Spanish and Mexican California
Timeline of the Settlement of the Central Coast
By Michael R. Hardwick

June 3, 1777: Neve reports to the Viceroy regarding the Channel Coast. The road through this region stretches 24 or 26 leagues (62.4-67.6) miles. Neve estimates that there are some 8000 channel Indians living in over 28 villages along the beach or in heights above it. The danger is obvious. The Indians in an uprising could close the road entirely. The Spanish must establish control of the Channel with posts and military forces large enough to hold the Indians in awe. Missions alone will not suffice. There must be a presidio, preferably half-way through the channel passage route. The central region is more urgent because Indian villages are most numerous and close together in this part of the coast. (Beilhartz, Felipe de Neve, pp 112)
September 3, 1778: Croix approves of Neve’s recommendations. Neve initially thinks he should have a lieutenant, 3 sergeants, 2 corporals, and 62 cavalrymen. This missions of San Buenaventura and Concepcion should each have a sergeant and 14 soldiers. The others should be held in the center to garrison the presidio and protect the mission Santa Barbara. (Beilhartz, Felipe de Neve, pp 112)

July 19, 1779: Neve draws up a detailed list of articles and supplies needed for the occupation of the channel. He requests that an investigation be made by ships of the approaches to the channel coast to locate the most convenient spot to unload cannon and powder which will have to come by sea. (Beilhartz, Felipe de Neve, pp 113)

April 22, 1780: Neve orders a reconnaissance by land of the whole channel area. Lt. Ortega, Sgt. Juan Robles and a party of soldiers are detailed for the job. At the southern end of the channel they find a rich stream of water suitable for irrigation and land favorable to cultivation. Pasturage for animals is sparse, but there is plenty of timber and stone for building purposes. Neve considers splitting his founding party of 24 settlers for Los Angeles into 2 parties of 12 settlers each. One party can be placed in San Buenaventura close to the Santa Barbara Presidio, the other group of 12 could settle on the Santa Ana River where it is closer to San Diego. (Beilhartz, Felipe de Neve, pp113-114)

July 14, 1781: Rivera’s party arrives at San Gabriel from Yuma. There are too few pack mules (62) which are not enough to transport supplies and personnel to the Channel before the rains. Due to the lack of wood in Santa Barbara, buildings there are to be of adobe, which can only be made in dry weather. The decision is made to put off the Channel project until spring. (Beilhartz, Felipe de Neve, 114,115)

March 26, 1782: Neve starts the expedition on its way to the Channel. One day’s march out, Neve is overtaken by the news that Fages has arrived at San Gabriel to confer with him, and that a Sonoran Army is waiting at the Colorado to follow up on the Yuma uprising. Neve decides to shelve the Yuma campaign and to go on with the Channel project. According to Beilhartz, pp118, "Neve accepts the use of Fages’ men and sets off with them and their commander to rejoin the Santa Barbara party."

March 29, 1782: The expedition reaches the Santa Clara River and proceeds to lay the foundations of Mission San Buenaventura. Neve rejoins the party here and finding the work well advanced, leads the way up the coast to the presidial site. (Beilhartz, Felipe de Neve, pp118).

March 31, 1782: San Buenaventura is founded. By April 12 there is a complete enclosure of the area of the mission site. The stockade of palings or limbs is set in trenches, woven with branches and daubed with mud. It is about 137 feet by 110 feet and 11 feet high. The stockade has two ravelins or bastions, a gate, and a small storehouse for provisions. Sergeant Pablo Antonio Cota in charge of 14 soldiers is to protect the mission establishment. (Whitehead, Unpublished Manuscript, pp 80)

April 15, 1782: Neve leaves San Buenaventura and marches roughly 27 miles in one day to Santa Barbara with his founding party.

