Santa Cruz County History - People



Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

HAMILTON, THOMAS (1830-1930)

Watsonville Pajaronian (May 1, 1930)

Headstone of Thomas Hamilton
Thomas Hamilton
Pioneer Cemetery, Watsonville

Century Mark Reached By Pioneer

Rounding out the first hundred years of his life in a vine covered cottage on the William McGrath Company farms, William (Thomas) Hamilton for the past 30 years a resident on the farm where he now lives looks back on the mechanical and governmental progress of the nation in which he first saw the light of day at Dobbs Landing, Hastings, New York on May 2, 1830.

An offspring of sturdy English parentage, Mr. Hamilton left home at the age of 14 and since that time has taken the bitter and sweet of life as he has found it, spending four years in the thick of the fighting in the great Civil War.

Today Mr. Hamilton can move cheerfully about and cook his meals and takes a great delight in keeping up with affairs of the world through books and newspapers which he easily reads without the aid of glasses.

Civil War Veteran

When the Civil War broke out Hamilton was a bright-eyed young fighting man and soldier, who already served four years in the United States army as a cavalryman. He joined the infantry at that time and saw some of the roughest fighting of the war. He was at the battle of the Wilderness and when the dead were so thick that the burial squads would carry a corpse in a blanket and toss it into a trench for the dead. Very often Hamilton, acting on the squad, found some of the corpses to show traces of life and made the quick substitution of the hospital cot for that of the death trench.

At another time Hamilton swam the Potomac River with rebels shooting at him from two gunboats, but fortunately made the opposite shore without being struck.

Blessing to South

The Civil War was something that was a blessing to the south in the opinion of Mr. Hamilton, who states that no country could ever have made the great progress that the south has made had it continued to exist under slavery.

Hamilton is a great lover of horses and for years and years specialized in the handling and training of thoroughbred racehorses. He has operated on every race track in the United States and today he can recall the old track records of famous horses as vividly as if they had made their runs but yesterday.

He worked for several years in the Chicago stockyards and his eyes twinkle with humor when he recalls that some of the cattlemen wore dainty gloves around with their work.

30 Years at McGraths

Thirty five years ago Hamilton came to California and 30 years ago went to work for William McGrath and today, he is living out the remaining years of his life as the guest of the McGrath family, who see that there is no comfort or courtesy that is not extended to the aged man.

Hamilton smokes a pipe and he states that he has used liquor moderately throughout his life until five years ago. He says that the states should have the control of their own liquor question and that the Volstead Act should be eliminated.

Mr. Hamilton is a Bible student having read the Bible completely through nine times and he still reads it daily. He loves good books and lately finished Emil Ludwig's "Napoleon and Horn" and Lewis' "Trader Horn".

Lincoln His Hero

Lincoln is the aged man's hero and he reads all the available literature concerning him that he can get.

Thomas Hamilton is the last of the old men who have lived on the McGrath ranch company's place for the encouragement of longevity owing to the fact that John Redding worked there and died in 1911 at the age of 99 and James Benson, who died on the ranch property in 1916 at the age of 89, after working on the ranch for 25 years.

Watsonville Pajaronian (June 5, 1930)

Civil War Veteran Dies Last Night at Century Mark

Just a month and two days past the century mark, Thomas Hamilton, the Pajaro Valley's oldest resident, died early last evening at the Watsonville hospital. He had been ill but a few days.

Hamilton celebrated his 100th birthday on May 2, when the Pajaronian published a complete account of his life's interesting history. He was a veteran of the Civil War, and could relate many of his thrilling experiences up to the time of his illness. He came to California 35 years ago, and for the last 30 years had lived on the William J. McGrath ranch.

The aged man was born at Dobbs Landing, Hasting, New York, May 2, 1830.

Funeral services will be held tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock at Mehl's Funeral Home, 222 East Lake Avenue. Interment will take place in the Watsonville I.O.O.F. cemetery.

Hamilton was the last of several aged men who have lived on the McGrath ranch. John Redding worked there and died in 1911 at the age of 99 years. James Benson died on the ranch in 1916 at the advanced age of 89 years after working on the property for 25 years.


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