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Early Voyages To Monterey

 
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:27 pm    Post subject: Early Voyages To Monterey Reply with quote

It was a great day for the undreamed-of United States of North America when the Portuguese, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, sailed his two toy ships, flying the flag of Spain, into the harbors of California, Land of Mystery and Romance. He entered the harbors of San Diego, Santa Barbara and Monterey in 1542—sixty years after Columbus had given to the crowded Old World a place in which to spread out Cabrillo started the game for us in California, New territory for adventure and joyous living.

It was upon this dramatic voyage of discovery that Spain founded her claim to the vast empire of the Californias, aided and abetted by the bull of Alexander VI, dividing the discovery rights of Spain and Portugal by meridian lines.

The Land of Promise that lay dimly to the north of Cortez Mexico was engaging the imagination of Europe. Tradition had established the "Strait of Anian" (Marco Polo) and a "great river at the north of the Island of California." "Who knows," they said, "but that these may lead to the Indies? Then we could take away the rich trade from the Italian cities.” If the strait and the river unite somewhere at the north” said Spain, "what is to prevent England, France or Russia from reaching the Pacific Coast—and my possessions on the blue ocean—by sailing across the Atlantic, through the waters of the north, and dropping down upon my American empire ?"

So it came about that Cabrillo sailed his small ships up the coast in the fall. He found himself off a high range of mountains, the tops of which were covered with snow (Nov. 11th). It being San Martin's Day, the range became the San Martins, after the custom of the Spaniards. And for which the world has the grace to thank God, for the euphonious names that abound in California are a joy to all who love beautiful sound. (True, sometimes a barbarian mangles San Francisco into "Frisco," Los Angeles into "L. A.,” San Bernar¬dino into "San Bardoo," but the tribe grows less.)

Beating against adverse northwest winds, the San Salvador and the Vitoria, the latter without a deck, entered a "noble harbor" on the 17th. Its southern point was covered with a forest of pine trees, so the explorer named it Punta de Pinos—Point of Pines. And the bay, rimmed by banks of the whitest sand he had ever seen, he called Bahia de los Pinos. And Point Pinos it is unto today, named in the fall of 1542. New England, take notice. And upon it stands a lighthouse, to guide fisherfolk and ships from the ends of the earth into the Port of Monterey.

Now comes the question: "Did the discoverer of California land on the shores of Punta de los Pinos?"

No. He anchored his ships in "forty-five fathoms" and in sight of a great river, that which was later called the Monterey, now the Salinas, in the general direction of Moss Landing. A heavy surf was running, and when an ugly wind blew up, the small vessels were forced to run out to the open sea. But already the little band of white men—the first that had visited California within recorded history—had formally taken possession of the country in the "name of God and the King." (God and Philip II.) For many years, the matter was a question of perpetual debate. But recent research of many historians on Pacific Coast voyages, notably Henry R. Wagner, supported by Dr. Herbert E. Bolton, Father Engelhardt, and other recognized authorities, proves that the question is out of the limbo of doubt.

A word about the so-called "Cabrillo Point," now the site of the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University. In 1913, a group of historically-minded persons determined to erect a monument on Monterey Bay to honor its discoverer and the discoverer of California—he who lies buried under the sands of the Island of San Miguel, off Santa Barbara, "unhonored and unsung." The architect selected the rocky point as a dramatic site for the tall concrete cross, in full possession of the facts surrounding the discovery. Plans were drawn, funds promised, and the matter was progressing when the World War arrested procedure. Cabrillo never entered the southern end of the bay, as far as is now known. The site was purely arbitrary. But some well-meaning though uninformed persons erected a white wooden cross on the site, bearing the inscription, "CABRILLO POINT." And as Cabtillo Point it is down on the maps. How to get it off? Or to free Stanford University from the charge of having usurped holy ground?

Following Cabrillo's entrance into the Puerto de los Pinos, and his tale of it—and that of his pilot, Bartolome Ferrelo, who carried out the discoverer's task as a fulfillment of a deathbed pledge—many voyagers sailed past the harbor on their way from Mexico to the Philippines; or, as in the case of Sir Francis Drake (1579)—pirate or saint, but a great navigator in either group—sailing across the Pacific to get home. The most noted of the first group are: Francisco Gali, navigator and cosmographer, whose own story of his voyage came out in 1582, when he sailed gaily from Acapulco to Manila; and Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno, whose ship, the Agustin, was wrecked in 1595, in what is now known as Drake's Bay; and who, with a crew of seventy men, set out for Mexico in an open boat, propelled by sweeps. Exposed to the elements, and short on provisions and water, they were not curious about what was going on—if anything—on the silent shores they passed. They were interested solely in getting home. Curiously, the entire crew arrived safely in Acapulco, somewhat the worse for wear. Cermeno was soon able to report to the viceroy in Mexico City. These, therefore, left no impress upon the Port of Pines. Until the coming of Sebastian Viscaino in the fall of 1602, things at the port were at a standstill.

The arrival of Viscaino was Monterey's first exposure to high-pressure publicity. When first his eyes rested upon the curved bay, with its rim of white sand and its mountain-forests of pine, he liked it and said so, in no uncertain terms.

