Juan Bautista de Anza

One of the first known Europeans to come to what is now known as San Bernardino County was Juan Bautista de Anza, a Spanish explorer of Basque descent and North American birth, who was also at one time the governor of New Mexico for the Spanish Empire.
De Anza twice, in two separate expeditions, passed through what would later be defined as San Bernardino County, or portions thereof, in 1774 and again in 1775/1776.
De Anza was born in Fronteras, Sonora, New Spain near Arizpe in 1736, into a military family living on the northern frontier of New Spain. He was the son of Juan Bautista de Anza I. In 1752 he enlisted in the army at the Presidio of Fronteras. He advanced rapidly and was a captain by 1760. He married in 1761. His wife was the daughter of Spanish mine owner Francisco Pérez Serrano. They had no children. His military duties mainly consisted of forays against hostile Native Americans, such as the Apache, during the course of which he explored much of what is now Arizona.
When the Spanish began colonizing Alta California in 1769-70, Gaspar de Portolá i Rovira (1716–1786) led the initial stage of that effort in what is now referred to as the Portolá expedition. Portolá undertook to explore the upper California territory by sea, involving a voyage against prevailing winds and the California Current, and by land, which entailed a difficult land route from Baja California. Colonies were established at San Diego and Monterey, with a presidio and Franciscan mission at each location. A more direct land route and further colonization were desired, especially at present-day San Francisco, which Portolá saw but was not able to colonize. Subsequently, three further missions had been established with one farthest north being Mission San Antonio de Padua, in the Salinas Valley.
In 1772, De Anza proposed an expedition to Alta California to the Viceroy of New Spain. This was approved by the King of Spain and on January 8, 1774, with three priests, 20 soldiers, 11 servants, 35 mules, 65 cattle, and 140 horses, De Anza set forth from Tubac Presidio, south of present-day Tucson.. De Anza took as a guide a California Native American called Sebastian Tarabal who had fled from Mission San Gabriel to Sonora. The expedition took a southern route along the Rio Altar (Sonora y Sinaloa, New Spain), then paralleled the modern Mexico/California border, crossing the Colorado River at its confluence with the Gila River. This was in the domain of the Quechan tribe near Yuma, with which de Anza was able to establish good relations.
De Anza in what is today Montclair, encountered a clan of Serrano Indians living on the banks of a sycamore tree-lined creek which followed what today is Mills Avenue in Montlcair. De Anza briefly interacted with the Serranos, dubbing the stream “Arroyo de los Alisos” on the maps and in the journal he made to memorialize the journey. Legend has it that D’Anza carved the initials, “IHS” on a large sycamore, which may have been uprooted when the stream, now known as San Antonio Creek, overflowed its banks in 1894.
De Anza reached Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, near the California coast, on March 22, 1774, and Monterey, California, Alta California’s capital, on April 19. He returned to Tubac by late May, 1774. This expedition was closely monitored by the viceroy and king, and on October 2, 1774, De Anza was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and ordered to lead a group of colonists to Alta California. The Spanish were at that point seeking to reinforce their presence in Alta California to counter Russian colonization of the Americas advancing southward from Alaska. They were also looking to establish a harbor that could shelter Spanish ships. The expedition got under way in October, 1775, and arrived at Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in January, 1776, the colonists having suffered greatly from the winter weather en route. Today this route is marked as the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.
In very late 1775 or early 1776 De Anza passed through the southwestern corner of what is today San Bernardino County, near present-day Ontario and Montclair. De Anza camped at what is near or at De Anza Park on Euclid Avenue, which is proximate to De Anza Junior High School.
The expedition continued on to Monterey with the colonists. Having fulfilled his mission from the viceroy, he continued on with Father Pedro Font and a party of twelve others exploring north and found an inland route to the San Francisco Bay described by Portolà. In de Anza’s diary on March 25, 1776, he states that he “arrived at the arroyo of San Joseph Cupertino [now Stevens Creek]… Here we halted for the night, having come eight leagues in seven and a half hours. From this place we have seen at our right the estuary which runs from the port of San Francisco.”
De Anza located the sites for the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asis in present-day San Francisco on March 28, 1776. San Francisco was later established by José Joaquín Moraga. While returning to Monterey, he located the original sites for Mission Santa Clara de Asis and the town of San José de Guadalupe, modern day San Jose, California), both of which were later established by others.
Later, de Anza was involved in other explorations and administrating for the government of Spain in the southwest and in Mexico. On August 24, 1777, the Viceroy of New Spain appointed Anza as the governor of the Province of Nuevo México, the present day U.S. state of New Mexico.
He established, at the behest of natives, missions, but also engaged in punitive raids against hostile Indians who resisted the Spanish incursion onto their land, in particular the Comanche. The Comanche had been repeatedly raiding Taos during 1779. With Ute and Apache Indians who were at that time considered Spanish allies, De Anza with around 800 Spanish soldiers, went north through the San Luis Valley, entering the Great Plains at what is now Manitou Springs, Colorado. Circling “El Capitan” (current day Pikes Peak), he surprised a small force of the Comanche near present-day Colorado Springs and pursued them south to Fountain Creek. He crossed the Arkansas River near present-day Pueblo, Colorado and confronted the main body of the Comanche on Greenhorn Creek, who had just engaged in a raid in Nuevo México. De Anza inflicted severe losses upon the Comanche, achieving a decisive victory, slaying Chief Cuerno Verde, for whom Greenhorn Creek is named, along with several other Comanche leaders.
De Anza led other military expeditions against tribes defending their homelands. The Quechan Native American tribe which had invited him to establish a mission at Yuma later rebelled. This led to hard feelings between de Anza and the military commander of the Northern Frontier. In 1783 de Anza lead a campaign against the Comanche on the eastern plains and by 1784 they were seeking peace, with the Comanche chiefs acceding to a formal peace treaty on 28 February 1786 at Pecos Pueblo. This led to the creation of a trading route and the development of the Comanchero trade.
On December 19, 1788, a little more than a year after he ceased to serve as the governor of the Province of Nuevo México, died in Arizpe Mexico, and was buried in the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Arizpe.

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