- Journal of SD History
Part Two: Chapter I : LIFE ON PRESIDIO HILL UNDER THE SPANISH FLAG
For more than a hundred years Old Town was San Diego. It began with the founding of the fort and mission in July, 1769; it ended, as a place of real consequence, with the fire of April, 1872, which destroyed most of the business part of the town and turned the scale decisively in favor of the new settlement which had sprung up at Horton's Addition, or South San Diego, as it was then called. It is rare that two historical eras are so clearly marked on the face of the earth as in this case. The site of Old San Diego is a thing apart from the location of the present city, just as the life of the older time is separated from that of the present by a space of years. And yet, it was in the soil of Old San Diego that the seed of the present city was planted and took root, and it was in that mother settlement that civilization began on the Pacific Coast of the United States.
From 1769 to about 1830—a period of over sixty Years—San Diego lived within the adobe walls of its garriison on Presidio Hill and became a famous dot on the map of the world. Nothing now remains on Presidio Hill to show the casual observer that it was ever anything but a vacant plot of ground. Weeds cover the earth, wild flowers bloom in their season, and always the ice-plant hangs in matted festoons from the scattered mounds of earth. A closer examination of these mounds, however, shows them to be arranged in something like a hollow square. The soil, too, is found to be full of fragments of red tile and to show the unmistakable signs of long trampling by human feet. Looking more closely at the mounds, beneath their covering of "weeds and earth, one finds the foundations of old walls built of thin red tile and adobe bricks. These remains are all that is left of the Spanish Presidio of San Diego.
Standing on this historic spot, one is moved to wonder how the manifold activities of the ecclesiastical and military affairs of the Southern District, and of the political and social center of one of the four important towns in Upper California, were ever carried on for so many years upon this little space. The commandant's residence was the principal building. It was situated in the center of the presidial enclosure and overlooked the garrison, the Indian village, the bay and surrounding country. On the east side of the square were the chapel, cemetery, and storehouses; the guard-house was near the gate on the south, and the officers' quarters were ranged around the sides of the square. The whole was enclosed, at first with a wooden stockade, and later with a high adobe wall.
It would seem that half a century of life should mean a great deal to any community, even to a frontier outpost on the edge of the world; but to San Diego, in the period with which this chapter deals, it meant very little. Of the mission activities the men and women at the Presidio were mere spectators, while only far echoes of events in the outside world came to their ears. They had enough respect for the Indians to keep well within the shelter of the garrison for all those years. Even when they went down into the valley to cultivate a little patch of soil, they took care to keep well within range of the guns. They led a lazy, dreamy life, not without some social diversions, yet mostly spent in attending to military and religious routine. As the years wore on and the nineteenth century dawned, the visits of foreign ships became more frequent. These visits must have seemed very grateful to the inhabitants, especially those few which were attended with sufficient excitement to break the monotony and lend a momentary zest to the stagnant life of the community.
The Spanish soldiers were usually men of good character. Among them were many cadets and young men of good families who had adopted a military career, whose birth and education entitled them to certain exemptions and privileges, and who afterward became distinguished in civil life. Officers could not marry without the king's consent, and to secure this, those beneath the rank of captain had to show that they had an income outside their pay. The chief officer was the commandant. Discipline was severe. The old Spanish Articles of War prescribed the death penalty for so many trivial offences that, as another writer has remarked, it was really astonishing that any soldier could escape execution. There is no record of any military executions at San Diego, however, except of Indians.
|Rough plan of Presidio Hill
(Drawn from descriptions)
The principal duties of the soldiers were to garrison the forts, to stand guard at the missions, to care for the horses and cattle, and to carry dispatches. Both officers and men had usually a little time at their disposal, which they were allowed to employ in providing for their families. Some were shoemakers, others, tailors or woodcutters; but after the first few years most of them seem to have given their leisure hours to agriculture. The pay was small and subject to many vexatious deductions. Supplies were brought by ship from Mexico and the cost was deducted from the men's pay.
The military establishment on Presidio Hill was always the weakest in the department. The rude earthworks thrown up in July, 1769, grew but slowly. In August there seem to have been but four soldiers able to assist in repelling the first Indian attack. But when Perez returned, in the following March, good use was made of the time. The temporary stockade was completed and two bronze cannon mounted, one pointing toward the harbor, the other toward the Indian village. Houses of wood, rushes, tule, and adobe were constructed. Three years later four thousand adobe bricks had been made and some stones collected for use in foundations. A foundation had also been laid for a church ninety feet long, but work upon this building had been suspended because of delay in the arrival of the supply ship.
