The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
June 1965, Volume 11, Number 3
Ray Brandes, Managing Editor

Pioneer Spanish Families of California

A reprint from The Century Magazine

By Charles Howard Shinn

Images from this article

The most attractive literary material left in California is to be found in the recollections and traditions of descendants of the pioneer Spanish families. But these men and women must be met with sympathy for their misfortunes, and with an unfeigned interest in the old ranch and Mission days. As soon as their confidence is fairly won they tell all they know, with almost childlike eagerness to help in the restoration of the past. One immediately observes the great stress laid upon family connections, the pleasure taken in stories of former times, and the especial reverence for the founders of the province, the governors and other officials, and the heads of the Missions. Politics, though of course on an extremely small scale, occupies a large part of the recollections of the older men, and the animosities of the petty revolutions of half a century ago, of the years just before the American conquest, and of the conquest itself, still divide families from each other. A glance at the subjoined list of the governors of California will show the reader how closely united were the social and political features of the life of the province. At first the governors had much power; the great families were hardly established in their almost feudal relations to the soil; and the long terms of office, -- fourteen years in one case, -- and the peaceful progress of events, show that it was the age of settlement. As the Mexican revolution of 1835 approached the Californians grew restive and gave their governors more and more trouble; at last every noted ranchero family had a different candidate for the governorship, and that "year of revolutions," 1836, saw four successive occupants of the office. Picos, Castros, Alvarados, and a dozen other families, with their adherents and relatives, were struggling for social and political supremacy.[1]

The great families of the Spanish pioneer period have mostly representatives at the present day; some of them have retained wealth and influence, especially in the southern counties. Don Romualdo Pacheco, whose mother was Ramona Carrillo, became State senator, lieutenant-governor, and one of the leaders of the Republican party. The grandson of Captain Antonio del Valle, who came from Mexico to California in 1819, is now one of the most prominent politicians in the State. Don Juan B. Castro has held many offices of trust and profit in Monterey County. Don Ignacio Sepulveda, a thoroughly educated lawyer, married an American wife, and was long a superior judge in Los Angeles. A number of similar cases might be mentioned in which individuals of the conquered race have found their opportunity in the material development of the Pacific coast. Still, these were but exceptions; most of the old families sank into obscurity, and it is now difficult to trace their connections. Only about thirty Spanish families of California have retained any wealth or influence.

Among the families of the first rank as regards wealth, influence, dignity, and pride of birth were the Castros, Picos, Arguellos, Bandinis, Carrillos, Alvarados, Vallejos, Avilas, Ortegas, Noriegas, Peraltas, Sepulvedas, Pachecos, Yorbas, and their numerous connections. The Estradas, for instance, were relatives of the Alvarados, and Don José Abrego, of Monterey, treasurer of the province from 1839 to 1846, married an Estrada. This made the Abregos allies of the Alvarados. Don José's son married a daughter of Jacob P. Leese, the American, son-in-law of General Vallejo; his daughter married Judge Webb of Salinas: the Alvarado- Vallejo connection had drawn the Abregos towards the Americans. The founder of the Alvarado family was Juan B., a settler of 1769, whose son José was sergeant at Monterey, and whose grandson was the governor. The mother of the governor was Maria Josefa al ejo; his wife was Martina Castro. The founder of the Arguello family was Don José Dario, who arrived in 1781; his wife was a daughter of the Moragas, and their children intermarried with the best families of the province. One daughter was the famous Maria de la Concepcion Marcela, born in 1790, and remembered because of her romance, of which Bret Harte has told the story. There is little to add to the outlines of the poem, except that the tale of the lady Concepcion Arguello is familiar to all the Spanish families, and one often hears it used to illustrate the "simple faith of the ancient days." One of the ladies of the Vallejo family retired to a convent. The lady Apolinaria Lorenzana, of Santa Barbara and San Diego, whose lover died, devoted her life to teaching and to charity, and was known for half a century as "La Beata," to whom all doors were open and all sorrows brought. She planted the famous grapevine of Montecito, long known as the largest in the world, and bearing six thousand clusters in a single season. There were other women as worthy of saintship, of whom the elders still speak.

