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K. Finding and Founding Upper California

Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, like nearly every Spanish gentleman of his time, was a vain man. Furthermore he understood the workings of his social system quite well. He therefore applied for promotion on the strength of his excellent showing during the Elizondo campaigns (Anza Apr. 1770). Spanish officers had to request promotion: it seldom came automatically through superior recommendation. The philosophy of the system seems to have been that the officer who was not entirely convinced of his own merits was hardly worthy of promotion. Anza could not have helped feeling disappointed when his zeal was commended but his rank was not increased (Arriaga Oct. 2, 1770) because of the adverse recommendation 376of a displaced Irishman (O'Reilly Sept. 27, 1770) who furthering the interests of his own countrymen who had found employment in tho armies of the Spanish king. Yet Anza was much too great a man to vegetate at Tubac brooding over any disappointment he felt.

Anza had tasted the glory of high command and royal favor during his association with Elizondo and the other regular officers during the Seri War, and his meetings then with the royal inspector Galvez. His ambitions had been fired during his years of service in central Sonora. Nor need he look far to find a project well calculated to bring him the rewards he coveted. The northwestern frontier of New Spain was still in the throes of the multifarious changes set off by King Charles III with his ambitions for improving the kingdom. The advance from Lower into Upper California to forestall the Russian advance southward from Alaska was proceeding but not fast enough to satisfy anyone (Bolton 1930:I:59). The basic difficulties were the unreliability of sea transport in carrying supplies and personnel to the new northern establishments and the dearth of surplus supplies of any kind in arid Lower California which itself was largely dependent upon transgulf shipping from Sinaloa and Sonora.

1. Anza Plans and Garcés Explores

While he fought Apaches and read dispatches that came his way about the slowly developing Upper California frontier, Captain Anza planned ahead and went to work. In his planning 377Anza had an invaluable ally in another very remarkable young man who had arrived on this frontier in 1768 in one more aftermath of the accession to the throne of dynamic Charles III.  This was Francisco Hermenegildo Garcés, a Franciscan friar of the College of the Holy Cross at Querétaro, who had been sent to the mission at St. Francis Xavier at Bac with the contingent from his College which replaced the Jesuits in the northern Piman missions when Charles III expelled the members of the Society of Jesus from his dominions (Bolton 1930:I:45).

Francisco Garcés and Juan de Anza apparently took an immediate liking to one another. Anza's post gave Garcés an escort to his new mission post (Garcés July 29, 1768:366), and Garcés expressed his gratitude for the good example his escort gave the mission Indians and for Anza's wife's hospitality to him (ibid., p. 365). His superiors could hardly have known Garcés' capabilities when they dispatched him to an Indian mission, but in fact he became one of the greatest experts in Indian relations ever posted on any Spanish frontier.

Where the Jesuits had gone with a military escort and large remount herds and droves of cattle for food, Friar Francisco went alone with an Indian interpreter or no one else at all, riding a mule or walking, eating the food the friendly Indians offered him (Coues 1900). Go Garcés did-far beyond the areas explored by any Jesuit. His program of exploration fitted very neatly into the planning of Captain Anza. Almost certainly Anza first suggested to the friar 378that he undertake systematic exploration to the north and west. Both Anza and Garcés acted as they thought appropriate in the temper of the times, and it happened that they liked each other and worked well together.

Garcés began to explore almost as soon as he reached his mission at Bac. On August 29, 1769, after about fourteen months at Bac, Garcés traveled west into Pápago country and then north to the Gila River (Arricivita1792:403-404). Always his explorations led him toward California. In 1770 Garcés again reached the Gila River and the riverain villages of the northernmost Pimas and their Maricopa allies (ibid., p. 416-417). In 1771 he ranged on outward through the desert to the Colorado River below the mouth of the Gila (ibid., p. 418-421). Anza and Garcés got together after the missionary returned, and his news set Anza to seeking approval once more for his familial exploration project (Bolton 1930:I:46-47). Garcés had by that time explored all the routes to the Colorado River, established friendly relations with the Yuma tribe which commanded the best crossing and had heard from the Indians that the California missions were not far west and he had seen with his own eyes the mountains on the other side of the Colorado desert which might be the coast range. He was sure that the California establishments could be reached overland from Sonora.

Anza was equally sure. He had surmised as much as early as 1769 when Gila River Indians brought news from their kinsmen on the Colorado that they had seem armed white men 379(Anza Aug. 20, 1769:117). Anza was campaigning on the Gulf coast, but his company ensign commanding Tubac forwarded the news to him (Elizondo Sept. 21, 1769). Anza reported to the governor of Sonora that the Colorado River Cocomaricopas had probably seen Spanish soldiers marching toward Monterey (Anza Aug. 20, 1769:118) which could not be very far from Tubac, he and others decided (Elizondo Sept. 21, 1769). He wrote the Visitor-General José de Galvez proposing to lead an expedition overland to Monterey to prove that it could be done (Bolton 1930:I:45). At that time no action was taken on his proposal. In 1772, however, Anza was taken up (ibid., I:43).

