||1725 – Born in or near
Compostella, Mexico and baptized with the name, Fernando Javier1.
1742 – Began military career at Loreto, Lower California at the age of 17.
1752 – At the age of 27 Rivera named Captain of the Loreto presidio after 10 years dedicated service on the frontier2.
1767 - Serving with the Jesuit explorers, Rivera established several missions in northern Baja from 1752-1767. In November of 1767 Rivera worked closely with Portola to effect the expulsion of Jesuit missionaries without stirring natives into rebellion.
1769 – Receiving high praise of Galvez and Portola for his handling of Jesuit expulsion, Rivera was chosen to lead the first overland party for the founding of Upper California. Captain Rivera, comandante of the company of Loreto led 25 leather jackets and 40 Indians to San Diego over nearly 300 miles of unexplored northern Baja territory. Rivera’s men were declared to be ‘the best horsemen in the world’ having attained that honor ironically in service of Jesuit explorers.
1771 – Rivera accompanied the expedition to discover the port of Monterey in May of 1769. By 1771 Captain Rivera had made at least 3 expeditions to lower California to gather supplies, soldiers, and cattle for the Upper California. Rivera returned to the mainland and purchased a small farm near Guadalajara where he intended to retire with his family.
1773 – Don Fernando appointed military governor of Upper California. Rivera left for his new post in Monterey traveling via Guadalajara where he recruited 51 settlers for California.
1774 - Captain Rivera with Fray Francisco Palou explored the San Francisco area to select sites for a presidio, town, and two missions. Although the expedition was successful, nearly 2 years elapsed before any settlements were established. Rivera could not spare soldiers for founding the new posts. The same was true for mission San Buenaventura that was to be established near the Santa Barbara Channel. Rivera had only 60 soldiers available for service in Alta California. With some difficulty Fray Junipero Serra and Captain Rivera compromised by founding San Juan Capistrano between San Diego to the south and San Gabriel to the north.
|1776 – Fray Luis Jaime was killed
in an Indian uprising at San Diego. Serra and Rivera quarreled over Indian
treatment following the uprising. Rivera was overruled in his desire for
vengeful reprisals. Rivera traveled south and enlisted the aid of Juan
Bautista de Anza who had arrived to found San Francisco to quell the uprising
in San Diego. Rivera experienced health problems at the time, which resulted
from a poorly set fracture. (This same fracture helped identify his bones
after his death at Yuma). Rivera was also much disturbed that Fray Vincente
Fuster excommunicated him on grounds that he had violated ecclesiastical
asylum by removing the chief culprit of the San Diego uprising from the
mission warehouse serving temporarily as a church. Rivera’s conduct alienated
Juan Bautista de Anza. Rivera was deeply offended because Anza belittled
his merits. Both military leaders wrote numerous reports to the viceroy,
each blaming the other; and both receiving severe rebukes for delaying
the founding of San Francisco.
1777–1779 – Captain Rivera turned over the governorship of California to Felipe de Neve who assumed command of both Upper and Lower California with headquarters at Monterey. At Neve’s request, Teodoro de Croix, Captain General of the Interior Provinces ordered Rivera, to recruit soldiers and settlers for the founding of Los Angeles.
1780 – By late 1780, Rivera had recruited many soldiers and settlers needed for the new settlements in Alta California. The settlers were sent by sea to Loreto in Lower California and then to San Gabriel where they arrived safely on August 18, 1781.
1781 – In May of 1781 Rivera advanced across the desert with a vast herd of animals, nearly 1000 head. Over ¼ of them were too weak to ford the Colorado. He sent on to the coast the Santa Barbara recruits and their families together with part of the herd that could cross the river. Rivera himself camped near the eastern bank of the river opposite Conception with a small contingent of soldiers and the animals left behind. On Tuesday July 17th Rivera and his men were all killed by the Yumans in a surprise attack.
Postcript - Captain Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncada was 56 at the time of his death. He had been a California soldier for 40 years. Rivera showed the most scrupulous honesty in administering presidio accounts. His penmanship was firm and distinguished. His ideas were expressed economically and with conviction in a terse and businesslike style. While governor of California, Rivera made every effort to improve the material conditions of the presidio of Monterey. He pleaded for more animals – more cows for milk and meat, more horses and mules to haul supplies from ships to the warehouse, to distribute them among the missions, and to patrol the vast territory. Rivera tried to secure better weapons and worked out a signal system in order to distinguish Spanish ships from hostile intruders. He insisted on regular attendance at religious services and attended regularly himself at the Monterey presidio chapel. He often made loans to his underpaid soldiers, most of which were never repaid. He made the first land grant in Upper California. Rivera himself did not receive his salary, and money often came from his brother in Mexico. He was popular with his men and left among the old California soldiers a better reputation probably than any of his contemporaries. After his death, governor Alvarado said that his memory was long honored by anniversary masses at San Diego and that Governor Echeandia in 1825 proposed a monument in his honor.
Ernest J. SJ, Diario del Capitan Commandante Fernando de Rivera y Moncada,
2 Burrus, Ernest J. SJ, Rivera y Moncada, Explorer and Military Commander of Both Californias, in the Light of His Diary and Other Contemporary Documents, HAHR, November, 683-692.