The well-known family of Pico was founded in 1782, by Don José Maria, the father of the governor. The northern branch of this family sprang from Don José Dolores, who arrived in 1790. The first of the Sotos was Don Ignacio, a pioneer of 1776; and the Moraga family date from the same year, their founder being Comandante José Joaquin, of San Francisco Presidio and San José Pueblo. A large and prominent Los Angeles family, that of the Avilas, was founded by Cornelio Avila in 1783. Alcalde Avila was killed in the revolution of 1836. Several daughters married Americans. The Lugos are often spoken of in histories. They descend from a Mexican soldier, Francisco Lugo, who arrived in 17 69, the date which ranks among Spanish Californians as 1849 does among American pioneers. His four daughters married into the four prominent families of Ruiz, Cota, Vallejo, and Carrillo. The town of Martinez, near Monte Diablo, takes its name from the Martinez family, whose founder was an early alcalde of San Francisco, and three of whose daughters married Americans. A far later arrival was the Jimeno family, one of whom was Governor Alvarado's Secretary of State, whose widow became the wife of Dr. Ord, and whose two sons were taken to the Atlantic States by Lieutenant Sherman in 1850 to be educated. An intimate friend of this famous secretary was Don José M. Romero, the most widely known teacher and author of the province, who wrote and printed the "Catecismo de Ortologia" at Monterey in 1836, and established an advanced school, the best in California until the days of Enrique Cambuston and José Maria Campina, whom Governor Alvarado brought from Mexico.

The Bandinis descended from an Andalusian family of high rank, and were in California by 1771. Old Captain José Bandini was the first to raise the Mexican flag, which he did on the ship Reina, at San Blas, in 1821. His son Juan married Dolores Estudillo, and, after her death, Refugio Arguello, and was very prominent in the province from 1825 to 1845 The extensive Carrillo family and also the great Ortega family date their Californian record from 1769. The Ortegas founded Santa Barbara. The Carrillos in the second generation married into the Vallejos, Castros, Pachecos, and many other proud families. At the time of the conquest they had connections in every part of the province. The late judge Covarrubias, of Santa Barbara, one of the most prominent jurists of Southern California, was connected by marriage with the Carrillos. Captain Noriega, of Santa Barbara, also married a Carrillo, and when he died, in 1858, lie left more than a hundred descendants. There were large families in those days of simple, healthy outdoor life; one often reads in the old documents of from twelve to twenty sons and daughters of the same parents. Don Cristobal Dominguez, who owned the Las Virgenes ranch, left fourteen living children, and one hundred and ten living descendants.

The founders of the early families came from all parts of the Spanish dominions. The Castros were from Sinaloa, and so were the Lugos. Old Don Aguirre, a wealthy ship-owner and merchant, who first came in his vessel the Guipuscuana, was a Basque, and his family is still represented in San Diego and Santa Barbara. Another Basque pioneer was Don José Amesti, a rough, honest fellow, alcalde of Monterey, and afterwards the governor's secretary, who married Prudencia Vallejo. General Castro once told me that Don José " would even say 'carajo' before his children," a thing which "astonished all his friends," for it was not seemly; no other Californian did so. The officer who founded Branciforte, Colonel Pedro Albertia, was a Catalan. The first of the Alvisos, the Valencias, and the Peraltas were from Sonora. José Mariano Bonilla, from the city of Mexico, was one of the first lawyers in the province. The Vacas, descendants of the famous conquistadore Captain Vaca, who was under Cortez, came from New Mexico. Don Manuel Requena of Los Angeles came to California from Yucatan. The Suhols, who owned one of the most beautiful of valleys, were from Spain, and the sons were sent to Paris to be educated. Lieutenant Valdez, who was in the Malaspina expedition of 1791, returned to Europe and was killed at Trafalgar. This noted expedition, under Alejandro Malaspina, consisted of two royal corvettes of Spain, which left Cadiz in 1789, reached California in 1791, and went around the world. In ways like these, and from a thousand channels of commerce and adventure, every province of Spain and Mexico became represented among the pioneer families of California.

