HMB Justice of the Peace was “M. J.” Bettencourt

From a published biography (I don’t have the year) of Judge Manuel Jesse Bettencourt

Judge Manuel J. Bettencourt was born at Half Moon Bay, and he has capably filled the office of Justice of the Peace there of the Fourth Township since 1930, and was just re-elected to the office on November 8, 1938, for another four -year term.

Judge Bettencourt was born on February 11, 1886, son of John and Mary (Machado) Bettencourt. His father, who is deceased, was born on the Island of St. George, one of the Azores group. His mother is still living at an advanced age in San Jose.

Judge Bettencourt was educated in the schools of San Benito County and in Santa Clara County, his parents having moved to Mountain View in the latter county in 1902. In 1904 he went to work for the J.S. Belchor Company, dealers in feed and fuel, and continued for about a year in this connection, and then joined the Levy Brothers Department Store, where he remained one year, following which he entered the employ of the San Mateo Feed and Fuel Company.

In 1911 Judge Bettencourt became manager of the Bank of Half Moon Bay, which in 1927 was sold to the Bank of America, and he continued on as manager until 1930.

Prominent in fraternal and other organizations, Judge Bettencourt has been a member of Ocean View Lodge of OddFellows of Half Moon Bay for the past twenty-seven years, and for the same length of time has been affiliated with the Seaside Parlor of Native Sons. He is a member and officer of the U.P.E.C. and the I.D.E.S., Portuguese fraternal lodges.

He married Irene de Bennedeti, who was also born in Half Moon Bay.

Judge Bettencourt is rated as one of the most prominent and influentical citizens on the coast side of the county. Long active in civic and community affairs, he is held in the highest esteem by his fellow citizens, and his election to the post of Justice of the Peace on three successive occasions is concrete evidence of his popularity.


I did not meet “the Judge,” as the locals called him; he passed away before I came her– but I was very lucky to talk with his wife, Irene, on several occasions. Irene was the most active 90-year-old in town. Nothing could stop her–she loved driving her bright yellow VW “bug” around Half Moon Bay as much as she enjoyed relaxing in the afternoon with a cocktail.

We called her Irene, not Mrs. Bettencourt. I wish I could describe how she wore her hair because it just completed her elegant “look.”¬† Irene Bettencourt lived in the home her husband, “the Judge” built about 1915 on Johnston Street, still home to many oldtimers. I recall Irene telling me that, when built, their home was on the outskirts of Half Moon Bay!

When Irene Debenedetti and Manuel Bettencourt wed, observers noted the marriage was a kind of “merger”, a marriage joining¬† Half Moon Bay’s Italian and Portuguese community.

When she was 99, Irene Bettencourt gave up driving, and maybe her afternoon cocktail, too. She told friends that she was finally tired. Irene Bettencourt passed away in Half Moon Bay at age 100 in 1990.


Judge Manuel J. Bettencourt passed away in June 1969.

Services will be held in Half Moon Bay Wednesday for Manuel Jesse Bettencourt, a well known real estate and insurance broker, a former banker, and a past Justice of the Peace.

Mr. Bettencourt died in his Half Moon Bay office of a stroke. He was 83.

A native of Half Moon Bay, Mr. Bettencourt was president of the Bank of Half Moon Bay from 1912 to 1928. In 1926 he sold his interest in the bank to the Bank of America but stayed on for two years as manager. From 1928 to 1950 [ed. Including the years of Prohibition and WW II] he was a Justice of the Peace, and until two years ago owned a lumber yard [ed. This would be Half Moon Bay Lumber, which was located on the Main Street side of the Bettencourt home.]


[Note: I wish I had a photo of the Bettencourts together.]