Cheryl Anne Stapp
Spain Secures its Claim
When Franciscan friars Father Crespi and Father Junipero Serra came to colonize California in 1769, they looked upon this undertaking as a “sacred expedition” to bring native heathens into the Church. In truth, the effort was prompted by rumors of Russian ships nosing about the Pacific Coast—a potential threat to Spain’s unoccupied New World holdings. The priests were accompanied by California’s first governor Don Gaspar de Portola, and escorted by soldiers to protect the missionaries and guard the country. The soldiers erected presidios (forts). Knowing they were committed for a long term, the married soldiers brought their wives and children with them. In time these families established pueblos (towns) on the outskirts of the mission properties: San Jose in 1777; Los Angeles in 1781, and Santa Cruz (then known as Branciforte) in 1797.