Californians and the Military
The Founders of Santa Barbara:
Who They Were and Whence They Came
by Mary Triplett Ayers
The following article was originally published in the Summer 2003 issue of La Campana, the quarterly journal of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. It is republished with permission of the author


The fourth expedition for the settlement of Alta California was that led by Capitan (Captain) don Fernando Xavier de Rivera y Moncada in 1781. Most of the founders of Santa Barbara were members of the Rivera y Moncada Expedition.

The Rivera y Moncada Expedition was sent to Alta California with a four-fold purpose: (1) the founding of the pueblo at Los Angeles, (2) the founding of the ninth mission at San Buenaventura at the southern end of the Santa Barbara Channel, and (3) the founding of the fifth presidio in the middle of the Santa Barbara Channel. Santa Barbara is the fifth presidio, because Loreto is the first presidio established in the Californias before San Diego. And, (4) the expedition was also supposed to found two other missions in the Santa Barbara Channel, Mission Santa Barbara near the Presidio in the middle of the Channel and Mission La Purisima Concepcion at the northern end of the Santa Barbara Channel.

The members of the expedition were recruited in Sonora and Sinaloa by Rivera from December 1779 to November 1780. Actually, Rivera went from Loreto, Baja California, to Guaymas, Arizpe, San Miguel de Horcasitas, and Real de Los Alamos in Sonora and La Villa del Fuerte, La Villa de Sinaloa, Culiacan, Matzatlan, and Rosario in Sinaloa. He was authorized to recruit as far south as Guadalajara if necessary. He was able to recruit almost as many as he needed in Sonora and Sinaloa.
The expedition members assembled at the Real de los Alamos, Sonora, on February 2, 1781. The expedition split into two groups. In one group were the settlers and their families accompanied by seventeen soldiers and their wives and children. It was required that all the soldiers and most of the pobladores be married. Some of my ancestors that were members of this expedition were married in the Alamos parish of La Purisima eleven days before the expedition left. Rivera had a relatively easy time recruiting the soldiers. People were more reluctant to enlist as pobladores. Soldiers were paid more than pobladores.
This group was under the leadership of Teniente (Lieutenant) Jose Zuniga. They crossed the Sea of Cortez or Gulf of California to Loreto, Baja California. They traveled by lancha, small boats with two sails, north to the Bahia de San Luis Gonzaga. There, they left their little ships and walked up the Baja California peninsula and arrived at Mission San Gabriel August 18, 1781.
In the First Book of Baptisms of Mission San Gabriel, it is written, "On 18 August 1781, Teniente Jose de Zuniga and Ramon Lasso de la Vega arrived here with eleven pobladores with their families and seventeen soldados de cuera from Lower California via San Diego."

The other group was the 37 officers and soldiers and their families who accompanied Rivera and brought the livestock - 931 head of horses and mules. This group traveled the Anza trail from Alamos to Guaymas, Pitic (now called Hermosillo), San Miguel de Horcasitas, Tubac, Yuma, San Pablo, and arrived at San Gabriel July 14, 1781.

In the First Book of Baptisms of Mission San Gabriel, it is written, "On 14 July 1781, Alferez (Ensign or Second Lieutenant) Cayetano Limon and Alferez Jose Dario Arguello under the command of Teniente Diego Gonzalez arrived at the mission with a troop of thirty married soldiers with their families and five unmarried soldiers from Sonora via Yuma for the Santa Barbara Presidio. On September 4, 1781, the pobladores, accompanied by priests from Mission San Gabriel and an escolta from Mission San Gabriel, walked eight miles for the founding of the second pueblo in Alta California, El Pueblo de Nuestra Sonora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio Porciuncula. The pobladores were given land for houses and fields to farm, and the mighty City of the Angels was begun by eleven families from Sonora and Sinaloa.

Rivera had remained behind with the ailing livestock which ate and trampled the Indians' food crops. Rivera and the six men who stayed behind with him were massacred at the Colorado River by the Yuma, now called Quechan, Indians. The Quechans also killed most of the inhabitants of the two pueblos on the Colorado. The effect of this massacre was that Anza's land route to Alta California was closed.

The following spring, Fr. Serra and Governor Felipe de Neve accompanied by soldiers of the Rivera expedition left San Gabriel to accomplish the second and third purposes of the expedition, the founding of Mission San Buenaventura and of the Presidio of Santa Barbara. Capitan Jose Francisco Ortega had been called from the San Diego Presidio to be Comandante of the new Presidio at Santa Barbara.

Governor Neve asked Fr. Serra for two friars for San Buenaventura and Santa Barbara. There being no supernumerary friars in Alta California, Fr. Serra himself came to San Gabriel from Monterey, and he summoned Fr. Pedro Benito Cambon, O.F.M. from San Diego. They did not wish to delay the founding of the new missions, and they agreed to serve the spiritual needs of the new establishments until six new missionary recruits arrived.

