Things just happen, one after another. They don’t care who knows. But history. . . ah history is different. History has to be observed. Otherwise it’s not history. It’s just. . .well, things happening one after another. And, of course, it has to be controlled. Otherwise it might turn into anything. Because history , contrary to popular theories, is kings and dates and battles. And these things h ave to happen at the right time. This is difficult. In a chaotic universe there are too many things to go wrong. It’s too easy for a general’s horse to lose a shoe at the wrong time, or for someone to mishear an order, or for the carrier of the vital message to be waylaid by some men with sticks and a cash flow problem. Then there are wild stories, parasitic growths on the tree of history, trying to bend it their way. So history has its caretakers.
[Small Gods; Terry Pratchett 1992 p. 3]

I put everything on the page, the important and the not important, the real connections and imagined connections. . .I knew the details were important. The answer is always in the details. What is seemingly not important now is all-important later. What is cryptic and unconnected now becomes the magnifying glass through which things become clear later.
[Michael Connelly; The Narrows 2004 (p. 121-122)]



header chapter 01

New Spain

In the Fifteenth Century, Europeans first discovered and began the colonization of the Western Hemisphere. The City of Berkeley, the subject of this essay, is located on the western edge of the Western Hemisphere.

Also in the Western Hemisphere and many miles south of Berkeley, Mexico as a political entity had its beginning as a colony of Spain. Collectively, Spain's colonies in the New World were known as New Spain and were constituted of Alta California (which included the present site of Berkeley), Baja California, Mexico (which then included much of the U.S. southwest), Central America, and South America. Spain also laid claim to a scattering of islands in the Caribbean. All of this, quite ambitiously, represented the colonial possessions of "Old" Spain. While expansive, it should also be noted that at the time, and for quite some time, no one else was particularly interested in these lands; on the basis of Spain’s proclamation, therefore, this vast tract of land "belonged" to Spain.
That situation, however, did not endure. For the few years that Spain maintained title (but certainly little control) over these territories, she was the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world. She was also known to have a respectable, if not widely feared, navy. Thus the story of this new world, and the story of Berkeley, begins at the end of the Fifteenth Century.

"In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."
Columbus, in fact, made three trips, and not once did he steer quite far enough north to discover the continent of North America. At best, he did establish something of a foothold on a small body of land in the Caribbean. It is this discovery, and claim, which laid the ground work for others to follow. Columbus, who was an Italian, and was financed by Spain, is given credit for the expansion of the European vision:"Columbia", the Gem of the Ocean.

Columbus' commission was, ostensibly, to provide an economic and political advantage for his sponsor, the Spanish Crown. The King was, at that time seeking increased trade through improved routes to the Far East. Reasonably certain that Columbus had gained some ground in this respect, King Ferdinand and his wife Isabel, proceeded to claim all of the "New World." Focusing the greatest attention on Central and South America, Spain commenced to establish her first colonies. While Spain was busy colonizing, North America caught the attention of England, Russia, and France. However, Russia, for another two centuries did not venture far beyond what is now Alaska.

Twenty five years after Columbus had first set foot on this territory, Hernando Cortez, a Spanish military commander and explorer, marched his troops through Mexico. Throughout these explorations he encountered the rich and developed civilization of the Aztecs. Being a military man, he did what seemed natural to his commission: Cortez, with the aid of the Spanish Catholic Church, subjugated the Mexican natives who were then recognized as heathen subjects of the Spanish King. The wealth possessed by these subjects was not overlooked. The educational process was performed so thoroughly that most manifestations of this "heathen" culture and its well evolved political system were destroyed. The riches of the
native leader, Montezuma were shipped to Spain, in wholesale fashion.With its capture, Mexico City became the governmental center of the new Spanish colonies. Spanish troops proceeded to further explore and to commit further instances of genocide. Within a decade Spanish troops, under the command of a man named Pizarro, succeeded in summarily obliterating another culture, as elegant and as sophisticated as the Aztecs, these being the Incas of Peru. With the riches from Peru, Spain became, unquestionably, a visible, and hence vulnerable, world power.

By 1534 the King saw fit to detail to the colonies his Viceroy, ordering him to organize, administer, and direct further exploration. While the shorter route to the “east” had not been established, Columbus’ adventure had proven far more profitable. Soon international trade was spanning both oceans, exploration and the discovery of new territories, driven by greed, had preceded with dispatch. By the end of the Sixteenth Century, an era far slower than our own, the Pacific Coast had been explored by boat far north of Mexico, and the inlands of Southern California had been briefly invaded by the Spanish conquistadors.

The English, under the direction of their no less acquisitive Queen Elizabeth, had proceeded toward a reversal of the Spanish dominance and a share of the seemingly inexhaustible riches. By the final decade of the Sixteenth Century, the Spanish were "up-to-here" with English disrespect, which by then had been endured for over past fifty years. The plundering and harassment of their merchant vessels by the English buccaneers was constant. Elizabeth made little secret of her support of these "officially unauthorized" bands of pirates. In less than a century, the world’s economy had been effectively focused on the new lands of the Americas.

In 1588 Spain sought suitable resolution and reasonable restitution. The solution was to meet outrage with outrage. Spain’s plan was to unleash upon the British Navy the entire force of her best ships and men, the infamous Spanish Armada. But an end had come to the era of Spanish conquest. Substantially wounded in '88, the final denouement arrived a scant 8 years later, when Spain's principal port at Cadiz was attacked by England. This climactic naval assault resulted in the crippling of the remainder of the Spanish fleet. With the end of the Sixteenth Century, the final curtain dropped on the Spanish claim to dominance in world trade and maritime supremacy.

