In 1867, Thomas Savage (1823-?) interviewed Don José for historian Hubert Howe Bancroft (1832-1918).

Born in Havana, Cuba in 1823 … [Thomas Savage] grew up speaking both English and Spanish fluently.  He began working for Bancroft in 1873 and did such a fine job that Bancroft later wrote of him:  “For many years, Mr. Savage was my main reliance on Spanish-American affairs ….  With good scholarship, ripe experience, and a remarkable knowledge of general history, he brought to the library strong literary taste, a clear head, and methodological habits.”

The Californios:  A History, 1769-1890 (McFarland & Company, 2017) by Hunt Janin and Ursula Carlson.

Don José’s memoir came to light in 1928:

An interesting and authentic account of life and customs in pastoral Spanish California is found in the reminiscences of Jose Arnaz, published for the first time in the September Issue of Touring Topics, official publication of the Automobile Club of Southern California, under the title, ‘Memoirs of a Merchant.’   Arnaz was a prominent trader of the period and later resided in Ventura.  This valuable piece of Californiana was obtained by H. H. Bancroft, in 1867 and now reposes in the Bancroft Library at Berkeley.  The translation from the Spanish is the work of Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez.

Pueblo Days Pictured (L. A. Times Sept. 16, 1928).

The memoir’s translator, Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez (1856-1935) might have been interested in Don José due to her marriage to Adulfo Sanchez (1853-1891) from a Spanish pioneer family in Monterey.  Nellie wrote about Spanish California history, including California and Californians (Lewis Publishing Company, 1932). Coincidentally, Nellie’s oldest sister, Frances “Fanny” Matilda Van de Grift, married author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) in 1880, and Stevenson dedicated a novel, Prince Otto (1885), to Nellie.  Before writing Memoirs of a Merchant, Nellie penned her sister’s biography, The Life of Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920). 

The University of California’s Bancroft Library holds Savage’s interview (in Spanish) along with a translation by the Bancroft Library’s Jean Gibson Ordóñez, which has been lightly edited by this website’s author as follows.

Cover page to Savage’s handwritten transcript of his interview of Don José de Arnaz. 

 Don José de Arnaz

Was born in the village of Comillas, in the province of Santander, in Spain, on March 22, 1820.  My parents were Don Luis Arnaz, and Doña Francisca Cóbredes y Rivas.  There were four of us; one sister, she lives in Spain; one brother lives in Cuba; the other died.  I began my education in my own country.  I left Spain in order to go to Mexico to collect the inheritance of an aunt of mine, a resident of Spain, whose husband had died in Mexico, and for which purpose she granted me power of attorney.  Embarking from the port of Santander at the age of sixteen for Havana, I stayed for three years employed in business and pursuing my medical studies.

Once in Mexico I saw that the value of the inheritance would be disappointing because the individual who had remained in charge of the property was reluctant to account for it.  My efforts went for nothing, nor were those of the Spanish Consul to any avail, and as my resources were small, my situation became difficult.  At this time the opportunity presented itself to me to take a position in California, employed by the firm of Don Enrique Virmond, a very tall and stout German, a naturalized Mexican.  I was dispatched to Acapulco, where the central office of Virmond’s business, which was on a grand scale, was located; from there they sent me to Costa Grande to negotiate or exchange merchandise for cotton goods – this was in early 1840.  During this time the frigate Clarita arrived (formerly the sloop Morelos of the Mexican navy, which had gone from California to Lima with a cargo of tallow).  The proceeds from the sale of this tallow were mostly invested in foreign merchandise, which was brought to Acapulco, and this foreign merchandise was exchanged for the most part for cotton goods which were sent to the Mexican firm, which then sent Mexican and some foreign merchandise to California.

The Mexican goods brought to California were serapes, charro outfits; that is, embroidered in gold and silver thread, with sets of silver and copper buttons, silver and gold decorations on the trousers; and men’s and women’s silk, chamois and cotton shoes. Campesino hats and hats of fine red Mexican baize.  Silk and linen shawls – some brought as much as $150 in California and cost $15 or $16 in Mexico. And there was a big business in rebozos since the women would not wear any other wrap. And cowboy boots!

Saddles, many different kinds, some quite inexpensive, others high priced.  There were some sold in California for as much as $300 each.  Quite a number of these were sold, as the rich ranchers were all getting them.

Skins; that is, goat-skins, used to cover one’s legs when riding in the rain.

And many other manufactured goods of lesser importance.

Among the principal goods for consumption in California that came from Mexico in great quantities were sugar, brown sugar, and rum made from sugarcane.

The foreign goods were French and English calicoes, white table cloths, percale, etc.

I arrived on the frigate Clarita (on which I served as supercargo and whose Captain was Charles Walker) on June 8th, 1840, at the port of San Pedro (California). There at anchor we found the brigantine Catalina, of the same company, whose Captain was Don Cristiano Hansen, and his supercargo Don Eulogio Célis who was entrusted with the business in California.

The business then was lucrative, as I shall explain.

The manifest from the Clarita amounted to $10,000, and when sold by me along the California coast produced $64,000 in one year.

The company always kept one of its vessels on the coast with merchandise while the other carried the harvest of California – that is, tallow – to Callao [Peru], to be sold in Lima.  We took leather in payment for our goods and exchanged it with the American ships along the coast for the tallow that they received.   

The warehouse and salting houses of all the ships were in San Diego.  Only Don Alfredo Thompson had his in San Francisco. 

The business did everything on credit, using leather and tallow as the country’s currency. Although there was some money, there was very little of it, mostly small silver coins.  We also bought some ranch items such as meat, flour, greens, etc.

When I arrived in Los Angeles for the first time on July 9th or 10th of that same year of 1840, there were four shops there, those of Don Temple, Don Abel Stearns, Don Tiburcio Tapia (Californian), and Don Juan Leandry (Italian).  The first two were American by birth.

The ships went from port to port and from anchorage to anchorage, and their supercargos by land from mission to mission and ranch to ranch.  The ships supplied the ranchers with the merchandise that they needed, and picked up the produce that the missionaries or ranchers had harvested.

As every rancher was in debt to all or most of the vessels that traded along the coast, it happened sometimes that you would find two supercargos trying to deceive each other as to which direction or route they were taking.  That made one or another break his neck on horseback to arrive first at some ranch or ranches and take possession of the harvested produce, so that when the latecomer arrived he found himself with nothing.  And there were occasions when the two met on the road, in which case the question was settled by the faster horse.

The times when you could get the most produce were the months of June or July in the South, and August and September in the North.  This was the time of year when the ranchers slaughtered their cattle in order to pay off or guarantee something to their various creditors.  In the time of which I am speaking, the missions were already under the responsibility of foremen and administrators appointed by the Government, and had few animals.  Those who still had some cattle were San Buenaventura, San Fernando, Santa Barbara, Santa Inés, La Soledad, San Antonio, Santa Clara (some 4000 head), and San José (some 7000 head).  Even those first named had very few; those I haven’t named had none at all.

It can be said that the Virmond Company was the only one to do business with the missionary fathers; the company received the sínodos, or orders from the fathers, backed by the Mexican government, which were paid upon presentation.  I myself picked up many of these orders during the time I was employed by Virmond.  The allotment of each father was four hundred dollars annually.  The other business of the missions was Done with their administrators.  Most of the administrators prospered in their positions; the truth is, that when the government named an individual Administrator of a mission it was with the object of favoring him or, what is the same thing, giving him free rein to acquire wealth or to increase what he already had, at the mission’s expense. I must say, however, that these administrators religiously kept the promise they made with us, the merchants, in the name of their establishments.

The ships trading along the coast at this time were the American frigates California, Alerta, Boston, and the ship Don Quixote, under the flag of the Sandwich Islands, commanded by Captain Paty (American).  An English ship commanded by Captain Wilson (step-father of Governor Romualdo Pacheco) was consigned to Scott and Wilson of Santa Barbara.  Scott was Scottish and Wilson (the same captain of the boat), English.  There was also the schooner Leonidas (American), Captain Nye, belonging to Don Alfredo Thompson (American, resident of Santa Barbara, but who had his salting house in San Francisco).  Then there were Virmond’s ships, the boat Clarita, and the brigantine Catalina, Peruvian, and the Juan José, Captain Snooks.  Its supercargo and associate was the Basque, Miguel Pedrorena.  In 1841 or 1842 Don José Antonio Aguirre’s ship, the Joven Guipuzcoana, entered the competition.  This gentleman was a Basque but a naturalized Mexican, which was why his ship sailed under the Mexican flag.  At the same time there arrived a Mexican brigantine schooner of the Messrs. Latallaide and Díaz.  The above-mentioned Latallaide was of French parents, and was later Vice Consul of Spain in Monterey (before the acquisition of California by the United States); but he resided Santa Barbara.  His associate, Don Manuel Díaz, was a Mexican who married in Monterey and died there.

The American frigate Monsoon, with its captain and supercargo, Shore, were also there.  These were the only ships trading on the coast until the year 1845.

The population of Los Angeles in 1840 was probably 500 to 800 souls, almost all being native Californians.  There were few Mexicans and very few foreigners. The day after I disembarked in San Pedro I went there, and stayed at Don Abel Stearns’ house on the recommendation of my friend, Don Eulogio Célis, since there was no inn nor boarding house nor anything similar.

The character of the inhabitants of Los Angeles was generally affable and unpretentious except in country matters, since they rightly considered themselves to be knowledgeable about these. 

