|Home| |Pre-American Settlement| |American Settlement--Civil War| |Late Nineteenth Century|
|Early Twentieth Century| |World War II and the Fifties| |Sixties--Present| |City Histories| |About|

¡§When the Okies left Oklahoma and moved to California, it raised the I

Monterey: The Unknown Past                                Kyle So


Augusta Fink is a graduate from UCLA with a Master of Arts degree in history. Although living in New York City, she has lived in California for most of her life. She has also previously lived in Carmel which inspired many of the books she has written that tell about the heritage and past of California. In addition, she is a chairman of the history committee of the Monterey history and Art Association.



The United States has gone through many events that are well-known among people. Some famous incidents in the United States include the colonization of the California territory by the Spanish Empire, the ceding of California to the United States, the start of the California Gold Rush, and the establishment of Los Angeles. However, the discovery and history of Monterey is more obscure. In Monterey: The Presence of the Past, author Augusta Fink discusses the history and people of Monterey, whom she believes ¡§represent the best of what is left of California¡¦s splendid heritage.¡¨1

            Monterey lies along the Pacific coast of central California, occupying ¡§3,324 square miles, or more than two million acres of land.¡¨2 The area was first occupied by the Indians who moved to central California because of its satisfactory climate. Shortly after they settled the land, Spanish explorers led by Father Junipero Serra came in search of gold and land. Soon enough, settlers from Mexico, also called Californios, started occupying the land. Thereafter, the Americans took control over Monterey and started transforming the land into one of agriculture, constructed railroads through the territory, and developed resorts and hotels along its coast which were surveyed into ¡§paper towns,¡¨ which were basically large tracts of land that were used for construction of resorts/hotels. The Native Americans that occupied the region of present day Monterey County were composed of three different tribes: the Costanoans, the Esselens, and the Salinans. The three tribes settled the land for several decades but were soon after conquered and massacred by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer. Cabrillo then became an important figure in the expeditions and conquests of central California, beginning when he was sent by Pedro de Alvarado to explore the rest of the Pacific. On his voyage, he was able to discover the San Miguel port, San Salvador Island, Cape Galera, San Miguel Island, and Point Pino. However, due to gangrene in Cabrillo¡¦s arm, he died on January 3, 1543. Later on May 5, 1602, Sebastian Vizcaino led an expedition with the purpose of surveying the coast of California. Following Cabrillo¡¦s previous route, Vizcaino founded Santa Catalina, San Pedro, and lastly, Monterey. The King of Spain, Charles III, appointed Father Junipero Serra as president of the fourteen friars sent to Christendom. In 1749, missionaries, including Serra, Palou, and Crespi, were sent to the College of San Fernando in Mexico City to learn the Pame language to preach to the American Indians. During his second year in Mexico, Serra was appointed president of the five Sierra Gorda missions in Mexico. Throughout the years, he was sent to many places in south and central Mexico, until July 1767, when he received his call to California. Junipero Serra was then elected to take over the Jesuit missions in Baja California. During that time, Russia was moving south to occupy the port of Monterey. In response to this, Jose de Galvez, the new governor of Spain, planned to consolidate the northwestern frontier and combine it into Alta California.  Through expeditions by land and sea, Galvez colonized Alta California by converting the Indians into Christianity. On July 1, The San Carlos and San Antonio ships reached the harbor. The land expedition traveled through San Juan Capistrano, the Santa Ana River, the Santa Lucia Mountains, the Santa Rosa Creek, the San Carpoforo Creek/Canyon, the Nancimiento River, and the Salinas River. At that point, they realized that the Bay of Monterey was not where they had hoped. They then made the decision to continue northward up until San Francisco Bay, where they were forced to turn back to San Diego. After six months of traveling over a thousand miles, the expedition came to the conclusion that the port they were looking for did not exist.

