The Founding of San Francisco
By the Editor
[Edward F. ODay]
This year , and at this season, San Francisco celebrates the
one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its birth. Ours is an old city,
as age is reckoned in the West, and the story of the beginning has the
glamour not only of age but of romance. The port of San Francisco, from
the time of its discovery, assumed a very definite importance in international
politics; so our beginnings have also a special significance.
Three great powersSpain, England, and Russiasought
domination on the Pacific Coast, and regarded San Francisco as the key
to success. Spain won, and to that fact we owe the peculiar richness of
our background. Reading the story of the founding of San Francisco, there
is always a sense of pageantry hovering over the page. Those Spanish soldiers,
those Franciscan padres did things in a ceremonious and gallant fashion.
We have never quite lost their manner. It is to be hoped that we never
The great names in the story of the founding are Bucareli, viceroy
of New Spain; Anza, the intrepid explorer, the wise colonist; and Serra,
the president of the missions, whom David Atkins, a Californian poet, has
called soldier of Christ, adventurer, artist and engineer.
The story is well known, but one does not tire of it.
On the fifteenth of December, 1774, Viceroy Bucareli sent from Mexico
City a very important letter to Father Junipero Serra at Monterey.
In consideration, he wrote, that the port of San
Francisco, when occupied, might serve as a base of subsequent projects,
I have resolved that the founding of a fort shall take place by assigning
twenty-eight men under a lieutenant and a sergeant. As soon as they
are in possession of the territory, they will be sure proof of the kings
dominion. For this purpose Captain Juan Bautista de Anza will take a second
expedition overland to Monterey from Sonora [Mexico], where he must recruit
the said troops. He will see that they take their wives and children along
so that they may become attached to their domicile. He will also bring
along sufficient supplies of grain and flour, besides cattle.... When the
territory has been examined, and the presidio is established, it will be
necessary to erect the proposed missions in its immediate vicinity.
This was the first move in the grand project of founding San Francisco.
Bucarelis letter was delivered to Father Serra by Captain Juan Bautista
de Ayala, who arrived at Monterey on the twenty-seventh of June, 1775,
in command of the San Carlos, also known as The Golden
Fleece. Captain Ayala had orders from the viceroy to survey the port
of San Francisco in conjunction with the land expedition from Sonora under
On the night of August 4, 1775, Ayala brought the San Carlos
safely through the Golden Gate; so he has the immortal distinction of being
the first navigator to enter our port. Both San Francisco and Suisun bays
were carefully surveyed. Near one inlet of our bay three Indians were seen
weeping; so this inlet was named La Ensenada de los LloronesThe
bay of the Weepers. Later this became Mission Bay. Ayala remained here
for forty days, and the land expedition under Anza not arriving, he returned
Meanwhile Captain Bruno de Heceta came from Monterey to make additional
surveys. Fathers Palou and Capa y Cos accompanied him to select a site
for the Mission of San Francisco. This expedition ascended Sutro Heights,
Point Lobos, and Fort Point. Camp was made on the shore of a lake which
was named, on account of the feast day, Nuestra Señora de la Merced.
This, of course, was Lake Merced. Heceta expected to make connections with
Ayala, but failing to do so, returned to Monterey.
On September 29, 1775, in compliance with the order of Bucareli, Anza
set out from Sonora, Mexico, for San Francisco. His party consisted of
177 persons, including women and children. He had a pack-train of
120 mules. After the great Anza himself, the outstanding members of this
expedition were Lieutenant Moraga, and Father Font, who kept an invaluable
Captain Rivera, who was charged with the execution of the viceroys
orders, was not friendly to Father Serra, and to embarrass him detained
the Anza party indefinitely at Monterey. For this he was shortly afterward
removed from Monterey to Lower California by the indignant Bucareli.
But while the expedition was halted, Anza was not to be thwarted. His
party had arrived in Monterey on March 10, 1776. On the twenty-second,
taking with him Moraga, Father Font, and a squad of soldiers, he started
for San Francisco. Father Font as this entry for March 27:
The day broke clear and bright. At seven in the morning we set
out from the little creek a short distance north of San Mateo Creek, and
at eleven, having marched about six leagues, we pitched camp at a lagoon
or spring of clear water close to the mouth of the port of San Francisco.
