San Francisco History

The Beginnings of San Francisco


Some years ago, on proper representation being made to the government, the war department issued the following:

"War Department, Washington, August 29, 1904.
"The following order is published to the Army for the information and guidance of all concerned.
"War Department, Washington, August 25, 1904:
"By the direction of the President, the cantonment on the military reservation at Monterey, Cal. named Ord Barracks by War Department order of July 10, 1903, will hereafter be known as the Presidio of Monterey, in perpetuation of the name of the first Spanish military station in California.
Secretary of War."

The presidio and mission of San Cárlos Borromeo were formally established by Portolá June 3, 1770, the religious ceremony being conducted by Junípero Serra, president of the California missions. In 1771 or 1772 the mission was moved from its original site near the presidio to the Rio del Cármelo, about one league distant. In 1777 Monterey was made the capital of the Californias—Alta and Baja California being united under one governor—and with the exception of a few years when the seat of government was at Los Angeles it remained the capital of Alta California until the American occupation.

Count Cárlos Borromeo, for whom the presidio and mission were named, was an Italian nobleman, son of the Count of Arona and nephew of Pope Pius IV. He was born in Arona October 2, 1538. At the age of twenty two he was created cardinal and soon after made archbishop of Milan. He devoted much time to reforming abuses which had grown up in the church and to the establishment of seminaries, colleges, and communities for the education of candidates for holy orders. To the people he was ever the friend and counselor. His life was spent in their service; in succoring the sick; in relieving distress whenever and wherever he found it. His heart, his hand, and his purse were always open. In 1576 when Milan was visited by the plague, he went about giving directions for accommodating the sick and burying the dead, avoiding no danger and sparing no expense. He visited all the neighboring parishes where the contagion raged, distributing money, providing accommodations for the sick, and punishing those, especially the clergy, who were remiss in discharging their duties. Moving calmly amid the panic stricken people "he was brave where all others were cowards, full of compassion where pity had been crushed out of all other breasts by the instinct of self preservation gone mad with terror; cheering all, praying with all, helping all with hand, brain, and purse; at a time when parents forsook their children, the friend deserted the friend, and the brother turned away from the sister while her pleadings were still wailing in his ears.” {Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad. Autograph Ed. 231-2.}

The reforms instituted by Borromeo were fiercely opposed by the civil authorities and by several religious orders. The governor and many of the senators addressed remonstrances to the courts of Rome and Madrid, and a conspiracy, which failed, was formed against his life. His manifold labors and austerities appear, however, to have shortened his life. He was seized with an intermittent fever, and died at Milan on the 4th of November 1584. He was canonized in 1610, and his day is November 4th. Contrary to his last wishes a memorial was erected to him in Milan cathedral, as well as a statue seventy feet high on the hill above Arona.



"The Kings of Tarshish and of the Isles shall bring presents, the Kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts" {Ps. lxxii, 10}. The Three Kings of Cologne: Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar—the three wise men of the East—are honored at the feast of the Epiphany as the first of the pagans to whom the birth of the Messiah was announced.

On the 16th of November 1542, Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo, a Portuguese "very conversant with matters of the sea," in command of the San Salvador (flag ship) and La Victoria, vessels sent by the viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza, to explore the northern coasts of New Spain, found himself upon a large gulf that looked like a harbor and after beating about this gulf all that day and night and the day following without finding any river or shelter, cast his anchor in forty fathoms in order to take possession of the land. They called the great gulf La Bahia de los Pinos, and Professor George Davidson has identified it as the Gulf of the Farallones. So far as I know, they gave no name to the cape that marks its northern point. The next visitor of whom we have record was Francis Drake who anchored in the little bay under Punta de los Reyes June 17, 1579. He gave the point no name although the bay bears his. Next came Sebastian Rodrigues Cermeño, whose ship, the San Agustin, was lost here in 1595. It remained for Sebastian Vizcaino, to whom we are indebted for so many beautiful names, to honor the Three Kings of Cologne by naming for them the Punta de los Reyes.

