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HoP: The Spanish Pioneers, Before The Gringo Came & Oncoming Of The Americans. #3

Updated: Jan 18

A Short History of California and The East Bay.

by Stephanie Warshauer

Civics Period 8. (1928)



The Spanish Pioneers.


California is a child of Spain. In discovery, early exporaton, and colonization Spain was the pioneer nation of the New World. In Europe she was without an equal among nations; in America her opportunity was matchless. "They were Spaniards who first saw and explored the greatest gulf in the world; Spaniards who discovered the two greatest rivers; Spaniards who first knew that there were two continents of America; Spaniards who first went around the world."


Twenty-one years after Columbus discovered America, Balboa saw for the first time the Pacific Ocean. But long before Balboa stood on the mountain peak in Darien, men of other countries had come to the lands washed by the sunset seas. Scientists have found strange signs and symbols which to indicate, that for centuries before the Spanish explorers set foot on this soil, other men of other lands had been here before them. In view of this fact, however, Balboa was the first one to leave an authentic record of his discoveries, he 1s given first place in California history.


While the first Spanish explorer to connect his name directly with California was Hernando Cortes, who landed in America six years after Balboa discovered the Pacific, yet it was Balboa's daring that opened the various trails which led to the development of the lands bordering on the great western sea.


Twenty-eight years after the discovery of America by Columbus, Cortes with a small army sailed into the Mexican harbor at Vera Cruz. Cortes killed the Indian chief, and, as conqueror, assumed the title of the ruler of all Mexico.


It was not long until the urge came to him to make explorations to the north. In 1522 he founded at Zacautula the first shipyard on the Pacific Coast. A crew under Fortun Jiminez set out and sailed into a harbor now known as La Paz, Lower Calfornia. So far as is known Jiminez was the first white man to set foot on California land.


The news caried to Cortez he set out and landed at La Paz, which he named Santa Cruz, on May 3, 1535, and founded the first Spanish settlement In California.


It was soon after this that the name California was applied to all the territory north of Mexico bordering on the sea, from the Gulf of Mexico to the mythicals Straits of Anian.

After the settlement of La Paz, Cortes sent out other expeditions. One discovered that Baja California was not an island but a peninsula. Cortes was the first of those great Spanish explorers who laid the foundation of a mighty civilization, not only in California, but the entire west coast of America.


On the twenty- eighth of September, 1542, Cabrillo, a native of Portugal, sailed from Natividad on the west coast of Mexico in search of the Straits of Anian, and with ships entered the beautiful and wonderful bay of San Diego.


Cabrillo sailed up the coast. He gave to in any of the places where he anchored the names by which we still call them. After the death of Cabrillo Ferrelo carried on his expeditions. He sailed on until he reached Oregon. Cabrillo was a great man because he was trying to be of real service to mankind and plunder for gold.


For nearly fifty years after Cortes returned to Spain there were no important new discoveries on the California coast by Spaniards. Then in 1596 Vizcaino set out to take possession of the pearl fishiers in Baja California. In a second expedition Vizcanino a1scovered the wonderful harbor at Monterey and called it Monterey Bay. It was not until 1768, when Jose de Galvez began to be interested in Alta California, that the romantic days of the Spanish settlements and the uplift by the padres began.


One of the most important discoveries made in Alta California was by Sir Francis Drake, a daring British navigator. Drake sailed past San Francisco Bay and anchored his boat in what is now called Sir Francis Drake Bay.


The king of Spain, fearing more plunders by the English, ordered that the coast of California be searched for a safe and secure harbor. The result was that Vizcaino sailed up the coast of California. This proved to be one of the most memorable voyages in California history, especially so because later generations felt so dependent on Vizcaino's records as a guide to further explorations.


Vizcaino visited San Diego Bay, Santa Catalina, San Pedro Bay, and the most eventful discovery was that of Monterey Bay. For more than three- quarters of a century no Spanish expedition visited California. Indeed more than a hundred years passed before the dream of Vizcaino for a permanent settlement in Alta California was real-1zed in the founding of the Mission of San Diego.


Before The Gringo Came.

The original Californians were the Indians. They were called Indians because Columbus made a mistake in calling America the East Indies. The scores of nations and tribes of red men represented a great variety of culture, but not one tribe of them all was intitled to be called civilized in the full sence of the word.


In the north lived the Modocs and other strong, rugged tribes. The fate of the California Indian has indeed been most pathetic. Whole tribes were swept out of existence by the more degraded and immoral class of whites. There remains to-day only a pitiable remnant of the once populous race that flourished all up and down our rolling hills and fruitful valleys. In the stern march of progress, the native Indian of California have way to the all-conquering Aryan race, and their home of beauty and of luxury has been made to yield its ample sources, multiolied under the hand of civilization, to another and higher race.


Exploration and colonization on the Pacific coast of North America went forward for a long time much more slowley than on the Atlantic side of the continent.


In the occupation and settlement of California the missionary element was very important. It was decided to ask the Jesuits to assist in the spiritual conquest of California by establishing missions. On the fifth day of Feburary, I697, the Fathers were granted the permission to take possession of California and to settle it in the name of the King of Spain.


