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U.S. Timeline - The 1770s

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  • 1770 Detail

    June 3, 1770 - The town of Monterey, California is established by Father Junípero Serra and explorer Gaspar de Portolà. Monterey would serve as the capital of California from 1777 to 1849 under the flags of Spain and Mexico.

    Monterey Presidio


    A mass would be held under an oak tree, in the same spot that explorer Sebastiàn Vizcaino had set foot, for the first time, as a European in Monterey Bay, and also held services. He described the bay in 1602 as a great port suitable for galleons. Yes, there had been a European sighting before that, by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo on November 17, 1542, but now, on June 3, 1770, the second mission in California would be established, as well as a Presidio that would become the seat of government.

    Franciscan Father Junípero Serra and Gaspar de Portolà, the explorer, would found the city, with the first buildings constructed for the the Royal Presidio and Mission, San Carlos de Borromeo de Monterey. No, the mission did not last, moved to Carmel in May of 1771 due to disagreements between the military and the mission, but the new Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, built in 1794 on the site of the original mission, is considered the only remaining period building within the original Presidio complex. The original building of the mission was converted to the San Jose Chapel in 1771, later renamed the Royal Presidio Chapel.

    From 1771 forward, the establishment of Monterey as a seat of government, and important city, would remain, with the military Presidio itself built by Spanish soldiers over one and one half years. By the time the American Revolution would be waged in those towns of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, Monterey would be named the capital of Baja and Alta California by Spain in 1776.

    A few facts: The Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, also known as the Royal Presidio Chapel, was built 1794 on the original mission site within the Presidio complex and is the oldest stone building in California and the oldest continuously used parish in the United States. The Presidio area today is still an active military installation located one hundred and twenty miles south of San Francisco. Monterey is the second oldest city in California, behind only San Diego.



    Gaspar de Portolà


    Gaspar was the Governor of the Californias when he was sent on an establishment mission north in 1869. Find the bay that Vizcaino had discovered, establish a settlement there, and expel the Jesuits along the way so the Franciscan could take sway. So with dragoons and infantry, de Portolà marched north toward San Diego from Baja California, the expedition with two land forces and three ships on the sea moving toward Monterey. Spain and Charles III wanted to cement his control of the territory before the Russians could move south from Alaska as well as the British moving into the area from their Canadian lands. Junípero Serra accompanied Portolà.

    It took from early January until September 30, 1769 for the land party to reach the area of Monterey Bay, but they did not recognize it as the land that Vizcaino described. They continued north and reached San Francisco Bay, noting its importance as a harbor for all the King's ships, and began to think they had passed Monterey Bay. Then they marched south and went home.

    In 1770, Gaspar de Portolà headed a second mission north to find Monterey Bay, and within five weeks located the area on May 24, 1770. Junípero Serra, now traveling by sea on the ship San Antonio, met the land party at the bay on May 31. The Presidio was founded, as well as the Mission San Carlos Borromeo.

    Father Junípero Serra


    Known as the Apostle of California due to his founding of nine missions, Serra was beatified in 1998 by Pope John Paul II. He was born on the island of Majorca and joined the Franciscan order at the age of seventeen. He arrived in Veracruz (Mexico) in 1749, and lived in Mexico City for many years. When King Charles III ordered the removal of the Jesuits in 1767, Serra was appointed the President of the missions of Baja California.

    Image above: Engraving of the Presidio of Monterey, Captain George Vancouver, A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and Round the World. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons via NOAA. Image below: Montage of two photos, Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, 1934 (left) 2012 (right), Historic American Buildings Survey/Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info Source: Monterey.org; military.com; Wikipedia Commons; Californiamissionguide.com.

    Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo


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