John Steinbeck's Roots (Draft)
In California, both men initially chose farming as the means to support their families. Hamilton appears to have farmed grain in the area near San Jose, and Steinbeck established a dairy farm and fruit orchard near Hollister. Members of these families were the first generation of Nobel prize winning novelist John Steinbeck maternal and paternal ancestors to grow up in California. The descendants of these two men, Hamilton and Steinbeck, would not find farming the land a viable way to support a family, though several of them tried. The oldest son of Sam Hamilton, Tom, chose ranching and farming, and though apparently successful in the effort, supposedly became haunted by depression resulting in his committing suicide. At least that has been the prevailing story as to the death of Tom Hamilton. If you venture further and read the section about Sam Hamilton's eldest son, you may find yourself asking if it was actually suicide that was the cause of his death. Hamilton second son, Will, became a partner in a mercantile business and then the automobile sales and service business. His third son, George, found employment managing grain mills located in South Monterey County. Again if you venture further and read the sections Will and George Hamilton, you will find out they too ventured into farming in the Salinas Valley. Hamilton’s fourth and youngest son, Joseph, graduated from Stanford University, then chose the advertising business as a career, moving to the city of Chicago and rising to the top of the ranks.
As for Johann Steinbeck’s boys, the oldest son - Charles, went from farming fruit orchards and managing a grain warehouse in Templeton, California to owning a horse stable, and working in a mercantile store in Hollister.. His second son - Herbert, went from working the grain mills, to working as a drayman - a person who delivers beer for a brewery in Hollister. His third son – John Ernst, went from managing a grain mill and farming fruit orchards in the Salinas Valley, to owning a grain store, and finally to serve as Treasurer of Monterey County. The two youngest sons – Will and Henry, also found a career managing the grain mills that were established along railroad routes that followed the extension of grain farms, from Santa Clara Valley to Ventura, and much of the San Joaquin Valley.
Shortly after Olive Hamilton married John Ernst Steinbeck Sr., she retired from teaching. Olive appears to have inherited several pieces of property in Salinas from her father, Samuel Hamilton, which she then leased for many years. Olive Steinbeck was also hired as Deputy Treasurer of Monterey County during the period her husband served as Treasurer. As such, the Steinbeck family appear to be financial secure with properties owned in both Salinas and Pacific Grove and dual income earners in the household.
Why the children of these two families did not all become farmers may largely have been the related to the adopted practices of land ownership and farming in California. Mexican land grants allowed the transfer of ownership of large tracts of prime agriculture to a minority of farmers. As a result, California’s farming practice evolved into one that contrasted sharply with the eastern and midwestern portion of the nation where smaller family farms dominated the agribusiness, and where the farm was traditionally passed from generation to generation.
The history of agriculture in California, weaved through John Steinbeck's family roots tells of the concentration of large tracts of prime farming land placed in the hands of a few, the advancement in farm technology which aided large scale farming, the excessive need for migrant farm labor, and state policies that supported the monopolization of farmland. This history also tells of the struggle of the individual farmer, not only combating floods and droughts, but with large industrial conglomerates, such as the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad.
Steinbeck saw the unconscionable injustice of a monopolized large scale farm growing industry toward migrant laborers, but he also witnessed the ordinary unfairness of life on a family farm. The author never lost sight of rural California, and he exposed the frustration and disappointment of his characters within his writings. If you venture further and read the chapters below you will find that much of what he saw was within his family roots.
A NEW EYE OPENING IN THE WEST
PROTESTANT MISSIONARIES SENT TO CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
RE - VISIONING OF THE PROTESTANT AMERICAN MYTH
THE EARLY SALINAS VALLEY
LAYING DOWN THE RAILROAD TRACKS
ARRIVAL OF IMMIGRANTS
POPULATION GROWTH IN SALINAS CITY
POPULATION GROWTH IN MONTERY COUNTY
ESTABLISHMENT OF PROTESTANT CHURCHES
ESTABLISHMENT OF PROTESTANT MORALS
HOUSE OF HAMILTON
SAMUEL & ELIZA HAMILTON
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
MARY HAMILTON & RICHARD E. RICHARDS
JUDGE JOHN E. RICHARDS
THE HAMILTON RANCH, SAN ARDO, CALIFORNIA
A COLLECTION OF HOMESTEAD PROPERTIES
A DRY ARTESIAN WELL
A FIFTIETH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY
SAMUEL HAMILTON’S PRESBYTERIAN FAITH
SAMUEL HAMILTON’S BLUESTOCKING DAUGHTERS
LIZETTE CARTER “LIZZIE” HAMILTON
ADELIA “DESSIE” HAMILTON
MARY LOUISE “MOLLIE” HAMILTON
EUNICE B. “EUNA” HAMILTON
OLIVE BLANCHE “OLLIE” HAMILTON
THOMAS SCOTT “TOM” HAMILTON
WILLIAM JOHN “ WILL” HAMILTON
GEORGE WASHINGTON HAMILTON
JOSEPH REUBEN “JOE” HAMILTON
JOHANN ADOLPH & AMELIA STEINBECK
CHARLES MINOR STEINBECK
HERBERT ELDRIDGE STEINBECK
JOHN ERNEST STEINBECK SR.
WILLIAM PETER STEINBECK
HENRY EUGENE “HARRY” STEINBECK
JOHN STEINBECK AND THE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT
CALIFORNIA’S PROGRESSIVE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT
THE SALINAS FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY
SALINAS WANDERERS STUDY CLUB
FROM IMMIGRATION TO EXCLUSION