In my passage from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I encountered the principal rancher of all of California, Don Antonio María Lugo, who in terms of land was the richest farmer around, as it was said that he owned 20,000 head of cattle and a similar quantity of horses, mules, etc.  Lugo was doing his slaughtering in a place known as Ranchito Nuevo (about halfway between San Pedro and Los Angeles).  He was working under a large ramada of willow branches and logs, a general custom all over the country during slaughtering time.  Lugo at this time was already an old man, about sixty, tall, thin, not of bad appearance, frank in his manner, jocular in personality; his language was somewhat off color, as he liked to use obscenities.  He was owner of the ranch of San Bernardino and of two or three other ranches.  Lugo (as he told me) lived and slept during slaughtering time under the ramada on a straw mat with a skin for a mattress and pillow. I saw no other blanket besides his own serape.

Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, I was struck by the early morning prayers which I later saw were a custom among all the Californians, in which thanks were given to God at daybreak in a strong voice.  One voice stood out, which was answered by others in the prayer.  In general, all Californians, men and women, were true Christians as far as their religious beliefs were concerned, although most of them lacked knowledge of the principles of their religion:  they were a very moral people with few exceptions, as much as their lack of education would permit them to be, since there was no public school in Los Angeles.  The only existing educational institution was a private one, and Don Ignacio Coronel and his wife and daughter directed it.  This man Coronel was at the same time Secretary of the Town Council and to all of the judges.  Captain Santiago Argüello was at this time Prefect of the Second District, with a residence in Los Angeles, and his Secretary, Don Narciso Botello.

The most prominent men of Los Angeles at that time, besides Captain Argüello (who properly speaking was from San Diego), were Don Manuel Requena, Don Juan Bandini, Don José Antonio Carrillo, Don Vicente Sanchez, Don Tiburcio Tapa Don Antonio del Valle and his son Don Ignacio.

Of lesser importance were Don Agustin Olvera, Don Ignacio Coronel and Don Narciso Botello, who were almost always Secretaries of the Town Council, the Prefectura and the courts.

Requena was from the Yucatán, a brilliant man who understood law very well and was well educated.

The Valle brothers, Olvera, Coronel and Botello were all Mexicans.  Bandini had come from Peru, and the others named had been born in California. 

Don José Antonio Carrillo was the most notable Californian except for Juan Bautista Alvarado, Pablo de la Guerra and Mariano Guadalupe.  He was a man of natural talent, with very little formal education; but since he had gone to Mexico as a delegate, he had had the opportunity to acquire a bit of worldliness, which filled him with pretense. His character was domineering and uneasy, his manner brusque, and he was constantly mixed up in some intrigue or other.

Bandini had an affable personality, was extremely obsequious, quite merry and humorous, so wherever he was merriment reigned, or if it didn’t, he made sure it would.

Vicente Sánchez was ignorant and capricious in the extreme – despotic in his manner and his resolutions when he had the job of Mayor.  He showed me these qualities, I believe it was in 1844, when he was Judge in a case in which, hearing my adversary tell a great falsehood, I could not help but exclaim that he was lying, for which Mr. Sánchez sent me to jail, from which he immediately ordered me released because they made him see the consequences this could have.  When I gave him the keys to my shop and house, and he saw that I refused to leave the jail, he got my friends to persuade me to come out, and I agreed only to please them.

Sánchez had many enemies because of his arbitrary and brusque manners; however, many praised him and envied him, some because he was a man of means and others because they feared him.

Don Tiburcio Tapia was simply a rancher without any education, but a man of great integrity.  Before coming to Los Angeles, he had been a Justice of the Peace and prefect of the Second District, and years before, mayor and town council interim member. Tapia was in general a very respected and well-liked man.

The Californians generally enjoyed amusements, above all dances and bullfights.  When I arrived people of all kinds participated in the society, rich and poor, respectable women and prostitutes, participated equally in these diversions.  There were actually very few prostitutes, perhaps no more than five or six who lived publicly as whores.  There were others of whom it was said that their virtue was not entirely pure, since they had the reputation of living as concubines or making themselves available for men’s pleasure; yet all were admitted in the people’s daily activities.  During this time a circle of decent and honorable people was beginning to establish itself.  As a matter of fact, on September 16th of 1840 there were two public dances, one in the plaza under the trees, that was attended by most of the common people.  The other, held in Abel Stearns’ house, was by invitation, and attended by the most distinguished families.  To assure this a guard was placed at the door as a precaution, but even this did not prevent the rabble, angry at seeing itself treated with contempt, from throwing stones and breaking the windows of Stearns’ house, an event which never happened again.  From then on two societies established themselves in Los Angeles, Mr. Stearns’ house being the center of the upper class.

Work in the fields was the chief occupation of the men of California, for which they were much in the habit of getting up early. This gave rise to another kind of music, the sound of the women’s hands making corn tortillas for their families’ breakfast, as this was the bread used by most people in the country as much as in the city.

The vice of drinking was not widespread.  All the men would have their usual drink of aguardiente, one or perhaps more, but you didn’t see men drunk, although the liquor was of their own harvest, and from forty-four to fifty proof.  Most of the men drank wine at meals in Los Angeles because they harvested it there.  In other areas along the coast they drank water, and in the North drinking was more prevalent although not alarmingly so.

The most famous wines were: white, Agustín Machado’s vineyard – and for the red, the large San Gabriel vineyard.  During the entire time that I was employed by the Company of Virmond I traded in these wines, which were most esteemed.  I bought them in the South and took them North to sell.  We used to buy red wine from San Gabriel and white from Machado at ten dollars a barrel, and sell it in the North at twenty-five dollars per eighteen-gallon barrel. 

In Los Angeles we would buy ordinary aguardiente for eighteen to twenty dollars an eighteen-gallon barrel, and we sold it in the North at fifty dollars a barrel. 

I spoke of poor and rich.  I should clarify that even if some were poor because they had no property, they did not lack meat, which was common food.  It was a custom when an individual killed a steer for his neighbors to participate, at times to the point of hardly leaving him enough meat to last one or two days.  All those who had meat followed this same custom, sharing with those who did not.  If one in need of meat for his family took a steer, the owner of the steer would be perfectly satisfied if he simply returned him the hide.  Thus want or hunger was unknown in the country.

Agriculture in the southern part of California was non-existent.  They only planted what was necessary for the family’s consumption so there were no exports whatsoever.  Such was not the case in the North where, owing to the Russian settlements in Alaska and at Ross and Bodega, they planted a lot of wheat.  Their frigates and other ships of the Imperial Company picked up shipments of wheat from the port of San Francisco, bringing foreign goods and some cash, which was quickly absorbed by the retail shops and re-absorbed afterward by the ships which were trading.  Thus it is understandable that hides and tallow were the country’s common currency, to the point where in order to buy a real or two worth of sugar or any other article, for example, the buyer would come dragging the hide to the shop.  The value of a hide was twelve reales in silver and two dollars in kind, which indicates the scarcity of silver.

Retail shops bought directly from the ships in large quantities and received credit, as did the ranchers.  They also sold quite a bit on credit.  Every time a buyer slaughtered a steer he took the hide and the grease to the shop as partial payment.  The slaughtered cattle’s fat was saved for household use in large containers and this was given to the shop.  In the slaughtering season the ranchers gave the shops part of what they owed them.  When harvests were not good and the creditors demanded payment, the ranchers gave them live cattle, since all the shopkeepers that I knew had ranches, except Spear and Hinckley of Yerba Buena.

Upon my arrival in California the popular dances were the son, jarabe, jota, the panaderos, zorrita, the borrego, and waltzes and contradances.  After the separation in the society was established, the more exclusive class danced waltzes, contradances, rigodones, and once in a while, the jota and as a rest interval, an occasional son.

In order that a woman or man who knew how to dance the jarabe might show off, they used to ask to have it played, but this was not often.

The bull fights were puntales – that is, with the horns uncovered.  The toreador was on horseback, and sometimes some of the more agile men dashed through the plaza and worked the bull with their capes on foot.  There were no matadores or banderilleros, nor even professional bull fighters.  So no bull was ever killed in the plaza, and it was rare that anyone was ever wounded by the horns.  The horses, however, were wounded often.

The main diversion of the ranchers was to pull the bull’s tail as he came out into the plaza, for which a great number of riders would rush the bull.  First they grabbed his tail, holding it against his knee to make him fall as he was running.  This sport, it is true, caused some unfortunate incidents.  If a horse misstepped or stumbled he fell with his rider, which cost some their lives and others broken arms or legs.

Sometimes bulls were pitted against bears, the bear generally coming out victorious.  I witnessed an event in Santa Barbara in which a bear killed three bulls, one after the other.  For these fights they tied the beasts by one paw and sometimes they tied two together by the forepaws, leaving them a lot of rope.  Under these conditions they fought to a frenzy.  The usual thing was to leave the bull loose.  He would generally attack first, and the bear would only be defending itself.  When the bull came at it, the bear would put its forepaw on his forehead or grab him by the leg and hold him as though he were a piece of straw.  In this way the bear overcame him, making him lower his head.  When he bellowed, it grabbed his tongue, and then it would be necessary to separate them so that the bear would not immediately kill the bull.

There were occasions on which the bull killed the bear with his horns, but this was only if the bear was badly injured after having been tied down tightly in a cart and brought over a long distance.

In order to tie a bear, one cowboy would lasso him by the head and another, quickly, by a hindpaw.  One pulled on the head, the other on the paw, as hard as the horses could pull, depriving him of movement.  Then another lassoed him by a forepaw, still another by another forepaw, and a fifth by the other hindpaw.  Then, as some pulled and others slackened their rope, they got him up into a cart, where they tied him down securely by all four paws.  In this way they got him to where he would fight the bull, sometimes travelling great distances.  The bear often went tied down like this for twelve, twenty-four or even twenty-six hours without food, though he was given water to prevent him from dying of anger and rage.

The Californians were not accustomed to eating bear meat, nor pork, nor lamb; beef was the only meat they liked.  Veal from calves six months to a year old was held in the highest esteem.