Down but not yet out, Spain's next major objective, during the century which was to follow, involved the use of Jesuit missionaries in South and Central America. While defeated on the sea, the Western Hemisphere remained a Spanish possession. However claims at ownership, and effective management, remained vastly different issues. It was therefore believed that the Christianizing of the natives would be the most reasonable first step towards effective colonization. However the demands of the crown continued to focus on gold and silver and the new continent continued to be viciously plundered.

Spanish exploration and pillaging, accompanied by what were really very limited efforts at settlement, extended northward from Mexico City. During this period of expansion, Santa Fe, New Mexico was founded in 1610, over a hundred and fifty years prior to the United States War of Independence. Spain persisted in filching the wealth of Mexico and South America, shipping home millions which would be squandered by the Spanish elite. The Crown prohibited any local distribution of the wealth extracted from the New World. Spain ruled her colonies with an unjust, morally bereft, exclusively self-serving, avarice. Such was the essence of California's humble beginnings.

Soon, with the realization that the world in general had embraced this "westward movement," and England had increased her maritime activities in the Pacific, Spain revitalized its colonizing activities directed its efforts in those parts of the territory which were as yet untapped and lay to the north of Mexico. From this point on, however, it would be a defensive posture that characterized Spain's territorial efforts. What was left of the struggle would yield only a further diminution of the Spanish Empire.

Alta California


During the middle of the Eighteenth Century several events took place which prompted the King of Spain to attempt a firmer hold on those lands that had been defined, with naive grandiosity, as Spanish soil. His major problem still lay in the miscalculation of the enormity this acreage, and the utter impossibility of any practical territorial control. The persistent encroachment upon the lands of the New World by other European interests finally forced the Spanish to realize that Alta California was now surrounded by the English; the handful of Spaniards occupying this territory were facing a disturbing ocean exposure on the West, an ocean over which Spain could not claim any measure of control. The Spanish claim to Alta California had become exceedingly tentative.

Spain's plan was to divide Upper from Lower California. Lower, or Baja California was no more than a barren appendage upon its colossal northern expanse, but it was fairly well explored, somewhat settled, known to be surrounded on three sides by water, and convenient to the center of Spanish habitation. The Viceroy appointed Juan Portola as Governor of Baja California. From this base further possible gains could be explored.
Arguing with limited cogency that the Russians were coming, (they were in fact occupying the Aleutian chain far to the north, and constituting no real threat), the Viceroy, set Capt. Portola and the Franciscan priest, Father Junipero Serra, the task of conducting a "Sacred Expedition."
Their duty was to scout the Alta (upper) California territory, do whatever they could to ensure Spanish claim on the land, and install what would be the headquarters for a series of mission settlements. Serra was responsible for the conversion of the natives, who were still the sole
occupants of the territory. The expedition was also subsidized by the church.

The King also made a point of designating Serra's Fransican order (over the Jusuits) as the official missionaries for this assignment. Control had been for some years an issue, which when raised, tended to quicken the Spanish king's expansionist heartbeat. The Jesuits, previously deployed to South America, had so well established themselves that they were far too powerful, far too clever, and proved themselves no less interested in the accumulation of wealth than was the Crown. Besides, the Jusuit influence had already become troublesome in the South American colonies.
The Catholic Church was regarded with thinly disguised disfavor, occupying, as it was, an adversarial relationship with the Crown in regards to the proprietorship of the New World territories. On the plus side, however, was the money. The Church had the funds which they were willing to expend in support of the colonialization of Alta California.
Given the Kings’ reluctance to fund this venture outright, ignoring the Church's interest would have constituted a serious logistical error. The Franciscans had inspired confidence by having taken their vows of poverty, renouncing their earthly desires, and were suitably if not tediously
humble. They seemed principally interested in saving native souls, so were regarded as benign agents within the new colonies. With the Crown interested in securing as much in the way of liquid assets as it could, and having no interest in sharing their riches with the Vatican, the Franciscans were definitely the crown’s first choice. As a final precaution, the mission plan, as designed, required that the missions remain in existence for a period of only ten years. The priests were to build them, assemble the natives, teach them how to live like human (Christian) beings, and then cut them loose to tend their own affairs, as good and prudent Spanish (Christian) subjects. After ten years (the agreement also stated) these "mission" lands would revert to secular control, populated by obsequious, God-fearing, productive tax payers. It was one of those kinds of plans that just wasn't going to work.

Portola and Serra ventured northward in 1769, established the first two of the original nine missions, one in San Diego, the second in Monterey.
After discovering San Francisco Bay in the Fall of 1769, they returned to Mexico to await instructions. Upon their return south, Portola left his second in command, a Lt. Fages, in charge, assigning him the newly created position of Governor of Alta California.

As governor, Fages would be assisted in ecclesiastical matters by Father Crespi, the latter having been the right hand man to Serra. It is well to keep in mind that Alta California, and Fages' responsibility, embraced an area far beyond the boundaries of today’s California. It extended north from Mexico to Canada, and eastward to the Continental Divide, about a third the present area of the continental United States. Unquestionably, a formidable area for the new governor to govern.

San Francisco Bay


Lt. Fages and Father Crespi, both with time to spare in spite of their awesome responsibilities, began to explore the greater Bay Area from their base in Monteray. In 1772, Fages and Crespi were credited with being the first Europeans to set foot in what we today know to be Berkeley.
Impressed by the progress made, in 1773 the Spanish King made a decree offering grants of land to settlers in this new territory. While these grants were no more than grazing permits, it was hoped that the offer would be considered incentive enough to encourage settlers into the area.
The response was not overwhelming. Undaunted, another plan was devised and implemented, which recommended yet another expedition.

