Flag of The Three Guarantees
Early 1822 – A New Year – A New Ruler
“I found a place where we may establish a haven in the event things might cause us troubles when and if Mexico is declared independent from Spain.”
All looked askance of James.
“It is a small cove several leagues south of here on the coast and extremely difficult to reach by land. The beach will accommodate our boats and a stream flows out of the hills.” He also added that there were plenty of redwood trees and pines for building. “We can make it so passing ships will not take notice of the place.”
The discussion took place on the veranda as Padre Suria had not joined them. Felipe was also busy at the presidio, but would be told of the decision when it was made. Mateo was included as he was considered family. When would they start construction? Who would go first? Would some be left there to guard and maintain the area? How could it be deeded to The Family or was that even advisable?
So many question. Some decisions were made, but many more awaited further exploration and discussion. Nothing would be done, of course, until final approval from Timothy, Jaime, Butterfly, and Apolonia.
“Word has reached me that Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica have all gained independence from Spain this past September.”
Hush settled upon the veranda at Mateo's words. The news, added to other similar events from further south, increased the possibility of the same thing happening in Mexico.
James looked out at the gentle swell in the bay where sea otters continued their lives as they had for time beyond thought. If it happens, what will independence mean to us here in Carmel? And California?
Nobody seemed to have an answer. How could events so far away cause changes there? Carmel had just about reached its limits for growing families and several had packed up and moved into the San Elizario River Valley to establish farms similar to Salinas.
A soldier rode up to the mission gates and, after speaking to the soldier guarding the door to the compound, turned and rode back over the hill to the presidio. Father President Señán soon appeared, riding his mule, with his aide following. While he and the governor met frequently, something about that meeting caught everyone's attention.
The evening gathering was the time to learn the latest, first announced by Felipe.
“We have all heard of the Plan of Iguala set forth by Colonel Iturbide. It appears that his effort gained support from a wide range of Criollos and rebel forces from all over Mexico came to join with him.”
All knew what was coming next.
“Seeing that his royalists could not stand against the rebels and realizing Iturbide had announced the king or another Bourbon would rule, Viceroy Abodaca resigned. On August 24, the Treaty of Córdoba was signed. On September 27, the Army of the Three Guarantees entered Mexico City and Iturbide proclaimed the independence of the Mexican Empire.”
“That is what I was told,” Felipe responded to James' question. “I was also told that no response from the court or Cortes has been received.”
“So, in effect, we have a huge rebel army occupying Mexico City declaring independence without agreement by the Spanish crown?”
That question came from Mateo.
Felipe shrugged. “What is Spain to do? The offer was to have either the king or someone he chooses to come and sit on the throne.”
“And if none is selected?”
“Then I guess a Mexican will be selected to do so.”
“A Criollo?” came the question from James.
Felipe shrugged and grimaced. “Most probably General Iturbide. The majority of people filling the current government are his courtiers.”
Timothy spoke up at last. “What does that mean for us here? Has the official notification been completed?”
“The couriers only brought letters from Loreto. So far, the governor has not received the official notification. He has, however, prepared a letter to the various commandants to be ready to come here to Monte Rey.”
“It is most difficult as we are so far away from the City of Mexico. Even as fast as our couriers travel, it takes many days for news to come just from San Diego.”
Nobody could argue with James.
The coming of each courier was awaited with great curiosity – and trepidation. Would the news be good? Or bad? What would it mean for Californians?
At last, on the sixteenth day of March, Governor Sola with his escort rode to Misión San Carlos. Word spread quickly that all inhabitants of the mission and pueblo were to gather in the mission's plaza. Adults only, although they might bring their children if they so desired.
“I have been informed, by the Congress of the Empire of Mexico, that Mexico is no longer subject to His Catholic Majesty Ferdinand of Spain. As such, we are to gather our senior commanders to spread the word and call for an oath of allegiance by every member of the armed forces of Upper and Lower California.” Sola took a deep breath. “I have also been informed that nothing will change. The Reglamentos remain in effect and no changes are anticipated at this time. Father President Prefect Señán retains his position and authority over the missions. You may all return to your homes in the knowledge that your lives will not change.”
“Is that not the Guadalupe?” David asked.
James opened the telescope and directed it on the sails in the distance. “Yes, she is. I see people on the quarterdeck, but cannot make out who they are.”
They watched the schooner sail by Carmel Cove and round the Point of Pines to enter the harbor of Monte Rey. As the catch had already been delivered to the presidio, they continued into the bay and docked, quickly unloading the catch.