The commander and his little fleet arrived off the San Martin mountains on Santa Lucia's Day, December 13th, and though his predecessor had named them in honor of San Martin, they went down on the new map as Sierra de Santa Lucia. And the Santa Lucias they are today, the mountains that shoot up abruptly from the sea, and that rise so gently from the fertile Carmel valley, over which they stand eternal guard, As the navigators passed, they named the river that waters it Rio del Carmelo. That name, too, has survived the centuries.

On the 16th, the ships entered the port as the sun was dropping into the ocean—the San Diego, or La Capitana, the commander aboard; the Santo Tomas, or La Almitanta; and the Tres Reyes. They had rounded the Point of Pines in a flood of red and gold, and dropped anchor well off shore in the opalescent waters of La Bahia de los Pinos. A weary lot of sailors snug in port. Landing was deferred till the morning. The beauty of the bay and its setting enthralled them, as they viewed it from their decks.

Early the next day, Viscaino, with the Carmelite friars—Fathers Andres de la Asumpcion, Antonio de Ascension and Tomas de Aquino—together with the ship's officers, such seamen as could be spared, and those not below decks ill with scurvy, came ashore in small boats. They landed in a little cove into which ran a small stream—the so-called rainy season. Near by stood an oak tree. Torquemada says of it, "The chapel was placed in the shadow of a large oak tree, some of whose branches reached the water; and near it, in a small ravine, at about twenty paces, were some pools containing very good and sweet water."

When all had assembled, the Carmelite friars said Mass, in honor of the Holy Spirit that had guided them through the perils of the deep. And, as incense rose on the morning air, the joyous hymn of the Church, Te Deum, was chanted in unison. And with as much ceremony as the little band in the wilds could summon, the country was again taken in the name of the king, this time in the name of Philip III. And the name of Monte Rey was formally bestowed upon the harbor—instead of Cabrillo's Bahia de los Pinos—in honor of Don Gaspar de Zuniga, Conde de Monte Rey, viceroy of Mexico. It was he who had sponsored the expedition of exploration.Thus on December 17,1602—eighteen years before our Pilgrim Fathers landed on Plymouth Rock—Monterey had received its baptismal name. Monterey's Name-Day.

After a simple feast, Viscaino and his officers held a council under the oak tree to decide two things: How and when to inform the viceroy of the results of the expedition—that Monte Rey had been entered and named; and what to do about the members of the crew ill with scurvy. (No knowledge then of antiscorbutics.)

Indeed, very few had escaped the sea's scourge. The pilot of the Almitanta and his assistant were unable to leave their bunks. The sailing master of the Capitana and his assistant were staggering about on swollen feet. And sixteen of the soldiers and sailors had already gone "over the side" to a wet grave.

It was unanimously voted that the Almitanta be sent back at once with the sick, and news of the charting of the Port of Monte Rey. Though the captain, Toribio Gomez de Corvan, was himself stricken, it was agreed that upon him must fall the task of sailing her back to civilization. Father Tomas de Aquino, likewise ill, was to go along. After a touching farewell, strengthened by blessings of the Church, the stricken pioneers of the Western Sea were carried out to the ship. Manned by a handful of sailors, the ship reached Acapulco late in December. California was won thus early in pain and travail.

Twenty-five men died on the way, in the greatest agony, making in all, forty-one of the little band to perish from hardships and scurvy since leaving Mexico, "For God and the King!" And yet we have it from Torquemada that Viscaino's expedition of 1602 was the best equipped and manned organization yet to leave Mexico. Grim forerunner of civilization on the West Coast.

The desperately ill off to Mexico, Viscaino and his men spent two weeks exploring the port of Monterey and making notes.

They moved camp over the hill to the Carmel river, where there was an abundance of good water. They had named the stream for the Carmelite friars on passing it on the 16th (It is a coincidence, merely, that the mountains and sea bear a close resemblance to Mount Carmel of the Holy Land).

They boarded ship again on January 3, 1603 — brave, half-starved, still adventurous. Enthusiastic reports about the"Puerto el Famoso" were tucked away under the commander's ragged poncho. They were off in search of Cape Mendocino.

When they reached the Cape, landfall of ships from China and the Philippines bound for Mexico because of favorable winds and currents, only six of the entire company were able to walk.

"All the soldiers, sailors, servants—even the cabin-boys—were afflicted, and most of them had dropped into their bunks,” says Fr. Engelhardt, quoting the commander's log.

And to try their courage further, violent storms arose, as is the habit of the sea in the neighborhood of the Cape, and Viscaino decided to turn back and run for La Paz. Lady Luck was against him. Another and wilder storm sent them flying, instead, up to forty-two degrees. The cartographer set it down as Cabo Blanco. Still Cape Blanco, and still frowning out on a rough sea, mariners riding it still with anxiety.

So cold there, says Viscaino, that the few on whom devolved the sailing of the ship suffered doubly. No rest, no chance to escape the bite of the wind that cut into their salt-wet flesh, almost naked to the storm. And long ago they had begun to cut down rations. As for clothing, most of it had disappeared with wind and weather.