The Vallejo family traces its descent from soldiers and nobles of the heroic days of Spain, and is as well known in the mother country as in California. A copy of the genealogical record of the family, which has been kept with great precision, was filed in 1806 in the Spanish archives of Alta California. It states that Don Alonzo Vallejo commanded the Spanish troops on board the vessel which brought the royal commissioner Bobadilla to America with orders to carry Columbus a prisoner to Spain. Another famous Vallejo was a captain under Cortez, followed that illustrious cutthroat to the complete conquest of Mexico, and became governor of the province of Panuco, lord of great silver mines, and master of peons innumerable.

Bilbao, the ancient capital of Burgos, Spain, was the place from which the branch of the Vallejos that is known in California started for the New World. Of this branch came Don Ignacio Vicente Vallejo, born in 1748, in the city of Guadalaxara, Mexico, and designed, as were many of the family before him, for holy orders and the service of the Church. The young man rebelled, volunteered under Captain Rivera y Moncada in Padre Junipero Serra's famous expedition, landing at San Diego in 1769, and thus became a pioneer among the Spanish pioneers themselves. He soon became prominent in the colony, and was not only made military commander of various towns, but was long the only civil engineer in the province, laying out most of the greater irrigation works of the Missions and pueblos, and becoming the owner of extensive and valuable estates.

Don Ignacio's engagement and marriage are noted in most of the chronicles of the period. The great Missions were being founded, and, outside of priests and Indians, few people were in the country; California, as late as in the "golden prime of '49," was a masculine community, and women of the better sort were hard to find. When, therefore, the young soldier of fortune saw, at San Luis Obispo, in 1776, on the day of her birth, an infant daughter of the Lugo family, then as now prominent among the Spanish families of Southern California, he did not delay his wooing. Using all the dignity and formality that the aristocratic gentils de razon of the period considered essential in such matters, he obtained an interview with the parents, and negotiated a solemn contract of engagement with the day-old Señorita Maria Antonia Lugo, subject to the girl's future consent. She grew up to be an exceedingly attractive and intelligent young woman, and in due season they were married. It proved an extremely happy and fortunate union, and the success of the founder of the Vallejo family in California in speaking for an infant in arms became almost a family proverb from San Diego to Sonoma. Don Ignacio's home was notable, even in that pioneer age, for its patriarchal simplicity, and he maintained to the day of his death, in 1831, a noble and dignified leadership of the family. Señora Vallejo survived her husband until 1851, and a painting made a short time before her death shows the almost puritanical severity and strength of character of this old Spanish lady of the Arcadian period of California.

None of the Spanish pioneer families have more carefully preserved the traditions and relics of the past than have the Vallejos. With them, as with others, the time of greatest prosperity was between 1820 and 1846. Among the great families with which they were closely connected by marriage or friendship were the De la Guerras, whose founder, Don José de la Guerra y Noriega, was born in Santander, Spain, of a family which dates back to the Moorish wars. Early in the century the family owned no fewer than eight large ranches, and as late as 1850 Don José sold nearly $100,000 worth of cattle annually, and was one of the great men of the pastoral period, with hundreds of herdsmen scattered over leagues of territory. His wife, Maria Antonia Carrillo, the daughter of Don Raymundo, one of the first commanders at San Diego and Santa Barbara, was called in common speech "that most benevolent lady." The seventh of their eleven children was several times mayor of Santa Barbara. The eldest daughter married W. P. Hartnell, of London. The youngest daughter, Antonia, afterwards Mrs. Oreña, was called in her day the greatest beauty on the Pacific coast.