Not long afterward, Father President Señán left the mission and rode across the hills to the presidio. Nobody doubted his was an important journey.
The following day, all who were free to do so, departed Carmel and made their way on foot to the Presidio Imperial de Monte Rey.
“Does anyone know who placed all the crosses along the road?”
Timothy shook his head. “They just seemed to appear. And, when someone travels the next day, there is another.”
James shook his head.
“Why worry about it, mi hermano? They are but a sign of devotion.”
“My people are putting them there.”
David's words surprised them.
“The story exists today about the very first cross put here by Padre Crespí. They await the time the holy light will again appear.”
All knew the story so the subject closed.
There was no room for everybody in the center of the fort, but everybody was able to view the proceedings from the hillside. It was no surprise that Timothy, Jaime, James and their wives were invited inside.
Governor Sola led the oath of allegiance by the members of the junta, Captains Guerra of Santa Bárbara and Argüello of San Francisco; Lieutenants Estrada of Monte Rey and Estudillo in place of Captain Ruiz of San Diego; Captains Portilla and Navarrete of the Mazatlan and San Blas companies; and lieutenant Gomez of the artillery, being also commander of the post of Monte Rey.
They then stepped outside of the governor's residence and formed up to watch the soldiers and naval artillerymen repeat the same oath of allegiance to the Empire of Mexico.
James, along with the others, were surprised by the presence of the commandants of Mazatlan and San Blas, but the absence of the commandant of Loreto.
However, the oath of allegiance was but a small part of the ceremony. The flag of Spain was lowered and another raised in its place. Nobody had the flag approved by the Mexican congress, but were told it was red, white, and green with an eagle sitting on a cactus, holding a snake in its talons. One of the wives had tried to make a replica based upon that description and that was raised over the fort.
Father President Señán conducted religious services and the day was closed with the firing of guns, flares, and happy music in honor of independence.
Of course, nobody quite understood what that meant.
Word reached Carmel that the oath was taken at Santa Bárbara y San Francisco on the thirteenth, and at San Diego on April 20.
There was more than taking the oath. The new constitution called for the territory of California to form a junta with the task of electing a temporary governor, an elector de partido, and a deputy to the court in Mexico City. There was no question about the deputy and de Sola was selected for the task. Francisco Ortega, the son of Captain Ortega, was selected as the elector de partido. Luis Antonio Argüello, the son of ex-Governor Argüello, who was living in San Francisco, was elected as the governor of upper California.
Ex-Governor Argüello quickly departed to return to his station and inform his son of his election. Governor Luis Antonio Argüello quickly arrived in Monte Rey with his wife, Rafaela Sal and children to take up the responsibilities of his new high office. Something he had never expected.
“How did they select, Luis Antonio? He is not even a soldier.”
Felipe shrugged. “Perhaps because he served as the habilitado for the presidio,” Felipe responded. “I was not there during the discussions leading up to the selection.” He did know why Francisco Ortega had been selected. “He is quite literate and knows California as well as anyone else they could select. Beside,” he added, “I think it was to pay back the family for all the suffering they have been through.” He did not have to explain that Captain Ortega had incurred financial setbacks due to poor record keeping.
“And Don Pablo did not even wait to turn over his position as governor to the new one.”
“I am certain he felt that, as a deputy to the Imperial Court, he might, at last, receive the pay due to him so he can better support his family.”
Nobody could argue with that comment by Felipe as none of the soldiers – or even the friars – had received a centavo of their stipends in two years.
Disturbing news arrived from Misión San Buenaventura. “Armando, a neophyte, killed his wife for adultery,” Mateo said.
“Adultery? I did not think the Chumash even know or understand the concept,” James said.
“Perhaps he did not, as he told the fiscal, understand the concept as he has only been a Christian for seven years and is ignorant in such matters of domestic discipline.” Mateo explained the prosecutor had considered the plea and recommended five years at hard labor followed by banishment. “Captain Guerra accepted the recommendation.”
They also learned that the Asistencia for Misión San Diego in the hills east of the mission known as Santa Isabel flourished with a chapel, a granary, several houses, a cemetery, and a population of 450 Kumeyaay neophytes.
“It appears my fellow friars have finally reached the hearts of those most difficult Gentiles,” Father Suria commented.
