The Hispanic-American History Timeline
1776 The Birth of San Francisco
Spanish Army Lieutenant José Joaquin Moraga and Francisican missionary Francisco Palóu reach San Francisco Bay as part of the 1,000-mile Juan Bautista de Anza overland expedition from present-day southern Arizona and establish Mision San Francisco de Asis, also known as Mision Dolores -- the foundation of what is to become the City of San Francisco.
While the 13 American colonies on the east of North America are declaring their independence from Great Britain, on the west coast, Father Palóu dedicates the site and celebrates the mission's first mass on June 29, 1776 -- only a few days before the American Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. The mission, of wood poles plastered with mud and thatched roofs, is formally founded with a great celebration on Oct. 9, 1776.
At a nearby site designated by De Anza, three months earlier, Moraga also leads the construction of the Presidio of San Francisco, formally established on September 17, 1776.
Mission San Francisco is the sixth of 21 Spanish missions to be established in California by Franciscan missionaries, to convert the native people to Christianity, colonize the area and to consolidate Spanish power. But, like many other missions, this mission is not just a religious institution; it quickly becomes the gathering center for soldiers, farmers, traders, and native peoples, with a significant number of Indian converts who become resident community members and perform all of the tasks necessary to keep the community running.
Both the mission and the presidio are named after Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order in Italy, and already the namesake of San Francisco Bay. The name San Francisco de Asis was first given to a small bay (now Drake Bay) by Spanish explorer Sebastián Cermeño and was later applied to the bay.
Today, Mission Dolores, recognized as a California Historical Landmark, is the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco. The old mission chapel is part of a much larger structure dedicated in 1918 and granted Basilica status in 1952. The Presidio of San Francisco, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, is now a park on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
By Sirky Sanchez, Lehman College