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Posts Tagged ‘Founding San Francisco’

Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery ended their 4000 mile expedition with a huge welcome back by the citizens of St. Louis on September 23, 1806. Members of the Expedition were rewarded with land and double pay and most went off to seek their fortunes as farmers, fur trappers, adventurers or soldiers. One, Sergeant Patrick Goss, lived to be 99. Another, Private George Shannon, became US Attorney for the District of Missouri from 1830 – 1834.

Meriwether Lewis

Meriwether Lewis

Meriwether Lewis was appointed Governor of the Territory of Upper Louisiana in March 1807 but didn’t take up the appointment for over a year. He also was in charge of writing up the results of the Expedition. After incurring debts related to the Expedition’s winding down which the new President James Madison declined to pay (Thomas Jefferson, the original commissioner and ardent supporter of the Expedition had also been a close personal friend of Lewis and had never had qualms about its cost), Lewis set off to Washington DC to plead his case in person. He had, it appears, become severely depressed. Along the way, in Tennessee, he likely committed suicide, although there are a few who hold the theory that he was robbed (he had only 35¢ when he was found) and murdered.

William Clark

William Clark

Clark was appointed superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Territory of Upper Louisiana, a post in which he continued even after he was designated governor of the Missouri Territory, a position he held from 1813 until 1820. He also picked up the journal preparation upon Lewis’ death. The journals were published in 1814, ten years after the Expedition began. Clark also kept records of the fates of the members of Corps of Discovery. Perhaps most interesting was what happened to the Shoshone woman guide Sacagawea who most feel died in 1812. Clark adopted her two children—the boy Popey, who he had befriended on the expedition, and his sister. Clark died in 1838 at the age of 68.

de Anza

de Anza

And what of de Anza and his 1776 Expedition? Many of the soldiers and civilians in his 240 person entourage went on to their final destination, the founding of San Francisco. Most prominent was his second in command, Jose Joaquin Moraga who led the settlers as they built the first structures at the new presidio site. By September, 1776 Spanish dreams of a port on the Bay were a reality. Many of the original settlers (many Basque like de Anza) remained in San Francisco forming the core of the new city; their names are listed prominently by the San Francisco Genealogical Society. (http://www.sfgenealogy.com/spanish/anzaexp.htm)

de Anza

de Anza

De Anza returned to the Southwest where he was appointed Governor of New Mexico. In 1779 he launched a successful campaign against the Comanche who had been terrorizing the area for decades. In 1786 the Comanche signed a treaty with de Anza which brought peace to the area for over 30 years. This treaty allowed the safe colonization of the Chama and Pecos Valleys. de Anza retired in 1787 and died the following year in Sonora.

So the final question: Who had more lasting impact, the Explorers—Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery, or the Pioneers—de Anza and his settlers? If the decision is based on standard history texts (at least where I grew up) the answer is obvious: Lewis and Clark. I remember no mention whatsoever of de Anza, or even, in fact, much at all about the Spanish and their profound influence and contributions to “discovering” and settling in the West.

Lewis and Clark at Great Falls, MT courtesy of Jim Carson

Lewis and Clark at Great Falls, MT courtesy of Jim Carson

At least my daughter’s Santa Fe high school experience included a year of New Mexico history so she was exposed to de Anza’s importance there. And although I wonder how many notice, the place names, old families, even the regional lingo serve as a constant reminder of the Spanish influence in the Southwest and California. And the generations of descendants of de Anza’s expedition who remain (Moraga, Alviso, Peralta, Mesa, Pacheco, Sanchez, and Castro among them) serve as reminders of how San Francisco began.

de Anza Expedition

de Anza Expedition

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The Spaniards had begun exploring the area north of mid-Mexico in the 1500s. Rather than looking for the fabled Northwest Passage and mapping unknown territory and its natural history as Lewis and Clark had been commissioned, Spanish/Mexican expeditions were undertaken not by explorers but by the military and Catholic missionaries. Their goals can be boiled down to three: hunting for gold and silver; protecting far-flung Spanish claims of northern empire from English and Russian exploration and colonization; and, of course, saving souls.

Along the de Anza Trail ©AME

Along the de Anza Trail ©AME

There are many historians who think at least one such expedition can compete with Lewis and Clark for sheer magnitude and results. That’s the two trips Juan Bautista de Anza the Younger, a Basque military man and head of the Presidio at Tubac (then in Sonora Mexico, now in deep southeastern Arizona) took from 1774—1776. Earlier this spring, we followed a small portion of their journey, a four mile trail which connects the Mission at Tumacacori to the  Presidio at Tubac.

Along the Trail at Tumacacori © SR Euston

The Santa Cruz River Aong the Trail at Tumacacori © SR Euston

Like Lewis and Clark, de Anza was looking for a land-based trade route, in this case across deserts and up the coast from northern Sonora (now Arizona) to Alta California. But there was also another goal: to found a Presidio and mission at San Francisco. This colony of Spanish settlers, military personnel and missionaries would establish an “on-the-ground” beachhead of Spaniards to protect its claims in Northern California. After successfully scouting Indian trading and mission travel routes in 1774, de Anza returned to Mexico where he organized a large group of colonists (30 families totaling about 240 men, women and children) and military escorts to travel the 1200 miles to the Presidio of San Francisco.

They must have looked like a traveling town as they set out: families, military, cowboys, mule packers, Indian guides and 1000 head of live stock. The group was accompanied by Franciscan priest Pedro Font. He and de Anza kept journals detailing the journey. Setting out on October 2, 1775 from San Miguel de Horcasitas (north of Hermosillo in Sonora), they headed north through Tubac (where de Anza recruited Basque friends and fellow military men), Mission San Xavier del Bac, and Casa Grande, then headed west to Yuma Crossing where Quechan (Yuma) Indians provided them aid in crossing the Colorado as well as feeding them beans, squash, corn and wheat and, according to de Anza, more than 3000 watermelons. They labored across the Mojave Desert, across the San Gabriel mountains and on to Mission San Gabriel Arcangel. From there they headed up the coast to Mission San Luis Obispo, arriving at Monterey five months later on March 28, 1776. Along the way eight children were born. Only one person died, a woman probably in childbirth. In June, 1776 the colonists, led by de Anza’s second in command, Jose Joaquin Moraga, established the Presidio and Mission at San Francisco.

de Anza Expedition Map  Courtesy of webdeAnza at uoregon.org

de Anza Expedition Map
Courtesy of webdeAnza at uoregon.org

(Then What? to be continued)

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