The King of Spain had long desired a harbor on the western coast where the Manila galleons could obtain wood and water. When he learned of the discovery of San Francisco bay he commanded that it be explored and that a presidio be founded there. Lieutenant Ayala was directed to explore the bay. Sailing from Monterey July 14, 1774, in the San Carlos, on the evening of the second day he entered the Golden Gate. (a) The ship was anchored off what is now known as Black Point. The party remained in the harbor nearly forty days, and Ayala explored the waters as far east as the mouth of the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers (b).
The presidio, or barracks, was to be the quarters of the soldiers and their families; for it was decreed that all of the soldiers must be married men with families, healthy and robust, and likely to lead regular lives. Thus they would set a good example to the natives. They must be recruited in Mexico. Single maidens could accompany the soldiers, provided they were willing to marry the single soldiers and bring up families.
Captain Anza was sent to Mexico to find recruits. He succeeded in persuading 207 soldiers and colonists to make California their future home. In October, 1775, they left Tubac, Mexico, and traveling overland, March 10, 1776, they arrived at Monterey. Several weeks later, starting June 17, Lieutenant Morgan in charge of 17 soldiers, each with large families, together with seven married colonists, journeyed to San Francisco. They arrived June 27 and camped near a spring of water, which is now the corner of Howard and Valencia streets. The following day the party moved to the bay shore to the point now known as Fort Mason. A few days later the San Carlos arrived with supplies and building material. The following month, September 17, the presidio was dedicated. The ceremony included the celebration of mass, accompanied by cannon salutes.
Presidios were founded at different places along the coast (c). They were so located as to protect the padres from Indian attacks, and also protect the coast from a foreign invasion. The presidio points were Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Francisco. Pueblos or towns were also established. They were located at the presidio points, also San Diego and San Jose. The pueblos were governed by certain rules and regulations prescribed by the King (d).
California was an unknown paradise to all the world save the Spaniards until 1785. In that year the French diplomat Jean Galaup de la Perouse, in his exploring expedition around the world, arrived September 14 at Monterey. He remained ten days and was cordially received by the mission fathers. Several scientists accompanied the expedition, and during that time they took copious notes of the flora and fauna of Monterey and sketches of the mission.
Eight years later (November 14, 1792) George Vancouver, an Englishman, sailed into San Francisco bay. During his stay he visited the Santa Clara mission. He was the first foreigner to travel that distance inland. A few weeks later he visited Monterey. Two years later he returned and was coldly received. The Spaniards wanted to know why he so quickly returned.
The Russian ship Rurick, in command of Otto Kotsebue, touched at San Francisco October 2, 1816. It was another world exploring party. One of the scientists, Johann Eschscholtz, discovered the golden poppy. It was named eschscholtzia after its discoverer. It is now the state flower.
In the latter part of the century the merchantmen and other vessels sailing in the north Pacific began touching at the California ports for wood and water. The first vessel to arrive was the United States man-of-war Otter, Captain Ebenezer Dorr. She carried six cannon and a crew of twenty-six men. Entering the port of Monterey, her captain was supplied with wood and water. When ready to sail he asked permission of Governor Borica to land eleven English sailors who had secretly boarded his vessel at Botany Bay, Australia. The Governor refused his consent. It was a violation of Spanish law to land any foreigners. The shrewd Yankee captain, however, that night forced the sailors at the point of a pistol to go ashore. He then speedily put to sea. Borica was very angry. Making the best of the situation, however, he put the men to work as carpenters and blacksmiths. Their wages were 19 cents a day.
Spain was at all times suspicious of foreigners and the Californians were prohibited from trading with foreign vessels as an almost prohibitive custom house tax was imposed. This, however, did not prevent the custom house officers from receiving bribes, nor did it prevent the citizens from secretly buying goods. The smuggling of all kinds of goods was extensively carried on under both the Spanish and Mexican governments.