2. Anza Proposes

Father Garcés had reached Caborca on October 27, 1771 on his return from the Colorado River, and he and Anza possibly conferred during his trip back to Bac sometime during November. Anza was still up to his ears in the Apache offensive of 1771, however, and it was not until the following spring that he was able to sit down and organize his proposals for exploring a way to the Pacific Coast. Finally he penned the final draft of his project on May 2, 1772, and sent it off to the viceroy (ibid., I:47).

The Tubac comandant reviewed Father Garcés' explorations to the Colorado Desert west of the Colorado River, the geographical concepts gathered from the various Indian tribes in that direction, and the desirability of linking up with Upper California. He asked permission to attempt a land 380crossing to that new frontier the following October, taking Father Garcés and twenty to twenty-five men from the Tubac company (ibid., p, 48). Except for leave for his men, Anza asked no subsidy, undertaking the cost of exploration himself (ibid., p. 52).

After the usual months on the trail to the capital, Anza's petition reached the viceroy, who referred it to an engineer who had already been in Upper California designing coastal fortifications. This officer reported that the expedition Anza proposed was feasible, the distance from Tubac to San Diego being around 180 leagues as the crow flies. (if the engineer meant a 2.5 mile league, he estimated the modern road mileage between Tubac and San Diego within a few miles.) On the grounds that Spaniards could climb any mountain pass Indians crossed, the engineer felt Anza stood a good chance of being able to reach the ocean, since Indians were known to enter the Pacific Coastal area from the Colorado River region. Costansó, the engineer, even waxed enthusiastic about the possibility of opening a land trail over which agricultural produce from Sonora could be dispatched directly to Upper California, and suggested sending two soldiers from Upper California to guide Anza once he reached the Pacific beaches (ibid., p. 50-52)

The fiscal approved Anza's petition then it came before him (ibid., I:52). Then when the viceroy called a council of war and Royal Exchequer to consider Anza's scheme, the notables lacked the enthusiasm of subordinate officials. 381They were more cautious, although they considered Anza's zeal for the royal service commendable and approved his project in principle (ibid., I:53). The gist of the temporizing conclusion of the council was that its members desired additional information before authorizing Anza to hare off into the unknown land northwest of Tubac. They wanted more estimates of the practicality of the project, its likely effect on the Indian through whose territory the expedition might travel, its effect on the Dominican mission program in Alta California and the fund of knowledge of the area beyond the frontiers in the minds of old pioneers who had accompanied earlier Jesuit explorers (ibid., I:54).

This semi-satisfying result of Anza's proposal was not known to that officer until January 22, 1773, when the vice-regal dispatch rider found him commanding the advanced picket San Bernardino during an illness of Captain Vildósola (ibid., I:55). Then Anza had to write governor Sastre of Sonora requesting a furlough, and wait another month for it to arrive. Meanwhile the governor submitted his own report to the viceroy on the Anza proposal, having received the vice-regal enquiry addressed to him many days in advance of Anza. Sastre sanctioned the proposal but suggested that Anza go alone with Father Garcés-possibly motivated by sincere concern over the effect of Spanish military uniforms on the Indians beyond the frontier, but more likely thinly veiling a pointed reminder to Anza that going over the heads of one's 382immediate superiors was an unhealthy enterprise. Sastre granted Anza leave to return to Tubac to consult his papers in order to reply to theviceroy, as Anza requested, and the captain finally reached Tubac late in February.

Inasmuch as the first thing Captain Anza did was to send for his exploring missionary friend at Bac, it is likely he wanted to confer with Garcés as much as his papers.

The captain, having reassured the viceroy in a hurried note from San Bernardino that the proposed expedition would not encounter Indian opposition, in a fuller reply from Tubac reported that the pioneers could offer little reliable data on the area to be traversed. Survivors of Jesuit explorations were confused about their travels and one man did not agree with another about the trails, the settlements, nor even the Indian tribes and what to call them. Anza repeated his assurances that the expedition should attract rather than alienate the Indians through opening trade with them and inhibiting intertribal conflicts.

Anza added la bit of arrogance to his reply to the vice-regal request for information which probably helped to tip the decision in his favor. He asked to report directly to the viceroy, that the Sonoran governor be ordered to supply required items, and that Anza report in person at the capital upon his return (ibid., I:56). This last point in particular was well calculated to impress the viceroy and his cabinet with Anza's ambition and supreme self-confidence, getting 383across his point that here was a captain capable of carrying through such an unusual undertaking. Whether Anza's arrogance was genuine or assumed, it was fitting to his circumstances as a Spanish military officer and to his times. The Peninsular-born officials at the City of Mexico could appreciate that this creole on the northern frontier was made of as haughty Spanish stuff as they were-a kindred spirit even if his family had been in America for generations.

At the same time Father Garcés-who disliked writing as a plague and abomination-did his bit to further viceregal authorization of the project by finally forwarding his diary of his recent explorations written by a scribe with a more legible hand than his own. This diary had been repeatedly requested by higher officials who hoped to gain some better idea of the Indian country beyond the frontier from it. The missionary also praised Captain Anza to the skies and lauded the good results opening a land route to Upper California would have. He also offered one extremely wise suggestion for insuring peaceful passage through the Indian tribes: notifying them in advance of Anza's coming so they would be expecting him and not be taken by surprise (ibid., I:56-58).