List of Governors of California before 1850

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This is a list of the Governors of early California, 1769–1850, before its admission as the 31st U.S. state. Founded by Gaspar de Portolá at San Diego and Monterey, the vast country was a sparsely-settled Spanish province for 53 years, until the Mexican War of Independence ended in 1821.

A year after Mexico's independence from Spain, Alta California became a federal territory of Mexico, as time went on, Alta Californians began to resent Mexico's neglect and incompetent, non-local governors. Beginning with the Tennessean-led revolt of 1824, California resisted Mexican rule, culminating in the revolution of 1836. Two years later, California was admitted as a state by the general government in faraway Mexico City.[1]

The revolution in November 1836 found success when the Diputación (territorial legislature) of California declared independence. California-born Juan Alvarado was elected governor, who then gathered support for independence from the whole country, from Sonoma to Los Angeles. Mexico retaliated by propping up Carlos Carillo as puppet-governor in Los Angeles and inciting a brief and bloodless civil war,[2] that conflict ended in 1838, when the general government of Mexico accepted California as a sovereign state and recognized Alvarado as the real governor. The territorial Diputación became the new state's Asambléa (Assembly).

In 1846, the "Bear Flag Revolt" in Sonoma declared California an independent republic—the "Bear Flag Republic", the government was separated permanently from Mexico. Less than a month later, the independent republic came under American protection (at the outset of the Mexican-American War). Like Texas, the Republic of California never was demoted to a U.S. territory but was admitted directly as the 31st U.S. state on September 9, 1850. Peter Burnett, the last governor of the republic, became its first governor after admission.

For governors of the state after admission in September 1850, see List of Governors of California.

Gaspar de Portolá i Rovira, founder and first governor of California
Pedro Fages
José Castro
Juan Bautista Alvarado
Pío Pico
Peter Hardeman Burnett

Spanish colony, 1769–1822[edit]

Gaspar de Portolá founded the first Spanish settlements in Alta California at San Diego (July 16, 1769), and at Monterey, the first capital (June 3, 1770).

Royal Banner of the Crown of Castille (Habsburg Style)-Variant.svg
  1. 1769–1770: Gaspar de Portolá
  2. 1770–1774: Pedro Fages
  3. 1774–1777: Fernando Rivera y Moncada
  4. 1777–1782: Felipe de Neve
  5. 1782–1791: Pedro Fages
  6. 1791–1792: José Antonio Roméu
  7. 1792–1794: José Joaquín de Arrillaga (acting)
  8. 1794–1800: Diego de Borica
  9. 1800: Pedro de Alberni (acting)
  10. 1800–1814: José Joaquín de Arrillaga
  11. 1814–1815: José Darío Argüello (acting)
  12. 1815–1822: Pablo Vicente de Solá

Mexican territory, 1822–1836[edit]

After Mexican rule reached California in 1822, native son Luis Argüello became governor. California's first revolt against Mexico took place the same year as Mexico's first constitution, 1824; in 1832, Gov. Victoria was overthrown; Pio Pico claimed the office for but twenty days, following which the office was vacant or held by Echeandia, whose authority was challenged by Zamorano, the Comandante General in the north.[3]

Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg
  1. 1822–1825: Luis Antonio Argüello
  2. 1825–1831: José María de Echeandía
  3. 1831–1832: Manuel Victoria
  4. 1832: Pío Pico (legitimacy challenged)
  5. 1832–1833: José María de Echeandía
  6. 1833–1835: Gen. José Figueroa
  7. 1835: Lt. Col. José Castro (acting)
  8. 1836: Nicolás Gutiérrez (acting)
  9. 1836: Mariano Chico
  10. 1836: Nicolás Gutiérrez (acting)

Sovereignty, 1836–1846[edit]

In 1836, California declared Independence from Mexico and fashioned its own flag, known as the "California Lone Star." Its first president was José Castro. After 1837, leadership was disputed between popularly elected Alvarado, in the capital, and Mexican-backed Carlos Carrillo, in Los Angeles, this ended when Alvarado arrested Isaac Graham and his Tennessee Rifles, blaming them for the revolution. Then, Mexico admitted California as a state, recognized Alvarado as its legal governor, but ordered the capital moved to Los Angeles.

California Lone Star Flag 1836.svg
Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg
  1. 1836: José Castro, "Presidente de Alta California"
  2. 1836–1842: Juan Bautista Alvarado
    1837–1838: Carlos Antonio Carrillo (rival)
  3. 1842–1845: Brig. Gen. Manuel Micheltorena
  4. 1845–1846: Pío Pico

Republic, 1846–1850[edit]

After a new revolt against Mexico, British warships arrived at Monterey Bay. Soon, Cdre. Sloat's squadron sailed in and afforded U.S. protection, returning the capital to Monterey. In 1849, a convention ratified a new constitution and Peter Burnett was elected governor, on September 9, 1850, California was admitted into the U.S.

US Cav 35.svg
  1. 1846: Cdre. John Drake Sloat
  2. 1846–1847: Cdre. Robert F. Stockton
    1846–1847: Gen. José María Flores (rival)
  3. 1847: Gen. Stephen W. Kearny (presidential appointee)
    1847: Lt. Col. John C. Frémont (convicted of mutiny)
  4. 1847–1849: Gen. Richard Barnes Mason
  5. 1849: Gen. Persifor Frazer Smith
  6. 1849: Gen. Bennet C. Riley
  7. 1849–1851: Peter Hardeman Burnett (Burnett, a civilian, held office for a year before California was admitted into the U.S.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California. 978-1135657727
  2. ^ Robert R. Miller. Juan Alvarado, Governor of California, 1836–1842. University of Oklahoma Press. 1998
  3. ^ Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California, vol. iii, pp. 231-232.