It is remarkable how many of the daughters of the best families of the old Californian towns married Americans and Englishmen of standing. In the Carrillo family four daughters married foreigners; the Ortegas, Noriegas, and many others showed a similar record. The grace, beauty, and modesty of the women of the time were the admiration of every visitor. The freedom from care, the outdoor life and constant exercise, and the perfect climate of California had re-created the Andalusian type of loveliness. In the Ortega family, for instance, the women, who all had brown hair and eyes and were of pure Castilian stock, were so renowned for their beauty that their fame extended to the city of Mexico, and General Ramirez came from there with letters of introduction to win a daughter of the Ortegas. Another of the famous beauties of her day was the Señora Maria Isabel Cota de Pico, who was born in 1783 and died in 1869, leaving over three hundred living descendants. Señorita Guadalupe Ortega married young Joseph Chapman, a New Englander who landed on the coast in 1818 from the Buenos Ayrean privateer which Bouchard commanded, and who was captured by Corporal Lugo, whose sister married Don Ignacio Vallejo. With true Spanish hospitality Lugo made him a guest of the family, and in a year or two secured his social recognition among the leading families. Chapman became prominent at the Mission San Gabriel, and at Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, where he died in 1849.

A multitude of stories of the social life of the Spanish period might be told here, but it is sufficient to give the outline as told by the descendants of those old families. Each town on the coast was the center of the hide and tallow trade for a hundred miles or more. The low adobe stores there held piles of costly and beautiful goods in the days of which Farnham and Dana wrote -- the days when the great cattle princes came from their ranches to hold festival. The young cavaliers rode in on fiery but well-trained and gaily caparisoned horses, and all the wonderful feats of horsemanship of as fine a race of riders as the world has ever seen were performed daily on mesa and sea-beach and plaza. But the home life of these great families was simplicity itself. In many a Spanish house there was no fireplace, window, or chimney. The fire for cooking was built on a clay floor, partly roofed, outside of the main building. The household utensils were few -- a copper or iron kettle, a slab of rock on which to pound corn or wheat, a soapstone griddle for the tortillas. Dishes, tableware, and furniture came slowly, and were of the most simple description. For years a raw hide stretched on the floor with a blanket spread over it formed the usual bed in early California. Everything was kept exquisitely clean, and though the Spanish families learned to spend more on their houses and belongings, they seemed to look upon such things as only affording opportunities for a more generous hospitality.

In the old days there was not a hotel in California, and it was considered a grievous offense even for a stranger, much more for a friend, to pass by a ranch without stopping. Fresh horses were always furnished, and in many cases on record when strangers appeared to need financial help a pile of uncounted silver was left in the sleeping apartment, and they were given to understand that they were to take all they needed. This money was covered with a cloth, and it was a point of honor not to count it beforehand nor afterwards. It was "guest silver," and the custom continued until its abuse by travelers compelled the native Californians to abandon it. Among themselves no one was ever allowed to suffer or struggle for lack of help. The late Dr. Nicholas Den, of Santa Barbara, who married into the Ortega family, once needed money to carry through a speculation, and thought of going to Los Angeles to borrow it. Old Father Narciso, hearing of the matter, sent his Indian boy to him with a "cora," or four-gallon tule basket, full of gold, and the message that he ought to come to his priest whenever he needed help.

The collections of "Documents relating to the History of California" made by General Vallejo and his brother Don J. J. Vallejo, and now in the Bancroft library, and the very graphic and careful series of manuscript notes and memoranda by General Vallejo, entitled "Historia de California," all cast light upon the social and economic conditions in these Arcadian days. A very large number of the old families, such as the Castros, Picos, Arces, and Peraltas, and many of the Americans who had married native Californians, furnished manuscripts, letters, and various documents of permanent value. In fact it may be doubted if the pioneer period of any other American State has had a more complete mass of original authoritative data made ready for the historian's use. Much still remains to be collected from first hands, and many minor historical questions will probably be solved by documents still held by the native Californian families, who treasure every scrap of written paper.

