Queen Calafía’s Island: A California Republic Timeline

Let’s see how this goes. I’ve seen a few independent California TL’s but never one that has gotten all the way to the present day. I don’t promise I’ll make it, but I have an outline lined up. Hope you enjoy!

A Timeline of the West

1510: From the Deeds of Esplandián

“Where did it come from? How did it happen? This nation-state, this commonwealth of cultures. It could be argued; never before in history had such a diverse group of people assembled so rapidly under one political system and prospered so greatly. […] What forces of war, peace, of economic shifts and social aspirations brought forth this golden island on the right hand of the Indies.” – Kevin Starr *

“The reality is that California is a complex and massive nation, and attempts to simplify it at as ‘ungovernable’, or ‘radical’ is not much accurate than calling it ‘golden’.” – Narda Zacchino **

“To think that it all began with a sordid love affair.” – Anonymous​

1510 – Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo first describes California as an “island very close to this side of the Terrestrial Paradise”.

1513 – Vasco Núñez de Balboa becomes the first European to sight the Pacific Ocean.

1532 – Fortún Jiménez is perhaps the first to use the name California to describe an “island” to the west of the recently conquered México.

1535 – Hernán Cortés, fresh from his conquest of México, founds a settlement on Santa Cruz Bay.

1539 – Francisco de Ulloa discovers that “California” is a peninsula, not an island. Nevertheless, the “Island of California” remains a popular image.

1540 – Hernando de Alarcón ascends the Colorado River; he becomes the first European to cross into “Alta California”.

1540 - 1542 – In search of the mythical “Seven Cities of Gold”, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado leads an expedition from the Sonora river northwards, crossing into modern-day Arizona and Colorado. [1] They become the first Europeans to sight the Grand Canyon.

1542 – Juan Rodriguéz Cabrillo commences reconnaissance of the Pacific coast of California.

1549 – Francis Drake enters San Agustín Bay [2] during his circumnavigation of the globe

1595 – The Spanish Galleon San Agustín shipwrecks at San Agustín Bay.

1602 – Sebastián Viscaíno explores California up to Cape Mendocino, in the last state-sponsored exploration of California for over 150 years.

1697 – Jesuits missionaries under the command of Juan Jesus Maria de Salvatierra establish the first of eighteen missions in the California peninsula, Our Lady of Loreto. For a while, the mission system prospers as the northern flank of the Mexican frontier. The first ranchos and mining quarries in California begin to operate in support of the mission system.

1768 – Members of the Jesuit order are expelled from the Spanish Empire. To ensure the continuous operation of the California missions, they are replaced by Dominicans in Baja California and Franciscans, under the leadership of Fray Junipero Serra, in Alta California. This creates a semi-official administrative division between the provinces.

1770 – The Portolá expedition ends with the founding of the Presidio de Monterrey [3], and the Mission San Carlos Borromeo Mission in Monterrey Bay. The settlement becomes a layover stop for the Manila galleons and the primary administrative center of “both Californias”.

1774 – Captain Juan Bautista de Anza leaves Tubac, Arizona to reconnoiter a land route from Mexico to Alta California.

1775 – Spaniards discover the Golden Gate, which remained elusive due to fog and currents, and sails into San Francisco Bay

1776 – In June, the Second Anza expedition reaches the shores of San Francisco Bay; Father Francisco Palóu dedicates Mission San Francisco. The route established by de Anza would transform into El Camino Real, linking most of the settlements and missions in Alta California.

1776 – Fathers Francisco Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante set off from Santa Fe, to find an overland route to the California coast. The become the first Europeans to enter the Yuta Valley, sighting Lake Timpanogos and Lake Yuta [4].

1777 – the Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe is founded as the first civil settlement in Alta California.

1781 – The Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Ángeles is founded as the second civil settlement in Alta California.

1784 – Father Serra dies at Mission San Carlos Borromeo.

