Californians and the Military
José Antonio Castro
Commandante-General and Acting Governor of Alta California

José Antonio Castro (born Monterey, 1808 – died February 1860) was acting governor of Alta California in 1835-1836, and Commandante General of the Mexican army in Alta California at the time of the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt in and the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

He was the son of Jose Tiburcio Castro, a soldier, member of the diputacion (legislature), and administrator of secularized Mission San Juan Bautista. Jose Castro's first public office was as secretary to the Monterey ayuntamiento (town council).

In 1830, he was arrested for his opposition to the Mexican governor of Alta California. By 1835 he was the First Member (Vocal Primero) of the legislature and acting governor. Along with Juan Bautista Alvarado, he was a vocal opponent of Mexican governors and sought a semi-independent status for Alta California. He was a chief participant in the overthrow of Governor Gutierrez in 1836, becoming Commandante General and Governor, as president of the legislature.

When Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo became Commandante General, Castro became Lieutenant-Colonel of militia in 1837-38. Once again he was appointed First Member of the Diputacion as well as Prefect of the Monterey District. In 1839, Castro acquired Rancho San Justo, one of three ranchos attached to Mission San Juan Bautista, after the secularization of Mission property by the Mexican government in 1835.

In 1840, Castro arrested and transported foreigners in California to San Blas. In 1844-45, he became a leader of the revolt against Governor Manuel Micheltorena, once again becoming Commandante General of California, checking John C. Frémont's movements, and leading Californio forces against the Americans. Departing for Mexico in August 1846, where he resided in Sinaloa, he returned to California in 1848. By 1853, he returned to Mexico where he was appointed governor and military commander of Baja California.

Castro never surrendered his Mexican citizenship nor military rank. In February 1860, Governor Castro was assassinated by the bandit Marguez.

Family life

Castro's sister, Martina Cota Castro (1807-1890), held the grant for Rancho Soquel which is now part of Soquel, California. Martina Castro married Michael Lodge, and together had a daughter, Carmelita (Carmel) Castro Lodge (1827-1923) who later married Thomas Fallon in 1850. The Victorian at 1800 Market Street, San Francisco, was built by Carmel in 1894 and is now a San Francisco landmark known as the Carmel Fallon Building.


Castro Street and the Castro District in San Francisco are named for him. The Jose Castro House (built 1840) in San Juan Bautista is now a National Historic Landmark.

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Updated 23 June 2017