Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Don Fernando Gives His All for His King

February 1780: Rivera marched to Horcasitas from Arispe and signed on 25 recruits for California (3 Sgts; 2 Cpls; 20 Soldados). He was ordered to recruit from the provinces of Ostimuri, Sinaloa, and to go beyond the Provincias Internas, as far as Guadalajara if he had to.

February 5, 1780: Leaving Horcasitas he marched to the rich mining town of Los Alamos. Here merchants came forward to sell horses, mules, cattle, and other supplies. Here Rivera commissioned Alférez Manuel Garcia Ruiz to distribute supplies and rations to the new soldiers of the Crown. Marching out of Los Alamos, Rivera went to Villa del Fuerte where he signed on more recruits.

May 29, 1780: Rivera arrived La Villa de Sinaloa. Here he signed on the first poblador for Los Angeles, May 30, 1780. Then he went on to Culiacán where more people were signed on. By August 1, Rivera had 45 soldiers and 7 settlers. The final stop was Rosario where he had just about completed the number of colonists needed for Alta Calif.

November 1780: Rivera turned back to Los Alamos. At Los Alamos Rivera organized the expedition to go north. He got his 59 soldiers, but was only able to sign up 14 settlers. Orders from Croix specified that the Captain would separate the party into two divisions at Alamos and then proceed as follows:

Zuniga was to take 17 soldiers and (46?) settlers from Alamos west past Navajoa down to the mouth of the Mayo River to the Bay of Santa Barbara. Here they would board launches to cross the Sea of Cortez to Loreto. Zuniga's party proceeded up the coast to la Bahia de San Luis de Gonzaga, then to mission Sta. Maria, up to mission Velicatá, then on to San Diego. It took Zuniga some 6 months travel before he arrived in San Diego. Seven of his soldier recruits were given up to the San Diego Presidio to replace 7 more who were to be assigned to the new Santa Barbara Presidio. Zuniga got to San Gabriel in August with his party. Rivera's party arrived there earlier in July under Lt. Gonzales and Alférez Arguello.

Rivera took 42 soldados de cuera (30 of them with families) and left Los Alamos in April. He stopped at Pitic and Horcasitas...then he followed Anza's trail to Tubac. From there he went to the mission San Xavier del Bac. (here he wrote dispatches to Croix, dated April 18 and 20)...then he went on to Tuscon and to the Gila River (last dispatch to Croix dated April 29)...following the Gila on to the Colorado.

On Tuesday, July 17th, the storm burst. Early in the morning the lower village of San Pedro y San Pablo was attacked..... Prov. Rec., MS., ii 76-8 says that the savages attacked the two villages and Rivera's camp simultaneously and by 8 o'clock had completed their work at the former; that they found Rivera's men scattered and at first entered the encampment as friends, attacking before the soldiers could be gathered, and killing the last man at night after fighting all day.

According to Mark Santiago, the last stand took place south of what is now Prison Hill. There were a series of finger ridges along the river. The only existing hill to the immediate south of Prison Hill is the old reservoir (beneath which the Pilot Knob Hotel sat). The hills in between are graded away and by Mark's estimation the Rivera last stand would be about where the treatment plant sits. In a John Russell Bartlett painting from his personal narrative, the series of hills are visible on the near side of the river. The far left is reservoir hill, the closer two are supposed to be the last stand hills.

Alférez Limon after escorting the California colony to San Gabriel started back to Sonora by the old route with his 9 men. Drawing near the Colorado he was informed by the natives that there had been a massacre; but doubting the report, he left 2 men in charge of his animals and went forward to reconnoiter. The blackened ruins at Concepcion and the dead bodies lying in the plaza told all. His own party was attacked on the 21st of August and driven back by the Yumas, one of whom wore the uniform of the dead Rivera. Limon and his son were wounded, the two men left behind had been killed, and the survivors hastened back to San Gabriel with news of the disaster.

Postscript: New California gradually came to be called Alta California. While serving there, Fernando de Rivera y Moncada took on higher office with higher levels of responsibility, but reached emotional depths in concurrent disagreements and rejections. Twice he served as governor of the new region, but he was never able to please Serra and his followers. In an acrimonious conflict over the precedence of authority, military vs. religious, Rivera was excommunicated by a Franciscan missionary--a bitter blow for the sincerely devout captain.