"The Capitana (Flag-ship, San Diego) and Fragata (Tres Reyes) had no sooner left the harbor of Monterey (January 3, 1603) to seek for the Cabo de Mendocino, than they had a formidable wind which lasted to the sixth of January, the day of Los Santos Reyes, and carried them beyond the Puerto de San Francisco (Drake's bay), and the day after that of Los Reyes, which was the 7th of January, the wind suddenly shifted to the northwest and blew somewhat fiercely but they were able to make some headway; and the Fragata concluding there was no necessity to seek a harbor from this wind, continued her voyage, but Vizcaino returned with the Capitana to the Puerto de San Francisco to await the return of the Fragata * * * and learn if anything was to be found of the ship San Agustin which came upon the coast in 1595, * * * and was wrecked and driven on shore by a contrary wind. * * *

"The Capitana came to anchor behind a point of land which makes this port, and which he (Vizcaino) called La Punta de los Reyes."  {Venegas: Noticia de la California.}



José Francisco Ortega, the discover of the bay of San Francisco, was born in the city of Celayo, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, in 1734. He enlisted in the company of the royal presidio of Loreto (Lower California), October 1, 1755; was made a corporal August 3, 1756, and a sergeant February 8, 1757. On the 14th of August 1773, Ortega was made a lieutenant and assigned to the command of San Diego. During this year Junípero Serra, who had quarreled with Captain Fages, the comandante of California, made a trip to the city of Mexico to induce the viceroy, Bucaréli, to recall Fages, and he wished him to appoint Ortega to the command, saying that the señores of the regular army were unfitted by education and training for the peculiar duties required of a commander of a frontier department "not being versed in the service of the soldados de cuera, totally different from that of the other troops." Bucaréli agreed to recall Fages, realizing that to obtain the best results from the reduction of California there must be harmony between the military and religious branches of the government. He demurred however, to the appointment of Ortega, urging want of rank, but probably not wishing to have a comandante too much under the influence of the venerable priest. Junípero said that the objection regarding Ortega's want of rank was easily overcome, but Bucaréli settled the matter by appointing Captain Fernando Rivera y Moncada, the commander of the presidio of Loreto, and Ortega was given his lieutenancy and sent to San Diego. While Ortega was in command at San Diego there occurred the first serious trouble with the Indians of California. On the night of November 4-5, 1775, without warning, a body of eight or ten hundred savages attacked the mission, burned the church and other buildings, and killed one of the priests, a carpenter, and a blacksmith. The mission guard finally beat them off but not until all the soldiers were badly wounded. Ortega was absent at the time, having gone with about one half of his force to establish the mission of San Juan Capistrano. Being notified by messenger of the disaster, he at once returned and took active measures to repress the revolt.

In 1781 Ortega founded the presidio of Santa Barbara where he served as comandante until 1784. In 1782 he founded the mission of San Buenaventura. From 1784 to 1787 he served on the frontier in various excursions and explorations, and in September 1787 was assigned to the command of Monterey. Here he served until 1791 when he was transferred to Loreto where he succeeded Captain Arrillaga, later governor of California, and in 1795 was retired as brevet captain and attached to the Santa Barbara presidio. He died February 3, 1798, and was buried in the Santa Barbara mission.

The blood of this interesting pioneer of California flows in the veins of many prominent families of the state, as the De la Guerra, Bandini, Wilcox, More, Vallejo, Carrillo, Castro, and others will testify. His sons became ranchero princes and his granddaughters wives of governors. His wife was María Antonia Victoria Carrillo, who outlived him, dying May 8, 1803.



San Buenaventura (Giovanni de Fidenza) was born in Bagnorea, Italy, in 1221; died in Lyons, France, July 15, 1274. He became general of the Franciscans in 1256 and was canonized in 1482. He was greatly beloved and received the title of doctor serafico. When the settlement of California was decided on, it was ordered that a mission should be established at San Diego bay, one at Monterey bay, and one to be known as San Buenaventura, in honor of the doctor serafico, at a point to be selected between the two. The mission was founded by Junípero Serra March 31, 1782, in presence of the governor, Don Felipe de Neve, the troops being under command of Lieutenant Don José Francisco de Ortega. A thriving town of thirty-five hundred inhabitants is the result of that establishment. The postal authorities some years ago changed the name to Ventura.



Don Pedro Fages, first comandante and fourth governor of California, was born in Catalonia, Spain, and came to Mexico in 1767 with the First battalion, Second regiment, Catalonia Volunteers, in which he held the rank of lieutenant. In the autumn of 1768 he joined the California expedition by order of Galvez, being appointed jefe de las armas to the expedition, and with twenty-five of his men, sailed for San Diego bay on the ill-fated San Cárlos. While still weak and sick from the scurvy he joined Portolá on his march to Monterey; and also accompanied him on his second expedition in 1770, which founded the presidio and mission of Monterey, when he was appointed by Portolá comandante of California. In November 1770, he made a brief exploring trip to the bay of San Francisco, going perhaps as far as San Leandro creek on the Alameda coast, while his men pushed on to Carquines strait. He was made a captain May 4, 1771, and in 1772 he explored the eastern and southern coasts of San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun bays, and the San Joaquin river. He gave the name of Rio de San Francisco to the waters now known as the straits of Carquines, Suisun bay, and San Joaquin river. In 1773 Junípero Serra, with whom he had quarreled, procured his recall and he was ordered to join his battalion at Real de Minas de Pachuca, Mexico. He turned over his command to Rivera March 24, 1774, and sailed with his Catalans for Mexico; the places of the infantrymen being filled with soldados de cuera brought by Rivera.