In the fall of 1775, at about the same time that the American colonies were organizing their revolt against England's King George, the de Anza party left Mexico for Monterey. With their purpose, route, and destination clear, Anza and company traveled northward. Included were soldiers, missionaries, and a contingent of the first European settlers. They left from a small town, Tubac, in what is now southern New Mexico, just this side of the current U.S./Mexican border; a small and rather poor town even in its day. The members of the party were, for the most part, a poor and disenfranchised assemblage going anywhere with hopes of finding
some improvement in their wretched earthly circumstances. However amongst these intrepid families were many whose names would become a part of the Bay Area culture.

Prominent among the members of Anza's expedition was Ensign Jose Joaquin Moraga. Moraga was second in authority to Anza, and it was he who took charge after Anza returned to home and hearth. Moraga was regrettably not accompanied by his wife and son. Because she was ill at the time he was to leave, she deferred her travel plans until feeling better. The government later made arrangements for her to join her husband in the Spring of 1791, some sixteen years later. A number of the soldiers were, however, accompanied by spouse and issue, including those of Domingo Alviso, Gabriel Peralta, Juan Pacheco, and Jose Valencia who brought along a wife and three children. Within the list of members whose names are likely to strike a familiar note were Alvarez, Pico, Sanchez, Castro, Galindo, and Berryesa.

In May of 1776, the Anza party arrived in Monterey. Two months later, under the direction of Capt. Anza, Moraga established the San Francisco Presidio. Three months after that, Mission Dolores was founded. While the missionaries were "civilizing" and converting the native population, they were protected by the soldiers of the presidio. Civilizing the natives, a group not especially inclined to accept the ways of Catholicism, necessarily required the assistance of soldiers when threats, punishment and ethereal promises failed to fully persuade. The military presence was therefore accepted as a fact of life for the mission’s padre.
A year later, the Moraga party ventured over the hills, out of the sand and fog which fairly well described the Yerba Buena (San Francisco) peninsula, and, faithfully following the directives sent from the King of Spain through his Viceroy, went inland in an attempt to establish a mission that provided greater agricultural possibilities.

Looking for a place to locate this new pueblo, Lt. Moraga and his party traveled south from Mission Dolores in 1777, down the peninsula, and then eastward to the southern tip of the bay where they founded the town, or pueblo, of San Jose. The site was close enough to the San Francisco Mission, to navigable water and to the Presidio, and yet it still had some very decent weather. Best of all, it had an abundance of tillable soil, an item scarce in the vicinity of the San Francisco mission. This site offered, overall some real possibilities as a place for people to put down their roots. The settlers duly set to establishing a civil colony, begin an agriculture, and grow food for the missionaries and the troops. Four years later a second pueblo and with it a southern center of population was established in Los Angeles.

The pueblo in San Jose, however, was a component of the overall plan that did not find favor with the ecclesiastic leadership. The pueblo was constituted not of military or ecclesiastical types, but by ordinary folks, settlers. The padres tended to regard secular influences as being
likely to corrupt the heathen, not to mention that a secular presence provided the Indian an array of options that the good fathers preferred that they did not have. The pueblo was, however, regarded as important to the practical goals of insuring settlement. Food was necessary and the lands of the Mission and Presidio were not conducive to agricultural development. Thus the pueblo, located in an area of fertile soil, provided both a base for agrarian development, as well as a base of power that was distinct from the clergy. It was well enough that the church funded the greater part of the expedition, it was not intended that the church establish or hold any amount of territorial power. Meanwhile the ten year plan remained in effect, with native self- rule as the expected result.
The pueblo's presence was to maintain a continuity of life, generate profit, and its leadership would be answerable only to those serving directly the aggrandizement of Spain.

By 1790, Alta California boasted two burgeoning communities with a total population of some 980 souls. Not counting the Indians, of course. With settlement progressing to the satisfaction of the King and his Viceroy, the next phase of their plan was implemented: The Viceroy began to solve some of their local social problems by sending convicts and other undesirables north to the mission settlements.

The Peraltas


Corporal Gabrial Peralta was a soldier with the Anza party. He came north from his home in Tubac, with his wife and family, including his 17 year old son named Luis. Luis enlisted in Anza's army in December of 1781; his first assignment was at the garrison at Monterey. A year later, Private Peralta was detailed to the Presidio at Yerba Buena. The year following, he married Maria Louisa Alviso, daughter of another soldier in Anza's army. In 1791, now as a 33 year old Corporal Luis Peralta, he was again transferred, this time to the Mission at Santa Cruz, to serve there as the "cabo" or military commander. His job there was to protect the mission from hostile Indians, round up new Indians, and recapture those Indians who strayed, ran or otherwise departed from the padres' hospitality.
Corporal Peralta was a man of good reputation, known as a soldier who prudently fulfilled his assigned tasks. He would continue to be given increasing amounts of responsibility.

During the next few years, the encroachment of settlers across the continent would continue to inflict painful loses upon the Spanish. In January of 1794 the Nootka Convention ceded the Northwest Territory to the U.S. This represented the loss of the top portion of Alta California.
Within two years of this reluctant concession, in 1796, a U.S. ship was anchored in Monterey Bay, the first ever to do so. While the reception was cold and its stay was brief, the presence of the Anglo world at the western shore was sufficient to inspire the escalation of the settlement process. More missions were ordered up. Amongst those established by this edict, again under the guidance of Serra, was Mission San Jose.