The link between the old and the new, between the quiet and happy pastoral age of the beginning of the century and the age of American growth and change that followed fast on the conquest, was that remarkable man, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo,[2] whose children, as he once told me, "were born under three administrations -- Spanish, Mexican, and American." One of his daughters said, "Two of us, when we were small, were called by our brothers and sisters 'the little Yankees.' "General Vallejo, the eighth of the thirteen children of Doñ Ignacio, was born in 18o8, in the old seaport town of Monterey, long the capital of the province, and died January 18, 1890, in Sonoma, once the northern fortress of the province and guarded by the young general's soldiers. At the age of sixteen he was an officer in the array and the private secretary of the governor of California. In 1829, when only twenty-one, he became lieutenant-commander of the northern department, which included all the country north of Santa Cruz, and made his headquarters at the presidio. Here he organized the first town government of Yerba Buena, and for five years exercised both civil and military functions there, The Solis rebellion against Governor Echeandia, who had removed the seat of government from Monterey to San Diego, began in the fall of 1829, and Vallejo aided in the defeat of the insurgents at Santa Barbara. He was a member of the territorial deputation in 1831, and brought articles of impeachment against Governor Victoria, who was defeated and driven from California in the revolution which followed. The next year General Vallejo married Señorita Francisca Benicia Carrillo, by whom he had seventeen children, nine of whom are now living.[3]

By 1840 the young lieutenant had reached the rank of lieutenant-general, and was the one man in California to whom the entire province turned with perfect confidence in every emergency. When Gutierrez was deposed Vallejo took control of affairs, and he made his nephew Alvarado civil governor, retaining military control himself. Micheltorena, who succeeded him as governor, confirmed all his acts, and appointed him military commander of the whole territory north of Monterey. Vallejo then founded the town of Sonoma, making it his military headquarters, and spent more than a quarter of a million dollars there. He sent to Mexico for a printing press and type, set up with his own hands his orders and proclamations, and printed and bound several pamphlets. This was in 1839. The famous Zamorano press of Monterey, which began work in November, 1834, with carnival ball invitations, had printed the "Catecismo" and many public documents, which are much prized by collectors. Paper was so scarce that the proof-sheets and defective prints were saved and used for fly-leaves of the curious little arisméticas and other text-books that were issued a few years later for the schools of the province.

One has to go back to the days of the famous Spanish "marches," or frontier towns built and defended in Spain's heroic age by her proudest knights, to find a fit parallel in history to the position held by General Vallejo during the closing years of the Mexican rule in California. He had absolute sway for a hundred miles or more, and he "kept the border." His men rode on horseback to Monterey and to Captain Sutter's fort on the Sacramento, bringing him news and carrying his letters. Spanish families colonized the fertile valleys under his protection, and Indians came and built in the shadows of the Sonoma Mission. He owned, as he believed by unassailable title, the largest and finest ranch in the province, and he dispensed a hospitality so generous and universal that it was admired and extolled even among the old Spanish families. J. Quinn Thornton, who visited the coast in 1848 and published his experiences, says: "Governor-General Vallejo owns 1000 horses that are broken to the saddle and bridle, and 9000 that are not broken. Broken horses readily bring one hundred dollars apiece, but the unbroken ones can be purchased for a trivial sum." More and more in the closing years of the epoch and the days of the conquest General Vallejo became the representative man of his people, and so he has received, among many of the old families, the reproachful name of a traitor to California and to his nation. The quiet intensity of this bitterness, even to-day, is a startling thing. I have seen men of pure blood, famous in provincial history, leave the room at the name of Vallejo.