In a subsequent letter to the viceroy Serra expresses regret for the removal of Fages, commendation for his services, and a desire that he be favored by the government.

Fages made two trips to the Rio Colorado in 1781-2 to punish the Yumas for the massacre and destruction of the Colorado missions, and on July 12, 1782, was appointed governor of California, having previously been made a lieutenant-colonel, and reached the capital, Monterey, the following November. In 1789 he was made a colonel. He was retired at his own request April 16, 1791, and died in Mexico in 1796. His wife was Doña Eulalia Calis, whom he married in Catalonia. One child, María del Carmen, was born in San Francisco August 3, 1784.

Don Pedro Fages was a pioneer of pioneers, a brave soldier, and undaunted explorer and a gallant and picturesque figure of early California. He is described in his latter days as a tall, stout man of generous, open disposition, very fond of children, who used to search his pockets for the cakes and confections (dulces) with which he used to fill them for their delight.



As the first ship to enter the port of San Francisco the packet San Cárlos is entitled to notice here. We are told that the two paquebots, San Cárlos and San Antonio, were built in 1768 at the newly constructed dock yards of San Blas, by order of the Most Illustrious Señor Don José de Galvez, visitador-general of New Spain, for the contemplated expedition to San Diego and Monterey. Costansó, engineer and officer of the regular army, who accompanied the expedition, says that in all the coasts of New Spain the only maritime forces that could be used to oppose foreign invasion were these two packets and two other vessels of smaller tonnage which served the Jesuit missionaries of Baja California in their communications with the coasts of Sonora and New Galicia. The two packets made their maiden voyages in March 1768, sailing from San Blas with troops for Guaymas. Returning to San Blas they were ordered to La Paz, Lower California, to take on a portion of the California expedition and stores for the new foundations. The San Cárlos reached La Paz December 15th, leaking badly from the rough handling of the seas. Under the forceful supervision of the señor visitador she was careened, her gaping seams closed, and on January 10th sailed, under command of Don Vicente Vila, for San Diego bay, the rendezvous of the expedition. She carried Lieutenant Fages and his company of infantry, Engineer Costansó, Surgeon Pratt, and for the spiritual care of all, the very reverend Father Fray Fernando Parron.

Owing to the constancy of the north and northwest winds which so greatly opposed the navigation of the coasts of California, the San Cárlos found herself driven far out of her course, short of water, and obliged to put into the island of Cedros for a fresh supply. At last on April 29th, she reached San Diego in a most deplorable condition, all hands sick with scurvy, of which two had died, and only four sailors able to keep the deck. The San Antonio had arrived eighteen days before in much the same condition, but seeing no signs of the other divisions of the expedition, had made no attempt to land. Encouraged now by the presence of her consort an exploring party was sent out to find water and preparations were made to land the sick. Hospital tents were erected on the beach, protected by palisades, the sick removed to them and all that could be was done for them. No one was well and the labor of the few who remained on their feet was very great and rapidly increased as their numbers lessened; while of the sick several died every day, until of all who had sailed on the two ships two-thirds were laid under the sands of Punta de los Muertos (Deadmen's Point). The Indians, of whom there were many, were a miserable lot, thievish and impudent, and altogether the colonists found themselves in a most critical situation. Their medicines were gone and but very little food was left when on May 14th, the first division of the land expedition under Rivera arrived. Rivera was also short of provisions but his men were all well and his arrival changed the aspect of the camp of desolation. It was determined to send the San Antonio back for supplies; all the available sailors were placed on her and she sailed for San Blas June 8th with eight men for a crew. On June 29th the second land division under Portolá arrived with one hundred and sixty-three mules laden with provisions. On July 14th Portolá began his march to Monterey leaving his sick under protection of a guard, and the San Cárlos swinging at her cables without a sailor to her deck.

The voyage of the San Cárlos in 1775 for the survey of the bay of San Francisco is told in chapter ii of the narrative.