On the twenty-fifth day of October, I697, was the religious conquest of Lower California begun by Padre Salvatierra. The leaders who were selected to go were Gasper de Portola, Rivera, Fages, Costanso, Dr. Prat, Father Sierra, and able Father assistants. On the Sixteenth of July, 1769, Father Junipero Serra estab-11shed the mission of San Diego with appropriate ceremonies. It was the first mission established in California, and marked the beginning of history in California, the period of Spanish development.

A small group of men their hearts filled with courage and strength traveled slowly up the El Camino Real.


"Half the length of California

In the sunshine and the shade,

Past the old Franciscan missions,

Runs the road the padres made. "-- Ben Field.


It took them four days to travel where the mission of San Luis Rey now stands. The crossed the place where Los Angles now stands and gave the site that name. Portola crossed another river and named it Santa Clara. They marched on and on. Santa Barbara and on to San Luis Obispo. The provisions were low but the men kept hope and traveled onward in hope of finding Monterey Bay. The first journey ws fruitless but on the second trip Monterey Bay was found.


The missions set up a fine type of architecture from which some of the finest buildings are copied from. Stanford University is the best example. Father Serra devoted his life to the founding and caring of the missions along the El Camino Real. When the Spanish government undertook to occupy Alta California a threefold plan was devised, which included the religious foundation, the civic community, and the military garrison.

The origin of the pueblo is found in a very early period of old Spanish history. In the most general sense it is a town of any description and of any size. In 1774 orders were first given for the founding of two pueblos of San Jose and Los Angles. In Alta California four presidios, or presidal towns, were founded. These were Monterey, San Francisco, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. Monterey remained the capital city of Alta California until our American state government was begun in 1849.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century the Russians were coming into California. The main development done by the Russians was the setting up of a fur-trading industry and the establishment of Fort Ross.


With the founding of Santa Inez Mission in the autumn of I804 the spiritual occupation of California from San Diego to San Francisco was complete. The feeling of jealousy of the Russians was the main reason for the missions to be set up across San Francisco Bay. The Russians did not prosper in California so in 1839 Captain John A. Sutter purchased the bulk of their property and the Russians left California where they never returned again.


It was about the middle of July, 1769 when California became a part of the PROVINCIAS INTERNAS of New Spain. Under the Spanish rule California was but a small element in the vast colonial possessions of Spain. There was little advance of the people or country. The conditions caused the Spanish Californians to become a lazy, luxury-loving people, leaving the work for the Indians to đo.


The announcement in March, I822, that Mexico was no longer ruled by Spain, was received with satisfaction.



Oncoming Of The Americans.

California was a prize that might well have been coveted by the nations of the world. Her unlimited resources were for the most part unknown and wholly unappreciated by the Mexican government.


Her vast territory stretched away from San Diego on the south to Oregon on the north, and from the Pacific Ocean away to the heart of the Rocky Mountains, embracing an area of nearly 450,000 square miles-enough in itself for a great western empire.

Many nations were looking to California but United States was keeping a jealous watch over the concerns of Califoria ever since the wonderful explorations of Lewis and Clarke. President Jackson


endeavored to buy a large part of California when he had negotiations for Texas. But "Manifest destiny" had decreed that California should become a part of United States.


The first immigrant train to enter California from the United States reached the land of promise in the fall of I84I. The first immigrant train left Sapling Grove and reached California after six months of a hard overland journey.


General John A. Sutter will always hold a unique place in the early history of California. The story of Sutter centers around Sutter's Fort, where stands to-day the capital city of a noble state.


The prosperity of Sutter's Fort can be compared to that of the early missions. In the meantime emigrant trains began to find their way to California from the States, touching in almost every case at Sutter's Fort as the first settlement after the fatiguing trip across the Sierras. At sunrise on July II, I846, Sutter acting as a loyal American, hosted the American flag above the fort.


The American conquest was complete; the change of flags had really taken place-a change that meant a wholly new character for California and a new history for Sutter's Fort. On an April morning of the eventful year I846 a band of emigrants set out hopefully from Springfield, Illinois, for far- away California. The story of the 111-fated Donner Party is well known and does not need to be repeated. Of the eighty-three persons who started for California only eighteen reached their destination. The kind old captain at Sutter's Fort did all in his power to make California the Golden State of the West.

It was the intent of the United States to have California for their own. She sent John Charles Fremont, Kit Carson, and other leaders. It was the intention to have this men seize as much land as possible. Thus began The Bear Flag Revolution. Sonoma was the first town captured. The Bear Flag was raised and California declared herself an independent republic. The life of the republic was not long because the American flag was raised on July IO, 1846 at Monterey.


The taking of the province of California by the forces of the United States proved to be the greatest act in the drama of our war with Mexico. The question of extending slavery had come to overshadow every other public question that concerned the American people. In view of the slave and anti-slave states, what was to be done about slavery in California?

The American conquest of California was hastened by the increasing numbers of Americans who came to settle. On May I3, I846, after several battles had already been fought Congress declared that war existed by act of Mexico. On the morning of July 9, the American flag was raised at San Francisco, Sonoma, and at San Jose.

Commodore Stockton completed the conquest of California by issuing a proclamation on August I7, that California was entirely free from Mexican dominion. The conquest was not entirely over until the fall of 1846.


Thus we have seen that while war was in progress between the United States and Mexico, the Mexican province of California was conquered and became for a brief time a military possession f our federal government. What should finally become of the prize, whose value was as yet known only in part, would depend upon the outcome of the war and the terms of peace that should be made at its close.



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