The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1976, Volume 22, Number 4
James E. Moss, Editor
Thomas L. Scharf, Assistant Editor

By W. Michael Mathes

Images from the Article

Background: 1768-1776

The Californias in 1776 were on the threshold of a new era; the implementing of the second stage of expansion and defense initiated by Visitor General José de Gálvez eight years earlier. In 1768 the Society of Jesus had been expelled from Spanish domains, and the seventeen missions it had founded during the preceding seventy years in peninsular California were transferred to the control of the Order of Saint Francis. This move was but a single facet of planning by Gálvez, first in Mexico, and later at the Real de Santa Ana south of La Paz, in concert with Fray Junipero Serra, the newly appointed Father President of the Califor­nia missions. Apart from the occupation of the ex-Jesuit missions by the less politically oriented Franciscans, Gálvez envisioned the expansion of the mission-presidio field to Alta California through the establishment of the Naval Department of San Blas, on the coast of Nayarit, to resolve the two hundred year old problem of supply to the region. The years following saw the gradual fruition of Gálvez’ plan. In 1769 Serra established missions at San Fernando Velicáda and San Diego de Alcalá, and Gaspar de Portolá explored the Alta California coastal plain to San Francisco Bay. As a result of Portolá’s expedition, in 1770 Serra founded mission San Carlos Borromeo at Monterey, and in the following year as intervening stations, he established San Antonio de Padua and San Gabriel Arcángel. Full concentration upon Alta California by the Franciscans was permitted by the transfer of the peninsular missions south of Arroyo San Miguel to the Dominicans in 1772, the same year in which the fifth Alta California mission, San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, was founded by Serra.

As the Alta California mission field advanced, the activities of supply and exploration by the Naval Department of San Blas increased. In 1774 Juan Pérez and Fray Juan Crespi explored the coast northward to 55° latitude, thus opening the Pacific Northwest to Spanish expansion. This geographic extension of the Californias placed a greater burden upon San Blas and plans were put in motion to establish a land route for supply to Alta California, the realization of the hopes of Jesuit Fathers Eusebio Francisco Kino and Juan María de Salvatierra of seventy five years earlier.

In 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza and Fray Francisco Hermenegildo Garcés set out from Tubac in southern Arizona and established a mission to the Yumans on the Colorado River. Anza continued his march through San Gabriel and up the coast to Monterey in 1775, thus opening an overland route to the new missions. In anticipation of this relief upon San Bias, in the same year Bruno de Hezeta and Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra explored the coast to Trinidad Bay and Vancouver Island, with Bodega reaching 58° North Latitude. As a part of these expeditions, in August, 1775 Juan Manuel de Ayala entered and charted San Francisco Bay.

Notwithstanding the many advances made in the development of the Californias between 1768 and 1775, the region remained dependent upon the mission systems of the Dominicans and Franciscans, with Alta California a distant outpost governed from Loreto, a thousand miles to the southeast of Monterey. Thus, in 1776 several major problems presented themselves for solution by the administrators of the Californias. The high debt, mounting costs and few ships available in the Naval Department of San Blas for the provision of supplies to Loreto and Alta California, as well as the exploration of the Pacific Northwest, required immediate attention, with some relief seen through the opening of overland routes from Sonora and New Mexico; expansion to the Pacific Northwest was considered of major importance to halt the exaggerated threat of Russian, and possibly English, encroachment in the area. Of a more local concern was the founding of a mission and presidio at San Francisco to protect and utilize the bay for northern expansion as well as the western terminus of a land route from New Mexico. Foremost, however, was the reestablishment of San Diego, abandoned following a revolt in November, 1775 which brought martyrdom to Fray Luis Jayme and forced the withdrawl of Fray Fermín Francisco de Lasuén from San Juan Capistrano, founded a few weeks earlier.

The Californias: 1776

The government of New Spain, of which the Californias were the most remote province, was under Viceroy José María Bucareli y Urstúa, a capable administrator desirous of expanding and strengthening his domains. Felipe de Neve, governor of the province with his capital at Loreto, was likewise extremely capable; his task of administration was both military and civil. He would ultimately become the Commandant General of the Provincias Internas, a political subdivision of the northern frontier of New Spain planned by Gálvez and established by Teodoro de Croix at Arispe, Sonora pursuant to a Royal Order of Carlos III of 22 August 1776.

Essentially military in nature, the de facto administration of the Californias was under the commandants of the presidios who were directly responsible to Neve. In command at Loreto was Joaquin Cañete who was also ultimately the commander of detachments of soldiers at the Real de Santa Ana and at Santo Domingo, the northernmost Dominican mission on the peninsula. Fernando de Rivera y Moncada served as commandant of the presidio of Monterey, established in 1770, but in 1776 he directed military operations from the presidio of San Diego where he sought to restore order.