In 1844-45 the native Californians drove out Governor Micheltorena, and began to discuss the feasibility of establishing a separate government. In 1846 the famous Santa Barbara convention of leading ranchers occurred, and, according to General Vallejo's memoranda, English influences were very strong. He exerted all his personal influence, and secured an adjournment of the convention to Monterey, where that fine old American, Consul Thomas O. Larkin, helped him in his struggle. Here Vallejo made a bold speech against an English protectorate, against a separate republic, and in favor of annexation to the United States and ultimate statehood. He was thoroughly equipped for the task, the best educated man among the native Californians, and inspired by the American ideal. The convention closed with its leaders, such as his nephews Castro and Alvarado, ready to adopt the views of Vallejo, and the way seemed prepared for a hearty welcome to the Americans. But the Bear Flag episode followed, Vallejo was carried a prisoner to Sutter's Fort, and the opportunity of peaceful conquest was lost. Nevertheless, as soon as he was released he threw himself heart and soul into the work of organizing a government. He aided in framing a temporary code of laws, and in securing its support by the Spanish population. He laid out the town sites of Benicia and Vallejo on the strait of Carquinez, and he was a leading member of the constitutional convention. General Vallejo's whole career showed that he was actuated by a large and noble ambition to be recognized as the foremost citizen of the State. Nothing marked this element in his nature more clearly than the magnificent plans for his proposed capital at Vallejo. He offered to construct public buildings and give large areas of land. The long-forgotten scheme, which was laid before the legislature of 1850, who accepted, and was ratified by the people, was in every respect worthy of his magnificent liberality. He began to build his new city, but, contrary to the pledges of the State, the capital was removed to Sacramento at the next session of the legislature. Squatters began to settle upon his great Suscol and Petaluma ranches, and ultimately the Supreme Court of the United States rejected the title to the larger part of his estates. He spent the rest of his life on a comparatively small homestead, "Lachryma Montis," near the old town of Sonoma.

Lachryma Montis is one of the few historical mansions of the Pacific coast. The dwellnghouse, built in 1850-51, cost nearly $60,000 and came from all parts of the world -- the mantelpieces from Honolulu, the iron from China, the bricks from South America. Carpenters' wages were then seventeen dollars a day, and the great redwoods that were hewn in the Sonoma forests were "whip-sawed" by hand for the plank required. The spring on the mountain side that gave the mansion its name was walled in, and a lake which supplied the town with water and fed fountains in the orange, lemon, and olive groves was thus formed. More nopal hedges were planted, and the old ones extended. A chalet imported in parts from Switzerland was erected near the mansion. Farther away were the old adobes. A pavilion of iron, glass, and bamboo, imported from China, cost, as members of the family tell me, more than a hundred thousand dollars. When the estates were lost the beautiful grounds began to fall into ruins, through lack of means to keep them up, and in 1890 General Vallejo died a comparatively poor man.

Sonoma Valley is full of stories of his generosity. Father Lorenzo Waugh, an early Methodist circuit-rider of the region, saw the squatters taking up land in the valley while waiting for a decision respecting Vallejo's title. He went to the general, and was told to go ahead and settle on a quarter-section, and he would do all in his power to secure him a title. Father Waugh did so, and nine years later, while Vallejo was away, the lines of this particular district were settled, and his lawyer, against orders, sold the tract on which Waugh lived. As soon as Vallejo learned this he gave him a title to three hundred acres of better land, a part of the home estate. No one will ever know how many hundreds of American pioneers owed their start in the world to General Vallejo, even while he was struggling against immense financial difficulties and losing his lands, not by acres, but by square leagues.

Many others of the old Californians made a distinction between the "Gringo thieves" and the pleasant, manly pioneers who were good neighbors. A volume could be written about the unsolicited gifts of land -- fifty acres here, a hundred there -- made to young Americans to whom the great rancheros had taken a fancy, or who had rendered them a service. "Take the land," said Don Alviso to a Connecticut man in 1849, in Alameda County. "You can keep it; I cannot."

