Californians and the Military
Felipe de Goicoechea
Comandante, Santa Bárbara 1784-1802
By Michael R. Hardwick

Felipe Antonio de Goicoechea was born in 1747 in Cosalá, a town in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. Growing up in the town of Alamos, Sonora, he entered the military as a cadet at the age of 35 and by June of 1782, was promoted to alférez. In 1783 while serving in the presidial company of Buenavista (Lower California), Don Felipe was commissioned as lieutenant and received orders to proceed to Alta California to take command of the presidio in Santa Bárbara. He assumed command in Santa Bárbara on January 25, 1784, succeeding lieutenant José Francisco Ortega, who was the founder and first comandante of Santa Bárbara from 1782 until 1784. In 1798 Don Felipe was appointed brevet captain. From 1802-1805 he was habilitado general (paymaster general) of California in Mexico. His brother officers elected him to the post. While habilitado general, Don Felipe continued to hold the position as brevet captain of the Santa Bárbara Company.

Bancroft mentions that he was the oldest of the presidial commanders for his time … "he was also one of the ablest, subsequently becoming the first governor of Lower California."
Don Felipe served for 18 years as comandante of the Santa Bárbara Presidio. "He once described himself as an exile in the 'vast lands' of Alta California, a sense of isolation he shared with other soldiers and padres in this colonial outpost of the Spanish Empire".

In 1805 he was appointed governor of Lower California, but did not take possession of the office until 1806. He held that position until his death in 1814 at Loreto.

Reviewed and updated 6 October 2006.