San Francisco History, California
Tracing the history of San Francisco entails going back more than 400 years. However, before that time the land was inhabited by the Ohlone people.
The race between England and Spain
It was the explorations of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo during the middle 1500’s that would establish the interests of the Spaniards in the Californian region. However, in 1579, English privateer Sir Francis Drake landed off the present-day Point Reyes and unceremoniously claimed the land for Queen Victoria naming it Nova Albion. The area is now known as Drake’s Bay, however, Francis Drake’s “discovery” failed to amount to anything favorable for England.
By 1595, Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno on board the galleon San Agustin was shipwrecked near Point Reyes. He claimed the lands for Spain calling it Puerto de San Francisco, presumably named after Saint Francis of Assisi. Nevertheless, it won’t be for another 175 years before the Spaniards actually colonize San Francisco.
Eight years later, Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino was tasked to map out the Californian coastline in 1603. Vizcaino however missed San Francisco altogether most likely because the bay area is almost always under heavy fog.
The Golden Gate
The aggressive Spanish colonial expansion during the 18th century finally reached the shores of San Francisco Bay in 1769. An expedition led by Don Gaspar de Portola was credited for discovering San Francisco Bay, sighting it atop Sweeney Ridge, now a National Historic Landmark. A member of his crew, Sgt. Jose Francisco Ortega would later be identified as having discovered the strait now popularly known as the Golden Gate.
The ship sailed by Don Juan Manuel de Ayala was the first to enter San Francisco Bay in 1775 via the Golden Gate. The area where they landed, just off Angel Island, is now known as Ayala Cove.
The following year, 1776, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza came into San Francisco Bay and established the fort Presidio de San Francisco de Asis. In that same year, the La Mision de Nuestro Padre San Francisco de Asis was also built. The church was also called Mission Dolores because of a nearby creek named after Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). Both the Presidio and the Mission still stand today.
The Gold Rush
By the time Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821, the settlement found on this area became known as Yerba Buena. In 1847, the year after the Mexican-American war ended and California was ceded to the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco.
The following year, gold was discovered in Coloma, California and by 1849, settlers came to San Francisco by the thousands hoping to strike it rich. These “forty miners” as they were called congregated in San Francisco forever changing the fortunes of the once idyllic village to one of the most well-known cities in the United States. Thus, the California Gold Rush was enormously instrumental in transforming San Francisco into the cosmopolitan center that it is today.
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