Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies



CATO J. VIERRA

Though it now has been more than a quarter of a century since the death of Cato J. Vierra the memory of that energetic community builder still is kept green along the coast of Monterey county and particularly in the vicinity of Moss Landing, where he labored manfully in general development work, creating there a fine piece of property and interests that are still being maintained by his sons, the Vierra ranch holdings being among the most important in the vicinity. Among the numerous Azorians who have left their impress so definitely in the works incidental to the development of this section of the coast country there were few who had a wider acquaintance than had Cato J. Vierra. Born to the sea, his youth and young manhood were spent in sailing the seven seas. Later he took up mining and became familiar with the mining camps of various parts of the world. It was thus that he came in touch' with California. After his marriage he settled down on the wonderful Monterey coast and here he spent the remainder of his life, he and his wife rearing a large family and doing well their part in helping to bring about proper conditions here. Thus when Mr. Vierra passed from the scenes he knew so well and loved so dearly he left a good memory-a memory that in this generation still is cherished. It therefore is but fitting and proper that in this definite history of the region in which his labors so effectively were performed there should be carried some slight tribute to that memory.

Cato J. Vierra was born on the island of Flores, the westernmost of the Azorian group in the Atlantic ocean, August 7, 1835, and was a son of Frank Vierra, a member of a family that has been represented in the Azores for generations. When but a lad Cato Vierra started out as a sailor, going to sea with a whaler bound for far southern waters. He was engaged as harpoon-man and was an expert in this dangerous undertaking. That was in the late '40s and early '50s when the New Zealand gold mines were attracting much attention, he left the whaler at a convenient port on the islands and joined in the quest for gold. After mining for some time in New Zealand he transferred his activities to the mines in Australia and from there after awhile followed the lead of some others and took part in a tentative mining project that was being carried on in the Sitka country in Alaska, this being many years before the great gold discoveries in that country. It was thus that Mr. Vierra had his introduction to this coast. Finding the quest for gold in Alaska profitless he returned to the sea, signing on as a sailor in the coastwise service between Victoria and Monterey.

During the time he was thus engaged as a sailor along this coast Mr. Vierra became powerfully attracted to this section and he presently determined to give up the sea and take to the land. He made a settlement on the bay, built up Camp Godall near Watsonville and built the first wharf at Moss Landing and Moss Landing warehouses and all bridges leading thereto. For some time he operated a ferry across Elkhorn slough and then built a bridge which for seven years, or until it was taken over by the county, he operated as a toll bridge.

While thus carrying out his projects at Moss Landing in the late '60s Mr. Vierra took time to return to his native Azores and there was married. With his bride, Maria, he at once returned to the United States, landing at the port of Boston and proceeding directly to California, arriving at his establishment at Moss Landing, about Christmas Day in 1871, making the trip in seventy-one days. There he and his wife established their home and there he spent the remainder of his life, a useful and helpful citizen of that community.

At the time of his death in 1900 Cato J. Vierra was the owner of about five hundred acres of good land. To this estate his sons have added until the Vierra interests there include approximately one thousand acres. In addition to his development work Mr. Vierra also for years carried on a lighter service in the bay, operating out of Moss Landing, and was also quite extensively engaged in the coastwise freight service, building his own vessels. Mr. and Mrs. Vierra became the parents of fourteen children: Frank, Carlos, Maria, Joseph, David, Edward, Emeline, Frances, Mabel, Albert (who was drowned when two years of age), Virginia, Albert T., Louis and one who died in infancy. The mother of these children is still living at the old home place at Moss Landing, one of the -honored pioneers of Monterey county. The daughter Emeline is a Sister of the church, of the order of Notre Dame of San Jose.

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.