They liked roasted veal best.  The condiment of which they were fondest was from the roast.  When they killed a steer, before they had finished skinning it and the ribs were barely showing, they took out what they called the frezada, that is, the meat covering the ribcage.  This they threw on the coals of a fire made in anticipation, after putting a little salt on it (which they always carried with them).  They would just turn it over a bit on the coals to partially roast it, and then they ate it with great enjoyment and considered it a delicacy.  I tried these roasted frezadas several times, and confess that my palate was quite slow to appreciate their merit; eating them was like chewing shoe leather, and I didn’t like their taste.  The truth was, it was the toughest part of the steer.

The ranchers’ ordinary food was carne asada (thinly sliced, grilled beef made with marinated, grilled skirt steak or flank steak) and milk, cheese and azaderas, beans and corn tortillas. But Don’t imagine that because of this they didn’t know the art of cooking.  They made rich stews, and when they had a party or celebrated a wedding or birthday or other event, they prepared all types of rich delicacies, rellenos, above all or chicken or turkey.  Even comparing with what can be round today, there was nothing left to be desired with respect to what the country produced.  That is to say that the women knew how to cook well, and set a lavish table that could compete even with that Camacho’s celebrated wedding, which Cervantes tells us about in his Quixote.

The morality of the family was surprising among the Californians.  I witnessed several times an elderly father beat a married son who had children of his own, the son receiving the beating with bowed head, on his knees.  I saw this a number of times, as much in the South as in the North.  They had great respect for their elders.  Paternal authority only ended with the father’s death.  Children had the same respect for their mothers, and treated all other elderly people with little difference, even when they were not relatives.

The education that the children received was generally limited to repeating the prayers their mothers knew.  In the villages they used to send their children to schools headed by a man or woman whose only advantage over the parents was that he or she knew how to read and write a little.  Even in the schools of Monterey and Los Angeles, the principle cities, instruction was limited to reading, writing and church doctrine.  The only exceptions were a few youths who took advantage of their time with Don Guillermo Hartnell, who devoted some of his time to improving the education of members of certain families whom he held in esteem.  During the last years of Mexican rule, Don Enrique Cambuston (a Frenchman) was in charge of the school, and he taught other subjects, such as arithmetic and grammar.  I believe they didn’t really go beyond that.  Cambuston was a brilliant young man.

The girls learned to sew and do some embroidering and weaving.  Some had a reputation of knowing how to weave fine ataduras (bindings), which were mainly of silk and used to adorn their cowboy boots.  These ataduras had large silk rosettes on one end, and were made with gold and silver thread, sequins, and gold and silver trim.  They formed different figures, such as that of a man or woman, hearts, etc.     These formed a large adornment on the outside of the pant-leg.  It was considered a thing of great luxury and the rich made every effort to wear as many adornments as they could.

Some of the men’s shoes were of chamois skin, and embroidered with gold and silver thread.  They wore them with trousers slit at both sides with a fringe of gold trim and sets of silver buttons, and a dolman jacket.  The jackets were blue, black, green or another color, embroidered with gold and silver thread and adorned with sequins, and worn with sombreros poblanos (hats with wide brims and high crowns) trimmed in silver and gold.  This constituted the costume of the rich Californian rancher.  Add to this a good horse, a saddle with a silver horn, a blanket or covering which was called a mochilla, embroidered with silk, and gold and silver thread and a silver bridle.  That is how the rich California ranchers appeared on festive occasions.

Women’s clothes, when I came to California, were extremely simple.  The ordinary dresses were of English or American printed calico.  The richer women would wear French material, which was more costly.  Their best dresses were of silk, which they used when attending dances or other functions.  The dresses were like those of today, but plain, without any adornment other than some trimming along the hem.  They had white cotton stockings, cotton shoes and for dances satin slippers.  They used rebozos as wraps, these generally being of linen, and the wealthier women used silk ones when they attended some function or dance, On their heads they wore large tortoise-shell combs. Occasionally a married woman might have a silk mantilla to wear to church. Most of the women of means had necklaces of gold beads, and some of fine pearls, gold earrings, and rings of the same metal.  Some had rings with diamonds, emeralds, and other precious stones.  Wigs were unknown in the country; their hair was always natural.

Among the women of California there were some excellent horseback riders.  They used draft horses or as they were called, caballos de genero, or generosos, which were assigned especially to women and friars.  Without having been taught the rules of equitation, they rode elegantly and handled the horse masterfully.  There were some who knew how to lasso a steer in the field like a man and bring it home.  Among others, I remember Senorita Joséfa Arguello, daughter, I believe, of the ex-Governor Don Luis Antonio Arguello, who later became the wife of Don Eulogio Célis.  The women usually rode alone, but sometimes a man took them, the woman in the saddle and the man mounted behind, on the covering for the horse’s hindquarters, holding the reins, for which he had to put his arm on the woman’s shoulder, or to her right side.

The vehicles used in the country were carettas (ox carts) with wooden wheels, each wheel being made of one piece and not very round, some rimmed with iron and others without rims, pulled by one or more yoke of oxen.  A piece of rawhide was put over the cart for the family to sit on when going out on a trip.  Some would put a cushion over the hide.  I know of no other type of carriage in the country, other than the old light-weight carriage that the padres of Santa Barbara had, and another owned by Don José de la Guerra.  They were of very old construction, looking very much like the litters used of old (referred to as literas) I had heard, with low wheels. Perhaps there existed some other type of carriage in the country, but I do not recall having seen it. Around 1842 and 1843 they began to introduce light carriages and carts with spoked wheels, imported from the United States.

They hauled almost everything in ox carts.  Mules were only used for the transport of light provisions or small quantities of goods from the ranches for the families in the villages. 

Their music usually came from the violin and the guitar, and also sometimes a clarinet and harp.  I only saw one piano in Monterey, in about 1842; I believe it was owned by Don José Abrego, Regional Treasurer.  The government Secretary, Don Manuel Jimeno, played it at dances.  The Senoritas Soberanes, without any knowledge of or instruction in music, sang in strong voices with almost perfect rhythm.

There were some men who excelled at the guitar, especially in Santa Barbara, one of them being Don Guillermo Carrillo, who is still alive.  Many of the married ladies played guitar and sang beautiful Spanish songs masterfully.  Opera was unknown.

The best violin and harp players were in Los Angeles, and they played very well indeed.  I must say, however, that those harp players, among whom was a certain Lopez, were natives of Mexico.  The violinists were Californian, and among them was a young lady married to Don Merced.  She was a daughter of the great rancher Antonio Maria Lugo, and the same one who had a second marriage with Mr. Stephen C. Forster, Mayor and Prefect, who was from Los Angeles.

Drawing was not known in the country.

In the missions there were orchestras of Indians who had been taught by the missionaries to play without reading music.  An orchestra usually consisted of a bass drum, a tambour, a triangle, a bass viol, several violins and a flute.  I Don’t recall having seen a clarinet in any of them.  The same ones who played sang in the chorus, others accompanying them.  The music, if good in some parts, was extremely dissonant in others.  The Indians’ singing followed the same pattern, music never quite entering into them despite the padres’ efforts.  These orchestras were never called upon to make music at the dances; in the latter, the music was usually of violin and guitar, except when some foreign warship came in and sent its musical band ashore.  But this only happened in Monterey.

When I arrived in Los Angeles for the first time, the most distinctive families were already in the habit of holding their evening gatherings, sometimes in one house, sometimes in another, but most commonly in that of Sr. Stearns, who was married to Doña Arcadia Bandini, reputed to be the most beautiful woman in California, just as her husband, whom they nicknamed “horseface,” was reputed to be the ugliest.  He was also slow of speech due to a serious injury to his tongue some years before.  La Sra. Stearns, when I arrived, was very young, and to her beauty were added a frank and affable demeanor, in which her innocence was apparent, of course earning the esteem of all with whom she dealt.  This caused her house to become a center of meetings and amusements for the exclusive society of Los Angeles. 

Upon my arrival in California, Sr. Alvarado y Leridia was Governor in Monterey.  Sr. Alvarado often tried to give me land and property, and goods from the missions to establish a ranch, but I always refused his offers, because there existed in me the desire and hope of returning to my country, and I only wished to accumulate enough money to return there with some independence.  But my work unfortunately did not prosper.  I took care to stay out of the country’s politics, confining myself strictly to my business endeavors.

In 1842, around the month of June or July, I had left the employment of the Company of Virmond, and had taken charge of the business of Don José Antonio Aguirre, and sailed in the frigate Joven Guipuzeoana.  The first time I went down to San Pedro from San Francisco, I found out that General Micheltorena, named Governor and Comandante General of California by the Federal Government of Mexico, had arrived in San Diego bringing with him several officials of state and a battalion of troops, called The Permanent Stationary Battalion of the Californias.  I saw his first proclamation upon disembarking in San Diego, in which he told the Californians that he had brought them a great number of artisans and artists who would be useful to the country and to Californians, teaching them many arts and professions that they did not know.  Experience showed later that in fact they did teach the Californians many things that were unknown in the country up until then, such as robbery, dishonesty, the increase of drunkenness, many deceitful card tricks, and all types of vices.  The dishonesty of the above-mentioned artisans arrived at the point where women could not hang out the clothes they washed without keeping watch over them, nor leave dishes in their kitchens, because they disappeared as if by magic.

In this same period, I witnessed a curious case.  I was seated in Don Abel Stearns’ parlor and the venerable old man Don Antonio Maria Lugo passed by, whose custom it was to wear a beautiful serape from Saltillo (Coahuila, Mexico) thrown over his shoulder, and his sword under his arm.  But today, as luck would have it, he had forgotten the sword.  As he passed in front of Stearns’ house, I saw one of the cholos (General Micheltorena’s artisans) who, coming up stealthily behind Sr. Lugo, took the end of the serape (serapes from Saltillo were worth one hundred fifty to two hundred pesos each) which hung from his shoulder, and little by little was pulling it off him, following Lugo with the greatest of care.  He had already pulled off about a third of the serape when it caught on his shoulder, and quickening his step he gave a strong pull, so that Sr. Lugo was barely able to grab it by the front end.  The cholo, with much formality, then said to Sr. Lugo, “sir, let go of my serape!  What did I do to you?  Why do you want to take it away from me?  Sir, it’s mine!”  Lugo, red in the face and speechless, made to put his hand on his sword, which he did not have with him, all the while holding fast to his end of the serape.  At this point in the altercation many of us who had been watching (it was about eleven in the morning) came running to help Sr. Lugo, which caused the cholo, seeing this, to let go of it and run.  Every day there was robbery and thievery wherever those blasted cholos were.