Mission San Jose was located to the east and north of Pueblo San Jose, against the foothills, an hour's ride away, and situated on what was then, the very best arable land. The presence of the Mission represented the first incursion of settlement onto the eastern shore of the Bay of San Francisco, on a portion of land known then as the Contra Costa, or "opposite shore." Mission San Jose was formally established in 1797. Within the year, Corporal (very soon to become Sergeant) Peralta was assigned duty at this facility. While Mission San Jose was never one of California's biggest missions, it was as successful in its functions (taming Indians, growing crops, and raising livestock) as Mission Dolores wasn't. Mission San Jose would establish an agricultural record that would be the envy of the mission circuit. Mission San Jose is located in what is now Washington Township, just to the east of the cities of Irvington and Newark.

Contra Costa


Mission San Jose was blessed by good soil, the best weather, the handiest streams, and the most sumptuous grazing land. On the other hand, it was also plagued by the least cooperative of the possible converts. But Sergeant Peralta took an active and heroic role in the subduing of these recalcitrants.

Sargent Peralta lived at the Mission; his family was involved in the Mission's social and religious activities. Army life, so far as it was from the seat of its ultimate authority, was one of fair complacency.
Peralta and his wife had been blessed with many children, at least half of which lived beyond infancy. Of the survivors, four sons and five daughters grew to adulthood.

In 1807, Sergeant Peralta's fine judgment and dedication were again recognized by his superiors, and he was once more transferred, this time assuming the position of "comisionado", to the Pueblo at San Jose. He was then 52 years old. There he built a home for his family, settled into his new job, and raised some of his own cattle. The serenity promised by this, his last military position, was not to last out the year.

Meanwhile, back in the old world, the European powers had for some time been inclined to fight amongst themselves. Spain, following her relatively brief days of superiority, tended to realize more loses than did the other major powers. In 1807, the year of Sgt. Peralta's last promotion, the Emperor Napoleon, bent on enhancing France's empire, marched into Spain, claiming it and Portugal as French satellites. With the Spanish King deposed, the Spanish colonies were effectively set adrift without the support of their mother country. In California the soldiers, as well as other government functionaries, effectively became members of an unpaid corps of civil servants, their salaries coming to an end with the end of the functioning Spanish government. Left thus unattended, and with a patriotism that was centered now closer to their new home, they began to revolt against mother Spain.

But every cloud has its silver lining, and the loss of fiscal backing from Spain had its recompense for the sudden expatriates. Spain had ruled its colonies with a powerful and arbitrary hand, maintaining an inflexible edict specifying that the colonies could trade only with the mother country, and under no circumstances with merchants of other nations. With the ultimate relaxation of parental control, commerce with the eager and ready U.S. trading ships, which were quick to enter into the breach, sparked the colonial spirits considerably. As a result, a new sense of wealth had its beginning for the Alta Californians. Independent trade directly and immediately enhanced the local economy. A brisk business began in hides and tallow, along with the merchandising of the skins of various wild native species. The farmers profited, now that their crops could go beyond the Mission and the Presidio. Foreigners as well were encouraged by the lapse of prohibitive rules, and were quick to respond.
Even Russian trappers (c. 1812) moved down the coast and established their own colony on the northern California shores. This community became known as Ft. Ross, not surprisingly located on what they called the Russian River.

While the Californians made the best of the present state of political ambiguity, many other Spanish colonies began their drive for autonomy and political independence. Between 1811 and 1828, Paraguay, Chili, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Guatemala, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay and all of Central America freed themselves from European control.

For a period of about six years following the restoration of the King of Spain to his throne (1813) Spanish control was reimposed upon Mexico, but now with somewhat liberalized policies as compared to the years prior.
These new policies were bestowed too little and too late. The Mexicans had tasted independence, and the renewed Spanish authority, however benevolent, was short lived. Mexico became an independent nation in 1821, its territory extending from the northern border of Central America through Texas, New Mexico, and Alta California.

With the change in government imminent, Luis Peralta made his decision to leave government service. In 1820 Luis submitted his resignation along with a request for a grant of land from the Spanish Crown. (He was no longer a young man, he had passed his sixtieth birthday, and had earned his retirement and its attendant perks.) Luis had previously received a temporary grant of some land near his home in San Jose, but had been obliged to relinquish this for the general good of the Pueblo. Now, in concert with Francisco Castro, Luis' nephew by marriage and an army colleague of equal stature, he sought title to a piece of land which extended on the south from the northern boundary of the Mission San Jose land, defined by San Leandro Creek, to the Sacramento River Delta on the north. On the west, the land was bordered by the high tide line of the Bay, to the east the crest of the Contra Costa hills.
At El Cerrito (little hill, for awhile San Antonio Hill, now Albany Hill), eastward along El Cerrito Creek, Peralta and Castro divided the land into two parcels. Luis applied for a grant entitling him to the southern half of this extraordinary expanse of East Bay real estate; Francisco applied for the northern half. The Crown's initial response to the requests was mixed. Castro was denied his half, while Peralta was awarded his. But even this was to become more complicated.

It seems that the property they had requested had been used for the past few years as grazing land by Mission Dolores. The Mission complained to the Governor about the granting of their pasture lands and Governor de Sola, who was the last Spanish governor of Alta California, (he would also be the first Mexican governor), rescinded title to Luis' rancho, returning it to the Mission. Two years later, in 1822, with the specs appropriately modified, de Sola formally and for the second time granted him the uncontested portion of his request. But in doing so, Peralta had been denied the portion that is now Berkeley (which represented the grazing
lands of Mission Delores), while everything from San Leandro Creek on the South to the Temescal region on the North was his. He called his grant, Rancho San Antonio, after his patron saint. Included in this parcel was a portion of San Leandro, all of East Oakland, Oakland, and North Oakland, up to about Alcatraz Avenue.

