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In The Beginning
Before Europeans arrived, Native American tribes of the Esselen, Rumsen Ohlone , (one of seven linguistically distinct Ohlone groups in California) and Salinan tribes inhabited the area.

The First Europeans to discover this unique peninsula were from a two ship expedition under the command of Juán Rodríguéz Cabrillo and his second Bartolome Ferrelo on November 17, 1542. They referred to the area as “La Bahia de los Pinos” or Bay of Pines, and claimed the territory in behalf of Spain.

The Peninsula Receives a Name
Sixty years later, on December 19, 1602, Sebastián Vizcaíno landed and became the first documented European to set foot on the Peninsula. He named the area “El Puerto de Monte Rey” in honor of the Viceroy who ordered his expedition, Count de Monte Rey. He also named the nearby valley after his patron saint, “Nuestra Señora del Carmel”. Vizcaíno advocated the quick colonization of the area, but it wasn't to happen in his lifetime.

New Spain Takes an Interest
More than 160 years after Vizcaíno, in 1770 Father Junípero Serra, a Franciscan Priest, along with General Gaspar de Portolà, agreed upon a joint land/sea expedition to search for Vizcaíno's famous Port of Monte Rey, and establish a colony there. After his arrival by land, Portolà began to build “El Presidio Reál de San Carlos de Monte-Rey” It was the second of what would be four Spanish forts in California. Once Junípero Serra arrived by sea he selected a site near the mouth of the Carmel River and constructed “Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo,” the second of what would be twenty one Californian missions. ( To see an early map of Monterey created in 1802 Visit The David Rumsey Map Collection )

On April 18, 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza along with twenty soldiers, arrived at the Presidio de Monte-Rey after blazing the first successful land route through the Sonoran Desert to the Pacific. Part of this route would later become the famous “El Camino Real”

On March 10 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza returned to Monterey along with a mixed group of settlers and soldiers on their way to what would become San Francisco.

Monterey Becomes The Capitol
Due to the increasing importance of Alta California, a decree was made to relocate the capitol of “Las Californias” from Loreto to Monterey, which became official upon the arrival of Governor Felipe de Neve in Monterey on February 3, 1777.

For about forty years things were mostly quiet until October 1818, when Hipólito Bouchard, a Frenchman who was granted Argentinean Citizenship and a legal "corsair license" against any property of Spain, sailed into Monterey Bay at night commanding two ships, the Argentina and the Santa Rosa. At day break the Santa Rosa began bombarding the Presidio, but took on heavy damage from a temporary battery of canons located on the beach. The Santa Rosa was heavily damaged and abandoned by the men, who rowed their lifeboats to the Argentina, which remained out of range from the Presidio canons. Later that day they sailed about 2.5 miles to the west and landed 400 men, who subsequently attacked and captured the Presidio, forcing the governor and other inhabitants to flee to Salinas. Bouchard then proceeded to ransack the Presidio of all its valuables, destroyed its cannons and set the whole installation ablaze.

Mexico Takes Control
In 1821 Mexico succeeded in liberating itself from Spanish colonial rule, thus making Governor Pablo Vicente Solá both the last Spanish Governor and the First Mexican Governor of Alta California.

On October 19, 1842, after receiving a message from the U.S.Consul in Mazatlan, Mexico, stating that war with Mexico was imminent, Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, sailed into Monterey Harbor and demanded that the governor surrender California to the United States. That night a group of Monterey citizens along with American Thomas O. Larkin who acted as interpreter, negotiated the surrender of the Monterey District. The next day surrender documents were signed and the American Flag was raised. Only after coming ashore, reading newspapers locally available and speaking with the locals did Commodore Jones realize that war had not broken out and that the rumored treaty between England and Mexico had not happened. Quickly, Jones replaced the American flag with that of Mexico, withdrew his occupation force, and sailed out of Monterey Harbor after apologizing for his presumptuous mistake.

The United States Takes Control
In 1845 Texas seceded from Mexico and was annexed into the United States. Mexico however, did not recognize the secession and intended to take their territory back. This began the US Mexican War in 1846. On July 7 of that year, Commodore John Drake Sloat of the US Navy launched an unauthorized attack, referred to as “The Battle of Monterey,” which in reality was nothing more than a skirmish, with most of the Mexican forces surrendering without firing a shot. After capturing Monterey, Sloat raised the US flag and made his famous declaration, annexing California to the United States. The declaration was met with bitterness and anger by many of the long term residences of California. Afterwards, Sloat was reprimanded by US President James K. Polk for his unauthorized actions.

To learn more about the rich history of Monterey:
Historic Monterey is a partnership between the City of Monterey, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Monterey History and Art Association. The goal is to improve upon how the city's historic resources are preserved and interpreted for the public.

One of Historic Monterey's most successful projects is History Fest Monterey. Every October this festival celebrates Monterey's history through re-enactments, lectures, films, tours, and music at historic venues throughout the city. There are many important historic resources for visitors to enjoy, since Monterey has preserved more original Mexican-era adobes than any other city in California. The downtown is a National Historic Landmark District.

Resources consulted for this article:
Monterey County Historical Society (MCHS)


    We will be adding more local history to this section, so please keep checking back for more information.

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