April 24, 1782: Neve’s report to the Commanding General dated April 24, 1782:

On the 15th of the current month he arrived at this place called previously San Joaquin de la Laguna and found that its lake provided an abundant supply of good water, much wood, and stone, and at less than a quarter league from the only anchoring ground known in the Channel, sufficient wood and pasture lands. The Presidio of Santa Barbara was located on this site on the 11th of the current month, enhancing its position at a small rise next to the lake. Immediately they began cutting of paling to enclose an area of 60 varas (165 feet) with two ravelins (bastions) of oak which will serve while they complete the actual structure which will be 80 varas (220 feet) square with 2 small bastions.. (Whitehead, Unpublished Manuscript, pp 91)
April 28, 1782: Serra’s report to the Commanding General, April 28, 1782:

We arrived here at the Santa Barbara Channel on April 15. We spent some time in talking over which would be the best site for the foundation, then in getting everything in readiness. And so, the very next Sunday, which was the 3rd Sunday after Easter and the feast day of the patronage of the Most Holy Patriarch Saint Joseph, the foundation was started. There were all the usual ceremonies - the setting up and blessing of a large cross, the blessing of the site, the first Mass, with an accompanying sermon. And so was begun this presidio and mission - at present they are united in one - dedicated to the most glorious Virgin and Martyr Santa Barbara. (Whitehead, Unpublished Manuscript, pp 92)
April 21, 1782: Founding ceremony of the Presidio of Santa Barbara.

June 2, 1782: Neve reports that plastering, flat roofs, storehouse, guardhouse and barracks remain to be finished and that natives are still happy about the Spanish settlement. Neve inspects the Santa Barbara Presidio and reports that the troops were put through the manual of arms, cavalry formations and target practice, and performed satisfactorily in spite of the fact of their recent recruitment and large amount of time they had spent on constructing the presidio. The governor is complimentary of Lt. Ortega on most counts, but has to reprimand him for being too familiar with the troops. He also lacks firmness and determination, and his accounts as paymaster are in such bad shape, in spite of his known intelligence in such matters, that Neve recommends that he be quickly replaced. Neve considers him a good officer under the direction of another commander.

Uniforms are in deplorable shape due to the fact that supply ships have not arrived. Much of the equipment is defective. Safeties on the pistols are inoperative and swords of Toledo steel are tempered so high that they could break into pieces if used carelessly. (Whitehead, Unpublished Manuscript, pp 95)

The Author

Michael Hardwick graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1972 with High Honors. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with graduate work in Public Administration from University of Redlands.

While in college, Mike did some of the original archaeology on the Presidio in Santa Barbara. In the 1970s he established the archive at La Purísima Mission State Historic Park and was a State Park Ranger Intermittent there for five years. Mike served on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation for 17 years. During that time he acted as Treasurer of the Trust, chaired the Archive Library, Descendants and Genealogy Committees, and was a member of the Reconstruction Committee.

As a living history enthusiast, Mike was a Civil War reenactor for six years and was a member of the Santa Barbara Civil War Council. He was instrumental in founding Los Soldados del Real Presidio de Santa Barbara in 1990 and is currently an active Soldado in that group. He established a Web site for Los Soldados and has written several papers on Spanish Colonial Military History.

Michael currently does a living history impression of Phelipe de Neve, first governor of the Californias, 1777-1782. Appointed the Soldados National Spokesperson for the Gálvez project, Mike orchestrated an impressive ceremony in October of 2003, which paid tribute to Bernardo de Gálvez as part of a Hispanic-American Heros Series sponsored by Somos Primos, Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research.

Mike’s interests are varied. He served on the La Purísima Mission Advisory Committee. He is on the Santa Barbara Mission Museum Board. He belongs to CMSA (California Mission Studies Association) and has published an extensive bibliography on Presidios and Soldiers of Northern New Spain on their WEB site.

Mike is currently working on the beginnings of horticulture in California and is actively researching that topic. He has recently published, Changes in Landscape, The Beginnings of Horticulture in the California Missions, which is available through the bookstore at the Old Mission, Santa Barbara, 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, CA. 93105. He is participating with others in a heritage plant project at Mission Santa Barbara and hopes to enlarge and republish his book.

Mike is a Vietnam Era Veteran. He spent six years in the Navy and was with the Commander of Seventh Fleet on the Flagship, USS Oklahoma City during the years 1968 – 1969. He retired from the County of Santa Barbara as a Senior Systems Analyst in 2002. He was a County employee for 26 years. As a data processing professional, Mike taught for a number of years in the SBCC Adult Education Program. He holds a California Community Colleges teaching Credential.

He may be reached at

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Updated 23 June 2017