When the mission establishment was removed up the river, all buildings at the Presidio, except two rooms reserved for the use of visiting friars and for the storage of mission supplies, were given up to the military. In September of this year there was some trouble with troops which had been sent up from Sinaloa. The following year, at the time of the destruction of the mission, related in a previous chapter, the force at the Presidio consisted of a corporal and ten men. In the panic caused by this tragedy, all the stores and families at the Presidio were hastily removed to the old friars' house, the roof of that building was covered with earth to prevent its being set on fire, and the time of waiting for the arrival of reinforcements was spent in fear and trembling.
The work of collecting stones to be used in laying the foundations for the new adobe wall to replace the wooden stockade was begun in 1778 and the construction of the wall soon followed. The population of the Presidio was then about one hundred and twenty-five. Small parties of soldiers arrived and departed, and some effort was expended in attempts to find improved routes of travel through the country. In 1782, the old church within the presidial enclosure was burned. Two years later, the regulations required the presidial force to consist of five corporals and forty-six soldiers, six men being always on guard at the Mission.
The visit of the famous English navigator, George Vancouver, in the Discovery in 1793, was the most important event breaking the monotony of these early years. His was the first foreign vessel that ever entered San Diego harbor. He arrived on the 27th day of November and remained twelve days. His presence disturbed and alarmed the Spanish officials, who did not relish the sight of the British flag in Californian waters. The San Diego commandant, however, treated him with courtesy and relaxed the rigid port regulations in his favor, so far as lay within his power. Vancouver gave Father Lasuen, of the San Juan Capistrano Mission a barrel-organ for his church, made some nautical observations, and corrected his charts. But the most valuable results of his visit, so far as this history is concerned, are his shrewd observations upon the Presidio of San Diego and the whole Spanish military establishment in Upper California. He says the soldiers "are totally incapable of making any resistance against a foreign invasion, an event which is by no means improbable." The Spanish officials knew this; the relations between England and Spain, too, were strained and war broke out not long after. It is no wonder that Vancouver was regarded with dread and suspicion. He goes on:
The Spanish Monarchy retains this extent of country under its authority by a force that, had we not been eyewitnesses of its insignificance in many instances, we should hardly have given credit to the possibility of so small a body of men keeping in awe and under subjection the natives of this country, without resorting to harsh or unjustifiable measures.
The Presidio of San Diego seemed to be the least of the Spanish establishments. It is irregularly built, on very uneven ground, which makes it liable to some inconveniences, without the obvious appearance of any object for selecting such a spot. With little difficulty it might be rendered a place of considerable strength, by establishing a small force at the entrance of the port; where at this time there were neither works, guns, houses, or other habitations nearer than the Presidio, five miles from the port, and where they have only three small pieces of brass cannon.
The "three small pieces of brass cannon" at the Presidio were somewhat like the toy cannon now used on yachts for firing salutes. One of the original San Diego Presidio cannon is now in the Coronel collection at Los Angeles, and a cut of it appears herein. These cannon were far less effective than a modern rifle, but, mounted in the bastions of the old Presidio, they served their purpose of making a loud noise and awing the Indians, who called them "creators of thunder."
Vancouver's visit, with its annoying revelation of the weak state of the country's defenses, led to the strengthening of the military arm. In the same year, upon the Governor's urgent request, the Viceroy ordered the Presidio to be repaired. A fort was also projected on what is now known as Ballast Point, then called Point Guijarros (cobblestones), the same spot which Vancouver's quick eye had noted as the strategic defensive point. Plans were drawn in 1795 for installing there a battery of ten guns, but the work proceeded slowly and was not completed for five years or more.