The first vessel to engage in this illegal traffic was the Alexander, Captain Brown. He entered San Diego harbor February 26, 1803, giving as his excuse his supply of water and wood was limited. The commandante gave him water and permission to cut wood, but he seemed to require an extra large amount, for his men were eight days at work. During this time the captain was also busy. With the natives he was exchanging goods for otter skins. He succeeded in getting 490 fine ones. then the custom house officer caught him and confiscated the entire stock. The skins were stored in the government warehouse on the beach. Brown was ordered to leave the port. He sailed directly for San Francisco bay. The second ship entereing that port was the Eliza, 1799, Captain Rowen.
A few days after the sailing of the Alexandria (March 17, 1803) the Lelia Byrd, Captain Shaler, entered the San Diego port. The captain came for the express purpose of seizing the otter skins taken from Captain Brown, Shaler having heard of the affair at San Blas. The Lelia Byrd, 175 tons, loaded with general merchandise, rounded Cape Horn, and, touching at the ports of Mexico, exchanged $10,000 worth of goods for 1,600 otter skins.
The custom house officer with an escort of five soldiers boarded the vessel. The captain made known his wants, and the officer promised to furnish wood and water the following day. Rodriguez, the lieutenant, left the ship, leaving the guard on board. Shaler in conversation with the sergeant, punctuating his remarks with coin, learned that over 1,000 skins lay in the warehouse exclusive of those taken from the Alexander. This was indeed a rich prize, and that night Shaler set out two boats to get the lay of the land. One of the boats, containing a mate and two sailors, was captured. The prisoners, strongly bound, were left upon the beach under a guard of three dragoons. Early in the morning First Mate Cleveland, accompanied by four sailors, each armed with a brace of pistols, easily released their shipmates and rowed rapidly to the ship, which immediately set sail for the open sea, with the Spanish soldiers on board.
The gunners at the fort, seeing that the enemy was about to escape, fired a 9-pound ball across the ship's bow. The ship then answered with a broadside from her 6-pounders. Cannon balls rattled lively in the rigging of the vessel, but she ran beyond the range of the battery without receiving any serious injury. the captain then landed the terrified guard upon the beach and put to sea. So happy were they because of their release, they shouted "Vivas los Americanos!" (Hurrah for the Americans).
The Russians, in 1803, crossing Behring straits, settled at Sitka, Alaska. The country was cold, barren and unproductive and the colonists came near starving to death. They were saved, however, by the timely arrival of the American ship Juno, 206 tons, loaded with foodstuffs and other goods. The colonists bought the ship and cargo for $8,000 and the provisions gave them a partial relief. As Alaska was then a desolate, unproducing soil, the Russian Ambassador, Resanoff, sailed to San Francisco in the Juno in April, 1805. His object was to open up trade with the Spaniards. As he entered San Francisco bay, April 5, and attempted to sail past Fort San Joaquin, the sentinel on duty shouted in Spanish, "What ship?" "Russian," was the reply. "Let go your anchor!" "Si, senor; si, senor!" The wise captain ran out of range of the old cannon; then he cast anchor.
The Ambassador was accompanied to San Francisco by the famous naturalist, Langsdorff. As the two men stepped from the boat to the shore they were received by Commandante Luis Arguello, with an escort of 20 dragoons, and Father Uria. Langsdorff, speaking in the Latin tongue, explained the mission of his party. This explanation was satisfactory to the commandante. Later the Ambassador and his officers were entertained by Luis Arguello and his family.
Governor Arrillaga at Monterey was immediately informed of the presence of the Russians. He came up from the capital on horseback and in the French language greeted Resanoff. The trading proposition was discussed, and although Resanoff was a suave talker and a keen diplomat, he could not persuade the Governor to permit any violation of the Spanish law prohibiting trade with foreign nations. Even the clink of coin failed to swerve him from his duty.