Luis Peralta awaited the appointment of a new governor, one with whom he shared a more simpatico relationship, then reapplied for the deleted portion, and realized the return of Berkeley to the Rancho. At the same time, over the objections of Mission Dolores, Francisco Castro received provisional title to his requested land, Rancho San Pablo. Senor Castro had by then become a member of the territorial legislature, a position which substantially enhanced the receipt of gubernatorial favor.

After Luis Peralta had resigned from military service he lived comfortably in his San Jose home, enjoying his retirement, and participating in local politics. Three daughters were married, two were still at home, and they would care for Luis for the remainder of his days. Of his sons, the eldest, Ignacio, was living in San Jose, serving as "alcalde." His second son, Domingo, had married in 1821, just prior to Luis' declaration of his retirement, and was living with his new family near the juncture of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Luis was also concerned about title of his land lapsing for a failure to possess. On this account the third son, Antonio in 1820 and at his father's direction, moved onto what would become Rancho San Antonio, into a home he built near what is now Seminary avenue. He was 19 years old and the first to establish the requisite residence on the Peralta grant. Locating his house where he did placed him at the geographical midpoint of the Rancho. The fourth son, Vicente, in 1830 at age 18 moved in with his brother Antonio, shortly after the latter's marriage.

Territories are inclined to either be absorbed as states into the mother country or gain their own independence. The Texas Territory, yet a part of Mexico, was, during the 1820's, struggling with its own definition.
Mexico's initial policy was to open it to pioneers from wherever, but with a disproportionate incursion of Anglo settlers, the policy was reversed, the incentives for settlement were withdrawn, and a tighter, centralized Mexican government policy was established.

As repulsed as the Mexicans were by the authoritarian style of Spain's government, during the period in which they attempted to maintain a Spanish national integrity, they found themselves in worse straits while attempting to gain a Mexican identity. In California, further restrictions were imposed; an order for the immediate secularization of the Missions was dispatched (the original ten year plan having never been observed). In the chaos and uncertainty which prevailed, the scramble began for the prized "Mission Lands." Rule from afar, be it from Spain or Mexico, fared none to well in California during these days of transition.

Closer to home, the local rancheros, having become displeased with the constraints imposed by local Mexican officials who were located in Yerba Buena, the Dons requested a change in jurisdiction to the officials in San Jose. They did not, however, receive a positive response. To further complicate matters, their political insecurity was intensified when U.S. President Andrew Jackson made a public offer to purchase San Francisco Bay. Now there was no question in any one’s mind that the Anglo neighbors had designs on California, foretelling yet another change toward an uncertain future.

Indeed, this was a time of considerable instability. Texas was already in full revolt from Mexico. The year was 1836. Finally, in November of that year, tired of absentee leadership, several of the more powerful Californios made a bid for the political independence of Alta California.
Mexico was hardly in a position to argue. With enough to worry about elsewhere, and only limited options, Mexico recognized Juan Alvarado as the new governor of Alta California, which was now to function as an independent territory of Mexico. Respectful relations were promised; Mexico could only hope for the best.

Responding to the general state of uncertainty, Luis Peralta, in 1836 asked his second son, Domingo, who was recently widowed from his first wife and the father of four children, to move onto the Rancho. Within the year he would remarry and start a second family. Domingo and his children moved into the house already occupied by his two younger brothers, Antonio and Vicente, as well as Antonio's wife and children.

Vicente, acting on his own plans to begin a family, and his fathers request that he establish a second residence on the Rancho, located a site for his own home near Temescal Creek, behind what later would become the Pussycat theater, across from the Department of Motor Vehicles. When the house was completed, Vicente married. The new hacienda was shared with his older brother Domingo, his children, and his pregnant wife. Vicente would have no children of his own, but adopted several, filling his home with dependents of differing racial compositions.

Home rule in California soon met with internal complications. First there evolved a conflict between the northern and southern interests. Then the leadership was divided in its opinion regarding the proper emphasis to be placed on military appropriations. The split was primarily between the civil governor, Alvarado, and the military governor, Vallejo (who was also Alvarado's uncle). Vallejo, on the other hand sought support for a stronger military force from the Mexican government. The government, quick to spot a way back into Mexican rule of the territory, in 1842 sent north a new governor, a man who was thoroughly committed to a strong
military leadership. For the moment, home rule had come to an end.

But again the Mexican choice of administrator fell substantially short of brilliant. Governor Micheltorena was a man who as not especially well liked, was inclined to his own kind of excesses, and in spite of his obvious efforts to ingratiate himself, quickly became more than the Californios could stomach. Changes were in the offing, but not precisely those the locals had in mind.

In 1841, a year prior to the resumption of control over California by Mexico, the route across the Sierra Nevada was broached, and California witnessed the arrival of the first Americans to approach the territory by the direct route west: the Bidwell party had arrived. Alert to the likelihood of more Anglo intruders into their pastoral landscape, and responding again to the newly imposed Mexican regime, Luis Peralta requested of his sons even greater coverage of their many acres spread against the Contra Costa hills. In 1842 Domingo Peralta moved from his brother's home to his own, constructed along Codornices Creek, near the far north end of the Rancho. Ignacio, retired from government service in San Jose, joined his younger brothers on the Rancho for the first time, taking up his residence at the far southern end, just north of San Leandro Creek. With his four sons so installed, Luis divided the Rancho amongst them. The land north of the San Antonio slough, which is now Lake Merritt, became Rancho Temescal, and the land south of the slough, a new and smaller Rancho San Antonio. Vicente and Domingo were to share Rancho Temescal, Antonio and Ignacio would share Rancho San Antonio. Immediately following this division, Antonio and Ignacio divided their half between themselves, while Vicente and Domingo held on for a while longer, remaining joint owners of their legacy.

