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Missions San Carlos Borromeo, San Antonio, San Gabriel, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco de Asís, San Juan Capistrano, and Santa Clara were founded

Throughout the decade of the 1770s, the Spanish established missions in Alta (Upper) California. The first mission here had been built in July 1769 by Father Junípero Serra. The explorer Gaspar de Portolá had found other promising sites further north along the coast. Soon Franciscan padres (friars) and Spanish soldiers from Baja (Lower) California in New Spain (now Mexico) headed north to build missions at these locations, about one day’s ride apart.

Under Father Serra’s direction, two padres were assigned to each mission (one as business manager, the other as religious leader), along with several soldiers. The first mission buildings were simple log or brush structures, but these were soon replaced by adobe churches. Other buildings placed around a courtyard provided lodging, storage, and workshops. The Indians living in the area were encouraged to come to the mission by the offer of food and trinkets. Then they were taught the tasks needed to run the mission -- farming, cattle raising, spinning and weaving, and blacksmithing. The Spanish government hoped to encourage Indians and Spaniards to settle in small towns around the missions.

The second mission to be founded was San Carlos Borromeo. Commonly known as Mission Carmel, it stands near Carmel Bay, south of the Monterey presidio (fort) established by Portolá. Father Serra, who served as President of the missions, made it his headquarters.

The third mission was San Antonio de Padua, dedicated on July 14, 1771, about 25 miles south of Mission Carmel. On September 8, 1771, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was founded at the base of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Mission San Luis Obispo was founded September 1, 1772, between Mission San Antonio and Mission San Gabriel.

The sixth mission, founded September 17, 1776, was San Francisco de Asís, the third mission to be granted a presidio for its defense. The city of San Francisco grew around it. Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded later in 1776 just north of San Diego. The last mission in the 1770s was Santa Clara, dedicated January 12, 1777. It is the site of the city of Santa Clara today.

With these eight missions and the three presidios (San Diego, Monterey, and San Francisco), the Spanish controlled Alta California in the 1770s.  

Spanish settlers led by Anza reached present-day San Francisco

In the 1770s, the Spanish rulers of California were concerned that they would lose control of it to the Russians or British. They wanted to have a large settlement in the north. When San Francisco Bay was discovered in 1769 by Gaspar de Portolá’s expedition, planning was begun for a town along the bay. A Spanish noble named Juan Bautista de Anza was chosen to head this project. Anza was well respected for his military skills and his ability to lead. He had made a successful journey from Baja (Lower) California to Mission San Gabriel in 1774, crossing the Colorado Desert from Sonora to the California coast.

In September 1775, Anza led a group of 240 people that included 3 missionaries, 3 officers, 20 veteran soldiers, 20 recruits, 165 wives, children and other relatives, 30 servants, and over 1,000 livestock animals. Several children were born during the trip; only one person died. The 1,500-mile trip took them from Baja California across the southern desert to San Diego, where they rested. In February 1776, the group set out for Monterey. Once there, Anza went ahead to scout San Francisco Bay, choosing the location for the presidio and the mission. However, Anza was forced to return to Mexico. In June, his Lieutenant, José Moraga, brought the settlers to the site Anza had chosen. The presidio was soon established, and construction at Mission San Francisco de Asís was begun. The little Pueblo de San Francisco near the mission marked the northern edge of Spanish control over Alta California.  

Pueblo (town) of San José was founded

During the 1770s, the governor of Alta California, Felipe de Neve, realized that if the Spanish colonies were to thrive, they would have to establish some food-producing towns. So Neve gathered 68 men and women who had experience farming from San Francisco and Monterey, and brought them to the bank of the Guadalupe River, a short distance from Mission Santa Clara. There, on November 29, 1777, they founded the pueblo (town) of San José de Guadalupe. This was the first pueblo in California to be settled by civilians (rather than soldiers and their families).

The pueblo had a plaza marked out with the council house, church, storerooms, and the jail. Around the plaza houses were built. Settlers willing to live in the pueblo received a house lot, livestock, and farm implements, as well as some clothing and supplies, and were free from taxes for five years. In return, they had to sell any surplus food to the presidio at San Francisco, and offer military service in an emergency. A mayor and group of councilmen led the town, though the governor ruled over all. Within two years, San José became a thriving community.  

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