In November, 1796, the priests were called upon to perform the ceremony of blessing the esplanade, powder magazine, and flag at the Presidio, and a salute was fired in honor of the event. There were neither flags, nor materials for making them, in Upper California, and they were therefore sent from Mexico. This marks the beginning of the fortifications proper on Presidio Hill, on the point of the hill below the Presidio walls. This fort was maintained, in a small way, during the Spanish administration, and to a certain extent afterward. Nothing whatever of the site now remains, the earth forming the point of the hill having been hauled away and used by the government engineers in making the embankment for turning the San Diego River, in 1877. Some of this earth was also used for grading the county road across the valley from then end of the Old Town bridge, in later years. These excavations also took large quantities of earth from the north side of the hill, the extent being measured by the widening of the road from a narrow track to its present width. During the year in which the fort on the hill was built, twenty-five soldiers and six artillerymen were added to the garrison, making the total force nearly ninety men.
|Presidio Hill of Today
This is the Plymouth Rock of the Pacific, scene of the first settlement by Europeans and original location of the first mission in California. It should be preserved as one of the foremost historical shrines in America
The end of the eighteenth century was now close at hand and it brought a few events of unusual interest to the quiet community. In 1798 the soil of San Diego was first trodden by Americans. Four sailors had been left by an American ship in Lower California, whether by accident or design is unknown. They tramped to San Diego and applied at the Presidio for food and shelter, as well as for a chance to take the first opportunity to sail in the direction of home. They were not very hospitably welcomed by the Spaniards, who regarded them with some suspicion, but there was nothing to do except to care for them until a ship sailed for Mexico. In the meantime, they were given a chance to earn their bed and board by working on the fortifications. Later, they were sent to San Blas. The Americans bore the names of William Katt, Barnaby Jan, and John Stephens, and were natives of Boston. They were accompanied by Gabriel Boisse, a Frenchman, who had been left behind, like themselves, from the American ship Gallant,—a treatment hardly in keeping with the name.
The next year the English sloop-of-war Mercedes paid a brief visit to San Diego, but sailed away without any hostile demonstration. The last year of the old century found the Presidio with a population of one hundred and sixty-seven souls, mostly soldiers and their families, according to official report made to the Viceroy. During that year a number of foundling children were sent from Lower California, and eight of them were assigned to San Diego. As one of them inelegantly remarked, long afterward, they were distributed "like puppies among the families." There is no reason to suppose, however, that they were not well cared for.
With the year 1800 the Yankee trader began to cast his shadow before him. It was the palmy day of Boston's captains of commerce, when they used to load their ships with the products of New England ingenuity and send them forth upon the seas bound for nowhere in particular, but looking for good bargains in exchange for their cargoes. About all that California had to offer at that time was the trade in furs, chiefly those of the sea otter which, as we have seen in previous pages, was a considerable source of profit to the Mission Fathers. These skins were in great demand and the government tried in vain to monopolize the business. The commandants at all the ports did what they could to prevent foreign ships from getting any of the furs, but the Yankee skippers were enterprising and found many a weak spot in the Spanish lines.
The first American ship to enter San Diego Bay bore the good old English name of Betsy. She arrived on the 25th of August, 1800, in command of Captain Charles Winship. She carried nineteen men and ten guns, remained ten days, secured wood and water, and then departed for San Blas. In June, 1801, Captain Ezekiel Hubbell came in the Enterprise, of New York, with ten guns and twenty-one men. All he asked was wood and water, with which he set sail after a stay of a few days. If either of these earliest American captains succeeded in doing any illicit trade at San Diego, they kept the secret successfully, leaving not so much as a rumor of scandal behind them. Such was not the case with those who came shortly after. Captain John Brown arrived on February 26, 1803, in the Alexander, of Boston. He was bent on getting otter skins, though he failed to mention the fact to the Spanish commandant. On the contrary, he told a touching tale of sailors down with the scurvy, on the strength of which he was permitted to land, though required to keep away from the fort. He was supplied with fresh provisions and, in view of the condition of his crew, granted permission to stay eight days. In the meantime, the wily captain was buying all the skins offered by Indians and soldiers. On the fifth evening of his stay, the commandant sent a party on board the Alexander to search for contraband. The search was rewarded, 491 skins coming to light. The Yankee was invited to leave San Diego without ceremony; also without the otter skins. There was nothing to do but to comply, unless it was also to grumble, which the captain did. He complained that his ship had been visited by a rabble before any demand was made for the surrender of the furs. He also complained that the soldiers relieved him of other goods to which they had no rightful claim. The evidence seems clear, however, that Captain John Brown, of Boston, abused the Spanish hospitality by perpetrating the first Yankee trick in the history of San Diego.