1785 – Father Pedro Estévan Tápis establishes a mission on the island of Santa Catalina, reasoning that an offshore mission might be an effective measure to restrict smuggling operations. Governor José Joaquín Arrillaga approves the plan and orders the establishment of a presidio on the northern end of the island. [5]

1786 – Jean François Galaup leads the first non-Spanish expedition into Alta California under the French flag and spends ten days anchored in Monterrey Bay.

1792 – An English naval expedition under the command of Captain George Vancouver anchors in San Francisco Bay.

1806 – the Russian ship Juno, under the command of Count Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, arrives in San Francisco Bay.

1812 – The Russian American Fur Company establishes Krepost Ross on the coast on hundred miles north of San Francisco Bay.

1816 – The Russian naval ship Rurik, under the command of Otto von Kotzebue, arrives in San Francisco Bay. By now the Russian Empire has a semi-permanent presence in Krepost Ross and a “consulate” in Monterrey Bay.

1818 – Sailing under the flag of the "Republic of Buenos Aires", the French privateer Hippolyte Bouchard raids the Californian coast, capturing the customs house in Monterrey and holding the town for six days. A subsequent naval encounter in Santa Catalina and his capture by Jose de la Guerra y Noriega in Santa Barbara, become a symbol of regional pride for the local populace.

1821 – Father Mariano Payeras establishes the Mission San Pasqual, in the San Pasqual Valley east of San Diego with the plan to build a chain of inland missions connecting California to Sonora. [5.1]

1822 – William Edward Hartnell, better known as Don Guillermo Arnel, arrives in Monterrey and secures permits allowing British subjects to do business in Alta California. During his time he also served as tutor to prominent families in the area, with Juan Bautista Alvarado and Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo as two of his most prominent charges.

1824 – California is designated as a territory of the newly established Mexican Republic.

1824 – The French-Canadian fur trapper Étienne Provost enters the Yuta Valley. He establishes a trading post in the banks of Lake Timpanogos.

1826 – From Lake Timpanogos, trappers working for the Hudson Bay Company, under the command of Peter Skene Ogden, explore the interior of Northern California. They follow the “Old Spanish Trail” established by the Domínguez-Escalante expedition.

1826 - José María de Echeandía, the first native Mexican elected Governor of Alta California issued a "Proclamation of Emancipation". All Indians within the military districts of San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Monterrey who were made eligible to become Mexican citizens. Plans to build a twenty-fourth mission near Presidio Santa Rosa are promptly canceled. [5.2]

1827 – American trappers under the command of Jedediah Smith make the first overland penetration of California from the east and become the first white men to cross the Sierra Nevada.

1828 – Juan Bautista Valentín Alvarado y Vallejo is hired as secretary to the territorial legislature in Monterrey. Shortly after, he is appointed by Governor Echaendía to oversee the secularization of the Missión San Miguel Arcángel.

[*, **] Both quotes are derived from books by the respective authors. The timeline in this post is an adaptation of the timeline laid out in Starr’s book (about 90% of it is identical). I made some modifications to fit the TL and added elements regarding the interior (AKA Utah, and Arizona) relevant to TTL. As for the third quote, wait and see.

[1] TTL’s Arizona and Colorado, will be used as names for departments/states in TTL’s Republic of California but do not line up with OTL's states of Arizona and Colorado.

[2] Drake’s Bay in TTL. I’m not married to the name. But it seems appropriate.

[3] Spelled with “rr” in TTL as many places will keep a more accurate Spanish spelling. I'll try to make it as consistent as possible.

[4] Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake respectively. And like in OTL it is likely, Domínguez and Escalante only saw the smaller southern lake, making Étienne Provost the first European to actually sight TTL’s Lake Yuta.

