Monterey County Pioneers


Salinas Spreckels Plant, showing large stacks of beets

Train loads of beets supplied the Salinas Spreckels Plant.

Photos courtesy of CaliforniaViews

Claus Spreckels
Claus Spreckels was born on July 9, 1828 and started off as a poor German immigrant who first settled in North Carolina upon arriving in America in 1846. Spreckels soon opened a grocery chain with locations in South Carolina, San Francisco and New York he also helped start a brewery and a sugar refinery. Spreckels sold his interest in the refinery and returned to Germany to work in the refineries gaining first hand knowledge that would help him in opening his own refinery.

Spreckels returned to America and opened a sugar refinery in San Francisco. Spreckels used sugar cane as the raw sugar material. Purchased from Hawaii and other countries sugar cane was inexpensive. It was in 1886 that Spreckels had turned to sugar beets as the raw sugar material because of the changing politics overseas.

In 1888 Spreckels opened a sugar refining plant in Watsonville reaching a capacity of 1,000 tons per day. It wasn't long after that Spreckels need additional sugar refining capacity and decided to open a new sugar refining plant near Salinas, construction started in 1897 and completed in 1899. Capacity for the Salinas plant reached 3,000 tons of beets per day more than all of the refineries in California combined. The plant included the community of Spreckels, (company built homes named after Claus Spreckels). The Salinas Spreckels factory became the most inovative sugar beet factory in the world. Spreckels also operated a plantation style farm system in which farmers grew sugar beets exclusively for Spreckels. The factory closed down in 1982 and was eventually demolished in 1992. Claus Spreckels died on Dec. 26, 1908.


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