The Lelia Byrd dropped anchor in the Bay on March 17th, having sailed by the fort on Ballast Point without arousing any protest. But promptly the next day the commandant of the Presidio appeared on board with an escort of twelve soldiers. He made himself acquainted with the Captain, William Shaler, and with Richard J. Cleveland, mate and part-owner of the ship, a character who gains much additional interest from the fact that he was a relative of Daniel Cleveland, a prominent citizen of San Diego. Captain Cleveland left a good account of the exciting events precipitated by the presence of his ship. Among other things, he described the commandant as an offensively vain and pompous man, but it is possible that the captain's unsatisfied desire for otter skins may have prejudiced his opinion in the matter. The commandant agreed to furnish needed supplies, but informed the visitors that when these were delivered they must promptly depart. They were expressly forbidden to attempt any trading and five men were left as a guard to see that this injunction was enforced. Three days later, the commandant again visited the ship, received his pay for the supplies, and wished his visitors a prosperous voyage.
The Yankee crew, in the meantime, had been ashore, visited the fort at Ballast Point, and made the acquaintance of the corporal in charge of the battery, José Velasquez. Thus they learned that the commandant had on hand something like a thousand confiscated otter skins—which he would not sell. The corporal hinted, however, that he might be able to deliver some of the forbidden goods, obtained from other sources. Captain Cleveland was ready for the trade and sent a boat ashore that night for the skins. The first trip was successful, but a second boat failed to return. When morning came, the Yankee captain decided on vigorous action. He disarmed the Spanish guards who had been left on his ship, sent them below, and went ashore with four armed men. It was found that the crew of the second boat, which had failed to return the previous night, had been captured by a party of mounted soldiers, headed by the commandant himself. They had been bound hand and foot and compelled to lie on the shore, where they were captured all night under guard.
In his account of the affair Captain Cleveland says: "On landing, we ran up to the guard, and, presenting our pistols, ordered them instantly to release our men from their ligatures. ..... This order was readily complied with by the three soldiers who had been guarding them; and, to prevent mischief, we took away their arms, dipped them in water, and left them on the beach."
It was now necessary for the Americans to make their escape as quickly as possible. The men were full of fight, but their situation seemed desperate. There were only fifteen men, all told, in the crew, and the armament consisted of six three-pounders. Their inspection of Fort Guijarros had shown that it contained a battery of six nine-pounders, with an abundant supply of powder and ball. The force was probably sufficient to work the guns, although Cleveland is doubtless mistaken in thinking the ship opposed by at least a hundred men. He remarks that while the preparations for flight were making on board ship, all was bustle and animation on shore, and that both horse and foot were flocking to the fort; and it is a fair inference that most of this crowd were mere spectators.
The difficulties in the situation of the Americans were much increased by various circumstances. It took time to hoist the anchor and get up sail. There was only a slight land breeze blowing, and the Spaniards were able to fire two shots at the ship, one a blank shot and the second a solid one, before they began to move. They were under fire fully three-quarters of an hour before arriving near enough to reach the fort with their small guns. In the hope of restraining the Spanish fire, the guard were placed in the most exposed and conspicuous stations in the ship. Here they stood and frantically pleaded with their countrymen to cease firing, but without avail. At every discharge they fell upon their faces and showed themselves, naturally enough, in a state of collapse. As soon as they came within range, the Americans discharged a broadside at the fort from their six small guns, and at once saw numbers of the garrison scrambling out of the back of the fort and running away up the hill. A second broadside was discharged, and after that no one could be seen at the fort except one man who stood upon the ramparts and waved his hat.
|"El Capitan" cast in manila in 1783 and brought to San Diego in 1800; now at the Chamber of Commerce.||"El Nino" which came with the Spaniards 1769, now in the Coronel Collection at Los Angeles|
There is no record of any blood being shed in this first "Battle of San Diego," although the ship was considerably damaged. Her rigging was struck several times early in the action, and while abreast of the fort in the narrow channel several balls struck her hull, one of which was "between wind and water." Safe out of the harbor, the terrified guard, who expected nothing less than death, were set on shore. Here they relieved their feelings, first by falling on their knees in prayer, and then by springing up and shouting, "Vivan, vivan los Americanos!"
There is no doubt that Corporal Velasquez and his men did everything in their power to sink the Lelia Byrd. The battery was stimulated by the presence of the fiery commandant, and, perhaps, the corporal thought it prudent to make a showing of zeal, in view of his previous conduct. Captain Cleveland expresses the opinion that the contraband skins were offered them treacherously, for the express purpose of involving them in difficulties. It is a fact, however, that the corporal was placed under arrest for his part in the two affairs of the Alexander and the Lelia Byrd, accused of engaging in forbidden trade. The priest in charge of the Mission of San Luis Rey also wrote the commandant and asked for the return of one hundred and seventy skins which his Indian neophytes had smuggled on board the Alexander, doubtless by his own direction; but he was re .. ed.
