
  • Originally Created by: Montereygenealogist
  • Added: 7 May 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 110176721
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas A. Watson (13 Jun 1834–30 Aug 1910), Find A Grave Memorial no. 110176721, citing San Carlos Cemetery, Monterey, Monterey County, California, USA ; Maintained by Ben Martinez (contributor 46502509) .