After General Vallejo found his estate slipping away he devoted himself more and more to horticulture and to the education of his children. He occasionally appeared in public, and the greatness of his services to the commonwealth was recognized by every thoughtful citizen. The general's name is mentioned in nearly every book of travels or magazine article relating to early California. In his later years he gathered up and put on record a surprising wealth of material relating to the old Spanish days of California. From him the historians have drawn most of their important details. His manuscript, now in the Bancroft collection, is written with such exquisite care and fidelity to truth that, like General Bidwell's recollections of early days in the Sacramento Valley, it has become the primary authority upon all within its range.

General Vallejo's readiness of apt anecdote was always remarkable. Patti once dined with him, and asked the old soldier if he enjoyed the first opera he ever heard.

"Why, no," said Vallejo; "and yet I confess I shall never forget it."

This reply aroused Patti's curiosity, and she demanded when and where the event took place.

"In 1828, on the site of the Palace Hotel, San Francisco."

"Indeed! And who was the prima donna so long ago as that? "

"Well, I can't say," was the smiling answer; "but there were at least five hundred coyotes in the chorus."

A volume of description could not give a more complete picture of the loneliness of the peninsula at that time.

In his younger days General Vallejo not only knew almost every one of the five thousand Spanish Californians in the province, the greater part of the Mission Indians, and the chiefs of the wild tribes, but he gathered up, even in his youth, the traditions of the pioneers, and tested their accuracy by every possible documentary and other evidence. His journals are full of variety, and form a complete picture of the entire Spanish period. One of his memoranda speaks of the galleon San Augustin, which was wrecked in Tomales Bay in 1595, and of which portions drifted into the Golden Gate in 1830, where they were found by Don José Antonio Sanches and identified by General Vallejo! He has traced the track of every exploring expedition from the earliest settlement, and determined most of their camps. His story of the discovery of San Francisco Bay illustrates the slowness of the progress of settlement. It was late in 1769 that the Portala party and Captain Rivera, with whom was Don Ignacio Vallejo, worked northward from San Diego, past Monterey, and down the San Mateo peninsula, till, on November 2, two hunters of the expedition first looked upon the bay of San Francisco, and November 4 the whole party saw the great bay. In March, 1772, Captain Fages and Father Crespi made that notable exploration which extended from Monterey across the Salinas Valley, through the hills to the Santa Clara Valley, up the east side of the bay past San José and Oakland, and along the shores of San Pablo and Suisun to where Antioch now stands. The San Joaquin River was crossed at this point, and recrossed by the expedition, which returned to Monterey through the Monte Diablo foothills. November 23, 1774, Captain Rivera, with sixteen soldiers and Father Palou, made another expedition to the bay. They entered the Santa Clara Valley and skirted the western shore of the bay of San Francisco, following the level plains past the sites of Palo Alto, Belmont, and many other towns of to-day, and crossing to the ocean beach at Laguna de la Merced, they reached Point Lobos, and climbed the cliff to look down on the Golden Gate.

December 4 they planted the cross. The general says in his commemoration address, "That cross I saw myself in the year 1829." The expedition returned to Monterey "by way of San Pedro, Spanishtown, Half Moon Bay, Point New Year, Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Castroville, and Salinas." In 1775 Captain Ayala sailed the San Carlos into the bay of San Francisco, and "remained forty days, exploring it in all directions." In the spring of 1776 Colonel Anza and Lieutenant Moraga led another land expedition to the region and returned to Monterey.

Then came the foundation of the Mission and the Presidio. The military force, under Lieutenant Moraga, consisted, says General Vallejo, of one sergeant, two corporals, and ten soldiers, with their wives and children. These conveyed Fathers Palou and Cambon, with two Indian servants and three neophyte Indians, who cared for eighty-six head of Mission cattle, partly their own, partly belonging to the king. June 27, 1776, they camped at the lagoon or lake of Dolores, near where the Mission was soon afterwards built. The soldiers erected barracks of tule, soon replaced by wood. The day of the foundation of the Mission was fixed at October 4, the day of St. Francis, and October 8 the actual building was begun. Among those present were Don Ignacio Vallejo, Lieutenant Moraga, and members of the families of Briones, Galindo, Castro, Pacheco, Bojorques, Bernal, Peralta, Higuera, and others of prominence in Spanish California.