[5.0, 5.1, 5.2] The POD for TTL. The plans to build a mission in Santa Catalina Island in 1784 and the San Pasqual Valley in 1821 were not scrapped, nor was the additional presidio in Santa Rosa. I originally envisioned a later POD hinted in the third opening quote, however, I figured that the additional missions wouldn’t have drastic effects outside California.
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A French privateer operating against Spain in 1818? World affairs have diverged...
This actually happened in OTL... Hipólito de Bouchard, captured Monterrey for six whole days in OTL, sailing under the Argentinian Flag (I'll edit the post to clarify this). The change is the latter part of the post, "the naval encounter in Santa Catalina becomes a symbol of regional pride for the local populace". Since California has an offshore presidio in Santa Catalina they actually have enough boats and manpower to seize Bouchard's ship and prevent him from raiding further south.
And so, the butterflies begin to take flight.

1829. A Tale of Three Amigos, Two Cities, and One Sordid Love Affair

The road to California’s independence began shortly after México had achieved its own independence. In the early years of the Mexican Republic, the central government in México City failed to organize cohesively; factions of every sort contested for political control. In northwestern California provinces, far reaches of the country and sparsely populated, this turbulence was mostly seen as distant news; the events in México City were discussed with an attitude that ranged from apathy to disenchantment.

Slowly, this was changing.

In 1829, Juan Bautista Alvarado, the secretary general in charge of the secularization of the San Miguel Arcángel Mission led a military revolt alongside two other prominent Californians [1], Joaquín Solis and José Antonio Castro. The trio was protesting against the recently appointed governor José María Echaendía, with two goals in mind: establishing a semi-independent status for Alta California and appointing a California-born governor.

Initially, they succeeded, in taking over the administrative offices in Monterrey Harbor. They were joined by William Edward Petty Harnell and his associates, some of the earliest Anglo-settlers in California, and a representative of the Russian American Company stationed in Krepost Ross. Even then, tensions were brewing between the Americans and Russians with the Mexican authorities. Together they crafted a plea of grievances to México City and plan for Alta California’s future. But, their success was short-lived.

In Los Angeles, the largest town in the Californias at the time, General Manuel Victoria took control of the military garrison stationed there. General Victoria was loyal to Mexico City and generally well-liked across the pueblos in Southern California. The General rode north facing no resistance until reaching the Monterrey Valley.

The Battle of Moro Cojo, which occurred outside the town of Natividad [2], was the only large-scale clash between the rebels and the Mexican army. Outnumbered 3-to-1 by Victoria’s forces, the rebels had little chance. Joaquín Solis, who led the charge, was hanged after his arrest, while Alvarado and Castro were forced to go into hiding. Harnell and the Russians were to claim innocence in the affair, but the increased military presence only exacerbated the tensions between the foreign settlers and the Mexican authorities.

While in hiding, Juan Bautista Alvarado got embroiled in a domestic dispute between his mistress, Juliana Francisca Castillo, and her sister Maria Reymunda, with whom he kept a secret relationship. While in hiding, Alvarado was unable to keep his love affairs a secret and thus found himself at the wrong end of Juliana Francisca’s kitchen knife.

Alvarado’s death coincided with General Victoria’s crackdown upon his return to Monterrey, and soon enough rumor’s had spread that General Victoria had Alvarado killed in fear of a second uprising. Why and how the rumors spread as fast as they have been a matter of debate amongst historians for a long time. Today, most believe that it was the machinations of José Antonio Castro and his American associates that began to paint Alvarado as a martyr of Californian independence. The nature of his love affair was not widely known until the turn of the century as California celebrated the 50th anniversary of independence and there was a renewed interest in the period.

With growing tensions, General Victoria ceased the secularization of the missions until repatriation could be reorganized amongst Mexico’s – or more accurately his - loyal subjects. Such actions pitted him against the Southern ranchers, who demanded land grants for their loyalty to México.

Pío and Andrés Pico – two prominent and wealthy ranchers from Los Angeles - began sharing correspondence with José Castro to better coordinate the ousting of General Victoria. However, their “revolution” soon became irrelevant; in 1831, less than a year after Alvarado’s death, Don José Figueroa arrived in Los Ángeles to replace General Victoria as governor of Alta California.