This was Mountain Lake at the Presidio.
Anza, Moraga, and Font went to Point Lobos, then to our Fort PointCantil
Blanco they called itand examined the port.
I beheld, writes Father Font, a prodigy of nature,
which is not easy to describe.... We saw the spouting of young whales,
a line of dolphins or tunas, besides seals and otters.... This place and
its surrounding country afforded much pasturage, sufficient firewood, and
good water, favorable conditions for establishing the presidio or fort
contemplated. Only timber was lacking, as there was no tree on those heights;
but not far away were live oaks and other trees. This soldiers chased some
deer, but secured not one. Of these animals we saw many today.
They were drawn back to the spot next day, and Father Font was more
enthusiastic than ever.
From this tableland, he writes,
enjoys a most delicious view; for from there one observes a good part of
the bay and its islands as far as the other side, and one has a view of
the ocean as far as the Farallones. In fact, although, so far as I have
traveled, I have seen very good places and beautiful lands, I have yet
seen none that pleased me so much as this. I do believe that, if we could
be well populated, as in Europe, there would be nothing more pretty in
the world; for this place has the best accommodations for founding on it
a most beautiful city, inasmuch as the desirable facilities exist as well
on the land as on the sea, the port being exceptional and capacious for
dockyards, docks, and whatever would be wanted.
This tableland was designated by the commander as the site of
the new colony and fort which were to be established at this port; for
on account of its height it commands such a dominating position that it
can defend the entrance to the port at gunshot. At the distance of a gunshot
it has water for the maintenance of the population, namely, the spring
or lagoon where we camped.
Father Font is not to be blamed for thinking that Mountain Lake would
be a sufficient water supply. Almost a century later certain San Franciscans
made the same mistake, and did not discover their error until they had
spent considerable money.
Next day, Friday, the twenty-ninth of March, Anza and Father Font
explored the peninsula in another direction.
We rode, says Font, about one league to the east,
one to the east-southeast, and one to the south-east, going over
hills covered with bushes, and over valleys of good land. We thus came
upon two lagoons and some springs of good water, meanwhile encountering
much grass, fennel, and other good herbs. We then arrived at a lovely creek,
which because it was the Friday of Sorrows we called the Arroyo de los
On the banks of the Arroyo de los Dolores we discovered many
fragrant chamomiles and other herbs, and many wild violets. Near the streamlet
the lieutenant (Anza) planted a little corn and some garbanzos in order
to try out the soil, which to us appeared good. As for me, I judged that
this place was very fine, and the best for establishing on it one of the
two missions.... We moved a little, and from a slight elevation I observed
that the direction of the bay was toward the east-southeast. Near
this hill, in the direction of the bay, there is a good piece of level
land, into which the Arroyo de los Dolores enters suddenly like a falls
as it emerges from the hills. By means of its water all the land could
be irrigated, and at the falls, which is very suitable for the purpose,
a mill could be operated.
On the eight of April Anzas little party of exploration was back in
Monterey, and a few days later Anza departed for Sonora. All this time
the large party of colonists that Anza had brought from Sonora was detained
in Monterey through the whim of Rivera. Just before being removed for his
misconduct, Rivera ordered Lieutenant Moraga to proceed to the port of
San Francisco with twenty soldiers and to erect the presidio on the spot
selected by Anza. He directed that the founding of the mission be postponed.
On the third of June, the San Carlos arrived at Monterey,
and under orders from Viceroy Bucareli, took aboard the property of the
soldiers and colonists, church and household furniture and farm implementseverything
intended for the new presidio and mission.
On June 17 Lieutenant Moraga left Monterey for San Francisco with Sergeant
Grijalva, two corporals, sixteen soldiers, seven colonists, and five Indians
in charge of packmules and two hundred head of cattle. The soldiers and
settlers had their wives and children with them. Father Serra sent along
Father Palou and Father Cambon. Father Palou is the historian of this memorable
On June 29, 1776, Fathers Palou and Cambon said mass in a rude arbor
at the Dolores camp; so this is taken by historians as the date of the
foundation of the Mission of San Francisco of Assisi, or Mission Dolores.