The historians of Spanish Californian days must draw on such traditions as these, obtained from General Vallejo's conversations, or written in his memoranda. A single magazine article can contain only a small part of the wealth of tradition that has gathered about the old Sonoma homestead of the Vallejos -- that homestead which is in the highest degree typical of all Spanish homesteads of the first rank on the Pacific coast. Everywhere, in the most picturesque portions of California, are the old adobes that once were social centers of the stately life of nearly a century ago. Most of them are merely ruins, but many are still the homes of the descendants of the first families of the province. The years that brought such change and wreck to the old days have now carried them so far back into the mists of tradition that they seem centuries away. Vallejo's fortress on the frontier is now a town, as dull and unromantic as Yonkers. About the ancient pueblo of Los Angeles has sprung up an intensely modem city. A railroad extends through the very graveyard of San Miguel Mission. Much needs to be done by Californians to preserve the memorials of the past that was so fair and so fruitful a beginning of the story of the commonwealth. The agency through which this is to be accomplished is likely to be the association known as the Native Sons of the Golden West, under whose public-spirited direction was conducted the recent successful celebration of the admission of California.

Charles Howard Shinn.


[Footnotes have been re-numbered for clarity.]

[1.] The Spanish and Mexican governors of California and the dates of their accession were as follows:

Gaspar de Portola, 1767;
Felipe de Barri, 1771;
Felipe de Neve, 1774;
Pedro Fages, 1782;
José Antonio Romen, 1790;
José J. de Arrillaga, 1792;
Diego de Borica, 1794;
José J. de Arrillaga, 1800;
José Dario Arguello, 1814;
Pablo Vicente de Sola, 1815;
Luis Antonio Arguello, 1823;
José Maria de Echeandia, 1825;
Manuel Victoria, 1831;
Pio Pico, 1832;
José Figueroa, 1833;
José Castro, 1835;
Nicolas Gutierrez, 1836;
Mariano Chico, 1836;
Nicolas Gutierrez, 1836;
Juan B. Alvarado, 1836;
Manuel Micheltorena, 1842;
Pio Pico, 1845.

 

[2.] See portait in THE CENTURY for December, 1890.

[3.] The eldest became the wife of General John B. Frisbie; the others are the wife of Dr. Frisbie, Mrs. Attila Haraszthy, Mrs. E. Emperam, Mrs. J. Henry Cutter, Dr. Platon Vallejo, Andronica Vallejo, Ulla Vallejo, and Napoleon Vallejo.


Charles Howard Shinn was born in Austin, Texas in 1852. After completion of his education at Johns Hopkins University, he moved to California. From the American West he wrote for Century Magazine, Overland Monthly, and Atlantic Monthly. In the 1890's he was a member of the National Forest Conservation movement, and by 1901 had become head ranger in the Sierra Forest Reserve.

Shinn, however, in time has become best known for his studies of the early mining camp in the American West. In 1948, A. A. Knopf republished his Mining Camps: A Study in American Frontier Government, a classic interpretation of law and order in the frontier mining camps. Another work is Shinn's Land Laws of Mining Districts.

"Pioneer Spanish Families in California With Special Reference to the Vallejos," first appeared in vol. XLI, new series, vol. XIX, of The Century Magazine, January 1891. Time, as it does to all things, has corrected some of the information on which Shinn wrote. By and large, however, the biographical data stands up, and Charles Howard Shinn gave even at this early date a just compliment to Hubert Howe Bancroft for the gathering of such family and geneaological information so valuable to an appreciation of California's past.