The events affecting the Peraltas, and all of the other Californios, were to accelerate from this time on. Governor Micheltorena so outraged the locals that he was deported to Mexico early in 1844; California had again established total self rule. Pio Pico was installed as the new governor, with Jose Castro as military commander. Pico promptly located his headquarters in the southern portion of Alta California, and began immediately to differ with Castro who was ensconced in the north. War between the U.S. and Mexico was becoming a very real possibility, with the lands of Alta California certain to be first prize for the victor.

With a probable severe loss of autonomy seen to be close at hand, Governor Pico set as his first order of business the distribution of mission lands among his family and closest associates. As he was doing so, settlers were passing in droves through Donner Pass, remaining for the time being, as inconspicuous as is possible for a drove, in the Sacramento Valley. In 1846 the war with Mexico began in earnest, the United States quickly set up a provisional military governor for California, and within a year the last civil Mexican governor was replaced. No sooner had the U.S. military presence been established than the first boatload of U.S. settlers slipped into San Francisco Bay. The first arrivals, led by Sam Brannan, were a group of Mormons seeking religious asylum. And almost simultaneously with the end of the War with Mexico [and California declared a U.S. possession], bringing these calamitous events to a brilliant climax, the discovery of gold in California's central valley was announced. So rapidly did these events proceed that California never became a U.S. territory. Within a year of gold fever, California was a state.

Oakland Township


Rancho San Antonio has often been described as the most valuable Spanish grant ever made. It covers some forty four thousand acres, comprises all of what is now Oakland and Berkeley, and was bordered on the south by Rancho San Leandro, the Estudillo grant located south of San Leandro Creek, and on the north, by Rancho San Pablo, located above Codornices Creek, the parcel that had been granted to Francisco Castro. The Peralta Rancho extended from the Bay to the crest of the hills. Ignacio Peralta's home at the south end faced across San Leandro Creek to the home of Juan Estudillo. At the north end, Domingo Peralta's home sat only a short distance from the hacienda of Victor Castro. The home of Victor Castro, Francisco's son, built in 1839, was located on the site now occupied by the El Cerrito Shopping Center.

Traversing Rancho San Antonio was the "old road", the Peralta Road, which connected Domingo's home located near the intersection of Hopkins and Sacramento Streets, with Vicente's home at Temescal Creek, near the intersection of Telegraph and Claremont Avenues. From Vicente's home south, the Peralta road, here called the Temescal road, assumed the route of Telegraph Avenue, which merged into what is now Broadway, and then connected itself to the El Camino Real, the “mission road”, which is described by East 14th Street through Oakland. This landing was originally installed for the convenience of the residents of Pueblo San Jose.

The Peralta road, intersected Shattuck Avenue (had it then existed) on an oblique angle from the southeast, crossed it approximately at Bancroft Ave., continued northwards on the west side of the present Shattuck Avenue, and then veered in a westerly direction not far beyond Berkeley Way. Following a wandering pattern, the road cut north again at Cedar and McGee, thereby obliging the travelers to cross only one stream on their journey between the Peralta haciendas.. It followed McGee and wended its way west once more to Hopkins Street and so to Domingo's home. From there it was later continued in a northwesterly direction along Gilman Street to intersect with the San Pablo Road. With the development of Berkeley, the Peralta road was effectively erased north of Vicente's home, first with the laying out of Shattuck Avenue in the early 1850's, and somewhat later with the organization of the neatly arranged east/west streets north of University Avenue. Racine Street, lying to the east of Shattuck Avenue, and McGee St between Cedar and Rose Streets represent the last vestiges of this early route. The Peralta Road and the old Mission Road were the only byways of the day.

The human population of the east bay lands was sparse. On the other hand the land was rich with all manner of flora and fauna, many creeks originating in the hills ran to the Bay, and both white beaches and swampy tidelands characterized the meeting of land and water. Except for the Spanish rancheros, the land was virtually deserted, the native inhabitants had by the 1840's been absorbed into the Missions, had perished, or had escaped to new homes farther north; the pastoral innocence of the Contra Costa was nearing its end.

With the War's end and the announcement of gold, word of this bountiful land soon reached all parts of the continent. It reached, in fact, all parts of the world. While gold seekers had initially little interest in Bay Area real estate, with their inevitable disappointments at the mines, many would return to settle in the area. Aware of the value of any land which bordered what was regarded as possibly the finest natural harbor in the world, and that the Mexican nationals in the area would be inclined to claim title by virtue of governmental grant, the U.S. government in 1851 established a Land Commission whose ostensible task was to endorse those Spanish/Mexican grants that could be found to be valid. There was, however, little real interest on the part of the Anglos to share with the Hispanics in this choice real estate. Still, there were formalities which needed to be addressed.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed by the United States government with the government of Mexico at the termination of hostilities in February of 1848, guaranteed U.S. respect for the property of Mexican citizens, and promised to all the full range of benefits accorded to those with bonafide U.S. citizenship. The Land Commission required only that all grantees apply for U.S. title, and to bring documented proof of their claims. The process necessarily required an attorney, was routinely appealed by the Government through no fewer than four judicial levels, and would be sated only when acted upon by the U.S. Supreme Court. The process was costly, lengthy, and designed to enforce a crippling disadvantage on the land rich, but coin poor, Californios. The Peraltas promptly filed with the Commission, beginning that legal journey which inevitably proved catastrophic to the less astute. With their graciously bestowed citizenship, the Californios had become the prey of the U.S. Government.