Before entering into the subject of the events after the arrival of Micheltorena in the country, I wish to speak of the particular characteristics of the diverse localities of California.

Habits and customs were the same all over the territory.  However, one noticed some differences in people’s character and manners.  For example, the inhabitants of San Diego were extremely merry and enjoyed carousing; those of Los Angeles not so much so; they were a bit more reserved in their manners. Those of Santa Barbara were much more serious and reserved, with a more religious demeanor.  This marked religiosity of the Barbareños was due to the influence of the missionary fathers, and of Capitan José de la Guerra, whose conduct and advice were imitated, and with good reason, as Capitan de la Guerra was not only the defender of Santa Barbara’s interests, but also the consolation and helper of all the poor.  In the last years, before its annexation to the United States, public morality had already declined in Santa Barbara, the births of many illegitimate children being noted, although even in these days it would be difficult to find a public whore who is native to Santa Barbara; no, she certainly won’t be found there.

One custom quite noticeable to me in Santa Barbara in 1840 was the use of a black silk kerchief folded several times to make it of a width of about two inches, which they called a camorra.  Women fastened it around their heads, tying it at the nape of their necks.  This gave the woman a different look from that of the women of other localities.  It was a general custom without class exceptions, but was notable among the more well to do.  Amusements, dances and outings were not so frequent in Santa Barbara as in other towns, although some illustrious families stood out, such as the de la Guerras, Carrillos, Pachecos, Thompsons, Arellanes and others.  In the area of public education there existed the same state of backwardness as in the other towns.

In Monterey, the capital of the territory and seat of the government, you noticed more enlightenment, and the reason is simple:  the federal government being there, the only customs house and the treasury, and quarters of the customs officials, there was necessarily more contact with foreigners and people from other areas, whose customs, styles and fine manners they had acquired.  It was a place where ships of many different nations came often, and very particularly war ships, whose distinguished officials served as models of manners.  That is how the elite of Monterey had finer manners than those of any other town, not excepting even Los Angeles, in which there was a very exclusive society.  The outings to the pine grove and the dances were very frequent.  Society was more organized and the classes separated, there being great merriment and organization in their amusements.

The homes of Mr. John Cooper, Don José Amesti and Don José Abrego were centers of family meetings and in one or another house in the afternoons and evenings of fiesta days it was the common thing to have a dance.  These were purely family reunions in which no one was at all ostentatious, nor was much money wasted.  At the public dances or invitationals a splendid buffet was always served, with all types of rich wines and liqueurs, the tables covered with delicacies and sweets of different kinds.

Monterey and Los Angeles excelled in these big dances.  In the latter city, in 1841 if remember correctly, a club with the title of Amigos del Pais was established, in which the most dignified persons took part, and I, although a humble subordinate, had the honor of becoming a member.  The founders were Don Manuel Requena, first mayor, Don Abel Stearns, Don Juan Temple, Don Agustín Olvera, Don Eulogio de Celís, Don Antonio F. Coronel, Don Juan Bandini, Don Andrés Pico, Don Narciso Botello and others whose names I Don’t remember now.  The objective of the club was to provide families with a pastime that was as agreeable as it was enlightening; thus, in the by-laws of the club’s Board, it was directed that it subscribe to different newspapers in order that they could serve as reading and entertainment for members and non-members.  They contracted for harp music for the year, which was to be played on all holidays.  They solicited from the city council a place where the club could meet, and they were given one hundred square varas on the main street (the same that is today Main Street).  In this place they built by subscription and private Donation from the members an adobe house with a great ballroom, ladies’ and gentlemen’s rooms for lounging and resting, a dining room, etc.  Unfortunately, the rooms having been furnished and fitted, and some dances held in them, there arose a dispute among some of the members and the club was given up for a bad job, because the dispute became widespread, and the project was abandoned, although a lot of money had been spent.  Today this lot is situated as you come from the main plaza or from the church, through the marsh along the main street, a little below the courthouse; if I remember correctly, it forms a corner on one side of the present courthouse, where you can still see the old adobe walls.  That house was raffled off without charging for the tickets, and Don Andrés Pico won.  That was the end of the club.

In San Francisco the population consisted of four or five houses; the point was then called Yerba Buena.  The place consisted of a shop of Spear and Hinckley’s, a billiard hall belonging to the old French Captain Biochette, a forge and carpenter shop, I Don’t remember whose, and the family home of Don Jacob P. Leese.  And a widow named Juana Briones was the laundress, and two other men had their little houses there. The military comandante lived in the Presidio near the mouth of the port with a few troops, and the sub-prefect at Mission Dolores, where there was a small village.  The military comandante was then Lieutenant Juan Prado Mesa, a very ignorant man.  The sub-prefect was a Mexican, Don Francisco Guerrero, a pretty capable man with average knowledge, quite courteous and alert in carrying out his duties.

In San Francisco there were no family gatherings, but as it was a secure port many ships could stay there, and those trading along the coast would delay awhile.  Biochette’s billiard hall was the meeting place for captains and supercargos.

The Leese and Spears families were naturally much visited by the captains and Supercargos.

A taste for amusement abounded throughout the coast, so in San Francisco when they wanted to hold some dance, the ships anchored in the port, dispatching boats and launches to the different ranches on the opposite coast [Contra Costa], which were owned by the Estudillos, Castros, Martínezes and Peraltas, and Richardson in Sausalito.  Everyone lent a hand, delighted to attend dances with their families, coming to Yerba Buena in these boats and in the same ones returning to their homes.

The families had frank, affable manners but they had not had the opportunity to acquire the same level of culture as those from other points in California.

There was in San Francisco near the Presidio, a spring called El Polín, to whose waters were attributed the virtue of making sterile women fertile.  Women from different points on the coast came to this well-spring to take the baths and drink the water, and they said with considerable success – which makes me inclined to believe perhaps its water was rich in iron.  When I was visiting Captain Spear’s house, I personally witnessed such a case.  Doña Juana Briones arrived, and in conversation asked Spear if he did not want to have a child, as it appeared that his wife, who was from the Sandwich Islands, was sterile.  They had been married several years already.  Spear’s reply was affirmative.  Juana Briones then assured him that if he put his wife under her care, he would have a little one.  It seemed as if the two women were already in agreement, since no sooner had Spear said, “Take her,” when his wife put on her wraps and went out in Juana Briones’ company.  This woman had twins one year later.   

Among the families who inhabited the shore of the bay, that of Teniente Don Ignacio Martínez deserves particular mention for its pleasant, courteous and fun-loving Character.  The many times that I was at Pinole (it must have been over fifty), I Don’t remember even one that there wasn’t a dance in the evening, and I’m inclined to believe that the other supercargos would have the same recollection.  To arrive at the ranch and have a fandango in the evening was all one to them.

On one of my trips to San Francisco, I believe in 1840, a Russian frigate arrived at the port bringing the Governor of the Russian possessions of North America. The Comandante of Ross also came, and also Don Pedro Costromitinoff, whom we all knew.  They held a banquet on board the frigate, and we were invited.  On that occasion, many years after having been in Jerez (Spain), I drank for the first time a true sherry, as the Russian chiefs told us that since we were Spaniards, they wanted to give us wine from our country; and it certainly was, and of excellent vintage and high quality.  After the meal, there followed a dance on board the same frigate.  The families from the opposite shore attended, those from our place, and some from Mission Dolores.  For this dance the main salon and one of the ship’s decks were arranged.  I observed that at intervals there were placed little braziers in which incense was burning; because, as they told me, without this circumstance, it would have been very disagreeable to breathe the air for the stench that is emitted by the Kodiak crew members and other individuals from those regions, an effect of the excessive use of whale and fish oil, that they drink as we drink coffee or tea.

Everyone had a wonderful time, those assembled numerous and splendidly decked out, above all the women, among whom there were many quite pretty ones.  The enthusiasm was such that even Padre Lorenzo Quijas took part in the dance, changing clothes with me, he putting on my coat and I his habit.  We danced cuadrillas together, me with the habit on, the girls dying of laughter.

Quijas, who was a very close friend of mine, told me once that he had been a cowboy in Mexico, and (1 Don’t know what caused him to tell me this) he had abandoned his work and become a friar.  He was a very liberal man.

The dance aboard the Russian frigate lasted all night and the next morning everyone went to bed.

When we were speaking of the amusements of San Diego, I forgot to tell of a case which proves how much the Dieguinos liked to have fun.  A short time before our ship arrived in San Diego (I believe that was in 1841) during our trips along the coast, the brigantine Juan José whose supercargo was Don Miguel Pedrorena had been in port. Upon our arrival the Dieguinos told us that Pedrorena had given a dance (the best that had been seen there up until that time) that lasted three days and nights.  Stung by these words, our Captain Walker, and Don Eulogio Celís invited me to contribute to a dance that would outdo Pedrorena’s.  And we did, too, as this dance lasted eight days.  By night they danced in the town, and in the daytime families came aboard to eat. Afterward they slept a little, danced a little or amused themselves or conversed, and after that they went back to town to dance all night to the following day, for eight straight days.  And yet all this cost very little.  It was curious to see the procession of carts driving the families either to the ship or to the town.

