Mexican Period 1810-1822


The revolt of the Spanish colonies in the New World followed closely the successful revolt of the English colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. The Mexican struggle for independence from Spain began in 1810 and lasted for more than tens year. In California, the transfer of authority from Spanish to Mexican officials occurred early in 1822.

Relations between the Franciscans and the Mexican government deteriorated rapidly; and in the period between 1834 and 1836, the missions were reduced to parish-church status. Most of the mission property passed into the hands of nearby ranchers, or was sold or given away. Although some attempts were made to provide for the welfare of the Indians by allocating some mission land and
livestock to them, the destruction of the Spanish mission system led to the near extinction of the Christianized coastal Indians.

Foreigners were already visiting California ports before the Mexican era began, as scientific expeditions came from various European nations to study the Pacific Coast. Otter and seal hunters began to cruise the coastal waters in great numbers. The Russians, who already had a flourishing fur trade in Alaska, built a post at Fort Ross in 1812 and 'harvested a tremendous number of pelts from along the California coast before leaving in 1841. Whalers operated out of Monterey, while cattle-hide and tallow merchants searched the California coast for raw material for the shoe factories of Massachusetts and England.

In 1826 Jedediah Smith, the first of the "mountain men," came to California in search of beaver; on his way back to the Great Salt Lake, he made the first recorded crossing of the Sierra Nevada. He returned almost immediately to California for more beaver pelts, and other trappers came from Fort Vancouver, St. Louis, Taos, and Santa Fe to the beaver-rich streams of the Sierra Nevada. A group of trappers that included James Ohio Pattie came down the Gila River to the Colorado River in 1827, reaching San Diego only to be thrown in jail.

Many of the immigrants to Mexican California acquired ranchos and became significant figures in California history. Among these John Sutter and John Marsh became well known to Americans crossing the continent to California. Although Sutter was given an enormous land grant in the previously unoccupied Sacramento Valley to guard the frontier against further American exploitation, the full force of American immigration was yet to be felt by the Mexican government.