Complicating the land issue was the speedy rush to statehood, with the formation of local government moving ahead at an even greater rate. With statehood, came counties, and with counties came taxes. At the time of statehood, there was no Alameda County. Rancho San Antonio was embraced as a part of Contra Costa County which then adjoined Santa Clara County at San Lorenzo Creek (which described the southern border of San Leandro).
The county seat was in Martinez, too far from the homes of the Peraltas to suit their practical and the language of public commerce was English. Such were the many disadvantages that would be borne by the Peraltas and the other Californios.

Luis Peralta, the good soldier, died in August of 1851. He was 92 years old. His will confirmed the division of land amongst his sons. His married daughters were left only cattle; the two single daughters were given the family house in San Jose and his belongings. Prior to his death several attempts were made to purchase land from the various Peralta sons. Luis had advised his sons against selling to the Anglos, and on that account no sales were made as long as he was alive. However, immediately upon Luis' death, the selling began. Antonio Peralta wasted no time to sell out most of his land to Anglos, retaining only a small portion for his family's use. Antonio thereby put himself, as quickly as possible, out of the real estate business. Ignacio was determined to keep his land, and did so by dividing it up into smaller parcels, and then distributing those to his children and other relatives, and selling some of it to his friends. For many years hence his legacy remained with these Californios.

At the northern end of the Rancho, Vicente Peralta was inclined to sell, Domingo was not. Domingo, forever his father’s son, recalled well his fathers plea that they hold onto their land. Rancho Temescal was at that point divided, with Vicente retaining the name, while Domingo’s share took the new name of Rancho Codornices, that part of Rancho San Antonio which today is Berkeley. Vicente sold all but his own 700 acre portion by the end of 1853. These 700 acres, but for the homestead, was eventually taken by taxes and attorneys. Of the brothers, Domingo held out the longest without anything resembling a plan for survival, and fared the least well.

Berkeley


Of Luis Peralta's sons, Domingo was unquestionably the least adept.
Second eldest of the sons, he comes down to us through history as a man of limited judgment, poor temper, and as an enduring item of concern to his father. Along with the five sisters, the other three sons generally did fairly well for themselves, each in substantially different ways.

Three of the five Peralta daughters married. Two (Maria Josepha and Maria Guadalupe) remained at home in San Jose and of them little more is known.
Of the three that married, the eldest, was Maria Teodora. She and her just younger sister, Maria Trinidad, were both born while Luis was stationed at the Presidio in Yerba Buena, their birthplace given as the Mission Dolores. Maria Teodora married twice, the first time becoming the second wife of Jose Apolonario Bernal, and on his death marrying Mariano Duarte. She died in 1850 at the age of 74 years, a year prior to her father’s death.
Maria Trinidad was born in 1789, was married at age 21 to Mariano de la Cruz Castro, and died in Santa Clara in 1872 at the age of 83. The third Peralta daughter, born in 1810, two years before her brother Vicente, was Maria Louisa, named in the traditional manner after an older sister who had lived but one year.
Maria Louisa in 1831 married Guillermo Jose Castro, grantee of Rancho San Lorenzo. Their land was adjacent to that of Estudillo and comprises most of what today is Hayward and Castro Valley. She passed away in 1873 at the age of 63 years.

Of the Peralta sons, Ignacio was the eldest, the smartest, and likely the richest. He was born in Yerba Buena in 1791, making him the third oldest of the nine surviving Peralta children. He was a small man, scarcely five feet tall, slight of build and light of complexion. Ignacio married Rafaela Sanchez, lived many years in Pueblo San Jose and served there as alcalde. Upon his retirement he relocated to Rancho San Antonio, and died there, some thirty two years later in 1874, at the age of 87.

One of Ignacio's daughters, Maria Antonia, married William Toler, a former ensign in the U.S. Navy and a man of some social standing, gaining for Ignacio a son-in-law who would prove a distinct advantage in his eventual business involving the U.S. Government. Ignacio's share of the Rancho extended from about Seminary Avenue south, making up all of East Oakland and portions of what is currently San Leandro.

Luis Peralta's second eldest son, Jose Domingo, was the recipient of that portion of the Rancho that would eventually become Berkeley. Since this is a book about Berkeley, he will be saved for last.

Third eldest of Luis' sons was Antonio Maria. Antonio, Luis’ ninth child, was born in 1801. He was a tall, well built man, described as being fair in complexion, and known to be a sportsman. He was the first of the Peralta sons to live on the Rancho. Antonio married twice, the first time in 1828 to Maria Antonio Galindo. By 1840 they had six children.
After Maria Antonio died, Antonio married for a second time, at age 54, to Maria Dolores Archuleta, in 1855. Antonio was the first to realize the wisdom of yielding to the inevitable, and he sold off his share of the Rancho as the opportunity first presented. His portion lay between Lake Merritt and Seminary Avenue, including the city of Alameda. Antonio died in 1879, the last survivor of the four sons.

