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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Prof. De Witt Montgomery

Great as are the resources of Sonoma county (and many sagacious citizens believe them to be unsurpassed by those of any section of the commonwealth) her finest assets consist of her boys and girls, and the quality of future citizenship depends upon the faithful work of the teachers, guided by judicious leaders and upheld by the unwavering loyalty of the community. Educational advancement is the result of the self-sacrificing labors of efficient instructors, who desire the mental growth of the pupils more than their own prosperity, and wh0o, far removed from narrowness or prejudice, strive to advance the welfare of the schools that are the civic pride of the community. In this list of educators mention belongs to Professor Montgomery, who holds an accepted place among the leading teachers in Northern California and who, both as principal of schools and as county superintendent, has been instrumental in raising the standard of education in a degree commensurate with the material growth of the community.

Eaton Rapids, Mich., is the native place of De Witt Montgomery, and October 29, 1872, the date of his birth, his parents being Alonzo and Cornelia Mary (Dunham) Montgomery, the former born in Michigan in 1840, and the latter born in Rochester, N. Y., in 1841. The marriage of the parents was solemnized in Michigan in 1867, and resulted in the birth of five children, Robert S., De Witt, Ada, Alta and Chester A. Through paternal ancestry the family traces its lineage to Scotland, while on the maternal side the line is traced to Holland, whence emigration was made to New York during the memorable Knickerbocker days of history. Patriotism has been a family trait and every generation has exhibited the deepest loyalty to our country, this being evidenced especially in the life of Alonzo Montgomery through his service as a soldier and a commissioned officer in the Union army during the Civil war. Politically he espoused Republican principles on the organization of the party and ever afterward remained faithful to the same. The occupation of a farmer he followed first in Michigan and later in Kansas, but eventually he removed to Southern California and afterward led a somewhat retired life.

Primarily educated in Kansas public schools and later a student in the high school at Fullerton, Cal., it was the good fortune of De Witt Montgomery to be able to enjoy the educational advantages offered by Leland Stanford University, and in 1901 he was graduated from that institution with the degree of A. B., while in 1902 the degree of A. M. was conferred upon him by the same educational center. In order to pursue advanced study in literature and educational work, he secured an appointment as an instructor in the university, and continued his association with his alma mater until he felt himself to be thoroughly qualified for his professional duties. In 1902 he became principal of the Gridley Union high school, a position which he resigned the following year to become principal of the Sonoma Valley high school. In the fall of 1906 he was elected county superintendent of schools for a term of four years, and both of these positions he is now filling with characteristic fidelity and a high degree of intelligence. In addition he has served as president of county superintendents and county board section of the California State Teachers Association.

It has been the privilege of Professor Montgomery to see something of life in three states. Until ten years of age he lived in Michigan, and he recalls vividly the surroundings of the early childhood there. The ensuing ten years were passed in Kansas, so that as a youth he saw much of the broad prairies of the Sunflower state. Since twenty years of age he has made California his home, and he regards this as the banner state of the Union, while he considers Sonoma the peer of any of the counties. Educationally it ranks among the first counties, having one hundred and forty-four school districts and six high schools. Its advance along educational lines has kept pace with its growth in material development. Because of its wonderful resources the Professor believes it is destined to one of the greatest counties of the state, its welfare being promoted by its geographical position, fine climate and enterprising citizens, no less than by its resources and educational facilities.

The high regard in which Professor Montgomery is held is shared by his cultured wife, whom he married at Los Angeles June 7, 1903, and who bore the maiden name of Neva Gilfillan, being a daughter of Alexander and Christine Maude (Birmingham) Gilfillan. The only child of the union, De Witt, Jr., was born February 23, 1905. Reared to a faith in Republican principles, Professor Montgomery saw no reason to change his views when he studied the political question with the discriminating judgment of maturity, and he always has remained stanchly devoted to the party. Along the line of his profession he has found especial pleasure through his membership in the Schoolmasters’ Club of Northern California, and has been a recognized leader of thought in the same. It has not been possible for him, burdened as he is with professional duties, to become active in the fraternities, and the only orders with which he has identified himself are the Masons and the Woodmen of the World, but in these he has been a generous helper, a philanthropic associate and a genial companion.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011