Gonzales is located in the Salinas Valley about 17 miles south of Salinas. It was founded by Dr. Mariano Gonzalez and his brother Alfredo Gonzalez in 1874.
The Gonzales brothers were sons of Teodoro Gonzalez, who arrived in Monterey from Mexico in 1825 at the age of 19. He served as alcalde in 1836, and received a grant, Rancho Rincon de la Puente del Monte, consisting of 15,218.62 acres and encompassing present-day Gonzales.
Teodoro Gonzalez married Guadalupe Villarnel and their sons were born on August 24, 1845 (Alfredo) and July 26, 1848 (Mariano). Mariano attended Santa Clara College (now University) and Cooper Medical College (now University of California, San Francisco).
The Southern Pacific Railroad laid tracks through the area in 1872, and later a depot was erected to allow trains to stop for freight and passengers (the depot was still standing until 1991). The original town, consisting of 50 blocks, was planned in 1874 by Mariano and Alfredo Gonzales on the land granted to their father, Teodoro Gonzales, in 1836. Twenty years later, in 1894, the earliest recorded population of Gonzales was 500 residents.
Cattle and grain raising dominated the area until the 1890s, when dairies were started with the arrival of many Swiss immigrants. But whole milk could not be shipped far. At the turn of the century, the first condensed milk was produced using a process originated by John B. Meyenberg. He brought the process to the Salinas Valley in 1904, and his Alpine Milk Company, later the Meyenberg Milk Company, built several plants, beginning with one in Gonzales in 1906.
Dairy farming gave way to vegetable raising in the 1920s and prospered due to the rich soil and advancements in irrigation, machinery and transportation facilities. The town was incorporated in 1947.
The family spelled their name Gonzalez, but the town uses a final "s" in its spelling.
- Clark, Donald T., Monterey County Place Names (Kestrel Press, Carmel Valley, 1991).