Youngest of the Peralta sons was Jose Vicente. Vicente was born in 1812, came to live on Rancho San Antonio in 1830 at the age of 18, and built his own home near the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Claremont Boulevard in 1836. He married the same year to Maria Encarnacion Galindo (a cousin to his brother Antonio's first wife) and, failing to produce children of their own, the couple adopted a number of youngsters. Vicente was described as a well built erect man of about medium height, hospitable, and kind. He had the reputation of being, of the sons, the most adventurous. While riding with Vallejo in 1846, as participant in the action protesting the American military occupation of California, he was arrested and briefly imprisoned along with Vallejo. Vicente was a man who was alert to the political and economic conditions prevailing at the time of the U.S. acquisition of Alta California. Impressed by the apparent inexorability of the course of events, he was able to appreciate the wisdom of selling his property before it could be stolen from him by those having the advantage to do so. Vicente died at his residence in Temescal in 1871.

Of Luis Peralta's children, it was Jose Domingo, Berkeley's first documented resident, who managed to live the most unhappy, and the least distinguished life. It was Domingo who would eventually die angry, disappointed, penniless and with many regrets. But in all fairness, it would appear from today's vantage that Domingo did his best.

Domingo Peralta was born in December of 1795, at Mission Santa Clara. His first ten years were spent growing up at Mission San Jose, after which the family moved to the Pueblo San Jose. His first marriage in 1821 was to Paulina Antonio de Garcia Pacheco. A portion of their married life was spent on the Rancho Canada del Corte de Madera, a piece of land granted jointly to Domingo and Maximo Martinez in 1833, and located on the western edge of Santa Clara county, just south of the Stanford University campus.
Domingo sold his share in the property in 1835, shortly after the death of his wife in 1833, a victim of the malaria epidemic which that year took many lives. With her death, Domingo became heir to her portion of Rancho San Ramon in Contra Costa county, the original grant being made to Domingo’s father-in-law.

Domingo and his children returned to the family home prior to moving onto Rancho San Antonio in 1834, along with his two younger brothers, Antonio and Vicente. At that time Jose Domingo was 39 years old. In August of 1835, Domingo married for the second time. His new wife was Maria Damiana Eduviges Garcia, a very young woman some 23 years his junior. With her he had countless additional children, the record remains unclear on the exact number, but all agree there were many. Domingo and his bride lived with brother Vicente for approximately 7 years at Temescal before building and moving into their own home, a simple dwelling perched on the banks of Codornices Creek, in 1842. Improving his residence twice, he remained in essentially the same location for the remainder of his life.

Domingo has been described as a short, stocky man of rather dark complexion. He has never been described as especially clever. Domingo was inclined to depend heavily upon his family's guidance in making most of his decisions; those he attempted to make on his own tended most often to be rigid, simplistic, naive, and destined to result in a relentless series of accrued disadvantages. As a dutiful son, Domingo was inclined to follow his father's injunction, and to resist yielding his land to the Anglos. The wisdom of this plan, at least in retrospect, was lacking. He broke with his brother Vicente when the latter believed that it seemed advisable to sell, and, holding to his father’s admonitions, was inclined toward contentious encounters with anyone who would threaten the sovereignty of his holdings. He was obviously a proud man of singular design, and inclined to be stubborn.

With the passing of his father, Domingo was apparently left without the guidance which had sustained him through most of his life. Forced to choose between his father's admonitions and his brother's council, Domingo would rely upon the literal (and now unchanging) word of his father. In doing so, he lost both his property and the respect of family.

In 1852, after Luis Peralta had passed away, Domingo was harassed by squatters, distressed by mission-liberated Indians who"hunted" his livestock, and plagued by land speculators eager to purchase land from the "land poor" Californian. He held out against the latter, and was on occasion inclined to take violent, injudicious action against the former.
At one time he was jailed and heavily fined for his assault against several squatting Californios. The result of this infraction cost him, in fines and the attorney fees which he had not the money to pay, his share
of the Rancho San Ramon.

Adding insult to injury, his land was even squatted upon by his neighbor, Victor Castro. Domingo was forced to meet Victor Castro in court in a heavily contested suit over the legal property line, the "rodeo line", separating the two Ranchos. Domingo was forever in the right, but he was nonetheless forced to defend himself against all who would make claims upon his land. Each of these contests cost him dearly in attorney’s fees.
As early as 1852 Domingo had put his trust in an American attorney, Horace Carpentier, a man who promised not only to represent him but promised as well that he would retain all of all his holdings. But he placed his confidence in the wrong person, was cautioned so by his family, and only much later came to realize that this same attorney represented not only his interests but those of his adversaries as well.

In 1853, thoroughly harassed by the squatters on his property who were now legally protected by the Possessory Rights Act of 1852, Domingo was advised by counsel to sell all his remaining land but the 300 homesteaded acres. Bewildered and uncertain, he followed this advice and relinquished title to virtually the same group of speculators who had already completed the purchase of brother Vicente's land. The money received was barely enough to cover his debts. Domingo was a vulnerable man assailed by the wiley and the greedy. In desperate need of guidance he consistently erred in the placement of his trust.

Domingo Peralta died in April of 1865. He was the first of Luis' four sons to pass away. Too late, his final will denounced the attorney who had deceived him for the past 13 years, and who had by then come into possession of most of the land that Domingo had lost. His children had become serious social problems for the community, several of his sons were all too often in trouble with the law. In spite of the relative affluence of his three surviving brothers, Domingo was denied the dignity of a family burial. He was put to rest in an unmarked pauper's grave in St. Mary's cemetery (on Foothill Blvd in Oakland, just north of High Street).
Domingo, trying with limited resources to do what he believed right, had lost the respect and affection of all.

Seven years after his death, Domingo's family were evicted from their home. Berkeley had passed entirely from the hands of the Peraltas.

[Chapter Index] - [Chapter 02]

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