The Presidio de San Diego housed the Mission San Diego de Alcala
during the first five years of its existence form 1769 to 1774.
During that time there were soldiers, priests, and Indians living
within the. presidio walls. There was only one married soldier
stationed there at that time, with two children. It was not until
after the Anza Expedition in 1775 that "families" came
to live at the presidio.
These presidio families were military
families in every sense of the word, and that meant mobility.
These families had to be prepared to pack everything and move,
at any time, to the garrisons at San Gabriel, San Juan Capistrano,
San Luis Rey, the San Diego Mission (which was now five miles
east of the presidio), or anywhere they were needed, even to
To the people who lived there, the presidio
and its walls were never really "theirs." They were
just "military housing." Most of these people had come
to Alta California to start new lives for themselves and that
meant owning land and a home, a place of permanence. But for
as long as they were military personnel, living in a military
fort, there was very little -permanence in their lives. They
I were waiting for a time when they would be given land to build
their house as payment for their service to Spain.
Of the soldiers who lived with their families
in San Diego before 1800, there were few who ended up owning
permanent homes and developing a civilian settlement here. Some
of these early military families who stayed into the Mexican
Period, which began in 1822, and helped to develop San Diego
as a pueblo were the Lopezes, Carrillos, Osumas, Pictos, Alvarados,
Ortegas, Serranos, Silvas, Amadors, Alvarezes, lbarras, Penas,
Sotos, Aguilars, Cotas, Marrons, and others. These families settled
here because they were given land and built homes here after
the men had left military service.
Many families who had been living at the
San Diego Presidio left because the land they were given was
elsewhere. The list of these names included the Sepulvedas, Villavicencios,
Dominguezes, Oliveras, Felizes, Lisaldes, Lugos, Yorbas, Verdugos,
Monroys, Duartes, Valenzuelas, Villalobos, Espinosas, Vallejos,
Castros, and many more.
There were also families who had served
the Crown in other areas of New Spain and who came to San Diego
late in the Spanish Period or even into the Mexican Period to
make their permanent homes. The Machados didn't come to San Diego
until after 1805. The Arguellos and Bandinis came to San Diego
after 1818 and the Estudillos came after 1824. Permanent houses
did not start to develop in San Diego until the very end of the
Spanish Period, in the 1810's. These were houses that were built
by men who had finally retired from military service. They were
located mostly in Mission Valley near the river where the families
could cultivate small gardens for their sustenance. Unfortunately,
almost all of these houses were destroyed in 1821 when Mission
Valley flooded. It was not until the Mexican Period, which began
in 1822, that a permanent civilian settlement could be planned
in the area of Old Town. After this happened, the garrison at
the San Diego Presidio was reduced to a token number. It is no
surprise that this "temporary military housing" soon
fell into ruin.
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