The day before the group left for San Buenaventura, March 25, 1782, pobladores Jose Fernando Velasco y Lara, Antonio Mesa, and Luis Quintero, who had been declared unfit for farming in August of 1781 on their arrival at San Gabriel, were expelled. Lara and Quintero joined the expedition to found the Presidio at Santa Barbara. Mesa disappeared. There are no records of him in the California mission registers.
Fr. Serra confirmed more than 100 people at Mission San Gabriel on 22 March 1782, aged two months to fifty years.

In the First Book of Marriages for Mission San Gabriel, it is written, "The expedition to found the new Mission of San Buenaventura and the Presidio of Santa Barbara left San Gabriel 26 March 1782."

They traveled north of San Gabriel and undoubtedly turned west through the Santa Clara River Valley and not over the Conejo Grade as the El Camino Real bells along Highway 101 would lead you to believe. On March 31, 1782, Mission San Buenaventura, the ninth mission, was founded by Fr. Junipero Serra. This was to be the last mission Fr. Serra founded. He died in August of 1784, and the tenth mission, Mission Santa Barbara, was not founded until 1786 by Fr. Fermin Francisco de Lasuen.

The first mission register record for Mission San Buenaventura is the burial of a three-day-old infant on April 15,1782. He was Jose Leon Rodriguez, the son of Joaquin Rodriguez, soldier of the escolta of the mission. The baby had been baptized privately by his grandfather, Luis Quintero. The priest who wrote the burial record was Fr. Benito Cambon. Neve was recalled to San Gabriel with his escort. He returned to San Buenaventura about the middle of April. He was satisfied with the progress made at San Buenaventura.
Leaving Fr. Cambon and a sergeant and fourteen men as an escolta or guard for the new mission of San Buenaventura, Governor Felipe de Neve, Capitan Jose Francisco Ortega, Fr. Junipero Serra, and thirty-six soldiers and their wives and children walked on to Santa Barbara to found the Presidio of Santa Barbara.
On April 21, 1782, the cross was raised, the flag was raised, and the Presidio of Santa Barbara was founded. Mass was celebrated under a ramada, and Fr. Serra sang the Alabado. The ceremonies of blessing dirt, water, and pulling grass were performed. The natives were friendlier than expected. Yanonali, their chief, was willing to exchange gifts. There was much strife and dissension between Fr. Serra and Governor Felipe de Neve. Serra thought he was founding a mission. Neve intended to found a presidio. Neve won. In the original registers, you can read Serra's writing, "esta mision de Santa Barbara," and the word "mision" is crossed out and the word "presidio" written above. It is very clear.

Building of the presidio began at once. Oak was felled for the shelters and enclosing palisade. The Chumash were hired to work and were paid in articles of food and clothing.

When it became apparent to Fr. Serra that there was no immediate prospect of founding Mission Santa Barbara or the third mission on the Santa Barbara Channel (La Purisima), he wrote to Fr. Fuster at San Juan Capistrano to replace him at Santa Barbara, and Fr. Serra returned to Monterey, arriving May 13, 1782. It is not certain that Fr. Fuster ever came to Santa Barbara and probable that there was no priest at the presidio after Fr. Serra returned to Monterey.
The first record of baptism in the Santa Barbara Presidio Book of Baptisms was signed by Fr. Benito Cambon. Numbers 2 to 13 in 1783 were signed by Fr. Vicente Dumetz, O.F.M. who was at Mission San Buenaventura after Cambon returned to San Diego.

The following is a list of the Santa Barbara Presidio Company which was written July 1, 1782, just three months after the Presidio's founding. There were seven officers and fifty soldiers:

Teniente Jose Francisco Ortega
Alferez Jose Dario Arguello
Sargento Pablo Antonio Cota
Sargento Ignacio Olivera
Sargento Hermengildo Sal
Cabo Alejandro Sotomayor
Cabo Jose Maria Ortega
Luis Lugo
Alejo Ruiz
Luis Pefia
Jose Gonzales
Martin Reyes
Anastacio Maria Feliz
Francisco Lugo
Joaquin Higuera
Ignacio Olivera
Francisco Paula Garcia
Jose Miguel Flores
Jose Lobo
Melecio Valdez
Ignacio Lugo
Jose Manuel Valenzuela
Manuel Orchaga
Jose Esteban Romero
Francisco Xavier Mejia
Juan Andres Montiel
Loreto Salazar
Ildefonso Dominguez
Francisco Calvo
Victorino Patino
Jose Carmen Arana
Ignacio Maria Ortega
Mariano Cota
Tomas Gonzales
Victorino Feliz
Agustin Leyva
Jose Velarde
Jose Ontiveros
Francisco Maria Ruiz
Juan Olivas
Julidn Guerrero
Felipe Gonzales
Justo Herndndez
Jose Parra
Jose Polanco
Eugenio Valdez
Guillermo Soto
Jose Maria Samaniego
Fructuoso Ruiz Joaquin
Juan Ignacio Valencia
Ignacio Rodriguez
Rosalino Ferndndez
Vicente Quijada
Juan Ignacio Martinez
Efigenio Ruiz
Jose Villa