For the remainder of the decade, tensions between Monterrey and the Mexican administration ebbed and flowed. Don José Figueroa is fondly remembered as a “the most competent governor of California during the Mexican era”. In the two years of his tenure as governor, Don Figueroa worked tirelessly, taking frequent trips between Monterrey and Los Ángeles to personally attend the grievances of the settlers and ranchers. He also resumed the secularization of the missions, organized a territorial assembly, re-chartered the Russian America colony, and laid out a manifesto for the colonization of the province’s interior.

Unfortunately, his chance to fully imprint his plan on California was taken away by his deteriorating health; short of two years into his tenure, a stroke left Don Figueroa partially paralyzed and unable to fulfill his duties. [4] In the months that followed, Pío Pico was elected by the territorial assembly to serve as acting governor. When Don Figueroa’s official replacements arrived they made it very clear that Mexico City did not intend to continue implementing Don Figueroa’s plans; an open rebellion in Texas by American settlers prompted Mexico City to refocus settlement policy in California. For the Californians who wanted no more than to be left alone in their ranchos, these changes were difficult to process.

[1] In OTL we use the separate terms Californio and Californian to distinguish the residents of Mexican California vs the subsequent American migrants and/or current residents of the state. I won’t be using the terms in TTL where all citizens of California would call themselves Californian in English and Californiano/a in Spanish.

[2] OTL’s Salinas; both the town and river were renamed during the American occupation. Very likely there would still be a town nearby (or even a suburb of Natividad) called Salinas in TTL, since the name refers to the salt marshes in the area.

[3] The 1829 revolt against Echendia’s did occur in OTL. However, the American settlers were not involved. In TTL the revolt is larger, better organized, and briefly successful. Thus, the response by General Victoria and the Mexican authorities is much harsher. In OTL, the “three amigos” (Alvarado, Castro, and Solis) hid until Pío Pico ousted General Victoria as governor of Alta California. In TTL, however, General Victoria was still governor until 1832 and tensions between him and Pico brothers continue to escalate until Victoria was replaced. In short, the “norteños” (led by Castro) and the sureños (led by Pico) are coordinating efforts rather than bickering against each other.

[4] Figueroa’s governorship is similar to OTL’s. However, it is cut short before Híjar and Padrés arrive. Furthermore, Alvarado’s death at the hands of his wife means that the events leading to the 1836 Graham Affair and its aftermath will be very different. But more on this next time.
I did not see that coming! Excellent work, jycee!

That was not the sordid affair(s) I was thinking about. Of course, the history of Alta California reads like a Mexican soap opera much of the time. I was thinking of Governor Chico's mistresses and the adultery-turned-murder incident in Los Angeles in 1836.

Keep it up!
Is the PoD Alvarado's death? Good TL so far, BTW...
Not quite. There's a "soft" POD in the first update, where the plans to set up additional missions in the San Pasqual Valley and the Santa Catalina Island, along with two additional presidios in Santa Catalina and Santa Rosa Valley are completed. So there is a handful of additional clergy and Spanish/Mexican military personnel across California. Nothing that makes a huge difference as of yet, but they will give California a strategic foothold in the north (Santa Rosa), in the sea (Santa Catalina), and in the southwestern route from Sonora/Arizona (San Pasqual) late on.

I did not see that coming! Excellent work, jycee!

That was not the sordid affair(s) I was thinking about. Of course, the history of Alta California reads like a Mexican soap opera much of the time. I was thinking of Governor Chico's mistresses and the adultery-turned-murder incident in Los Angeles in 1836.

Keep it up!
Of course, it is, Mexican California was a bunch of rich land-owners and Padres with too much time on their hands. The Chico affair actually inspired the POD. I chose Alvarado as it gives California native martyr, who was well connected with the American pioneers/settlers.

Looks interesting.