Rivera was 57 when he was slain. He had been a California soldier for 40 years. His widow was left destitute; she was never able to collect any part of Rivera's last five years of pay, held up as it was by disputes with missionaries and higher civil authorities.

Doña Teresa, the governor's widow, could not even collect a single peso of the insurance (Montepío) theoretically received by the survivors of deceased soldiers in the Spanish dominions. She and 3 of her children, Isabel, José Nicolas, and Luis Gonzaga, all died paupers, dependent on the charity of Fernando's brother, Ambrosio. From 1774, one year after his appointment as governor, until his death in 1781, Rivera made repeated efforts to collect the salary due him. For more the 15 years thereafter his relatives tried in vain to obtain at least some part of his salary, though officials in Mexico City admitted that 11,877 pesos, 7 reales, and 5 7/8 granos were due Don Fernando at his death.

Rivera exhibited a number of merits in addition to those which have appeared in this account. His generosity to the underpaid soldiers finds few parallels in Spanish colonial history. In his diary we find long lists of loans ranging from 3 to 44 pesos each. Most of them were never repaid, as the treasurer in Mexico City who studied the accounts recorded. This generosity becomes all the more remarkable when it is recalled that Rivera received no part of his salary and, therefore, had to make loans out of the sums of money sent to him by his brother Ambrosio.

Rivera showed the most scrupulous honesty in administering the presidio accounts. He was the only one of the pioneer governors of Upper California to handle all the mission mail free of charge. He insisted on regular attendance at religious services, exempting only the sentinel on actual duty. His diary reveals that during his first year at Monterey, he regularly attended Mass not only in the presidio chapel but also every solemn and Sunday Mass in the nearby mission church. After requesting in vain a chaplain for the presidio of Monterey, he still attended Mass in the presidio chapel. He, however, refused to attend the celebrations at Carmel in protest at the failure to provide the garrison and the nearby Indian families with a chaplain--in his opinion a grave and unjustifiable dereliction of duty.

Rivera made every effort to improve the material conditions of the presidio of Monterey. He did not even have a mason to construct needed buildings or repair old ones. He pleaded for more animals - more cows for milk and meat, more horses and mules to haul supplies from the ships to the warehouse, to distribute them among the missions, and to patrol the vast territory. Tragically or comically, the soldiers spent much of their time hunting for bears to replenish the meat supply or exchanging trinkets with the natives for fish corn, or other foods. Rivera pleaded over and over again for medicines. He repeatedly tried to secure better weapons. He worked out a signal system so that he could distinguish Spanish ships from hostile intruders.

Several references mention that Rivera was 70 at his death. This seems inconsistent when dates are reconciled with when he became Captain in charge of Loreto (27th birthday in 1751). Yet official correspondence mentions the age of 70.

Croix to Galvez: The qualities of Captain Don Fernando de Rivera are constant. No one could have been better fitted for the discharge of commissions that I entrusted to him by proposal of his governor, D. Felipe Neve. The fatigues of Rivera, made at the age of seventy with its own difficulties, justly merit that I recommend them to your Excellency so that the king may deign to dispense to him who is interested the graces and honors that may be his royal pleasure, as well as the retirement which he solicits and which he will pray for as soon as he concludes his command and renders the accounts of those interested, which have come into his possession.

Postscript - Captain Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncada was 56 at the time of his death. He had been a California soldier for 40 years. Rivera showed the most scrupulous honesty in administering presidio accounts. His penmanship was firm and distinguished. His ideas were expressed economically and with conviction in a terse and businesslike style. While governor of California, Rivera made every effort to improve the material conditions of the presidio of Monterey. He pleaded for more animals – more cows for milk and meat, more horses and mules to haul supplies from ships to the warehouse, to distribute them among the missions, and to patrol the vast territory. Rivera tried to secure better weapons and worked out a signal system in order to distinguish Spanish ships from hostile intruders. He insisted on regular attendance at religious services and attended regularly himself at the Monterey presidio chapel. He often made loans to his underpaid soldiers, most of which were never repaid. He made the first land grant in Upper California. Rivera himself did not receive his salary, and money often came from his brother in Mexico. He was popular with his men and left among the old California soldiers a better reputation probably than any of his contemporaries. After his death, governor Alvarado said that his memory was long honored by anniversary masses at San Diego and that Governor Echeandia in 1825 proposed a monument in his honor.

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