It was not until January, 1769, before
a small Spanish vessel, the SAN CARLOS, sailed from La Paz for
Alta California to establish a settlement in San Diego. The expedition,
headed by Jose de Galvez and Gaspar de Portolá, landed
in San Diego in March, 1769. With them, Father Junipero Serra
(1), a devoted and eloquent priest of the Franciscan order, set
out on his historic mission the first settlement in California.
In 1769, the Spanish occupation of California
vested title to all land in California in the King of Spain.
This was accomplished by the announcement of Gaspar de Portolá
at San Diego, and was followed by the establishment in Alta California
of presidios, missions and pueblos.
About the middle of July of 1769, Gaspar
de Portolá left San Diego with a company of sixty-four
persons, soldiers, mule-drivers, a few Indians and two priests.
Fray Juan Crespi was the diarist of the expedition. This company
of men, many whose names were to become famous in California
history, arrived at the friendly Indian village of Yabit, or
Yang-na on August 2, 1769. This day being the feast of Our Lady
of the Angels. Hence, the place would become known as El Pueblo
de Nuestra Senora La Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula
The City of Angels.
Looking out over the vast plain toward
the south and west Crespi wrote: "This plain has all the
requisites of a large settlement." Twelve years later, on
September 4, 1781, the pueblo of Los Angeles would be founded
at the same place.
In 1771, a company from the Mission San
Diego founded the Mission San Garbriel Arcangel not the
present one, but the old mission on the banks of the San Gabriel
River. Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, the godmother of the Pueblo
de Los Angeles, was founded on September 8, 1771, the birth date
of Carlos III. A single supply ship, which sailed from San
Blas, Mexico, would deliver their cargo to the presidio from
where it was distributed to the mission. This proved inadequate
for the needs of the Mission San Gabriel, and the following year,
after the Mission San Gabriel was established, a warehouse about
40 miles from the mission was built at a place called San Pedro
(2) marking the humble beginning of what would become the
port of Los Angeles.
The mission was reestablished at a site
five miles southwest of the present one on the banks of the San
Gabriel River (3), where two padres erected a great cross, hung
their bells in a tree, raised and decorated an altar, and founded
Under Spanish rule foreign vessels were
prohibited from trading directly with any California port except
Monterey. This rule, proving inadequate, two supply ships per
year, laden with goods from Spain's House of Trades, were later
permitted to exchange their cargos for hides and tallow from
the missions. Nevertheless, during this period of settlement,
San Pedro received a couple of foreign visitors who were making
scientific voyages of the Pacific. The French Comte de la Perouse
(4) was the first visitor in 1786. British Captain George Vancouver
(5) stopped by several times in 1792 to 1794.
On September 4, 1781, the Governor of
Alta California, Felipe de Neve, arrived at the Indian village
of Yang-na. No casual act was this as Los Angeles was planned
by Governor Neve as an agricultural village of which the Province,
still largely dependent on erratic services of supply ships from
Mexico, was in critical need to make California self-supporting.
Over a year had been spent in Mexico recruiting
eleven families from the provinces of Sonora and Sinaloa to become
the first settlers of El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina
de los Angeles de Porciuncula (the town of Our Lady, the
Queen of the Angels). After one hundred days of travel on horseback,
500 miles of it, through the dust and heat of the desert peninsula
of Alta California lay behind the forty-four humble people (eleven
men, eleven women and twenty-two children) (6), who would become
the founder of the pueblo.
The site had been previously laid out
with a Plaza (7) in the center and extending three miles in every
direction. Lots were assigned the settlers around the Plaza,
and agricultural lands in the outside territory. As had been
anticipated, the pueblo of Los Angeles became a nucleus of colonial
growth. Retired officers and soldiers, Spanish families of distinction,
were attracted to Los Angeles. The land round about it was parceled
into huge ranchos with names as alluring as that of the pueblo
itself San Pedro, Palos Verdes, San Rafael, Santa Monica,
La Brea, Los Feliz, Santa Ana, and many others.
(1) Father Junipero Serra was born Miguel
Jose Serra 24 November 1713 at Petra on the Island of Majorca.
He died 28 August 1784 and is buried at the mission San Carlos
Borromeo de Carmelo. On 14 September 1730 he entered the Franciscan
Order. He received a Doctor of Theology degree from Lullian University
at Palma and, in 1749, joined the missionary college of San Fernando,
Mexico. In Mexico he sustained a leg injury which plagued him
the rest of his life; but he continued to travel by walking.
He served in the missions, eventually finding himself superior
of a band of fifteen Franciscans for the Indian Missions of Lower
California. In 1769 he joined Portolá's land expedition
to Upper California. In May, in Lower California, he established
the Mission San Fernando de Velicatá. He arrived in San
Diego on 1 July and on 16 July founded the first of the 21 California
missions where he ministered until his death.
