Mariano Vallejo and the Bear Flag Revolt

Born in Monterey on July 4, 1807, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo was a powerful pro-America force during the troubled times that led up to the war with Mexico. The San Francisco Bay city of Vallejo was named for him and California’s former state capital, Benicia, for his wife. By 1833 he was commander of the Presidio of San Francisco and two years later he was the ranking military commander in Northern California and tasked with protecting against the Russians at Fort Ross as well as the local Indians. To this end he built the Presidio of Sonoma, and a two-story adobe home there where he lived most of his life. He made a pact with Chief Solano of the Suisun Indians that gave him powerful allies against other tribes.

The Presidio of San Francisco, 1817

By 1840 a cry came for a Texas style rebellion against the Mexican Government, and a number of American and English emigrants were arrested. Vallejo interceded and, with pressure from the United States and Great Britain, the trouble was smoothed over. But when the Russian offer to sell Vallejo their Fort Ross in 1841 was stymied by political infighting, Vallejo became convinced that the best hope for California lay with the United States. Then, on June 14, 1846, an armed band of Americans appeared at his Sonoma home. Vallejo invited them inside to share food and wine with him and a number of them became quite drunk. Later the Americans raised their flag and arrested Vallejo in spite of his hospitality. This was the Bear Flag Revolt and Vallejo was imprisoned at Sutter’s Fort until, suffering from malaria, he was released in August.

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo

After the war with Mexico, and regardless of his imprisonment, Vallejo was stalwart in his belief in the benefits of American rule. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1850, and was elected a State Senator. But, like so many with land grants from the Mexican era, he spent much of his time and money to protect his Rancho Petaluma and Rancho Suscol, yet lost almost all of his property to the Americans who now poured into California. Vallejo died at his home in Sonoma on January 18, 1890.

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