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Juan Bautista de Anza

Juan Bautista de Anza was born 1736 in Fronteras, Sonora near Arizpe, Sonora into a military family on the northern frontier of New Spain. In 1852 he enlisted in the army at the presidio of Fronteras. He advanced rapidly and was a captain by 1760. He married in 1761, but had no children. His military duties mainly consisted of forays against hostile Native Americans such as the Apache during the course of which he explored much of what is now Arizona.

In 1772 he proposed to the Viceroy of New Spain an expedition to Alta California. This was approved by the King of Spain and in January, 1774 with 3 padres, 20 soldiers, 11 servants, 35 mules, 65 cattle, and 140 horses he set forth from Tubac near present day Tucson, Arizona. The expedition crossed the Colorado River at its confluence with the Gila River in the domain of the Yuma tribe with which he established good relations. He reached Mission San Gabriel[?] on the California coast on March 22, 1774 and returned to Tubac by late May, 1774. This expedition was closely watched by Viceroy and King and on October 2, 1774 he was promoted to the rank of lieutnant-colonel and ordered to lead a group of colonists to Alta California. The Spanish were desirous of reinforcing their presence in upper California, partly as a buffer against Russian advances from the north and partly in order to possibly establish a harbor that would give shelter to Spanish ships. The expedition got under way in October, 1775 and arrived at Mission San Gabriel January, 1776 the colonists having suffered greatly from the winter weather enroute.

He continued on to Monterey, California with the colonists; then fulfilling his mission from the Viceroy he continued on with a small party exploring north and located a site for a presidio at present day San Francisco, California. He did not establish a settlement; that was established later by others. (There is a myth that Anza was the founder of San Francisco.)

On his return from this successful expedition he journeyed to Mexico City with the chief of the Yuma tribe who requested the establishment of a mission. Shortly thereafter, on August 24, 1777 Anza was appointed Governor of the Province of New Mexico.

He led a punitive expedition against the Comanche who had been repeatedly raiding Taos in 1779. With his Ute allies and about 800 soldiers he went north through the San Luis Valley, entering the plains at what is now Manitou Springs, Colorado. He surprised a small force of Comanche near present day Colorado Springs. Chasing them south down Fountain Creek, he crossed the Arkansas River[?] near present day Pueblo, Colorado. He found the main body of Comanche, returning from a raid on New Mexico, on Greenhorn Creek and inflicted a decisive defeat, killing Cuerno Verde, the chief (for whom Greenhorn Creek is named) and many other leaders of the Comanche. Severely weakened, the Commanche ceased their raids and moved to the southeast into what is now Oklahoma and Texas

In late 1779 he and his party found a route from Santa Fe to Sonora. Anza's various local military expeditions against hostile tribes were successful, but the Yuma tribe which he had establish peace with rebelled and he fell out of favor with the miltary commander of the northern frontier, the frontier-general. He stayed on as governor of New Mexico until 1787 when he returned to Sonora[?]. He was appointed commander of the presidio at Tubac in 1788 but probably died before he could take office. He died and was buried in Arizpe, Sonora and was survived by his wife.

He was buried in the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Arispe. In 1963 he was disinterred and reburied in a marble mauseleum with the participation of delegations from the University of California and San Francisco.

Further Reading

  • Anza and the Northwest Frontier of New Spain, J. N. Bowman and R. F. Heizer, Southwest Museum Papers Number Twenty, Highland Park, Los Angeles, California, 1967, Hardback, 182 pages.
  • Anza and Cuerno Verde, Decisive Battle, Wilfred Martinez

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