            At San Diego, the San Antonio ship dropped off supplies and the settlement was secured. Shortly after, Father Crespi and his partner Portola, continued their expedition and reached Monterey Bay on May 24. Celebrating their discovery of the land, Portola took formal possession of it under King Charles III of Spain. Shortly after, the mission and presidio of Monterey were established. During the construction of the new site, Serra went to the Valley of the Oaks where he established the Mission San Antonio de Padua and tried converting Indians to the Christian faith. However, during Serra¡¦s absence, the settlement at Monterey suffered extreme hardships and faced many problems. Months later, the ship Santiago reached Monterey with fresh supplies and provisions. Because the government of Mexico wanted to expand the settlements in Alta California, they regularly encouraged families to move there.  In 1776, Monterey was named the capital of Baja and Alta California. On August 1784, Serra died in his sleep. By this time, Monterey had a prosperous fur trade with Canton which expanded Spanish trade and increased their treasury. However, supplies and funds to Monterey were ultimately stopped due to events in other places. On April 11, 1821, Mexico won independence from Spain. That same year, entrepreneurs by the name of Hugh McCulloch and William Hartnell entered a partnership and established a firm to trade along the coast of California. They established stations along the coast to collect and trade hides and made Monterey their headquarters because it offered social intercourse and contact with the outside world. However, in 1828, the firm of McCulloch, Hartnell, and Company disbanded, and the total losses for the firm totaled around $29,000. The next year, government officials learned that Joaquin Solis, an ex-convict from Mexico, had rallied soldiers and led them to revolt. Monterey was at unrest and as a result, Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Victoria replaced Echeandia as governor. However, Echeandia and Solis¡¦s radicals joined together and plotted revolution. On November 1831, the radicals fought with Victoria¡¦s soldiers and eventually secured a victory. Shortly after, Pio Pico, a radical leader, was elected as a temporary governor. In January 1833, Jose Figueroa replaced Zamorano and granted amnesty to all people who took part in the rebellions, gaining popularity among the people. Unfortunately, his fame was short lived when he died on September 29, 1835 due to apoplectic stroke.  On November 3, 1836, Mariano Vallejo and Jose Castro assembled a force of rebels which advanced into Monterey. The next day Jose Castro declared California a ¡§free and sovereign state,¡¨ and Alvarado was elected governor, while Vallejo was appointed commander general. 3 On October 20, 1842, two American warships landed in Monterey Bay, containing a large force of American troops led by Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, the Commander of the United States Squadron in the Pacific. Upon arriving, he informed the people of Monterey that the United States and Mexico were at war, and that he and his forces were ordered to take possession of California. However, on that same day, he restored Monterey to Mexico because two men named Larkin and Hartnell proved that Mexico and the United States were NOT at war during that time by showing him the latest communications from Mexico and the United States. On February 20, 1843, Alvarado and Sutter¡¦s soldiers engaged in battle in the San Fernando Valley, but in the end Sutter¡¦s forces withdrew and Micheltorena capitulated and left for Monterey. In the end, Pio Pico became the new governor and designated Los Angeles as the new capital.

            At around the same time of the establishment of the new capital, James K. Polk became the new president of the United States, and as an expansionist, he wanted to acquire the province of California. During March, a discussion was held between the merchants, the military, and Vallejo regarding the future of California. Recognizing that California could not maintain its independence based on its current resources, they concluded that the government must break away from Mexico and become annexed by the United States. On May 1846, Polk and Congress declared war on Mexico over Texan boundaries. On July 2, Commodore Sloat informed Larkin that he was ordered to seize the ports of California if hostilities started. Five days later, Sloat and several officers demanded the surrender of the port, and declared California a part of the United States. Forty-eight members of a convention traveled to Monterey to discuss the stability and policies of the state. Their first major issue was whether to consider the government that of a state or territory, in which the majority voted state. The second issue was slavery and it was determined that ¡§neither slavery no involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in this state.¡¨4 Their final issue was the location of its eastern boundary, which remained unchanged. By October, Monterey entered an era of optimism and prosperity from the gold fever in San Francisco. But when the first state legislature met on December 15, 1849, Monterey was no longer the capital of California. Monterey fell to political and economical instability and lost its status as a city by 1853 due to the actions of the legislature. By 1859, Monterey was poor and had only one industry: shore whaling. As a result of its many continual problems, Monterey was called the ¡§Sleepy Hollow of California.¡¨5 Eventually, Monterey found another industry which helped boost its economy: the sardine industry. With this, Monterey rose to the third largest fish tonnage port in the world, and by 1939 its industry payroll was more than four million dollars. Yet another addition to Monterey was Pacific Grove. It first started as a summer camp and setting for church meetings, but on June 1, 1875, the Pacific Grove Retreat Association was established. During the 1880¡¦s, the Pacific Grove became a site of real estate development starting with the Del Monte Hotel, and by July 1889, Pacific Grove became a sixth class city. South of the Carmel River, lies the South coast shoreline of California, 70 miles on the seaward side of Monterey County. In this region, government survey took place to aid in the business part of the Partington enterprise. Moreover, gold was sighted in the area first in 1848, but mining did not become serious until 1876. It was not until the 1880s that California became involved in its first real estate boom. Because many people were aware of the potential of incoming immigrants, they bought real estate for cheap and surveyed them into ¡§paper towns.¡¨6 However, due to undesirable commercial ventures, a city planning commission was established to protect Carmel from them in 1922. In present day Monterey, the accelerated developments on the coast led to the pollution of the inner valley, and owners of large pieces of land cannot preserve them, resulting in prohibitive tax burdens. Without change, these problems will continue to worsen, and so in response to these problems, Fink states that, industrial and major residential development should be concentrated midway up the valleys and to permit to public purchase of open space. With these changes, she hopes that Monterey will maintain its splendored image and keep what is left of California¡¦s history.

