List of Governors of California before admission

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This is a List of the Governors of early California, 1769—1849, before California's admission as the 31st U.S. state. Founded by Gaspar de Portolá at San Diego and Monterey, the vast country was a sparsely-settled Spanish colony for 52 years, until 1821.

After Mexico's independence from Spain (Alta) California became a far-flung federal territory of the Republic of Mexico. As ill-will between Alta California and the Mexican central government grew, California charged Mexico with neglect, with sending north small bands of convict settlers, and with despotism. These feelings led to a revolt, which achieved concessions and some degree of independence from Mexico's central authority.[1][2]

In November of 1836, the Californian Diputación declared independence from Mexico.[3] The result was that Mexico extended autonomy to Alta California, although it remained a Departmento (State) of the Republic of Mexico. [4][5][6] Rivalry between Northern and Southern California led to a bloodless "civil war." This ended when Gov. Alvarado appealed to Mexico for Alta California's confederation within the Republic of Mexico, with all the rights and guarantees of the Mexican Constitution of 1824, thus retaining its sovereignty.

As a consequence of the United States annexation of the Mexican State of Texas in 1845, Mexico withdrew its ambassador and severed diplomatic relations. The United States responded by invading Mexico and declaring war in May 1846. American forces occupied Monterey, Alta California, in July 1846, and California was under military rule until the election of the first civil governor late in 1849. Mexican Californians (Californios) were granted full U.S. citizenship with the transfer of California's sovereignty by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in February 1848. California was admitted as the 31st united state on September 9, 1850.

For governors of the state after admission in September of 1850, see List of Governors of California.

Colony, 1769–1811; Occupation 1811-1821

With two ships, the San Antonio and San Marcos, and two companies of soldiers, Gaspar de Portolá founded the Spanish colony of Alta California at San Diego, the first city (July 16, 1769), and at Monterey, the first capital (June 3, 1770). Fr. Junípero Serra founded the first of 21 mission churches on cattle ranches at San Diego, too, so expanding Christian civilization on the west coast of the continent.

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  1. 1769-1770: Gaspar de Portolá
  2. 1770-1774: Pedro Fages
  3. 1774-1777: Fernando Rivera y Moncada
  4. 1777-1782: Felipe de Neve
  5. 1782-1791: Pedro Fages
  6. 1791-1792: José Antonio Roméu
  7. 1792-1794: José Joaquín de Arrillaga (acting)
  8. 1794-1800: Diego de Borica
  9. 1800: Pedro de Alberni (acting)
  10. 1800-1814: José Joaquín de Arrillaga
  11. 1814-1815: José Darío Argüello (acting)
  12. 1815-1821: Pablo Vicente de Solá

Territory, 1821–1836

Due to its isolation, Alta California saw limited military action during Mexico's War of Independence from Spain (1811-1821). Once independence was achieved in 1821, it was simply a matter of replacing the old flag with the new. Spain had no regular forces in Alta California to withdraw, so the resident militia and auxiliary forces took an oath to the new republic and remained at their garrisons after the transfer of sovereignty. Luis Argüello became the first native-born California (Californio) governor in 1822. [7][8]

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  1. 1822-1825: Luis Antonio Argüello
  2. 1825-1831: José María de Echeandía
  3. 1831-1832: Manuel Victoria
  4. 1832: Pío Pico
  5. 1832-1833 (north): Agustín V. Zamorano
  6. 1832-1833 (south): José María de Echeandía
  7. 1833-1835: José Figueroa
  8. 1835: José Castro (acting)
  9. 1836: Nicolás Gutiérrez (acting)
  10. 1836: Mariano Chico
  11. 1836: Nicolás Gutiérrez (acting)

Department, 1836–1848

In the revolt of 1836, Alta California's Diputación (Legislature) declared autonomy from Mexico. However, some southern Californios (sureños) were suspicious of northern Californio (norteño) leadership, prompting Carlos Carrillo to claim the governorship and establishing his capital in Los Angeles while Juan Bandini led a bloodless civil war. That ended when Gov. Alvarado enforced Alta California's confederation with Mexico as a "free and sovereign state" under the liberal Constitution of 1824.[9][10]

Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg
California Lone Star Flag 1836.svg
  1. 1836-1842: Juan Bautista Alvarado
    1837-1838: Carlos Antonio Carrillo (rival)
  2. 1842-1845: Manuel Micheltorena
  3. 1845-1848: Pío Pico

Military Government, 1846–1849

Quarrels over the status of Texas erupted into war in 1846 and the United States invaded Mexico, occupying Monterey, Alta California, in July 1846. Abuse at the hands of American occupation authorities, among them John C. Fremont and Archibald H. Gillespie, led to a Californio revolt in the Fall of 1846 that resulted in Gen. Andrés Pico's victory over Col. Kearny at San Pascual, and the Californio liberation of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Gen. Pico surrendered his forces to Col. Fremont at Cahuenga, outside Los Angeles. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo transferred Alta California's sovereignty to the United States and made the Californios U.S. citizens. Following a Constitutional Convention in 1849, California elected its first governor, Peter Hardeman Burnett, and the following year became a state, without ever having been a U.S. Territory.

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  1. 1846: Cdre. John Drake Sloat
  2. 1846-1847: Cdre. Robert F. Stockton
  3. 1847: Gen. Stephen W. Kearny (appointed)
    1847: Col. John C. Fremont (pretended)
  4. 1847-1849: Gen. Richard Barnes Mason
  5. 1849: Gen. Persifor Frazer Smith
  6. 1849: Gen. Bennet C. Riley

See also


  1. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California. 978-1135657727
  2. Book explains California's Revolution of 1836 in more detail, including California's first Constitution.
  3. Book explains California's Revolution of 1836 in more detail, including California's first Constitution.
  4. Robert R. Miller. Juan Alvarado, Governor of California, 1836-1842. University of Oklahoma Press. 1998
  5. [1] Departmentos were the equivalent of U.S. states and sent their representatives to Mexico City. Baja California still maintains the title of "Free and Sovereign State" to this day.
  7. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California. 978-1135657727
  8. 'Historia de California'
  9. Juan Bautista Alvarado, Historia de California, 1876. Vols. 3 & 4
  10. California Military Museum, "Vallejo"
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