A sergeant and fourteen men were left with Fr. Cambon at the new Mission San Buenaventura. Those men were members of the Santa Barbara Company but did not come to Santa Barbara on April 21, 1782 for the founding of the presidio.

I can tell you the names of the soldiers whose names appear in the Mission registers of San Buenaventura during the years 1782 and 1783. These probably are the sergeant and fourteen soldiers who were left at San Buenaventura in April 1782 with Fr. Benito Cambon. In 1782 the names in the San Buenaventura records are: Sargento Pablo Antonio Cota, Josef Manuel Valenzuela, and Concepcion Quintero (wife of Jose Miguel Flores). In 1783: Maria Petra Rubio, (wife of Luis Quintero), Pablo Antonio Cota, Jose Ignacio Valencia, Justo Lorenzo Herndndez, Ciriaca de Leon (wife of Justo Herndndez), Maria Rita Zamora (wife of Cabo Juan Ygnacio Valencia), Francisco Lugo, Cabo Alejo Soto, Maria Rosa Monreal (wife of Efigenio Ruiz), Jose Polanco and his wife Maria de Jesus Leon, Joaquin Rodriguez, Cabo Alejandro de Sotomayor and his wife Maria de Concepcion Montiel, Jose Polanco, Maria Nicolasa Beltran (wife of Jose Lobo), Juana Delgado (wife of Esteban Romero), Maria Norberta de Jesus Leon (wife of Jose Polanco), Maria Rosa Lugo (wife of Sargento Pablo Antonio Cota), and Loreto Salazar. If I have repeated any of the names, it is because they appear two or three times. It is questionable whether the above named people were at the founding of the Real Presidio de Santa Barbara, because their names appear in the 1782 and 1783 Mission San Buenaventura registers.

I have told you who the founders of Santa Barbara were. Now, I must tell you from whence they came.

I used to think that just as all the pobladores of the Pueblo of Los Angeles came with the Rivera Expedition, so did the entire Company for the founding garrison of the Santa Barbara Presidio. This is not true.
Five of the officers and seven of the soldiers on the July 1, 1782 list for the garrison of the Santa Barbara Presidio came in 1769 with Portola. They were: Teniente Jose Francisco Ortega, Sargento Pablo Antonio Cota, Sargento Ignacio Olivera, Cabo Jose Maria Ortega, son of the Lieutenant, Cabo Alejandro Sotomayor, and soldiers Luis Lugo, Ignacio Olivera, Ignacio Maria Ortega son of the lieutenant, Luis Pena, Martin Reyes, Alejo Ruiz, and Francisco Maria Ruiz.

There was one officer recruited by Rivera in 1781. He was Alferez Jose Dario Arguello. Thirty-nine soldiers of the July 1, 1782 list came with Rivera in 1781. They were: Jose Carmen Arana, Francisco Calvo, Ildefonso Dominguez, Anastacio Maria Feliz, Victorino Feliz, Rosalino Ferndndez, Felipe Gonzales and his sons Jose Gonzales and Tomas Gonzales, Julian Guerrero, Justo Herndndez, Agustin Leyva, Jose Lobo, Ignacio Lugo, Juan Ignacio Martinez, Francisco Xavier Mejia, Juan Andres Montiel, Juan Olivas, Jose Ontiveros, Manuel Orchaga, Jose Parra, Victorino Patino, Jose Polanco, Vicente Quijada, Ignacio Rodriguez, Joaquin Rodriguez, Jose Esteban Romero, Efigenio Ruiz, Fructuoso Ruiz, Loreto Salazar, Jose Maria Samaniego, Guillermo Soto, Eugenio Vdldez, Melecio Valdez, Juan Ignacio Valencia, Jose Manuel Valenzuela, Jose Velarde, and Jose Villa.
I cannot find out when Sargento Hermengildo Sal came to Santa Barbara. He was born in Valdemora, Toledo, Spain. He appears in the Monterey records as early as 1775 and later at San Francisco. I haven't found his name in the early Santa Barbara records.
Most of these people came from Sonora and Sinaloa, about fourteen from Sonora and thirty-one from Sinaloa. The town that furnished the most soldiers for the new Presidio of Santa Barbara was the Villa de Sinaloa, Sinaloa. Eleven came from there: Ildefonso Dominguez, Felipe Gonzales, Jose Gonzales, Martin Reyes, Joaquin Higuera, Jose Lobo, Francisco Lugo, Ignacio Lugo, Francisco Xavier Mejia, Manuel Orchaga, and Jose Manuel Valenzuela.
Ten soldiers were recruited at Real de los Alamos, and many of them were born there: Anastacio Maria Feliz, Juan Ignacio Martinez, Juan Andres Montiel, Victorino Patino, Vicente Quijada, Joaquin Rodriguez, Loreto Salazar, Jose Maria Samaniego, Eugenio Valdez (born at Villa del Fuerte, Sinaloa), Ignacio Rodriguez, and the expelled poblador, Luis Quintero was recruited there.