Trading in San Francisco was hard work, as much so carrying the cargo as gathering the produce.  Boats and launches were used, and in order to arrive at the different ranches it was necessary to enter through the marshes, the launch frequently getting stuck.  And at low tide the supercargo often had to jump in the mud, sometimes in the middle of the night and at wintertime, other times in an icy rain.  He had to do this to set an example for the sailors so they too would jump into the mud to open a channel and get out with the following tide, because if they didn’t, the launch would stay there, stuck in the mud for eight or ten days until the spring-tides returned.  All this made working on San Francisco Bay quite arduous.

The inhabitants of the town of San José were considerably more backward than other places on the coast, which you noticed in their manners, and still more in their parties and amusements.  It was the custom at weddings to have a party, as along all of the coast, to which end they set up an arbor with a board floor, since they had the wood nearby.  One should understand that in the arbors I spoke of before, in which the public dances were given in Los Angeles and other places, the floors were of earth.

In San José they usually elevated the board floor some two or three feet above the ground, and it was fastened in an improvised way.  In these rooms with walls and roofs of branches they gave dances which at times used to last many days.  The men had the bad habit of mounting on horseback up onto the wood floor where they were dancing and turning the horse around, making him dance too.  And in spite of the example given by some foreign families there of some orderly dances, and of the dances given at the opening of the immense State Legislature building in 1851, this awful custom prevailed even at the ranches.  I witnessed this during this same time at Valentín Higuera’s ranch, at the party for the wedding of a son of his, to which I was invited with my wife and family.  This Higuera had taken the precaution of encircling the dance floor with strong wooden posts and planks.  In spite of this, the dance had barely begun when those watching on horseback whipped their horses toward the posts, breaking them and climbing up on the boards.

At the same fiesta I witnessed acts that bordered on the insane, such as the women taking off their richly embroidered Chinese shawls (worth two to three hundred dollars each) and throwing them on the ground soaked in wine to dance on them.

The most distinguished families in San José were those of Don Antonio Sunol, Don Antonio María Pico, and the Bernal family. There was no society there, or family gatherings excepting among those families, to which we must add the Spanish Sr. Noriega’s.  He was married to a daughter of the Mexican Don José Zenon Fernandez.

In my business negotiations along the coast, I had occasion to meet all of the ranchers who inhabited the area and their families, as well as all of the missionaries.

In the northern part, the missions were occupied by the Mexican padres of the Colegio de Guadalupe de Zacatecas, not exactly of recommendable morals, setting a pernicious example, except for the Reverend Padre José María de Jesús González who, on the contrary, was a model of virtue and had all the good qualities which adorn a man who is religious from the heart, to which he united a bright talent, great enlightenment, and an extremely generous and friendly manner.

The missions in the south were under the care of the Fernandino padres who still remained and who were mostly of the old Spanish missionaries, venerable old men who had contributed, many of them, to forming the population of California.

Concerning the ranchers and their families, I must say that I had repeated occasion to experience the proverbial hospitality of which I had heard.  And I must confess no exaggeration in what I had been told.  When I arrived at a ranch, those who lived there received me with signs of satisfaction and gave me the best they had, providing me furthermore with horses or servants if I had need of them, giving up their beds on occasion to me.  Do not imagine that because of this special consideration was given to me personally, although captains and supercargos enjoyed general consideration.  They followed the same custom with any stranger who arrived at their ranches.

I had heard it said that in California a traveler was conducted from mission to mission from San Diego to San Francisco without it costing him a cent, giving him horses, servants, supplies, and whatever existed in them that he might need, and the ranchers observed the same practice with very little difference after the missions declined.

It has been said that there was a lot of smuggling along the coast at that time and before.  Concerning the Company of Virmond, it never had occasion to smuggle as its goods brought to California were Mexican, or had passed through Customs at Acapulco.  The Company of Aguirre did not do it either; they imported foreign goods from Callao.  Or at least I can confirm that it was not done in the expedition that I made to Callao in the ship Joven Guipuzcoana.  But it does seem that the ships with foreign flags, before presenting themselves in Monterey to pass through Customs, stopped at some of the coastal islands where they unloaded some of their merchandise and after the appraisal had been made, they returned to the island and loaded the merchandise again.

As I said before, when I was in San Francisco, I left Virmond’s business and took charge of Aguirre’s.  This was in 1842.  Going down from Santa Barbara to San Diego in the Joven Guipuzcoana, we stopped at the port of Monterey, and leaving this port for San Luis Obispo, tacking off Santa Cruz to turn at Punta de Pinos [a Mexican land grant in present day Monterey County], a big war frigate under an English flag came to meet us, and coming near, fired a cannon shot, lowering the English flag and raising the North American, which made us lie to.  The war vessel lowered a boat with an official and a number of sailors, all armed.  They climbed aboard our boat and took it over, sailing it again to Monterey, where the ship Clarita, which was also Mexican, was anchored.  After dropping the anchor, the official went back to the war frigate which had accompanied us to the port, leaving orders not to lower a boat to go on land.  Looking for a subterfuge, I shouted to Captain Walker of the Clarita to send me his boat since we were forbidden to lower one of our own, and in the boat that he sent me I went on land, heading for the house of Governor Alvarado, where I found all the civil and military employees and the principal residents of Monterey in a meeting as a result of Commodore Jones, whose insignia was flying on the frigate, having sent Governor Alvarado a communication hinting at the surrender of the plaza.  The entire night was passed in making plans, discussing what would be best to do, and finally we agreed to move the government to the Mission of San Antonio, carrying the archives in carts.  We began carrying out this plan very early the following morning, and afterward they surrendered the plaza without resistance because they had no means of holding it.  The Commodore disembarked his people and took possession of the government’s building, military headquarters and fort.  Mr. Alvarado had left Monterey before this.

However, Commodore Jones, a few hours after taking possession, was convinced that no state of war existed between Mexico and the United States and returned the plaza with all its equipment and the rest, lowering his flag and hoisting the Mexican one, which he saluted with a corresponding number of guns.  Parties and rejoicing followed, for which I was not present, because that same afternoon we had been set free we left the port, heading for San Luis Obispo, in continuance of our journey.  Upon arriving at San Luis Obispo, I disembarked and continued my journey to the various ports by land as was my custom almost always to avoid sea sickness and because of the need to visit the ranches in order to gather what produce they had.  I touched at all the ports, until I reached San Diego and then returned to San Francisco as I had come.

In October or November of the same year of 1842, I left San Diego on the Joven Guipuzcoana for Callao with the intention of going from there to the Philippine Islands, and not returning again to California.  But, having found no way of traveling out of Callao after two months of residence there, I returned to California on the same ship, using the few funds that I had.  We arrived at Santa Barbara in April, 1843.  Don José Antonio Aguirre disembarked, and we went up to Monterey.  There I got off and stayed on land for several months.  During my stay in that capital, General Micheltorena arrived from the south, bringing with him a considerable part of his “artisans.”  It was certain that in the battalion came men of all occupations, but all or the majority of them were people taken from the jails and even from the presidio of Chapala [a fort or prison in Central Mexico].

This troop continued its stupidities in Monterey the same as in Los Angeles, and quickly made itself hated.

It seems that Sr. Micheltorena made little effort to contain his people’s excesses; perhaps he was afraid of them.

I witnessed the following scene, standing in the door of Don José María Castañares’ house, in which I was lodging, in the company of Don Castanares and Captain Noriega, one of Micheltorena’s officials.  A soldier passed by in the street wrapped up in a serape carrying a bundle under his arm.  Upon seeing him, Captain Noriega asked him what he was carrying, and the soldier, with much impudence, replied, “Mi capitán, a guitar!” and at the same time showed him the head and neck of a turkey which he had undoubtedly stolen from some house higher up the hill.  Captain Noriega burst into laughter, and we laughed too at the incident of the soldier.

I was also one of the victims of General Micheltorena’s “artisans.”  There was a celebration with a big dance on September 16th, 1843, to which I was invited, and, while I was happily dancing, Micheltorena’s “artisans” were cleaning out my trunk and room, so that I had no more shoes and clothes than those I had on.  I informed some officials, but recovered nothing, nor did I find out that they had made the slightest effort to see what may have happened to my things, or who had ransacked my quarters.

Later I again became a victim (in the year 1844) being then established in Los Angeles, where I had started a general merchandise store.  One day, which happened to be Don Eulogio de Célis’ birthday, I was invited by the latter to dine at his house.  After the meal we went out for a walk in the countryside and, returning a bit later, I was retiring to my house, but Sr. Célis’ repeated petitions to stay for a game of chess made me stay some time longer.  This game saved my life as you will see.  The game finished, I retired to my house, and, upon putting the key in the lock of the street door, it opened by itself.  Surprised, I lit a match, and saw all of the shelves empty.  All of the merchandise, with no exception, had been carried off … and, something remarkable … my clothes trunk, which was in the room immediately next to the shop, and next to my bed, and which contained some money, had not been touched.  I went immediately to see the mayor, Don Manuel Requena, and he went with me right away, asking Colonel Segura for an escort.   He accompanied us with some soldiers, with whom we proceeded to search some houses set apart from the town, in which we found part of the merchandise, and through the arrest of those who owned the houses, it became clear who the thieves were, and from the statements made by those people, it turned out that while some of them were robbing my shop, others were posted in a narrow alley through which I would have had to walk to get home, with the intent of killing me if I had arrived during the robbery.

The thieves who were seized and convicted were Micheltorena’s soldiers.  Judge Requena prosecuted the case until everything was made clear, and General Micheltorena was informed, and Micheltorena ordered other soldiers to be brought to Monterey, offering to pay me the losses I had suffered, since only part of my goods bad been found.  This promise was never kept, and he set the thieving soldiers free; that is to say he assigned them to other companies in his battalion. 

