The History of


In July 1769 sixty Spaniards led by Gasper de Portola left San Diego for Monterey Bay. The Expedition was part of Spain's strategy to inhabit Alta, or Upper, California, to prevent encroachment from Russians moving down from the north, and to hedge her holdings against other European colonial powers.

 

About four hundred miles to the east, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, leading a campaign against the Apaches on the Gila River Pima Indians who had heard the story from the Cocomaricopas who had heard it from an unknown California tribe. Anza in turn passed the story on to his commanding officer, Colonel Domingo de Elizondo, and to Juan de Pineda, Governor of Sonora.

  

Spain had long wanted to connect Sonora to California by land route. If these Spaniards were Portola's soldiers the dream could become a reality. Word soon trickled back from far-away Monterey of yet another and much larger port to the north, fed by a great estuary that had been named the Rio San Francisco. It seemed to Anza that the time was right to find an open supply route from Sonora to the newly established California settlements. In 1772, after the Elizondo campaign drew to close, Captain Anza requested to lead an expedition to discover just such a route.

  

It was not the first time this plea had been heard in Mexico City. When Anza was not yet a year old, his father had made the same request. Though the elder Anza was killed by Apaches before he could establish the land route to the Pacific Ocean, his son was fully aware of his desire and he added a copy of the father's petition to his own for review by Viceroy Antonio Bucareli.

  

Though opinions varied, Juan Bautista de Anza was the man for the occasion. Born in the summer of 1736 at Fronteras, Sonora, young Juan had little recollection of his father, who was killed in the spring of 1740, but he was left a legacy that provided life-long inspiration

  

His father, a Basque from the village of Hernani in northern Spain, came to New Spain in 1712 as a boy of nineteen with little more than an abundance of indomitable ambition. In the twenty-eight years from then until his death, the senior Anza became the owner of a number of mines, ranches, and stores throughout Sonora. He joined the cavalry in the early 1720's, quickly rose through the ranks and became captain at the presidio of Fronteras in 1726. Extremely conscientious in his responsibility of protecting the frontier, he was loved by the general population. After his death, the family-owned Divisadero Ranch south of Guevavi, near where he had been killed.

   

At the age of sixteen, the younger Anza moved back to Fronteras as a cavalry cadet. There, under the tutelage of Captain Gabriel de Vildosola, his sister's husband he learned the art of frontier warfare, proved his ability as a soldier, and was twice wounded by Apaches.

   

When Juan de Belderrain, first captain of the newly established presidio at Tubac, died as a result of his wounds received in a campaign against the Seri Indians, Juan Bautista de Anza, at twenty four years of age, became its second captain in 1760. He held his post until after his second trip to Alta California, bringing honor to his father's name and establishing his own undisputed place in history.

Jaun Bautista de Anza was the governor of New Mexico from 1777 to 1788.