            There were many things in the United States that influenced and changed California. Some events in the Eastern United States that influenced California were creation of the railroad expansions (Southern Pacific Railroad), the idea of westward expansion, the Mexican-American War, and the Gold Rush. The railroad expansion influenced California in that it allowed it to build tracks throughout the country linking many states together and providing a fast and reliable source of transportation and communication. The ideas of westward expansion also influenced California because it brought about many settlers into California from the East. A really important event that affected California was the Mexican-American War. It was extremely significant because it was the main factor in ceding California to the United States when Commodore Sloat declared ¡§¡KCalifornia will be a portion of the United States, and its peaceful inhabitants will enjoy the same rights and privileges they now enjoy.¡¨7 Lastly, The Gold Rush influenced California because it was one of the factors of westward expansion, bringing a large amount of people to California. Some of the things that occurred in California were distinctive from the rest of the country because it was so isolated from the rest of the United States at the time. Because of that, California was very different from those on the East Coast.

            According to Fink, she views Monterey, California as important to the rest of the country because it played key roles in United States history and its economy. As one of the first states on the west coast, California linked the western and eastern states, led to additional westward expansion, was the location of the Gold Rush, a site of one of the richest soil in the United States, was previously a capital of California, was a place of many resorts/hotels which led to a lot of immigration, and it also played a role in boosting the county¡¦s economy with its sardine industry which quickly ¡§rose to the position of third largest fish tonnage port in the world.¡¨8

            Fink¡¦s reason for explaining this topic was to provide insight into the infamous history of Monterey. Fink¡¦s thoughts about Monterey were that it was first used as a course of religious events from Father Serra¡¦s expedition, to a site of resorts and immigration, and then as part of the United States where its economy gradually rose. She explains how Monterey was first settled upon by ¡§Indians, conquistadors, missionaries, Yankee traders, and bohemians,¡¨ and the events leading to the present-day county. 9 In addition, she talks about the important people who played a part in Monterey¡¦s history such as Governor Riley, Commodore Thomas Catesby Jones, Commodore Sloat, Cabrillo, Vizcaino, Father Junipero Serra, Jose de Galvez, and many more. Lastly, she reveals many unknown facts about the city that many people do not know such as the development of the ¡§paper towns,¡¨ its establishment as a capital, its nickname ¡§Sleepy Hollow of California.¡¨

            Fink, although a local of New York City, has lived in California for most of her life. She graduated from UCLA with a Master of the Arts degree in history; and strives to, ¡§bring fully alive both the romance and reality of California¡¦s rich historical heritage.¡¨10 Her views are often based on western history and California. She talks often about California¡¦s culture and heritage and is also a part of the history committee of the Monterey history and Art Association which is dedicated to preserving and promoting the artistic and physical resources of Monterey. Lastly, her writings are that of a New Leftist.

            In Augusta Fink¡¦s book, she goes over what went on throughout California and Monterey¡¦s history. Her book contains very detailed, accurate, and sensible facts that describe Monterey. Even containing future problems that can occur such as the ¡§accelerated development along the coast will inevitably lead to the interior valleys being socked in with smog.¡¨11 Lastly, she is able to describe multiple views of life in Monterey in view of Indians, conquistadors, entrepreneurs, etc.

            From the Indians to the Entrepreneurs, Augusta Fink talks about the many people that occupied Monterey and the events that took place in that location. She reveals these facts to people to let people know how Monterey was like in the past, with the ultimate hope that ¡§the will and the way will be found to protect the many-splendored image of Monterey.¡¨12


1. Fink, Augusta. Monterey: The Presence of the Past. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1972.

2. Fink, Augusta 8.

3. Fink, Augusta 73.

4. Fink, Augusta 116.

5. Fink, Augusta 126

6. Fink, Augusta 220.

7. Fink, Augusta 88-89.

8. Fink, Augusta 133.

9. Fink, Augusta 1.

10. Fink, Augusta 255.

11. Fink, Augusta 249.

12. Fink, Augusta 250.