Next update will be up tomorrow (I'm gonna try to keep Tuesdays and Saturdays as update date, but I can't promise consistency cause RL is a thing).
1830. The Old - but New and Improved - Spanish Trail

The first Europeans to explore the interior of California were two Franciscan missionaries, Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, seeking to find a land route between Santa Fe, in Nuevo México, and the Californian coast. Domínguez and Escalante were accompanied by the cartographer Bernardo de Miera. Throughout the journey, Meira produced what were essentially earliest maps of the region, which – not to be mean to Meira – weren’t very accurate, to begin with.

In an accompanying note to King Charles III of Spain, to whom Miera dedicated his works, the cartographer recommended building several missions in the area and mentioned the possibility of a waterway to the Pacific Ocean via the “Buenaventura River”, which faulty combined the Rio Verde and Rio Miera [1] into one large river flowing west from Lake Timpanogos (Miera seemed unaware of the fact that saltwater lakes such as Lake Timpanogos have no outlets). And although this was quickly disproven – by their own expedition in fact – the myth of a river flowing into the Pacific, persisted.

As late as 1820, the American cartographer Henry S. Tanner showed the Buenaventura River flowing north from the central Rockies to the Pacific Ocean south of Monterrey Bay, even though by that time it was well established among trappers and guides in the area that such river did not exist. Nevertheless, the mere possibility of an “easy” route to the Pacific was enough to for some intrepid explorers to journey across the desert in hopes of linking California to the continent.

The first explorers seeking to exploit the mythical rivers to the west were American trappers in the Rockies; the most famous of these trappers was Jedediah Smith. Working under the employment of William H. Ashley, Jedediah had explored the upper Missouri territory, and what was then known as the “South Pass” into Alta California, along the Green River. In 1826, as the beaver population in their trapping grounds dwindled, Smith led fifteen other men into California looking for un-trapped territory along the “Buenaventura”. And a good adventure it was. [2]

Smith traveled through present-day Escalante, and Gran Bajo to the Colorado River before hiring two runaway natives from the ranchos in California to guide him across the Mojave desert. Once in California, they did not receive the warmest welcome. Believing Smith was a spy, Governor Echeandía had Smith and his party arrested and expelled from California. Smith and his party were forced to take the hardest route possible back to Lake Timpanogos, across the Gran Bajo Dessert [3] barely making it back alive. Before attempting a second trip a year later, Smith set up a trading post in the shores of Lake Timpanogos, where the northernmost end of the trail now began.

In 1829, with a little more knowledge of the area, it was the turn of the Mexican merchant-explorer, Antonio Mariano Armijo to carve out an easier and permanent route across the desert. Better prepared than Smith, Armijo led 60 men and 100 mule caravan parting from Abiqui, stitching a route that roughly followed what was known from the previous expeditions.

Along the way, Rafael Rivera, a trader and scout in the party was the first to encounter a wide valley with abundant wild grasses and spring waters “perfect resting spot for weary travelers”. After the completion of their journey, Rivera continued to serve as scout and guide across the California Trail, setting up an estancia in the valley, which later came to be known as Vega de Rivera (Rivera’s Meadow) [4].

Ultimately, the route carved by Armijo and Rivera was, until that point, the shortest possible route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles and they laid much of the groundwork necessary to make the crossing as easy as possible, establishing estancias and rest stations along the way. The party was able to return to Santa Fe further proving its viability. Armijo’s journal was published by the Mexican government on June 1830 officially announcing the opening of the “Route to California” and praising Armijo for his discovery.

And from then on life would never be the same California.

Word spread far and wide, from Mexico City to Washington, about the successful trade expedition and some commerce began between Santa Fe and Los Angeles and the route began to be used as a reliable round trip traders. Pack trains, that ranged from 20 to 200 mules began frequenting the trail, and soon enough a northern route was established rounding the trail from Santa Fe to Vega the Rivera through the trading post in Timpanogos.

Low-scale emigration from Nuevo Mexico to California slowly trickled over the next decade. Antonio Armijo himself moved his family to Alta California after acquiring the Rancho Tolenas. The towns of Politana, and San Salvador [5], near the Estancia San Bernardino, were established by Novomexican arrivals. American and Canadian fur traders also began using the trail in their exploits, and many became California residents, becoming important citizens a few years later upon independence.