I will tell you about another case which happened in my own Los Angeles house, when I was already settling in San Buenaventura, Captain Gaspar Oreña, a nephew of Captain José de la Guerra, having rented my shop, in which he had put merchandise brought from Lima.  In the absence of Oreña, the shop one night was robbed of a small quantity of goods.  Then I hired Juan Pablo Ayala to guard it to see if the thief could be caught if he came back.  That was in 1845 during the administration of Governor Pico.

On the following night, the thief returned, and when Ayala wanted to grab him, he tried to climb the corral wall, which was quite high and of adobe.  Ayala killed him with one shot; he fell dead on the other side.  He was recognized as one of Micheltorena’s “artisans.”  (He was a tailor.)  He was Teniente Garfías’ assistant, one of the officials who came with the General.  (Today [Feb. 1878] Garfías is an American Consul in one of the Pacific Mexican ports)

If I were to tell of all the obnoxious robberies of those wretched “artisans,” it would fill many pages.  Let it suffice to say that the word cholo was a voice of alarm to women, who all rushed to look after their clothes, kitchenware, household items, etc.

To steal poultry, these cholos had adopted sure and silent ways.  They would tie a grain of corn at the end of a thread, and toss it a little way away from the bird.

When it had swallowed the grain, they quickly pulled the string, pulling the bird along, which, closing its beak, allowed itself to be dragged, flapping its wings, but silently.

I must confess in honor of the truth that from the year 1840 to 1843 we enjoyed perfect personal security in California, in the towns as on the roads.  No traveler feared assault by evil-doers on his way, except for savage Indians in some too deserted localities, such as Nacimiento, Asunción, Paso de Robles, Las Pocitas, etc.  The only case of robbery and murder that I know of occurred in Los Angeles, on the person of a German named Frink, who had a little tavern and cobbler’s shop, I think he was a cobbler.  This deed made people indignant, but respecting the law, they quickly seized and tried the criminals, sentencing them to death.  The execution was carried out in front of the same house in which the crime had been committed.  There they were shot.  The criminals’ names were Alipaz, Valencia and another whose name I don’t recall.  The Prefect then was Captain Santiago Arguello, his Secretary Don Narciso Botello.  I don’t remember who judged the case.  This was during the year 1841 or perhaps just at the beginning of 1842.  I recall that Don Eulogio Celís and I were watching the execution from the hilltop, and Padre Thomás de Esténega’s forceful voice was cause for our admiration as, coming out of the chapel, giving spiritual aid to the criminals, the words “Sovereign Queen of Angels” arrived at our ears in spite of our great distance away, as though we were only four steps away.

When I was living in Monterey in 1843, the Superior Tribunal of Justice still existed, and the constitution, and [the Tribunal] was made up of Don Juan Malarín, President; Don José Antonio Carrillo and Don José Antonio Estudillo, Ministers; Don José Maria Castañares, Treasurer; and Don José Mariano Bonilla, Secretary.

I believe that neither the President nor the Ministers nor the Treasurer had studied law in their lives, let alone enough to carry out their important responsibilities with skill.  Sr. Bonilla, I understand, had done some study in Mexico to much advantage before coming to California with the colony in 1843, and, although he didn’t obtain his law degree, he was a lawyer.

In those days when I was employed as a supercargo, I had very little opportunity to direct my attention to the country’s politics or the actions of those who governed it, unless the operation of business was in some way affected by them.  No doubt many measures of the Government were familiar to me, but since they didn’t touch me directly, I didn’t take pains to preserve them in my memory.  Because of this, I can’t relate them with the certainty that I should, or at least that I would like.  But I do remember that General Micheltorena dispatched a decree for the restitution of interest of the missions existing at that time to the missionary padres.  At that time several of them still had country property. This did not cause the Governor to stop making private land concessions to individuals, so the padres occupied no other place than that of administrators of the settlements, and it continued thus until the time of Pío Pico.

Before I forget the following case, I am going to recount it, although it’s out of place here.  Don José Antonio Carrillo, Superior Court Judge in Monterey, was a great drinker of liquor.  One day Don Eulogio Célis and I found ourselves with him Mr. James Watson’s shop.  In the conversation Carrillo made a bet with Mr. Watson, who knew the different aguardientes he had in his house, and from which Los Angeles huerta [orchard] each one came.  We, who had sold the aguardiente to Watson, knew by the brand names on the barrels to which huerta each one belonged.  We encouraged Watson to accept the proposition because we didn’t think that the palate of such a drinker would be capable of distinguishing by taste the liquor of different huertas.  But we were greatly surprised to see that Sr. Carrillo did not make even one mistake, in spite of having tasted from six to eight different huertas.  Sr. Carrillo was a man who could drink, and did drink daily, a great quantity of aguardiente, pure, from 44 to 50 proof, and the funniest thing was that you wouldn’t have known, either by his looks or his voice or his walk.  He was the earliest riser in Los Angeles, and the first to present himself in the tavern door.  That was at dawn, and from that hour he began imbibing shots, and refilled them with great frequency until the advanced hour of the night when he went to bed.  Each drink was of quite a considerable quantity, perhaps three or four ounces of liquor.  There was no one in California who could compete with him at any time; some tried and finished defeated. 

When I spoke of the taking of Monterey by Commodore Jones, I forgot to give the names of the individuals who made up the junta meeting in Governor Alvarado’s house. This junta consisted of said Governor; his Secretary Don Manuel Jimena; Don Antonio María Osio, Administrator of Customs; Don Rafael González, Commander of the Guard; Don José Abrego, Departmental Treasurer; and various officials and employees.

That night Sr. Alvarado again urged me to choose the ranch that pleased me the most, and he would give me properties from the missions to establish it, reminding me that this was the last day that he would be Governor of California and I should take advantage of it.  After thanking him courteously, I refused his offer.  I still had not given up the idea of leaving the country; on the contrary, it was stronger in my mind, as I was interested in the expedition heading for Peru and in the cargo it would probably be bringing back.

In early 1845, between March and May, Captain Joaquín de la Torre came to Los Angeles with Californian forces, fell upon the Guard, and took over the arms.

To explain this, I will say briefly that toward the end of 1844 the Californians of Monterey revolted against General Micheltorena, giving as a reason the abuses and evil deeds of the cholos.  The Californianos with Don Manuel Castro and Don Francisco Rico and other prominent men at their head, left Monterey, took over the government’s herd of horses, and took it away.  They were pursued by one of Micheltorena’s chiefs, who could not overtake them and had to return to Monterey, bringing with him all the livestock he could gather on the way.   

Later Don José Castro united some twenty-five or thirty men from the presidial company of Monterey (who until then had been building a military bridge in the source of the San Joaquín River) to those of the uprising.  The forces of these increased, and Micheltorena himself came to fight against them with a respectable force.  They met at Lake Alvires, but there was no combat; instead, there was an agreement between Castro and Micheltorena.  As I was assured, the Californianos recognized Micheltorena, with the express condition that he disband his cholos, and some of his officials, and make them leave the country.  And, as Micheltorena alleged that he did not have the authority to send troops outside of the territory which had been posted in it by the Federal Government, they agreed that the General write the Government, recommending that those troops be taken away from here.  It is certain that Micheltorena retreated with his forces for Monterey, and Don José with his Californian forces to make camp at the Mission of San José and await the resolution of the Federal Government.

As Castro’s Californianos were almost all ranchers, they very quickly began to retire to their homes, although to return quickly if necessary.  Castro found himself with very few people when, not long after the arrangement, he got news through his spies that General Micheltorena was approaching with a formidable force.  Then he retreated precipitously for the south, and didn’t stop until he reached Los Angeles, Micheltorena in pursuit although with only a troop of infantry and I believe a couple of artillery pieces.  It has been said, and firmly believed by many, and with some reason, that that was a sham campaign and many were convinced that the revolt had been provoked by Micheltorena himself, who wanted to return to Mexico, in order to have a pretext to abandon the country.  It seems that the march of the revolt proved it, because the different forces never fought, though they encountered each other several times.  Whenever Micheltorena advanced, Castro and his forces retreated without engaging his troops or slowing his march at all, as they could have done in those passes as difficult as that of La Gaviota and El Rincon, etc.  And only in the San Fernando Valley did they shoot off a couple of cannons, but at an immense distance.

When Don José Castro presented himself in Los Angeles, the situation in the north was made known to Don Pío and others, and as the desire to liberate themselves from the cholos was widespread throughout the territory, they forgot the old rancors for the moment, and the Angelinos joined those forces of the north, making common cause with them.  They convoked the Assembly, which resolved to send a Commissioner to General Micheltorena, whom I believe could be found in Santa Barbara, demanding that he not come down from there until there had been conferences and negotiations, as that body’s judgment was that the difficulties could be settled peacefully.  Micheltorena gave the Commission a bad reception, and would not accede to what they asked of him.  The representatives returned and reported the results of their commission.  The Assembly then resolved to disavow General Micheltorena’s authority, and called Pío Pico, its first speaker, to exercise the responsibility of Acting Governor, at the same time recognizing Don José Castro as the Comandante of military forces.

The rebels’ forces organized, they situated themselves in San Buenaventura, where Sr. Castro made a kind of stone wall that cut off the pass, so the enemy force would come through the hills or beach, more probably, since they were all infantry.  There they exchanged some cannon fire at a great distance, which looked more like salutations than combat.  Castro continued marching in retreat, leaving General Micheltorena free to advance, who, without being bothered, marched to the San Fernando plain, where it appeared that all the forces sent by Castro had met and were ready to fight against his.   There they exchanged some cannon fire from an equally great distance.  The foreigners accompanying Micheltorena left him; negotiations were held, in which General Micheltorena was seen to capitulate, marching with his forces and arms directly to the Port of San Pedro, without entering Los Angeles, where the ships that were to conduct him to one of the ports of Mexico were already waiting, to stop in Monterey to receive the rest of his forces, and his wife and belongings.  Thus ended the revolution against Sr. Micheltorena’s party and his artisans, leaving the country in the impression that everything had been the work of Micheltorena himself.  The payment of his troops was quite late, carried out as it was after the appraisal of the ships from Limantour, not to mention the different ships who traded along the coast, by Machado of Mazatlán, who came to Monterey though they should have been doing it in Mazatlán, which was their port of destination.  A little while after, the Governor of Mexico confirmed Don Pío Pico as Governor and Don José Castro as Commander General, I believe in that same year 1845.