Seven were from the Villa del Fuerte, Sinaloa: Rosalino Ferndndez, Efigenio Ruiz, Fructuoso Ruiz, Melecio Valdez, Alejo Ruiz, Eugenio Valdez and Cabo Alejandro Sotomayor. (Alejo, Alejandro, and Alex Sotomayor or Soto are one and the same person.)
Four were from Real de Cosald, Sinaloa: Guillermo Soto, Jose Carmen Arana, Francisco Calvo, and Victorino Feliz.
Four were from Loreto, Baja California: Sargento Pablo Antonio Cota, Cabo Jose Maria Ortega, Mariano Cota, and Francisco Maria Ruiz.
Two were from Real del Rosario, Sinaloa: Tomas Gonzales and Juan Olivas.

Two were from San Jose del Cabo, Baja California: Sargento Ignacio Olivera and Luis Pena.

Three came from Spain: Sargento Hermengildo Sal from Valdemoro, Toledo, and Francisco Paula Garcia from Puerto Real Obispado de Cadiz, Andalucia.
The expelled poblador, Josef Fernando de Velasco y Lara, was a native of the Port of Cadiz, Andalucia.

Teniente Jose Francisco Ortega was born in Celaya, Guanajuato. He enlisted in Loreto, and his sons were born there.

Alferez Jose Dario Arguello was born in Queretaro; Luis Lugo in Palo Blanco, Jurisdiction of Culiacdn, Sinaloa; Jose Miguel Flores in Juchipila, Zacatecas; Jose Velarde on the Piaxtla River, Sinaloa; Ignacio Olivera in San Antonio, Baja California; Jose Esteban Romero in Real de San Antonio de la Huerta, Sonora; Agustin Leyva in Tepic, Nayarit; Juan Ignacio Valencia in Real Presidio de Santa Rosa Corodeguachi, Sonora; Jose Ontiveros in Chametla, Sinaloa; Justo Hernandez in Culiacdn, Sinaloa; Jose Parra in Amatldn de las Canas, Nayarit; Jose Villa in Horcasitas, Sonora; Julidn Guerrero in Pueblo del Nombre de Dios; Jose Polanco in Cocula near Guadalajara, Jalisco; and Ignacio Maria Ortega in Real de Santa Ana, Baja California.
I would like to thank Trust Board Member Paul C. Mills for encouraging me to write this.
Alabado: hymn of praise sung by early Californios upon arising. Sung by Fr. Serra at founding of Mission San Buenaventura, because he could not sing the Te Deum as he did not have a concelebrant

alferez: lowest rank of officer, corresponding to ensign in U.S. Navy or second lieutenant in U.S. Army
cabo: corporal
capitan: captain, high military rank, approximately equal to colonel in U.S. Army
comandante: commander
escolta: squadron, escort. Usually a corporal and five soldiers assigned to guard a mission
lancha: small boat with two sails
mision: mission
pobladores: settlers
sargento: sergeant, highest enlisted rank in Spanish army, usually one per presidio
soldado: soldier
soldado de cuera: leather jacket soldier, so-named because of sleeveless long jacket made of several thicknesses of leather which could deflect arrows
teniente: lieutenant

The Author

Mary Triplett Ayers was born in San Francisco. Her parents, Eldon L. Triplett and Marguerita Jean Goux, were both born in Santa Barbara. She graduated with a B.A. in medieval history from Pomona College in 1958. She had minors in art history and philosophy. She is a life member of Los Californianos, a member of Los Descendientes de Santa Barbara, and Los Pobladores. She is an active member of the Trust and is Co-Chair of the Descendants and Genealogy Committee and a member of the Research Center Committee. Mary is a seventh generation Californian. The Canedo Adobe belonged to her great great grandfather, Jose Maria Canedo. Other Santa Barbara families she is descended from are Valenzuela, Higuera y Armenta, Ferndndez, Quintero, and Rubio.


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Updated 8 February 2016