Al hogar!

Phelipe de Neve

First Governor of the Californias, 1777-1782

Mike Hardwick as Gobernador Phelipe de NeveWhen Phelipe de Neve arrived at Monterey in 1777, the Spanish held only eight toeholds along a 600-mile coast.  Most of the buildings were mere basketwork frames of interlaced poles plastered with clay.  These and the few adobe structures were roofed with thatch, easily set on fire.  The settlements were not walled and almost defenseless.  Nowhere else in the northern frontier did New Spain face such a concentrated Indian population, and these Indians were far from submissive. San Diego and San Luis Obispo missions had recently been burned, and San Juan Capistrano abandoned.  There were only 146 soldiers in California lacking in horses, arms, and equipment.  Soldiers were resentful of the conditions of service, the shortness of rations, and the exorbitant prices in the commissary.  Evasion of duty and desertion were serious problems.

In five years, 1777-1782, Neve transformed Alta California.  He rewrote the fundamental law under which California was governed.  He founded the pueblos of San José and Los Angeles, and brought experienced farmers from Mexico thereby relieving the dependence upon food ships from San Blas in Baja California.  He reformed finances, introducing system and order in the commissaries, bringing down prices, and at the same time increasing real pay of the military.  He walled in the presidios, built up the army both in numbers and efficiency.  He personally directed the construction of a new presidio at Santa Bárbara, and projected a string of three additional missions along the channel coast. Projected missions were San Buenavetura, Santa Bárbara, and La Purísima Concepción.

His policy toward the Indians merits special notice.  Neve prohibited mistreatment of the natives and punished soldiers who disobeyed his orders, bringing in the offended Indians to give them the satisfaction of witnessing punishment. At the time of his death in 1784 at the age of 57, Phelipe de Neve was a brigadier general and had been promoted to Captain General of the Interior Provinces, a position second only to the viceroy of Mexico1

1 Beilharz, Edwin A.  Felipe de Neve First Governor of California
California Historical Society, San Francisco, 1971
Michael Hardwick, shown above, is a historical interpreter and a member of
Los Soldados.  He maintains a Bibliography Web site (Presidios and Soldiers).