The missions were, nevertheless, the principal bastions of Spanish civilization in the Californias. In 1776 their composition was as follows:

Dominican Missions in Baja California-1

1. Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó: Father President Fray Vicente Mora, Fray Nicolás Antonio Muñoz; 150 Cochimi neophytes and Indians in naval service in San Blas.

2. San Francisco Javier Viggé-Biaundó: Fray Fernando Parrón; 200 Cochimi neophytes.

3. San José de Comondfú: Fray Ricardo Tejeiro; 200 Cochimi neophytes.

4. La Purísima Concepción de Cadegomó: Fray Antonio Sánchez; 150 Cochimi neophytes.

5. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Huasinapí: Fray Rafael Arviña; 130 Cochimi neophytes.

6. Todos Santos: Fray Mariano Fernández; 400 Guaycura and Pericú neophytes.

7. Santiago de los Coras: Fray Francisco Hontijuelo; 200 Pericú neophytes.

8. San José del Cabo: Fray Pablo Zárate; 80 Pericú neophytes.

9. Santa Rosalía de Muleg&eaucte;: Fray José Herrera; 100 Cochimi neophytes; mission recovering from a major flood in 1771.

10. San Ignacio Kadakaaman: Fray Juan Crisóstomo Gómez; 500 Cochimi neophytes.

11. Santa Gertrudis: Fray Jos&eaucte; Espin; 1,000 Cochimi neophytes.

12. San Francisco Borja: Fray Manuel Garcia; 500 Cochimi neophytes.

13. San Fernando Velicatá: Fray Miguel Hidalgo; 1,400 Cochimi neophytes.

14. Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de Viñadaco: Fray Francisco Galisteo; 580 Cochimi neophytes; founded 1774.

15. Santo Domingo de la Frontera: Fray Manuel Garcia; 75 Ñakipa neophytes; founded 1775.

Franciscan Missions in Alta California —2 1. San Diego de Alcalá: Fray Junípero Serra; Fernando de Rivera y Moncada; Diego Choquet, captain of the San Antonio; in process of recovery from revolt.

2. San Carlos Borromeo: Fray Junípero Serra; 365 Monterey Costanoan neophytes.

3. San Antonio de Padua: Frailes Buenaventura Sitjar, Francisco Dumetz; 365 San Antonio Salinan neophytes.

4. San Gabriel Arcángel: Frailes Antonio Cruzado, Miguel Francisco Sánchez, Fermin Francisco de Lasuén; 365 Gabrielino neophytes.

5. San Luis Obispo de Tolosa: Frailes José Cavalier, Pablo Jos&eaucte; Murgátegui, Vicente Fuster (escaped from San Diego revolt); 365 Obispeño Chumash neophytes.

6. San Juan Capistrano: abandoned until November, 1776 due to revolt in San Diego.

7. San Francisco de Asís: mission planned; Fray Francisco Palóu at site, 27 June 1776; dedicated, 9 October 1776.

The Californias: 4 July 1776

At the Naval Department of San Blas the Santiago was in port, the Concepción and Sonora were en route to Loreto with supplies, and the San Carlos and Príncipe were in service in Alta California. Planning for voyages to the Pacific Northwest was in process, and Comissary Francisco Hijosa was deeply concerned with fulfilling the many obligations of his post.3 Hopefully, Frailes Anastasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante who were at Santa Fé, New Mexico preparing an overland expedition to the Pacific, would discover the fabled Rio de Buenaventura, reputed to flow westward from Utah to San Francisco Bay, and thus reduce the burden of San Blas.4

Defense of the northern frontier and the subsequent creation of the Provincias Internas, and later a new viceroyalty, was envisioned. With this, the political division of the Californias was planned, and on 8 July, José de Gálvez, then Minister of the Indies, issued orders to Felipe de Neve to establish a new capital in Monterey for Alta California, a move which would take place in the following year.5 The importance of this northern defense would acquire new dimensions for an English expedition under James Cook with the Resolution and Endeavor was en route to the Pacific Northwest where they would commence British involvement in the sea otter fur trade.

