Spanish and Mexican California
The Families of the Presidio de San Diego
by Corey Jon Braun
Chairman, Descendants of Early San Diego Pioneers

The Presidio de San Diego housed the Mission San Diego de Alcala during the first five years of its existence form 1769 to 1774. During that time there were soldiers, priests, and Indians living within the. presidio walls. There was only one married soldier stationed there at that time, with two children. It was not until after the Anza Expedition in 1775 that "families" came to live at the presidio.
These presidio families were military families in every sense of the word, and that meant mobility. These families had to be prepared to pack everything and move, at any time, to the garrisons at San Gabriel, San Juan Capistrano, San Luis Rey, the San Diego Mission (which was now five miles east of the presidio), or anywhere they were needed, even to northern California.
To the people who lived there, the presidio and its walls were never really "theirs." They were just "military housing." Most of these people had come to Alta California to start new lives for themselves and that meant owning land and a home, a place of permanence. But for as long as they were military personnel, living in a military fort, there was very little -permanence in their lives. They I were waiting for a time when they would be given land to build their house as payment for their service to Spain.
Of the soldiers who lived with their families in San Diego before 1800, there were few who ended up owning permanent homes and developing a civilian settlement here. Some of these early military families who stayed into the Mexican Period, which began in 1822, and helped to develop San Diego as a pueblo were the Lopezes, Carrillos, Osumas, Pictos, Alvarados, Ortegas, Serranos, Silvas, Amadors, Alvarezes, lbarras, Penas, Sotos, Aguilars, Cotas, Marrons, and others. These families settled here because they were given land and built homes here after the men had left military service.
Many families who had been living at the San Diego Presidio left because the land they were given was elsewhere. The list of these names included the Sepulvedas, Villavicencios, Dominguezes, Oliveras, Felizes, Lisaldes, Lugos, Yorbas, Verdugos, Monroys, Duartes, Valenzuelas, Villalobos, Espinosas, Vallejos, Castros, and many more.
There were also families who had served the Crown in other areas of New Spain and who came to San Diego late in the Spanish Period or even into the Mexican Period to make their permanent homes. The Machados didn't come to San Diego until after 1805. The Arguellos and Bandinis came to San Diego after 1818 and the Estudillos came after 1824. Permanent houses did not start to develop in San Diego until the very end of the Spanish Period, in the 1810's. These were houses that were built by men who had finally retired from military service. They were located mostly in Mission Valley near the river where the families could cultivate small gardens for their sustenance. Unfortunately, almost all of these houses were destroyed in 1821 when Mission Valley flooded. It was not until the Mexican Period, which began in 1822, that a permanent civilian settlement could be planned in the area of Old Town. After this happened, the garrison at the San Diego Presidio was reduced to a token number. It is no surprise that this "temporary military housing" soon fell into ruin.
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Updated 8 February 2016