It was just five days before the Declaration of Independence.
On June 27, writes Father Palou, the expedition arrived
near its destination. The commander, therefore, ordered the camp to be
pitched on the bank of a lagoon which Señor Anza had named Nuestra
Señora de los Dolores, and which is in sight of the Ensenada de
los Llorones, and of the bay or arm of the sea that extends to the southeast.
Here all were to await the transport ship to mark out the site on which
to locate the fort and presidio while the country was being explored.
The padres were naturally interested in the condition of the Indians
whom they had come to convert. Father Palous account is not complimentary.
The natives here are all well formed. Many of them have beards,
others are hairless and rather ugly. They are accustomed to tear out by
the roots the hair of the eyebrows, and this renders them ugly. They are
poor Indians without much of a house than a hedge of branches to protect
them somewhat against the high winds which prevail and which molest them
very much. The men go entirely naked, except that they cover the shoulders
with a sort of small cape pieced together from otter skins and pelican
feathers. The women cover themselves with nothing but tules strung together
around the waist.
On July 26, the San Carlos not yet having arrived from
Monterey, Lieutenant Moraga moved his camp from the Laguna de los Dolores
to the north end of the peninsula and set about the erection of temporary
accommodations. The first structure was a chapel of tules, and there Father
Palou said mass on July 28, and this is the first date in the history of
our presidio. Meanwhile, despite Riveras order to the contrary, Moraga
detailed some of his men to start building the Mission Dolores.
The San Carlos sailed through the Golden Gateher
second entrance into the port of San Franciscoon August 18. Work
at the presidio now began in real earnest, the plan being drawn by José
Canizares, pilot of the San Carlos. This plan called for an
enclosure ninety-two varas, or two hundred and
square. Inside this, and built of palisades and tules, were to be the chapel,
officers quarters, warehouses, guardhouse, and barracks for the soldiers
and colonists, with their families. A house for the commander was also
By the middle of September all these buildings were well under way,
and formal possession of the Presidio of San Francisco was celebrated on
the seventeenth of September, 1776. This was an impressive ceremony. Every
Spaniard who could be spared from duty on shore on the San Carlos
was present. Father Palou writes:
After the holy cross had been planted, blessed, and venerated.
I sang the first solemn mass with deacon and subdeacon. Thereupon the officers
performed the ceremony of taking formal possession in the name of our sovereign.
All then entered the church and sang the Te Deum Laudamus, accompanied
by the ringing of bells, the salvos of cannon, pistols, and muskets, to
which the transport in the harbor responded with its guns. This discharge
of firearms and cannon, and the sounding of bells at the same time, doubtless
terrified the savages, for they did not allow themselves to be seen for
many days. When this function was concluded, the commander of the presidio
assembled all the people and displayed all the liberality the situation
Meanwhile Lieutenant Moraga and Captain Quiros of the San Carlos
saw no reason why work should not proceed at the mission. They had men
to spare from the work at the presidio, and these were sent to build a
mission chapel and a dwelling for the padres. Says Father Palou:
In a short time a building was completed which measured ten varas
[or twenty-eight feet] in length, and five varas [fourteen feet]
in width. This structure was of wood plastered over with clay and roofed
with tules. To this was built of the same material a church eighteen varas
[about fifty feet] long. Adjoining it, in the rear of the altar, was a
small room which served as a vestry.
The chapel was solemnly blessed on the third of October, the day before
the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and on the eighth the formal opening
of the mission was celebrated in much the same fashion as the opening of
San Francisco Water
Published by the Spring Valley Water 幸运彩app最新下载网址
Volume V, No. 4, October 1926
NOTE: The area known as Laguna de Manatial, or Laguna de los Dolores, was in the area bounded by Fifteenth, Twentieth, Valencia and South Van Ness Ave. In the 1870s it was known as Lake McCoppin and was filled in during the 1870s. Buildings on streets which border the former lagoon were damaged during the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes. The lagoon was fed by a stream which flowed down from Twin Peaks and followed the line of Eighteenth Street.
The first mission structures built in San Francisco were not at the present site of the Mission, but two blocks east near the intersection of Camp and Albion streets.
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