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Journal of Jedediah Smith: First Expedition to California

San Diego

The Precidio* (* Precidio is a name applied to a town which is the residence of the Governor.) of San Diego is about three miles from the harbor in Latitude.     The buildings are in a square somewhat like the Missions but lower and much decayed.  They are on a side hill sloping toward the Ocean. The residence of the Governor is on the East and his portico commands a fine view of the harbor and the Ocean. San Diego contains about 200 inhabitants exclusive of the Mission of the same name which is about 6 miles North East on a small stream which flows into the harbor. The general aspect of the country is hilly and barren with some Scrubby Oak and Pine on the hills but verry little grass.

The harbor of San Diego is formed by two Peninsula's one of which projects into the Ocean directly oposite the Precidio. The entrance is quite narrow but having a great depth of water and being entirely protected from winds this harbor is considered very safe. A Block house or fort on the Peninsula commands the entrance of the harbor.

Several days having passed I called again on his Excellency but could get no answer. He told me he did not know what to do he must see my journal and he likewise took a copy of my chart and License.  He even asked me what business I had to make maps of their country. I told him my maps were made merely to assist me in traveling and must of necessity be verry incorrect as I was destitute of the means for making celestial observations - from this time I was detained day after day and week after week. Sometimes he told me I must wait until he could receive orders from Mexico and at other times he thought it desirable that I should go to Mexico and would then come to the conclusion that it was necessary to send myself and party to Mexico. Whilst my fate depended on the caprice of a man who appeared not to be certain of any thing or of the course his duty required him to pursue and only governed by the changing whims of the hour my feelings can only be duly appreciated by those who have been in the same situation. I knew the eager expectations with which my party at St Gabriel Looked for my return. I felt the ruinous effect which my detention had on my business and the gloomy apprehensions which my protracted absenc would cause to my partners in the distant Mountains. But these considerations never came within the sphere of his Excellency's comprehension and I was harrassed by numerous and contradictory expedient and ruinous delays until about the first of January when his Excellency informed me that if the Americans who were in the harbor of San Diego Masters of Vessels officers and Supercargo would sign a paper certifying that what I gave as the reason of my coming to that country they believed to be substantially correct I might then have permission to trade for such things as I wanted and to return the same route which I had come in.  I had applied for permission to travel directly north that I might arrive as soon as possible on the territory of the United States but this he would not grant insisting that I should travel the same route by which I had come. The certificate was made out and signed by Capt Wm H. Cunningham Theodore Cunningham and Mr Shaw of the Ship Courier Capt Dana and Mr Robbins of the Waverly Capt Henderson and Mr. Scottie of the Brig __ belonging to Bags & Company of Lima.  The Governor then gave me a passport and License to purchase such supplies as I wanted.

I was allowed the privilege of staying but 4 days after my arrival at St Gabriel and strictly forbid to make any more maps for said the Gov even our own Citizens can not make maps unless permission is obtained from Mexico. Although the Governor had obliged me to go to San Diego yet he would not furnish me with horses for my return. But I felt this injustice the less as Capt Cunningham offered me a passage on board of his ship which would sail in a few days for point Pedro the nearest Anchorage to St Gabriel. I accepted this offer the more readily as it would enable me to have my supplies prepared during the passage for they were to be procured from Capt Cunningham. I had found the Governor to more than sustain the character given of him by Senor Martinas and it will be readily supposed that I left him without any other regret than what I felt for the time lost in doing business that might have been done in a few hours or might as well have been left undone. Every thing being ready we sailed and on the third day came to anchor on the East side of the Island of St Catalina.  The Island of Santa Catalina is about 20 W S W from St Pedro. It is about 18 miles long and 8 broad having high hills covered with grass wild onions and some small timber. Capt Cunningham had a house on the Island for the purpose of salting hides.  He was about to take some Cows Hogs and fowls for the use of the men there employed. after remaining at the Island 2 nights we sailed for St Pedro which is merely a good anchorage or road stead.  several Cannon were fired as a Signal to a farmer that lived 8 or 10 Miles off who usually made it his business to come with horses to take people up to the Pueblo or to St Gabriel. As the expected horses did not come we started on foot and continued until we procured horses to take us to the Pueblo los Angelos or the Angels Village. We remained all night at the village and in the morning I called on my friend Sector Abella and made arrangements for the purchase of horses and then in Company with the Capt Mr. Chapman and Mr. Shaw I moved on to the Mission of St. Gabriel where I found my party all well.  I must not omit the cordial welcome with which I was received by father Jose Sanches. He seemed to rejoice in my good fortune and well sustained the favorable opinion I had formed of him. You are now (says he) to pass again that miserable country and if you do not prepare yourself well for it it is your own fault. if there is any thing that you want and that I have let me know and it shall be at your service. I thanked him for his kindness and made every exertion to start as soon as possible. I called on the Commandant to ascertain whether I could stay longer than the 4 days allowed in my passport he told me a day or two would not make any difference.

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Map of San Diego - 1786

Ocean - San Diego, California.

(Notes: José María de Echeandía (?–1871) was twice Mexican governor of Alta California from 1825 to 1831 and again from 1832 to 1833. He was the only governor of California that lived in San Diego.) wikipedia

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