The trail was also used for illicit purposes, namely the raiding of the ranchos for horses, by ex-trappers and Indian tribes, and for a network of human trafficking imparted by the ranchos themselves to “import” domestic servants. The consequences of this human trafficking had a long-standing effect for those who lived along the trail, even after the trail was no longer in use. And if it sounds like the slave trade that is because at its core that is exactly what it was. To combat the illicit trade, and also create an official tally and toll of the immigrants coming in through the trail, Governor Figueroa had an inland presidio and portezuela established in the Cajon Pass north of the Estancia San Bernardino. [6]

The trail continues to be used to present day, although over time it has evolved. In the early 1850s, during the height of the Gold Rush, the mule train was upgraded with the use of freight wagons. In the early days of Californian independence, Mormon immigrants settled along the trail, affecting trade interests and human trafficking in the region. In the 1870s and 80s, the wagon train was upgraded with the construction of the Escalante Southern Railroad [7], and as ultimately part of the California National Autoway System.

[1] Green River and Sevier River respectively. A few other landmarks will keep their names as written down by Miera, most notably the salt lakes, and tributaries of the Colorado River.
[2] It’s a good name for puns.
[3] The Great Basin Desert.
[4] Las Vegas.
[5] In OTL, Politana became what is now the The City of Colton in San Bernardino County. While San Salvador is in Riverside County.
[6] Most of this update is very similar to events in OTL. The major change is the establishment of this last settlement and presidio near Cajon Pass. As noted on the map the Presidio de Cortez (Old Tejon Pass) has also been restored.
[7] The Los Angeles and Salt Lake Rail
[8] Regarding the map, there are many more “parajes” (rest spots) on the trail than the ones noted. The ones depicted are the most important one set up by Armijo and Riviera.
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mad orc

Very very good.
If you need help on certain things I am eager.
I am a learned enthusiast in History of Northern Mexico 1800-1848
Excellent update! The Apaches make it difficult but any possibility of a busy, southern route between CA & NM via the Gila River and Tucson in the cards?

Oh, and a little nitpick: I'm not sure the Dominguez-Escalante expedition ever made it to California and their return route to New Mexico was certainly north of the Grand Canyon & Colorado River. That same year Padre Francisco Garces successfully made it from Sonora up the Colorado River, south of Grand Canyon, and on to New Mexico, following the route shown on the map.
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Excellent update! The Apaches make it difficult but any possibility of a busy, southern route between CA & NM via the Gila River and Tucson in the cards?
At some point definitively, but even the Tucson to San Diego route is very intermittent at this point due to Yaqui raids. The southern routes will open but be closed for a while.

Oh, and a little nitpick: I'm not sure the Dominguez-Escalante expedition ever made it to California and their return route to New Mexico was certainly north of the Grand Canyon & Colorado River. That same year Padre Francisco Garces successfully made it from Sonora up the Colorado River, south of Grand Canyon, and on to New Mexico, following the route shown on the map.
You are correct on both accounts, and it looks like I misread the base map I was using, while drawing this. I'm going to add the Garces route and fix the Escalante route. It will also make the map much clearer, which is good. (Sorry for the low image quality as well, need to find a better way to upload).
I fixed the map on the previous post a bit. Adding the Garces route up to the Grand Canyon from Sonora (I am not sure how accurate the Grand Canyon route for Garces is, but it should be approximate). I also added the Mohave road, which he discovered after accompanying de Anza on his 1774 Expedition. I also added the two missions on Colorado that later became Yuma, Arizona. As noted the activity along the "de Anza" route is (including these missions( is rather intermittent (as it was in OTL) due to Yaqui raids. However, this is less of an issue than in OTL as the missions and trail can be resupplied and maintained from TTL's Mission San Pasqual (not present in OTL).