(2) Known as the old embarcadero
of Mission San Gabriel, the padres very early had built a warehouse
at a place called San Pedro. Described in length in Dana's "Two
Years Before the Mast," the warehouse would one day
furnish more hides than any other on the coast. Don Abel Stearns
would purchase the old warehouse, in 1835, going on to build
an active settlement.
(3) Annual floods caused the padres to
move the "Mision Vieja" or the "Old Mission"
in 1776 to its present site, where several chapels and buildings
were successively erected. Here the Pobladores, founders
of Los Angeles, rested after their long journey from Mexico,
and from this place they started out on the morning of September
4, 1781, to found the new city. Two of the most notable men of
early California days were Fray Jose Maria Zalvidea, and Mayordomo
Claudio Lopez, under whose guidance Mission San Gabriel became
famous as the wealthiest and most prosperous of all the Franciscan
Missions in California.
(4) Jean-François de Galaup, Comte
de la Perouse, was born on 23 August, 1741 near Albi, France.
He entered the Navy when he was fifteen, and fought the British
off North America in the Seven Years' War. Later he served in
North America, India and China. In August 1782 he made fame by
capturing two English forts on the coast of the Hudson Bay. The
next year his family finally consented in his marriage to Louise-Eléonore
Broudou, a young creole from modest origins he had met on Ile
de France (present-day Mauritius). He was appointed in 1785 to
lead an expedition to the Pacific. His ships were the ASTROLABE
and the BOUSSOLE, both 500 tons. They were storeships, reclassified
as frigates for the occasion. La Pérouse was a great admirer
of James Cook and was well-liked by his men. Among his 114 man
of crew there was a large staff of scientists: An astronomer,
a physicist, three naturalists, a mathematician, three draftsmen,
and even both chaplains were scientifically schooled.
(5) George Vancouver was born in 1758.
An English navigator and explorer, he began his career in the
Royal Navy, serving under Captain James Cook on his second and
third voyages. In 1791 he was appointed to command an expedition
of discovery of the northwest coast of America, setting sail
in the Discovery and the Chatham. He reached the Strait of Juan
de Fuca in May of 1792. After surveying this area he moved on
to Puget Sound where he made extensive surveys. This area is
named after Lieutenant Peter Puget of the Discovery. Sailing
north Vancouver discovered that Vancouver Island was actually
separated from the mainland, and that the body of water they
were sailing in did not lead to a northwest passage. In the area
of Point Grey and Burrard Inlet Vancouver met with Valdes and
Galiano, and they proceeded together sailing northward as far
as Queen Charlotte Sound. Vancouver then sailed down the west
coast of the island to accept secession documents from the Spanish
who had occupied the territory since 1789. Vancouver is credited
with completing the circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. His
accomplishments are remembered in the naming of Vancouver Island
and the city of Vancouver.
(6) Upon the order of King Carlos the
III of Spain, Felipe de Neve, governor of the Californias, recruited
twelve families to establish an agricultural colony in Alta California,
El Pueblo la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula. They
were: Manuel Camero, wife Maria Tomasa; Jose Fernando de Velasco
y Lara, wife Maria Antonia Campos, children: Josef, Julian, Maria,
Juan, Jesus, and Maria Faustina; Antonio Mesa, wife Ana Gertrudis
Lopez, children: Antonio Maria, Maria Paula; Jose Moreno, wife
Maria Gertrudis Perez; Jose Antonio Navarro, wife Maria Regina
Dorotea Gloria de Soto y Rodriguez, children: Josef Maria Eduardo,
Josef Clemente, Mariana Josefa; Luis Quintero, wife Maria Petra
Rubio, children: Maria Conception, Maria Tomasa, Maria Rafaela,
Josef Clemente, and Maria Gertrudis Castelo, adopted; Jose Alejandro
Rosas, wife Juana Maria Rodriguez; Jose Antonio Basilio Rosas,
wife Maria Manuela Calistra Hernandez, children: Alejandro, Josef
Maximo, Josef Carlos, Antonio Rosalino, Josef Marcelino, Juan
Esteban , Maria Josefa; Jose Vanegas, wife Maria Bonifacia Maxima
Aguilar, son Cosme Damien, Flores, and adopted daughter, Maria
Antonia Josefa Pinuelas; Pablo Rodriquez, wife Maria Rosalia
Noriega , daughter Moaria Antonia.
(7) La Plaza Vieja de Los Angeles, with
a bronze statue honoring the Founder of Los Angeles in its center,
is a monument in itself, and it marks the birthplace of the City
of Los Angeles.
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