San Francisco had been reached overland from Sonora by Juan Bautista de Anza in 1776, and Fray Francisco Palóu and Lieutenant José Joaquin Moraga were exploring the area while awaiting the arrival of supplies on the packet San Carlos at anchor in the harbor at Monterey.6 Anza had returned to Sonora and was preparing his departure at San Miguel de Horcasitas for Mexico with Salvador Palma, a Yuma headman, to report to Bucareli. Anza’s Franciscan companions had also left San Francisco and Monterey; Fray Pedro Font was at Ures, Sonora, while Fray Francisco Hermenegildo Garcés was crossing the lower Mojave desert.7

Father President Fray Junípero Serra and Commandant Fernando de Rivera y Moncada were involved in the reestablishment of San Diego. Although Serra’s prime concern was for the stabilization of the southern region, he also looked forward to establishing another northern mission, Santa Clara de Asís.8 Rivera, an experienced frontier soldier, was not pleased with the manner in which Serra sought to control affairs, and there was friction between the two men. Nevertheless, in that the mission lands maintained the livestock for the area, he requested that Serra slaughter a bull to supply the troops working on the presidio.9

The Capital: Summer, 1776

Governor Felipe de Neve, writing from Loreto, was actively involved in seeking solutions to the problems of his extensive jurisdiction. On 9 May he reported to Bucareli that livestock would be supplied to Alta California, with preference to San Francisco, from the herds at San José de Comondú, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Hpasinapi, San Ignacio Kadakaamán, and San Francisco Borja to avoid dependence upon San Blas.10

Bucareli answered Neve on 24 July in two letters. In the first, he dealt extensively with both Californias, granting permission to send a soldier to Sonora from Loreto to recruit nine soldiers needed for the complement of that presidio and stating that he would notify the Royal Officials of Alamos to cooperate. Nevertheless, he continued, it would be more advantageous for the packet Concepción to bring recruits from San Blas in that twenty five soldiers for San Diego, recruited by Pedro Fages in Guadalajara, were already at the port, the other men had probably been recruited in Tepic, that any number in excess of twenty five might remain in Loreto, and, that if there were sufficient troops, the soldier sent to Sonora could return. He concluded stating that he awaited reports relative to the dispatching of livestock for the new missions.1 In the second letter the viceroy acknowledged the report of compliance with his order of 2 July 1775 prohibiting alcoholic beverages, especially mezcal, on the peninsula.12

At the mission, Fray Nicolás Antonio Muñoz recorded three baptisms. On 13 July, Juan Gualberto Joseph, an Indian, son of Bartolomé Luis and Rosa Villamil was baptized with Bonifacio Valadaz and Juana Pascuala as Godparents. Four days later, Joseph Ignacio, son of Joseph Manuel Pérez and María Morillo was baptized, his Godparents being Joseph María Duarte and Ana María Alvarado. The final entry, on 20 July, was for Joseph Güero, son of Gregorio Salazar and María Guadalupe, his Godmother being Francisca Velázquez, wife of Sebastián Arce.13

Distant and remote, the events taking place in Philadelphia on 4 July had no immediate repercussions in the Californias. Eventually, Spain would ally with the rebellious colonists and, although a continent apart, Californians would indirectly contribute to the independence of the United States; however, in 1776, they had their own problems to resolve and were safe from the turmoil of the Atlantic seaboard.


1. W. Michael Mathes, Misiones de Baja California — Missions of Baja California. La Paz: Ayuntamiento de La Paz, 1976. passim.

2. Maynard Geiger, Franciscan Missionaries in Hispanic California, 1769-1848. San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1969. passim. Population figures are averaged from the 2,947 baptisms at eight missions reported by Serra, 1770-1778, and are, at best, approximate. Zephyrin Engelhardt, The Missions and Missionaries of Calfornia. Santa Bárbara: Mission Santa Bárbara, 1930. II, 323.

3. Archivo Histórico Pablo L. Martínez, La Paz (AHPLM). La Colonia, legajo 1, documento 26.

4. The expedition was halted from westward movement by the canyon country of southeast Utah. See: Herbert E. Bolton, Pageant in the Wilderness. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1950. passim.

5. Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla. Guadalajara 513.

6. Herbert E. Bolton, ed. Historical Memoirs of New California by Fray Francisco Palóu, O.F.M. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1926. IV, 120-122.

7. Herbert E. Bolton, ed. Anza’s California Expeditions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1930. I, 486-495; III, 193, 307.

8. Antonine Tibesar, ed. Writings of Junípero Serra. Washington: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1956. III, 9-27.

9. Ernest J. Burrus, ed. Diario del Capitán Comandante Fernando de Rivera y Moncada. Madrid: Ediciones Jos&eacuts; Porrúa Turanzas, 1967. 1, 278.

10. Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla. Guadalajara 514.

11. AHPLM, La Colonia, legajo 1, documento 24.

12. AHPLM, La Colonia, legajo 13, documento 3.

13. AHPLM, La Colonia, legajo 12, documento 7.


Dr. W. Michael Mathes, a Professor of History at the University of San Francisco and editorial consultant for the Journal of San Diego History, specializes in the fields of Colonial Mexico and Spanish California history. He is the author or editor of numerous books and articles including the recent California III. Documentos para la historia de la transformación colonizadora de California (1679-1686). Dr. Mathes’ article published here was a paper presented this past summer to the Twenty-second Annual Meeting of the Conference of California Historical Societies in San Francisco