“There was a serious disturbance at Misión San Gabriel,” Felipe reported. “A rumor circulated that one hundred and fifty Yumans from the Colorado River region were bearing down on the mission, intent on raping and pillaging. As it turned out, it was a group of twenty Opata carrying dispatches from Sonora and had no hostile intent. Corporal Portilla met them on the road from the east and sent them back after taking their dispatches. I would guess they were more than a little disconcerted at their inhospitable reception.”
The next piece of news was a happy one. They learned that Chapman was baptized Juan José and given full permission to court Maria Guadalupe Ortega who had stood by his side from the time of his desertion. The couple planned to marry in November and move to Los Angeles where Maria Guadalupe had land in her father's name and where Juan José planned to plant a vineyard.
“It is time, James. I want to establish the haven you spoke of. You feel the cove is safe and will provide for The Family in the event we need go there?”
“Yes, father. I do. We have stopped there twice in the last month and I am most secure that the stream is reliable and should provide water for us all year round.” James also added that arable land lay about a mile upstream in a small valley invisible from the sea. “There are stands of the large pines with yellow-red bark as well as Redwoods,” he added.
“Instead of taking The Queen out fishing on the morrow, I want you to take your aunt, uncle, and me to view this site.”
James nodded and asked Teresa Marta to prepare for the voyage – there was no question of her not coming along.
All eyes looked ahead as The Queen's mainsail luffed and she rounded the rocky outcrop in the steep, boulder-strewn shoreline. Up to that point, almost no beaches had appeared and those that had did not show any reasonable access from the towering cliffs.
“It is not on any map that I have seen, father. Most ships sail far offshore here, so it is likely no one has seen it.”
The sandy expanse was crossed by the flow of fresh water from a recess not visible from the ocean. Massive lions of the sea basked on the sand and on the rugged rocks of the point. No sign of human presence appeared.
Water, so clear the bottom was visible, allowed them to navigate around rocks to butt up against the beach. Willing hands leapt into the water and heaved on lines to pull the boat half way out of the water. It was low tide, so there would be no problem launching her when they were ready to depart.
The big lions of the sea gazed at the human intruders with no fear. None of the huge bulls bothered to inspect them, as if sensing they presented no threat to their harems.
With the Carlita secured and two crewmen to stand guard, the remainder walked along the shore of the stream, testing to see where it became pure fresh water. They came across an opening fifty paces upstream with a large pond surrounded by three or four meter tall tule reeds. Some willows grew in the clearing.
“They will provide materials for shelters,” Jaime said. “I also see pines further upstream that will allow us to build strong structures.”
The stream wound uphill, opening at last on a wide glen with tall grasses waving in the breeze. A waterfall just beyond indicated the end of level land and a steep, uphill, difficult climb.
“It is well protected by the mountains,” Timothy said. “No wonder no Gentiles have left sign around here.”
“We are too far north for the Chumash,” James added.
Butterfly, Apolonia, and Teresa Marta had other things to search for. They wandered through the pasture looking for herbs and other useful plants. George, who had also joined the expedition scooped up soil, declaring it was more than fit for growing gardens. “All we need to do is make a small dam, then run irrigation ditches to where we need them.”
In spite of the escarpment over which the stream flowed, Jaime decided it would be possible to fell trees for building and bring them to the site with mules or horses. The Family had so much livestock that nobody would realize a half dozen or so were gone.
They returned to the beach and quickly prepared a small driftwood fire, causing many seals to stir and move away. Over a savory stew midday meal, they discussed their find and what could be done with it.
“We will erect perhaps three buildings; a shelter for us, a barn, and some shelters for livestock. We will then bring a couple of mules, a milch cow, two goats, a brood sow, and some chickens. That will provide for one family.” James added that the valley could accommodate at least four families in time.
“I wish to be the one to go.”
All eyes turned to George, surprised at his offer.
“What of Margarita? Will she be willing to come to an isolated place like this?”
“If it is for the good of The Family, father, she will be as willing as I. I can close my eyes and see what a pleasant place this could be.”
They spent an hour discussing the possibilities, to include how to explain the absence of George and his family.
“We will simply say that he has gone to establish a homestead,” Timothy said. “Nobody will ask where, so as to not embarrass themselves.”
“The governor? Or the father president?”
“Why would they ask, my son? They do not concern themselves with every individual member of the community.”
Knowing the return voyage would be more difficult, they conducted one more short survey of the area.
As they neared the Point of Pines, they noted a strange ship ahead of them entering the bay of Monte Rey.
“The sails are neither Spanish nor American.”
James nodded. “They appear like those of the English ship that came here last year.”