José María Echeandia (?-1871)

Quite a little has been said about this, the only governor of California who made his residence in San Diego. A few more personal details will be given at this place.

Before coming to California, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel connected with a college of engineers in Mexico. Besides Robinson’s statement that he was “a tall, gaunt personage,” who received him “with true Spanish dignity and politeness,” we learn from Bancroft that he was “tall, slight and well formed, with fair complexion, hair not quite black, scanty beard . . . and a pleasing face and expression. His health was very delicate. In his speech he affected the Castilian pronunciation, noticeably in giving the ‘ll,’ ‘c’ and ‘z’ their proper sounds.” He was somewhat absent-minded at times. Some of his contemporaries regarded him as a capricious despot, who would carry out a whim without regard to results; others thought he lacked energy; and still others say he was popular, but overindulgent and careless. Pio Pico found him affable, but apathetic. Alfred Robinson, the son-in-law of Captain de la Guerra y Noriega, who strongly opposed Echeandía in the matter of the secularization of the missions, calls him “the scourge of California, and instigator of vice, who sowed seeds of dishonor not to be extirpated while a mission remains to be robbed.” Wm. A. Gale found him a man of undecided character, trying to please everybody. After leaving California he was very poor until 1835, when, an earthquake having damaged a number of buildings, his services as engineer were in demand and he became prosperous. In 1855 he was arrested by Santa Ana for some political cause, but released. Two step-daughters took care of him in his old age, and he died before 1871.

[from Smythe, William Ellsworth. History of San Diego, 1542-1908. San Diego: History Co., 1907. (pages 168-169)]

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