Storms must blow themselves out. The winds shifted, as winds will, and the gallant little flagship right-about-faced. And on January 20th, she was headed for Mexico and home.

No stop in Monte Rey this time. But at Santa Barbara she dropped anchor for water and repairs. But of the entire crew only three soldiers were on their feet.

The other ships had experienced the same fate. On the Capitana only the pilot, Estevan Lopez, and four of his gallant soldiers survived their service to the king. Only six of the whole valiant crew returned to hear the hurrahs of the Mexican capital. Beautiful California was dearly won.

Viscaino himself arrived in Mexico at the end of May, preparing now his report of the voyage, for "our lord, the King." It was a brilliant report, the explorer massing his material in convincing form. Superficial observers, themselves negative personalities, have charged Viscaino with gross exaggeration. That he possessed the qualities of a super-salesman is admitted. He knew how to phrase his observations in vivid terms, because he saw vividly. And besides—he wanted to go back. Who could blame him? He had played the game, and won. He had staked more than his all.

He wanted to go back to found the colonies that Philip II and his slow son, Philip III, had decreed should be established in Alta California. The explorer was selling himself for the job. Just the high-powered salesman ahead of his time, "believing in what he had to sell." And he must be given due credit for selling California—and Monterey most particularly—to the world. The first press agent in the Far West.

That nothing tangible at the time resulted from his sacrifice—it is said that he had mortgaged even his loved young son to help equip his expedition—is due to the fact that Spain was too busy with England and Holland to be seriously concerned about far-away colonies, important though they were to her politically.

All Europe at the time was beset with turmoil. Spain had neither funds nor enterprise to follow up Viscaino, until the Russian bear began to amble down from the frozen north. Like many another brave soul, Don Sebastian died with his unrealized dream floating in his brain, a gallant sailor and a dramatic figure to the end. His portrait must stand beside those of other great Spanish pioneers of a heroic age—Balboa, Cortez, Cabrillo, Diaz, Coronado, Garces, Escalante, Kino, Serra, Crespi, Portola, Rivera, Fages, Ortega, Anza, and the rest who opened Western America to the world.

One of the most significant facts about the expedition were the orders issued to Viscaino—a set of twenty-seven instructions. While they were largely concerned with the matter of holding councils aboard ship to decide important questions, the outstanding command concerned the treatment of the Indians. He was to treat them well, and "under no circumstances, to follow them into the interior"—that an assault upon an Indian would bring the death penalty to the offender.

Spaniards in Mexico were already revolting against the cruelties that certain leaders among them had perpetrated upon the natives of the New World. Abuses had sprung up on encomiendas or grants, that none foresaw, bringing reproof and bitter criticism from humanitarians in authority, among whom were the royal Philips; and usually the ecclesiastics. As a matter of fact, it was to prevent excesses among greedy, hard-boiled encomiendetos that the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians were sent with the various expeditions. Spain's definitely expressed policy toward the natives of the New World was one of kindness, manifest in all of the early records—that the elements of Christianity be brought to them; and that chapels to attain that end be built on each encomienda. All, of course, in the cause of colonization. As the natives living on the land went automatically with the grant, abuses soon sprang up, human nature being what it is—then as now—and the Indians became slaves, holding no land rights whatsoever. A fact to be remembered, when we consider the Mission system in Alta California where the Mission lands and accumulated property were held in trust for the Indians by the Franciscans—in a communal form, in accordance with Spanish and Mexican law. What happened at Carmel Mission will thus be better understood.

Standing on the spot upon which Viscaino stood (beside the Presidio gate), as he unfurled the flag of Spain and drew his sword in salute toward the shining water, one cannot but reflect upon the fate of the Indian, whose land was thus taken from him, promises of kings and laws on parchment notwithstanding.

Incidentally, the spot where these first white visitors in Monterey knelt to pray, has been preserved for all time, due to the foresightedness of a group of historically-minded men and women, assisted by the people of California. The area was purchased in 1904, and presented to the State, through the legislature of 1905. It bears the inscription: "LANDING PLACE OF SEBASTIAN VISCAINO, 1602; JUNIPERO SERRA, 1770.”

What of the oak tree under whose shade Monterey was named and Mass sung? It was standing when the purchase was made. It was then a noble, wide-spreading healthy tree—California's "Charter Tree"'— the inspiration behind the purchase of the land it stood on. But came a time for "town improvements"'— though some lay it to an ambitious post commander—and the mouth of the historic ravine was filled in, widening the entrance to the Presidio and creating a street to the north, where formerly had been a bridge. So the old tree stood ankle deep in water for three years or more, when, chilled and discouraged, death slowly crept upon it. The corpse was not pleasant to gaze upon, and sensitive workmen threw it into the water. Suddenly some patriot discovered its lifeless body floating out to sea, and effected a rescue. Then, chairs were made of its drowned body, and they stand about to accuse Mantetenos to the end of time. Part of its trunk stands in the back of San Carlos Church. Incidentally, a new oak tree has been planted near the site of the Viscaino-Serra tree, in partial reparation for the inhumanity of a kind and humane people who "did not think."
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