The animation of the controversy which raged over these otter skins, actually ending in a battle between an American ship and the Spanish fort, naturally suggests a question as to what they were worth in dollars and cents. The question is rather difficult to answer, because the value of these furs fluctuated over a wide range at different times and varied again with the different markets in which they were bought and sold. It is probable that the thousand skins at that time in possession of the commandant were worth at San Diego not far from $7,000 or $8,000, and that they could have been sold in China; for five or ten times that amount. The margin of profit which could have been made on a successful transaction would have represented a good fortune, for those days, for the owners of the Lelia Byrd. And now comes the melancholy part of the story—melancholy or ludicrous, as the reader pleases. After all the trouble they had made, those valuable furs never did anybody good. They rotted before they could be legally disposed of and three years later were thrown into the sea! But the dignity of Spain had been vindicated.
The affair of the Lelia Byrd, which caused a tremendous excitement at the time, was long talked of on the Pacific Coast. They were still gossiping about it when Richard Henry Dana visited San Diego, thirty-three years later. The story was always told in a way to reflect great credit upon the Americans, though it is likely that they would have preferred less credit —and the otter skins.
In January, 1804, Captain Joseph O'Cain, on a trading expedition in the O'Cain, ventured to call and ask for provisions. He had been mate of the Enterprise when she was at San Diego, three years earlier. He had no passport and his request was, refused. While his ship was in the harbor, a negro sailor named John Brown deserted from her and was afterward sent to San Blas. Probably he was the first negro ever seen in San Diego. There is no record of any American visitors in 1805, but there was much perturbation in Spain and Spanish-America respecting the supposed designs of the United States upon California.
Upon Governor Arrillaga's arrival, early in 1806, more stringent measures were taken to prevent contraband trade. It had become something of a custom for the American trading ships to avoid the ports and, by standing off and sending boats ashore, to carry on their trade at will. The Peacock, Captain Kimball, anchored off San Juan Capistrano in April, ostensibly for the purpose of securing provisions. Four men were sent ashore in a boat, but they were seized and sent to San Diego. The ship soon after appearing off the harbor, the men broke jail and endeavored to rejoin her, but without success. They were therefore obliged to return to the Presidio and later were sent to San Blas. The names of these men were: Tom Kilven, mate; a Frenchman, boatswain; Bias Limcamk and Blas Yame, sailors from Boston. They were the first Americans to occupy a prison in San Diego.
|Burial of James O. Pattie on Presidio Hill
The picture is somewhat fanciful, having been made from memory to illustrate the "Narrative" published by his son years afterward, but is interesting because it is the only representative we have of the appearance of Presidio Hill when it was an important seat of government. See Chapter IV.
In the summer of this year another craft whose name is not known with certainty, but which is said to have been under the command of Captain O'Cain, was off the coast and gave the San Diego military establishment some trouble and a good deal of fright. The Spanish accounts call her the Reizos, and it is possible she was the Racer, which was here in July. The captain, having asked for supplies and an opportunity to make repairs and been refused, went to Todos Santos, in Lower California, where he took water forcibly and made prisoners of three guards who had been sent to watch his movements. He then came back and endeavored to exchange his prisoners for the four men from the Peacock; this failing, he threatened to attack and destroy the fort and Presidio. Hurried preparations were made for meeting the attack, but Captain O'Cain thought better of the matter and sailed away, releasing his prisoners. The Racer was at San Diego again in 1807, and the Mercury, Captain George Eyres, in the following year. These were the last foreign ships which came for several years.
Again the annals of the quiet years grow scanty. The military force fluctuated slightly, officials came, and went, quarrelled and became reconciled, and the ebb and flow of frontier life went on with scarcely a ripple.
|Judge Witherby's Chair
A genuine specimen of mission furniture, made when the missions were in their glory. It was used for many years by Judge O. S. Witherby and is now in Department One of San Diego Superior Court.
In 1804 the sum of $688 was set apart by the Viceroy for the construction of a flatboat, twenty-five feet long, to be used as a means of transportation between Fort Guijarros and the Presidio. This boat was actually built and used many years. Evidently the San Diego river had not then filled in the tide lands near Old Town. This boat was wrecked at Los Adobes in the latter part of the year 1827, and in the following year the governor ordered that its timbers should be used for building a wharf. In 1812 some soldiers were arrested on a charge of being engaged in a plot to revolt and seize the post. Governor Pio Pico in his manuscript History of California says that his father, Sergeant José María Pico, was one of the accused men, and that three of them died in prison.
