Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (1807-1890)

Photograph courtesy of the California Heritage Collection, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

"If he was not actually the founder of California's diversity, Vallejo was certainly one of it's chief architects."

Capsule Biography

  • July 4, 1807. The eighth of thirteen children, Mariano was born to Maria Antonio Lugo and Ignacio Vallejo in Monterey, the provincial capitol of Alta (Upper) California. His father, a leather jacket soldier, escorted Junipero Serra to San Francisco in 1776 and later worked as an engineer on irrigation projects.
  • 1818. When the pirate, Bouchard, sacked Monterey, Mariano fled inland with his mother and siblings. His father and older brother remained behind to defend the capitol.
  • Governor Sola mentored the young Vallejo, providing him with a role model for solid leadership, liberalism, and sophistication. He was tutored in English, French, and Latin by the Englishman, William Hartnell and worked as Hartnell's clerk and bookkeeper.
  • 1822 - 1826. Vallejo served as personal secretary to Governor Arguello; entered military service as a cadet at Monterey; and became a member of the territorial legislature.
  • 1829. Vallejo defeated a large force of Miwok Indians at Indian Mission Estanislao (Stanislaus).
  • 1832. He married Francisca Benicia Carrillo after waiting two years for official approval. They were to become the parents of 16 children and at least two adopted children (Vallejo's illegitimate children). Around this time, he received the ten-league grant, Rancho Petaluma. and the four-league, Rancho Suisun. He later acquired Rancho Yulupa, Agua Caliente, Rancho Temelec, Entre Napa, Rancho Soscol, and an eight-league grant in Mendocino County. His land acreage (175,000 acres) was comprised of gifts, purchases, and awards for services or debts owned him.
  • 1833. Vallejo became Military Commandant of the San Francisco Presidio.
  • 1834. Missions were secularized and Vallejo was appointed administrator of the Sonoma Mission, San Francisco de Solano. At his own expense, he outfitted and fed the Mexican troops at Sonoma for the next ten years. He began building his new home, La Casa Grande, on the Sonoma plaza.
  • 1835. Vallejo became director of colonization (the only person empowered to grant land) in the Northern frontier.
  • 1836. He was promoted to Commandant General of the "Free State of Alta California" after a revolt against California's Governor.
  • 1841. Although prohibited by Mexican law, Vallejo reluctantly welcomed the first American immigrants to travel overland to California.
  • 1842. Believing they were at war with Mexico, Captain Thomas Jones, U.S. Navy, hoisted the U.S. flag over the capitol of Monterey. After apologies were made for the illegal "seizure", Vallejo entertained Jones at Sonoma.
  • 1844. As Californios squabbled over political control, Vallejo dismissed his troops at Sonoma and remained neutral.
  • June 10, 1846. Bear Flag Revolt. Vallejo was arrested in his own home by American frontiersmen. After signing articles of capitulation, Mariano and his brother Salvador (and others) were jailed for two months at Sutter's Fort. The Bear Flag was raised at Sonoma, signifying the separate Republic of California. Less than a month later it was replaced with the Stars and Stripes.
  • Vallejo's health was seriously jeopardized during his imprisonment and much of his personal property stolen.
  • January 13, 1848. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed and California was ceded to the U.S. Prior to ratification, the U.S. Senate would strike out the article dealing with Mexican land grants.
  • 1849. Vallejo was a delegate to the state constitutional convention and elected state senator. At the convention he promoted:
    • permitting Indians to vote
    • making slavery illegal in California
    • allowing wives to hold separate property, both real and personal
  • 1850's. Vallejo donated a five square mile tract of land for development of a port at Benicia and donated 156 acres for a state capitol at Vallejo (originally proposed to be named "Eureka"). He offered $370,000 for construction of public buildings (including a university, governor's mansion, capitol building, orphanage, and insane asylum). The Vallejo family moved to a new home in Sonoma, Lachryma Montis (Tear of the Mountain).
  • 1853. Benicia became the state capitol, but in 1855 Sacramento became the state capitol, disheartening Vallejo.
  • 1855. Vallejo is granted only $48,700 of the $117,875 in claims against the US government for damages incurred during the war with Mexico. Meanwhile his lands were occupied by squatters, some milking his cows in the middle of the night!
  • 1862. U.S .Supreme Court overturned a lower court's confirmation of Vallejo's 80,000 acre Soscol land grant.
  • To make financial ends meet, Francisca sold produce to a local hotel. Most of their income would come from the water company that supplied the town of Sonoma.
  • 1866. Vallejo lost ownership of his home in Sonoma and had to pay rent to remain. Several years later, son-in-law John Frisbie, Vallejo's power of attorney and mismanager of Vallejo's funds, purchased Lachryma Montis and deeded it to Francisca.
  • 1867. Vallejo's former home, La Casa Grande, burned to the ground, taking with it his original five-volume manuscript, History of California .
  • Vallejo became an honored guest or speaker at most public events but declined an offer to run for Lt. Governor; he visited native Californios and collected their reminiscences for Hubert H. Bancroft; he learned sign language so that he could communicate with students at a school for the handicapped; and he commissioned artists, such as, Oriana Day, to depict California history and the mission era.
  • January 18, 1890. Vallejo died at Sonoma. His only remaining property was his home.
  • 1966 The USS Mariano Vallejo , a Polaris submarine, was christened at Mare Island.

Sources:

  • Dillon, Richard. Humbugs and heroes : a gallery of California pioneers . Oakland, CA: Yosemite-DiMaggio, 1983 [Call number at SSU: Circulating Stacks F860 .D5 1983]
  • Rosenus, Allan. General M.G. Vallejo and the Advent of the Americans . Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995 [Call number at SSU: Special Collections F864 .V2 R67 1995]