On the 5th of June 1776, the San Cárlos sailed from Monterey for San Francisco under command of Don Fernando Quiros, lieutenant of man-of-war, having on board a portion of the soldiers for the San Francisco presidio, two cannon and other arms, and the supplies for the presidio and mission. The distance was only eighty-five miles and she made it in seventy-three days. Entering the port of San Francisco August 18th, Quiros at once landed his men and the work of erecting the presidio buildings was pushed with vigor.

In August 1779 the San Cárlos, under command of Don Juan Manuel de Ayala, sailed for Manila where Ayala was transferred to another ship and returned to New Spain in 1781.

It is possible that the San Cárlos was wrecked in the Philippines or she may have been broken up, and another ship, larger and better equipped, built to take her place, as a paquebot, San Cárlos, was later engaged in naval service on the northwestern coast of America. The fact that this San Cárlos was also called "El Filipino," while the alias of the original packet was "El Toison de Oro," would seem to indicate that the San Cárlos of 1788-1797 was a ship built in the Philippines. In view of the record here given of the different voyages of the original San Cárlos, viz.: La Paz to San Diego, 110 days; San Blas to Monterey, 101 days; Monterey to San Francisco (1776) 73 days, it must be admitted that she was ill-fitted for her work. She was small—of the caravel type—high poop and low waist—and had three masts, two with square sails and one with mizzen as well as a sprit sail on bowsprit. The packet San Cárlos alias El Filipino was lost in San Francisco bay March 31, 1797.

{Fray Zepherin Englehardt, in his book just out, Missions and Missionaries of California, says that the San Cárlos, a vessel built in the Philippines, arrived thence, at San Diego, December 9, 1781, under command of Juan Gonzales.}



Anza writing January 13, 1775, says: "This place (Arizona) is famous for the balls of virgin silver found in 1736 which weighed up to one hundred and fifty arrobas (3750 lbs.) The fact has been doubted but it is certain, and many are living of those who possessed them and I can equally give documents which accredit it; since my father, acting by advice of persons learned in the law, attached them because it appeared to him they belonged to his majesty, and while his action was not entirely approved by the tribunal at the city of Mexico, it was by the royal council of Castile."

Arizona, or as it was sometimes written Arizonac was a real de minas, (mining camp), in the Arizona mountains on the head waters of the Rio del Altar just below the boundary line of Arizona, to which territory it gave its name, about ten or twelve miles east of Nogales. The mines were called Las Bolas de Plata—The Balls of Silver. The discovery of these wonderful deposits created great excitement and brought a crowd of treasure seekers into the district. Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, father of the explorer, who was in command of the presidio of Fronteras and acted as judge and recorder of the district, claimed that the deposits did not constitute a mine proper but were hidden treasure or a criadero de plata—growing place of silver—and as such were not subject to denouncement, but belonged to the king. In this he was sustained by royal decree of May 28, 1741, but by that time the deposits were about exhausted and the Apaches had driven the miners out. The bolas, which were of almost pure silver, weighed from twelve pounds to a ton and a half.



Padre José Ortega of the Company of Jesus has given us in his Breve Elogio del Padre Kino, a fairly comprehensive account of the life and adventures of the famous explorer and missionary, Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino. In addition to this we have the diary of Lieutenant Mange, his escort from 1694 to 1701.