The struggle for Mexican independence in the decade from 1811 to 1821, caused very little disturbance in Upper California. The uncertainty of the soldiers' pay and the irregularity in the arrival of the supply ships were keenly felt; but the archives of the period are almost silent on the subject of the revolution, knowledge of which seems to have been purposely suppressed. Officials were blamed for their negligence, and there was much unrest and complaint, but the department as a whole, both military and ecclesiastical, was loyal to Spain. The sufferings of the soldiers were severe. Their wants could only be supplied by the missions, which took in exchange for their produce orders on the treasury of Spain which they knew might never be paid. At the Presidio these supplies were traded to foreign ships and sometimes disposed of by less regular methods. Governor Arrillaga importuned the Viceroy in vain on the subject of the necessities of the soldiers, and by 1814 the dependence of the military upon the missions was complete. At his visit in 1817, Governor Sola found the Presidio buildings in a ruinous condition, but apparently nothing was done toward restoring them under the brief remainder of Spanish rule.
In March of this same year, there was a slight revival of foreign trade following upon the visit of Captain James Smith Wilcox, with the Traveller. He came from the North where he had sold cloth to the officials for the Presidios and brought with him the share assigned to San Diego. On his departure he took a cargo of grain for Loreto,—the first cargo of grain exported from California in an American vessel. In June he returned and did some trading up and down the coast, seeming to enjoy the confidence of the authorities in an unusual degree.
In December, 1818, occurred the episode of the Bouchard scare, which made a deep impression. Captain Hippolyte Bouchard came to the California Coast with two vessels which he had fitted out at the Hawaiian Islands as privateers, flying the flag of Buenos Ayres. He was regarded by the Spaniards as a pirate, although his conduct scarcely justifies so harsh a term. What his designs were is not clearly known. He may have intended to seize Upper California. The expedition appears to have been a feature of the ways then raging between Spain and the South American countries, the latter employing the methods of privateers which at that time were recognized by the laws of nations.
After committing some depredations at the north, particularly at Monterey, it was reported that the two ships of Bouchard were approaching the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. The Commandant at San Diego therefore sent Lieutenant Santiago Argüello with thirty men to assist in its defense. When Argüello arrived he found that the Fathers had removed a part of the church property and concealed it, and he and his men fell to and did all they could toward completing the work. Bouchard arrived the next day and demanded supplies, which Argüello refused. Re-enforcements soon arrived, and after much bluster Bouchard drew off without venturing to give battle, but not before some damage had been done. For this damage and certain other irregularities the San Juan Capistrano Mission Fathers accused Argüello. These charges were the cause of much bad feeling and voluminous correspondence, but General Guerra, who was friendly to the friars, expressed the opinion that the charges were merely trumped up by the priests to cover their own neglect of duty.
Extensive preparations had been made at San Diego to receive Captain Bouchard, even down to such details as red-hot cannon balls. The women and children were sent away to Pala for safety. But the insurgent vessels passed by without stopping, and all was soon serene again. When the news of this attack reached the Viceroy, he determined to re-enforce the Upper California presidios, at any cost, although he was in extreme difficulties, himself, on account of the civil war then raging in Mexico. He accordingly managed to send a detachment of a hundred cavalrymen, which arrived at San Diego on the 16th of September the following year, and about half of them remained here. They were fairly well armed and brought money for the payment of expenses.
Up to 1819, the military force at the Presidio was about fifty-five men, besides a detail of twenty-five soldiers at the Mission, and twenty invalids living at Los Angeles or on ranchos. In that year the number was increased to one hundred and ten, and in 1820 the total population of the district was about four hundred and fifty. In August of this year the British whaler Discovery put in for provisions—the only foreign ship for several years, and Captain Ruiz got into trouble by allowing her commander to take soundings of the bay.
At the close of the Spanish rule, San Diego was still a sleepy little military post on a far frontier. The fortifications were dilapidated, the soldiers in rags and destined to lose their large arrears of pay, and the invalids their pensions. The missions had large possessions, but were impoverished by the enforced support of the military for many years. Commerce was dead and agriculture scarcely begun. But a better day was at hand.
[from William Ellsworth Smythe's History of San Diego]