Moraga, José Joaquín Maria
Military Officer, Explorer, and Founder of the Royal Presidio
of San Francisco
Entry Author: Br.
Guire Cleary, S.S.F
Moraga served as a military officer in the Spanish Army of
Mexico and as second in command to Juan Bautista de Anza on
Anza's second expedition to the California missions. That
great trek, which departed from Tubac --in present-day Arizona--
on September 29, 1775, covered 1500 miles. After Anza left
Monterey to return to Mexico, Moraga led the group north to
the land below the mouth of San Francisco Bay. There he founded
the Mission and Royal Presidio of San Francisco. Moraga remained
in San Francisco as the first commander of the Presidio. He
is also credited with founding the town of San José
de Guadalupe. In 1777, Moraga became godfather and namesake
to the first Ohlone Indian to receive baptism, Chamis of Chutchui,
who was baptized as Francisco Moraga on June 24 at Mission
San Francisco de Asis.
Moraga went on to explore and map portions of the Bay Area
with the assistance of members of local tribes of indigenous
groups. His attitude toward the indigenous peoples was positive:
he described the Ohlone as "affable, generous, and not
at all mistrustful." Moraga himself was praised for his
humane and lenient treatment of his soldiers.
During his years as military leader in San Francisco, Moraga
faced the challenges of hunger, scant supplies, inadequate
funding, and unreliable support from the home government.
He also had to cope with the unfavorable geography and climate
of the Presidio. By all accounts he performed admirably; his
life of service has been described as "stainless and
honorable". Moraga died in 1785 leaving behind wife María
del Pilar de León y Barcelo and son Gabriel Moraga.
In an unusual gesture of honor, Moraga's remains were disinterred
and moved to the sanctuary of the new mission church of San
Francisco de Asís on April 8, 1791. Fray
Benito Cambón, builder of the church, noted that
the transfer was made "with all the pomp that was possible
and becoming to [Moraga's] merits."
Bancroft, Herbert H., History of California. Wallace
Herberd, Santa Barbara, 1963.
Early, E. Eugene, The Moragas: Soldiers, Explorers and
Founders. Unpublished Master's thesis, University of San
Francisco, San Francisco, 1950.
Englehardt, OFM, Zephyrin, San Francisco or Mission Dolores.
Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1924.
Langellier, John Phillip and Rosen, Daniel B. El Presidio
de San Francisco: A History Under Spain and Mexico, 1776-1846.
Arthur H. Clark Co., Spokane, 1996
Milliken, Randall, A Time of Little Choice. Ballena
Press, Menlo Park, 1995.
Moraga, José Joaquin, Letter of March 20, 1777 to Viceroy
Antonio Bucareli y Ursa. Published at Web De Anza, http://anza.uoregon.edu/moraga
Northrop, Marie, Spanish-Mexican Families of Early California:
1769-1850. Polyanthos Press, New Orleans, 1976.
Libro de Defuntos. Handwritten manuscript in the possession
of Mission San Francisco de Asís.