Eusebio Kino or Kuhne was born in Trent in the Austrian Tyrol about 1640 and educated at Ala in Tyrol. Recovering from a serious illness through the intercession of San Francisco Xavier, patron of the Indies, he adopted that saint's name, incorporating it with his own, and declining the offer of a professorship of mathematics in the college of Ingolstadt in Bavaria, devoted his life to the conversion of the American Indians. He came to Mexico in 1680 or 1681 and for thirty years labored among the Indians of the Pimería, the Papaguería, the Gila, and the Colorado. Commencing his missionary work in Sonora in 1687, Kino established a number of missions in Pimería. In 1690 he made his first entrance into what is now Arizona, and in 1694 followed down the Rio Altar to the Gulf of California. In 1694, Domingo Crusati, commanding in Sonora, appointed his nephew, Juan Mateo Mange, a lieutenant in the companía volante of Sonora, a guard to accompany the padre and write official reports of all his discoveries. In November 1694, Kino reached the Gila and said mass in the Casa Grande. In the autumn of 1698 Kino was requested by the viceroy to make a reconnaissance of northern Pimería and Papaguería with a view of ascertaining if supplies could be sent from that quarter to Padre Juan María Salvatierra then operating in the peninsula of Baja California. Kino went to the Gila via San Javier del Bac, proceeded down the river some distance and then struck off to the southwest towards the gulf. From the Cerro Santa Clara (Gila range) he saw how the gulf ended at the disemboguement of the Rio Colorado. From here he returned via the Camino del Diablo, thence to Caborca. On the 7th of February 1699, Kino started from the mission of Dolores on the western fork of the Sonora river and traveled in a westerly direction to San Marcelo de Sonoita; thence by way of the Camino del Diablo to the Gila, and returned via the Gila and Santa Cruz rivers to his mission—virtually Anza's route of 1774 across the Papaguería. In 1700 he started in September for the Gila via the Santa Cruz valley, journeyed down the Gila to its confluence with the Colorado, and returned over the Camino del Diablo to Sonoita, to San Luis de Bacapa, San Eduardo, Caborca, Tabutama, and San Ignacio: Anza's route of 1775-6. Kino's map, dated 1702, has often been republished, and Anza probably had a copy of it. He refers to Kino, whom he called Quino, and also to the diary of Lieutenant Mange, corrects their latitude and says he cannot find the Sierra Azul and the Rio Amarillo mentioned by Mange. Kino made his last journey over the Camino del Diablo to Las Tinajas Altas in November 1706, and climbing to the heights of the Cerro de Santa Clara gazed for the last time upon the waters of the gulf and the continent of the Californias, and then returned to his cell in the mission of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. The work of the great missionary was done, though he continued to labor with tongue and pen until his death in 1710 or 1711, at seventy years of age, twenty-four of which were in the Pimería.



The second, third, and fourth tanks may be reached by climbing the steep water-worn rocks on the left of the gorge, but the upper ones can only be reached by ascending to a height of several hundred feet the steep ravine on the right of the gorge and being lowered by ropes from above. The United States and Mexican Boundary Survey commission of 1891-96 replenished the water in the lower tank by siphoning from those above by means of a length of garden hose. Water can usually be found at all times in some of these tanks as there is no loss from seepage, and as the steep rock surrounds and overhangs the tanks and greatly retards evaporation, to what extent is shown by the fact that on reconnaissance by the commission from Yuma to Quitobaquita in the winter of 1893, these tanks were found nearly half full, although the rainfall at Yuma for the preceding twelve months had aggregated less than three-fourths of an inch, a remarkable deficiency even for that dry section.

Yet even here the Camino del Diablo claimed its victims. Captain Gaillard of the commission states that during the gold immigration of 1849 some of the pilgrims reached the tanks to find the water all gone, and too weak to go further, lay down and died; others reached the place in such a state of exhaustion that, unless water was found in the lower tank they were too feeble to climb to the next and perished miserably, their horrors aggravated by the thought that the water, for want of which they were dying, was but a few yards off had they but the strength to reach it. Fifty graves near the foot of the tanks, marked by rough stones piled in the form of a cross, testify to the numbers of these victims. {Gaillard: Perils and Wonders of a True Desert.}

At the Tinajas Altas Anza tells us a wonderful story of the mountain sheep and their horns. The Boundary commission notes the quantity of these horns near the Tinajas Altas and the Cabaza Prieta and says: "Many years ago the Papagos were accustomed to camp at these tinajas for the purpose of hunting big horns or mountain sheep which then, as now, constituted the principal inhabitants of these desolate sierras. In the vicinity of the tanks are still seen the remains of their old camps, around which are strewn the horns of the mountain sheep, as many as twenty or thirty pairs having been counted at a single camp." The horns however were there for a purpose, and Anza explains it to us, but in terms so extraordinary as to be unintelligible to me until, after much investigation, I succeeded, with the aid of Mr. F. W. Hodge of the Bureau of American Ethnology, in getting light upon the matter. It appears that there was an ancient superstition among the Pimas and Papagos that the horns of the mountain sheep exerted an influence on the air and the rains. They never brought the horns home but piled them in some place in the hills near the aguages where they held in check the evil influences of the elements, and no one was permitted to disturb or remove them.



The principal in the move to oppose the passage of the river by the Spaniards was the chief of a tribe, kindred with the Yumas and subject to them, to whom the Spaniards gave the name of Captain Feo on account of his ugly (feo) looks. The men under Captain Feo's command were about as numerous as those under Palma. He is described as a great preacher, with a thick voice, given to long harangues, and was suspected also of being a sorcerer. He set himself to count the Spaniards and seeing there were but few of them told his people that it would not be difficult to kill them and take their horses and property. Anza sent him warning that if he began hostilities against the Spaniards they would bring sufficient force against him to destroy him.


Source: Eldredge, Zoeth Skinner. The Beginnings of San Francisco. 1912: San Francisco.

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