Castro stationed himself in Monterey, and Governor Pico established his government in Los Angeles, which was by law the capital.

During this time the government of Mexico had made known to the Governor and the Commander General the possibility of a declaration of war against the Republic of Mexico by the United States of America.

Castro, following his old custom, took over all the funds that came into the Treasury, Pío Pico not receiving any money to sustain the government.  This produced tension between the Governor and Commander General, and the result was the armed expedition by Governor Pío Pico to restrain Castro and take over the Customs and Treasury.

Before this, the Departmental Assembly dedicated itself to preventing, as much as was possible, the complete destruction of the missions, considering them to be historical monuments from the founding of California, which should be preserved, and also unique resources for fund gathering to defray the costs of the government and subsequently those of the expedition I mentioned above.

For that purpose, a commission was named, composed of the Señores Don Juan Manso (Spanish; Manso was from Asturia in Spain, and he came to California in 1844, I believe, employed by the firm of Virmond.  He was lodged in my house in Los Angeles after separating himself from those negotiations in which he took part for a very small time, having fallen out with Don Eulogio Célis.  I got him a position with the Englishman Henry Dalton (who still lives in Los Angeles), and Don Andrés Pico, in order that they take inventory of the missions without losing any time, and give account of each one.  The Commission visited all the missions in the south and north, and from their report the Assembly and the government, arguing, resolved to sell some at public auction, namely those that had no businesses, or were partly ruined, or threatened by immediate ruin.  They were convinced that if they passed them into private hands, these people in their own interest would better attend to their preservation than the Government, which lacked means and had other cares.  And they would rent those which did have businesses.

To this purpose public notices were put up for four months in all the towns along the coast, and then the auction took place in the city of Los Angeles on December 24th, 1845, in the office of the Judge of the Court of Appeals, Don Vicente Sánchez, being present the Governor, Pío Pico, and Secretary of Government Don Juan Bandini, as well as Secretary of the Assembly Don Agustin Olvera.

Some were sold and some were rented.  Among those sold that I remember, were:  San Diego, to Captain Santiago Arguello; San Juan Capistrano, to Don Juan Forster; San Gabriel, to Workman and Reed; La Purísima, to Francisco Malo; San Luis Obispo, to Wilson and Scott; San Miguel, to John Reed, known as El Piloto.  La Soledad, to Feliciano Soleranes.

Those in the north weren’t sold or rented because no one bid on them.

Those rented were:  San Fernando, to Juan Manso and Andrés Pico; San Buenaventura, to the Author of the account and Narciso Botello; Santa Barbara, to Nicolas Den; Santa Inez, to Joaquín Carrillo and José María Covarrubias; San Luis Rey, to José Antonio Pico and José Antonio Catalán.

The Assembly and the Government by common accord then (since Bandini had retired) sent Don José María Covarrubias (French-born, a naturalized Mexican and very capable man who came in the Hijos y Padres colony in 1834) to Mexico with the goal of obtaining the approval of the Federal Government of Mexico regarding the California government’s actions with respect to the missions; and with that of obtaining a resolution concerning other affairs, especially to obtain resources, since the country was threatened with an invasion by the North Americans – Don José Matías Moreno remaining as the highest ranking official at that time.

Governor Pico, under more and more pressure from lack of resources, and authorized by the Assembly, proceeded to form the expedition I mentioned before, and in order to raise funds for this, sold the missions which had been rented before.  During this time both the Governor and the Commander General had been invested by the Federal Government, passed by the respective ministries, with the legal power to dispose of all the national businesses, and even the territory’s – textual words from a circular, whose essential part I remember, which said:  

To the Governors and Commanders General of the border areas.

This authorizes the Governors and Commanders General of the border areas to depose of the national property, and even of those private possessions of the district with the purpose of Providing themselves with resources which might serve the common defense in case of a foreign invasion which the Government believes to be imminent.

Other reasons followed.  This document was presented to me by Commander General Don José Castro (I believe, in Los Angeles when he arrived in flight from the North in 1846 after the skirmish with Pico in Santa Margarita).  I had it in my hand, I read it carefully, and by virtue of it I dealt with said Commander General, and bought the uncultivated lands of the Santa Clara Mission, whose claim was denied me afterward by the Lands Commission and by the U.S. District Court.

One of Governor Pico’s powerful motives (besides lack of resources to sustain his government) for proceeding to violent measure against Don Castro, was that Castro undermined his authority, and even conspired to topple him from his post, which was shown in various ways, primarily in denying permission to move the Treasury to Los Angeles, and after, for the Treasurer Don Ignacio del Valle, named by the Governor, to take possession of the Treasury (which Don José Abrego had resigned) even in Monterey itself.  To which we must add the revolutionary events in Los Angeles participated in by partisans of Castro to deprive Pico of his port.

Here you will permit me to mention the following event, which filled the families of Los Angeles with panic.

The Mayor, Vicente Sanchez, had put a Spaniard named Faustino in jail, a carpenter by trade, who had arrived in the country only a very short time ago, for reasons having to do with women.  This Faustino was a very resolute man, of uneasy temperament, wanting revenge on the Mayor, who had proceeded against him thus, in a matter which was none of his business.  He got on the good side of the other prisoners in the jail, among whom there were some who did not enjoy a very good reputation, such as Nicho Alipaz, “el Ritillo” (whose real name I don’t remember),  a certain Valencia, and others.  One night (I don’t recall the date – perhaps it was near the end of 1845) at a dance at Don Abel Stearns’ house, Don Pío Pico arrived with the news that the prisoners had surprised the guard and were threatening the population.  Pico asking for help; at which point all of us who were at the dance ran to our houses, got our arms, and returned to Stearns’ house where several companies were organized to lay siege to the prisoners, who had already lit a campfire outside the battle ground and trained a cannon on the main street, which they fired from time to time.  I, accompanied by the Spanish Vice Consul Don Cesáreo Lataillade, and ten or twelve others, formed a company under Don José María Covarrubias (who still had not left for Mexico).  Don Ignacio Palomares commanded the company of Californians.  We situated ourselves in the left corner of the plaza in front of the Guardia shielded by the corral walls of Colonel Segura’s house.

Don Ignacio Palomares and his people situated themselves in the old jail, which was also the left flank of the guard house (this was where the priest’s house stands today).  Another company was behind the guard house.  I don’t remember who led it.  And another in the right corner of Doña Venancia Dominguez’ house.

It seemed that the prisoners did not know that they were surrounded, and they continued their cannon fire, always in the direction of the main street.  Every once in a while, that Faustino’s voice could be heard shouting, exhorting his companions, “Come on, boys; supper in hell or lunch like a governor!”

We were something like one hundred yards away – we took them on straight ahead, and thanks to the light from the fire we saw them perfectly.  We tried to fire on them several times, sure that we would shoot straight, but Sr. Covarrubias did not allow it, calling us continually to order.  We passed the rest of the night on guard, and in the dawn, without our knowing how they got horses, the prisoners passed in front of us on horseback, not knowing we were there, perhaps twelve or fifteen yards away. They headed in the direction of Arroyo Seco or San Gabriel and, pursued the following day by the California forces, they were quickly apprehended, shackled, and returned to Los Angeles, and assigned to the Castle of Acapulco, for which Governor Pico had contracted with a schooner recently arrived on the coast, belonging to a Spaniard named Belsinstain.  But this man afterward refused to receive the prisoners.  Then Commander General Don José Castro arrived in Los Angeles, took the prisoners with him and carried them off to the North, freeing Faustino in San Luis Obispo where afterward he settled, and married the daughter of another Spaniard, named Cané, one of those from the ship Asia.  The other prisoners Castro set free in Monterey.  This Author played a large part in making sure that these prisoners were not taken to Acapulco, involuntarily defending Alipaz, Valencia and Ritillo, as his only aim was to protect Faustino, whose unjust imprisonment attracted the sympathy of the whole town; and he contributed to the prompt arrival of the Commander General, and to his taking the prisoners with him.

At that time, Sr. Castro left Don José Antonio Carrillo, whom he had employed as Squadron Commander, in charge of the military.  This Carrillo and the brothers Cérbulo and Hilario Varelas, with others, made an attempt to overthrow Sr. Pico.  He discovered it in time, and put Carrillo in irons with the other ringleaders.  Carrillo was twice over his brother-in-law.

Afterward, Castro made known his hostile spirit toward Pico, giving Carrillo a military command in the North. 

I forgot to say that not long after General Micheltorena left, Don José María Híjar arrived in Los Angeles, having been commissioned by the Federal Government.  It was said that the Mexican government had named General Iniestra Comandante General of California, and that another chief would probably be coming with a respectable force, to which purpose they had gathered equipment and supplies in Acapulco.  But there was an uprising there, and the rebels threw themselves on the supplies, which was why neither his expedition nor Iniestra himself came.

I knew Sr. Híjar well, and he honored me with his friendship.  Sr. Híjar was very elegant and well educated, of a merry disposition, a good singer and Spanish lute player.  Although he was old, they knew he must once have been quite a lover.  As he himself told me, this gentleman brought secret instructions from the Federal Government to take command if he considered it necessary.  Sr. Híjar did not make use of these powers because he considered it unnecessary, since the Governor and principal employees came to him for advice, which made him chief of the territory without appearing to be so.