The Commandante Arguello was a close firend of the Governor. Learning this, the shrewd ambassador began making love to the Commandante's daughter, and succeeded in winning her hand in marriage. Through Arguello, Resanoff then succeeded with the Governor and an exchange of goods was permitted. Resanoff, unloading the cargo of the ship, took in exchange such goods as he required -- beans, peas, tallow, butter, flour and wheat -- $5,000 in value. Sailing from the harbor May 21, he fired a salute while passing the fort. The guns of the fort answered.
Russia even in that early day had no fear of Spain, and in 1809 a company of Russians, landing at Bodega bay, during a six months' hunting and tripping season obtained over 20,000 otter skins. Kuskoff, the leader, also explored the country with the object in view of establishing there a Russian settlement. In January, 1810, he again landed at Bodega, accompanied by 95 Russians, 25 of them being mechanics of various trades. They erected log cabins and blockhouses for defense, and lived there and flourished for thirty years (e). At that time, September, 1841, they packed their household goods in ships and returned to their native land. They sold over $30,000 worth of property to John A. Sutter. In the collection was the famous Sutter cannon, now in the museum, Golden Gate park.
We are now approaching that time when the Mexican nation will no longer shout "Hail to the King!" The last Spanish Governor was Lieutenant Pablo Vincente de Sola. He arrived at the capital, Monterey, August 30, 1815, and priests, soldiers and Indians came from all parts of the territory to welcome him. A celebratin and reception was given him on the second day of his arrival. The twenty padres, forming in procession, marched from the mission to the presidio, led by native musicians and singers. On arrival the friars sang a "Te Deum" because of the safe voyage of the Governor from Mexico. Then followed a military review on the plaza. Sola then addressed the troops and was greeted with "Viva! Viva los Sola!"
The social reception was the most pleasing as the Governor was quite a "ladies' man." The women took charge of the executive mansion, a one-story adobe house, and as the Governor arrived he was welcomed by twenty young and pretty senoritas. Each girl in turn kissed the Governor's hand and received from him gifts of bon-bons. An address of welcome was then given by Dona Magdalena Estudillo, the wife of the commandante. The reception concluded with a feast. The tables were laden with various kinds of meats and game, olives from San Diego, oranges from San Gabriel, and the famous "oven fruit" of San Antonio flour. The dishes were decorated with beautiful flowers from the garden of Felipe Garcia. After the banquet the militia, dressed in full costume, gave exhibitions of horsemanship. Then followed a bull and bear fight. The festival ended with a grand ball in the commandante's house, tendered to the Governor by the ladies of Monterey.
In September, 1821, Mexico declared her independence of Spain. She established an imperial government, and Iturbide was declaed Emperor, to be hailed as Augustin I. The news of the change in government was not known in California until February, 1822. The militia and the California junta (legislature) then assembled at Monterey and took the oath of allegiance of the new government. Then followed religious services and a sermon by Father Padres. The evening closed with illuminations, the firing of salutes and cheers -- "Viva la independencia Mejicana!" (Hurrah for the independence of Mexico). The citizens and the majority of the priests in mission and pueblo took the oath. Some padres, however, strong royalists, refused to take the oath of allegiance. They were banished from the territory.
Governor Sola, although he had boasted of his strong loyalty to Spain, turned traitor immediately, and was rewarded. He was the first Mexican govenor. His full name was Augustin Fernandez de San Vincente Sola. In August several flags of the new republic were brought to California by a high church official. Then the flag of Castile, which floated over the capitol and the custom house, was lowered and the standard of Mexico broken to the breeze. The citizens and the militia again shouted "Viva la independencia!--Viva el Emperor Augustin I!" it ended with a feast and a ball. Two years later the Mexicans dethroned their Emperor Iturbide and established a government similar in some respects to that of the United States.
The presidios were all built alike. The walls usually were built of adobe, twelve feet in height and four feet in thickness. Their length and Width was from 300 to 400 feet. A cannon was planted at the corner of each of the four walls and at the only entrance a fifth cannon was set. Inside the inclosure family houses, a church, padres' home, storehouses and corrals for stock were built.