Híjar died in Los Angeles in Abel Steams’ house where he had been lodged for some four or five months since his arrival.  His death was deeply regretted by all of the society there, to whom he had endeared himself.  I believe his death was caused by an aneurism of the heart.  If I remember correctly, they buried him with official honors, and all of the most important people, including the women, came to the burial.

Finally in the end of June or beginning of July, 1846, Governor Pío Pico left Los Angeles for Santa Barbara with a force he had organized of two or three hundred men, intending to march north and curb Comandante General Castro, alleging that Castro intended to come south with seventy or so well-armed men in order to take over the political government.  At that time, I was in San Buenaventura, already the owner of mission, having bought it from said Governor Pico, after having bought for one thousand dollars Narciso Botello’s right to the rent that he had shared with me.

I believe Don Andrés Pico, accompanied by several Mexican officials, was military commander of that expedition.  The expedition passed through San Buenaventura without stopping here on its way to Santa Barbara.  From there, Governor Pico dispatched a violent proclamation against the United States after the capture of Sonoma by those from the Bear party.      

After some delay in Santa Barbara, Pico and his forces continued to Santa Margarita Ranch, belonging to Don Joaquín Estrada, which before had belonged to the San Luis Obispo mission.  There he found Don José Castro and some small forces he bad brought with him.  There Don Manuel Castro, Prefect of the First District, who had come together with José Castro, told him of the taking of Monterey by Commodore Sloat on July 14th, and of the other events which had occurred in the North.  The Prefect intervened with his good offices to prevent the two rival chiefs from throwing their forces against one another, and succeeded in reconciling them, convincing them of the necessity of working jointly against, the common enemy in defense of the country.  Pico and Castro embraced, swearing mutual support to defend the territory’s integrity and the honor of the Mexican flag – and they at once undertook together the return to Los Angeles.

As I was in San Buenaventura, I could not inform myself of the details of these events that occurred there.  I only know that when Don José Castro had news that Colonel Fremont was proceeding against him from San Diego and Commodore Stockton from San Pedro, both of them with respectable forces, he resolved to dissolve his force and leave for Sonora, of which he informed Governor Pico; and this man, after consulting the Assembly, made the same decision, and he tried to get to Baja California, but did not succeed; instead he hid for some time at the Santa Margarita Ranch as his secretary, Moreno, was doing at the San Luis Rey mission.  Both ran the risk of being taken prisoner by the force of Fremont, to which had been added some Native Californians from San Diego.  They finally succeeded in escaping, and only returned to California after this country was ceded to the United States by virtue of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Stockton and Fremont took possession of all of the South as they had of the North before.  When they went back, Captain [Archibald] Gillespie, with a small force of Americans, remained in Los Angeles as Comandante.

Gillespie had been there very little time when there was an uprising of Californians instigated by the Mexican officers who were in the city.  Captain José María Flores, who had been General Micheltorena’s military secretary, and had married a daughter of Colonel Zamorano and Doña Luisa Argüello, was made leader of the rebels.

Captain Gillespie, pursued by the California forces, asked for help from Don [Benjamin Davis “Benito”] Wilson, Don Juan Rowland and other Americans and foreigners.  The latter were organizing on the Rancho del Chino when the Californians found out, and a force went out against them, obliging them to surrender after heavy gunfire, in which the Californian Carlos Ballesteros died and several foreigners were wounded.  They had to surrender because Californians set fire to the house in which they were sheltered.

When Gillespie saw that he could count on no reinforcements, he accepted Flores’ conditions, and with a flag unfurled and a drumroll he left for San Pedro, where he sailed away.

Afterward there were several battles between Californians and American forces. One at the Dominguez ranch, where Don José Antonio Carrillo led the California forces and obliged the American forces to retreat and sail away.

There was another battle on December 5, 1846, at San Pascual, Don Andrés Pico leading the Californians against some dragoons that General Kearny, who was wounded, had brought with him; several officers and soldiers died and were wounded, and Kearny finally saw that he was surrounded.  But Pico had to retreat because of the bad state his horses and people were in – and for lack of supplies.   Kearny, protected by a force that Commodore Stockton had sent to his aid from San Diego, then left for that port.

The Commodore and the General left from there for Los Angeles on December 29th, 1846, with a respectable force.  On January 8th and 9th of 1847, there were some light encounters and some shots fired between the opposing forces.  Flores and Andrés Pico abandoned the field.  [Flores] left the country with several others.

Don Andrés Pico, who knew that Colonel Fremont was coming overland from the North, fell back with his remaining California forces and sent a commission to Fremont. Asking for guarantees – Fremont gave all guarantees – and they surrendered formally afterward, confirmed by Commodore Stockton who had entered Los Angeles without opposition on January 10th.  Thus, all of California fell under the rule of the United States, which was later fully confirmed by the treaty of surrender with the Mexican government.

Here, I will mention an event which touched me closely, and which was a great fright Colonel Fremont gave me passing through San Buenaventura.

Upon arriving at the mission, he established his camp on the west side of the mission’s orchard, in the orchard of an Indian called “the General.”  After exploring the terrain and making sure there were no enemy forces near, at about eight or nine o’clock at night, as I was in my quarters conversing with some ladies, several armed men entered and, coming up to me, touched my shoulder, saying, “You are a prisoner.”  I asked permission to take my hat and cape, which was given, and allowed myself to be taken by these same men to the camp.  But imagine my surprise when, upon arriving, the only reception Colonel Fremont gave me was to tell me to prepare myself; that I was going to be executed!  I nevertheless asked to know the cause, the reason why they were going to shoot me, and he answered that I should hand over the priest, José María Rosales, to him or I would be shot.  Hearing this I recovered a bit, and responded that I didn’t have Father Rosales in my pocket, he would be in the Californian forces since he was a Mexican, and I didn’t know where he was, and if he thought the Father was in the mission, why didn’t he search it, and, if he found him, he could do what he liked with him. But I was convinced that the Father wasn’t there.  Then the conversation changed; he began to question me about the Californian forces, their new arms, artillery, and point by point where they were situated.  After I answered as well as I knew how, he ordered the same men who had brought me to take me back to my quarters.  On the following morning, he asked for the titles by virtue of which I was in possession of the mission.  I presented them to him, and then he asked me for the help of some horses, saddles, meat for his troops, and permission to take some cattle with him.  I gave him everything that I had at my disposal, and he marched away, promising me that all would be paid – to this day I have not recovered any of this.

It only remains for me to mention the conduct observed with me by Colonel

[Jonathan Drake] Stevenson when he was military commander of this southern district in 1848.

This Colonel passed me a communique that said he was under orders from Colonel Mason, Governor of California, demanding that I show the deeds according to which I was in possession of the San Buenaventura mission.  I sent him copies of all the documents.  He returned another communique, saying that I was not recognized as the proprietor of the establishment and asked for my accounts as a tenant.  I refused to give them, insisting on my rights as owner.  He, refusing to recognize me, under the pretext that the title had been forced after the return of Pío Pico to the country, that is after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, using his armed forces, took over the Mission of San Buenaventura and all of the businesses in said establishment and in other nearby areas, such as the ranch of San José, of Manuel Dominguez, the Rancho Piro and others, even divesting me of my Los Angeles orchard and vineyard, which he occupied with his soldiers, who burned the house, appropriating whatever was there.  In his exaltation he even took my horse’s saddle, leaving me with my family in poverty, and I have not to this day been able to understand the reason for these violent and arbitrary proceedings, as only I was attacked.  I have not been able to attribute them to anything other than personal vengeance supported by the force of the authority exercised by Sr. Stevenson, and I confess that he was very superior to me.  So, wanting to revenge myself on him personally, I went out one night to find him in Los Angeles, and I provoked him to fight with me.  But in spite of the interval that we walked, I accompanying him hurling vituperous remarks at him up to his door, I had to admire that, arriving there, that man as cold-bloodedly as possible and with a smile on his lips bade me goodbye, saying, “Good night, Sr. Arnaz,” and turned his back on me and shut the door.

Some years later I attended some sessions of the first State Legislature in San José; coming down the stairs I encountered Colonel Stevenson, who was coming up.  He greeted me cordially, offering to facilitate for me all of the documents that I needed to prove that they had divested me, and obtain reparations from the United States government.  But, unable to forget the travails and misery that my family had suffered because of his procedures, I rejected his offer, and left him as soon as possible.

Rancho de Santa Ana (7 miles from San Buenaventura)

February 26th, 1878

José de Arnaz

During Flores’ rebellion against the Americans, he sent a force of fifteen or twenty men to San Buenaventura (where I was) under Nemesio Dominguez, which stayed there some time, and retreated upon having news that Colonel Fremont was coming down with his forces.  In one of the advance forces that they offered their services to frequently, there was a man named Tomás Romero (a Californian, and if I’m not mistaken a native of Santa Barbara) who, finding himself in the street in front of the mission with a New Mexican who was my sheepherder, he asked him why he wasn’t in the army.  The New Mexican, whose name was Antonio, answered that he was employed as a sheepherder and was not a man of arms.  Romero said, “March,” and upon Antonio’s turning his back to go (as he was of very humble character), Romero shot him in the shoulder, leaving him dead in his tracks.  This murder filled me with indignation, but I could do nothing in those circumstances. That same night Romero himself appeared armed in my quarters, where I had a two-barreled carbine which I had loaded just in case.  Seeing the murderer I edged toward it, and he addressed himself to me, ordering me to march off to the ranks.  I don’t know if he was commissioned by Flores to get people.  He had his own motives and was under the influence of aguardiente.   Raimundo Olivas (still living), who accompanied him, tried to take him away, and finally succeeded, with some difficulty.

The New Mexican’s murder remained unpunished; I don’t know if that man Romero is alive or dead.

February 27th

(Detained at Mr. Arnaz’ house by bad weather, he dictated the above incident.  [Thomas] Savage)  

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