Mojave River Valley Museum
Profiles in Mojave Desert History
Don Gabriel Moraga
from “Exploration of the Sierra Nevada” (1925)
by Francis P. Farquhar
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Spanish settlers coming from Mexico were firmly established in Alta California, and
both churchmen and soldiers were beginning to find out more about the country in which they lived. Several expeditions crossed the
coast ranges into the great central valley of California between 1804 and 1806, visiting the Indian rancherias beyond the Tulares. Don
Gabriel Moraga, in 1805, named a liver descending from the eastern mountains “Rio de los Santos Reyes,” from which it might be inferred
that he camped on its banks on the day of Epiphany. The name has come down in English as Kings River, often erroneously written “Kings.”
In 1806 the Merced and other riven were named. It is improbable that any of the Spanish visitors to the San Joaquin Valley penetrated
the mountains, excepting to cross by the Tehachapi or Tejon passes to the south.
from History of California By Hubert Howe Bancroft, Henry Lebbeus Oak, William Nemos, Frances Fuller Victor
Gabriel Moraga was a son of Lieut. Jose Joaquin ??????, the first comandante of San Francisco, and of his wife Dofia Maria del Pikir de Leon ?
Barceló, born some years before his parents came to California. He enlisted in 1784, and July 10th of that year was married at S. Francisco
to Ana Maria Bernai. Padre Palou officiated, and C'apt. Nicolás Soler was present. S. Francifo, Lib. Ifixion, MS., 57. In 1788 he became
corporal in the Monterey company, and for 12 years' commanded various mission escoltas. From 1800 to 1806 he was sergeant of the same company;
and was then transferred to S. Francisco as alférez. In 1811 he was made brevet lieutenant for bia gallantry in a battle with the Indians on
the strait of Carqniitcs, and in April 1818 he received his commission as lieutenant of the Sta bárbara company by a mistake made in Mexico
or Spain, with which on account of hia health he was well pleased. Prov. St. Pap., Ben. Mil., MS., li. 4; Ixix. 32: Prov. ???., MS., ix. 19C;
Prov. St. Pap., M.S., xx. 194; I'allejo, Doc. Hist. Col., MS., xvi. 48. In 1800 he commanded a small party sent against the Indians from
Monterey, and he became one of the most famous Indian fighters in California. Before 1800 he had visited and named the San Joaquin river,
where his father had been long before. His later recorded expeditions include that made to the broad region beyond the Tularcs in Sept. and
Oct. 180Ü; to the S. Joaquín in 1807; two visits to the S. Joaquin in search of mission sites, a trip to Bodega, the famous fight at Carquines
Strait in May, and a campaign in the region of San Gabriel—all in 1810; three visits to Ross in 1812-13-14; and an expedition toward the
Colorado in 1819: see chap. iii. xiv. and xv. this volume. According to his hoja île servirían of 1820 he had been connected with 40
expeditions against Indians and taken part in 10 battles. Prov. St. Pap., Ben. Mi/., MS., li. 4.
From about 1818 Lieut. Moraga tried frequently to obtain retirement ou account of chronic rheumatism and other infirmities resulting from
old age and past exposure. With this object of retirement in view he obtained certificates from Gov. Sola, Capt. Josó D. Arguello, Capt.
Francisco liuiz, Surgeon Quijano, nnd padres Señan and Payeras, all of whom spoke in terms of the highest praise respecting his character
and the value of his past services. Gnfrra, Doc. Hist, Val., MS., vi. 180-204. No attention was paid to his demands so far as the records
show; nor to his appeal of Oct. 29, 1822, to Iturbidc, in which he pleaded earnestly at some length for retirement and full pay as the only
means to protect his family from poverty and suffering. /(/., vii. 117-22.* Of the remaining 5 months of his life we know nothing; and of
his death only that he was buried in the cemetery of Sta Bárbara mission on June 15, 1823. fita Barbara, Lib, Misión, MS., 33. Though an
illiterate man, Moraga was honest, moral, kind-hearted, popular, and a very energetic and successful officer.
Moraga's wife and also a son died on Feb. 11, 1802. Pror. St. Pap., MS., xviii. 197. lie subsequently married María Joaquina Alvarado. Two
of his sons, Josí Guadalupe and Domingo, were noldado* dt*tiiiiiuulo* in the San Francisco company in 1818. S. Francisco, ????/??, MS., i. iii.
The former became a cadet in the San Diego company. Another son, Vicente, born at San Antonio Jan. 23, 1790, S. Antonio, Lib. ¡Union, MS., 7, was
in 1833-5 a schoolmaster at Angeles and also secretary and síndico of the ayuntamiento. Los Anecie*, Aynnt. Kec., MS., 1; Botrllo, Analta del
Sur, MS., 10, 170. But the fame of the family expired with Don Gabriel, whom Inocente García describes as a tall, well built num of dark
complexion, brave, gentlemanly, and the best California^ soldier of his time.
rena was promoted to be lieutenant, and Cadet Domingo Carrillo to be alférez, though the latter was serving at San Diego during 1828-9, and
Alférez Rodrigo del Pliego served at Santa Bárbara in his place most of the time. The alférez was usually habilitado, though Carlos Carrillo
held the place for a time in 1822-3, and Anastasio Carrillo in 1827 and 1829. Maitorena was sent to Mexico as a member of congress for 1829-30,
and died probably in 1830. A notice of his life is given in another place.3* Pacheco though acting comandante of the post was not au officer of
the company. José Antonio de la Guerra was a cadet in 1821, Francisco Tapia in 1825-6, and Ignacio del Valle in 1828-9. Sergeant Anastasio
Carrillo served throughout the decade. Cota was replaced by Dámaso Rodriguez in 1821; Carlos Carrillo retired in 1824 or earlier, and his
place was filled in 1827 by Juan Salazar who in 1830 was sent to San Diego temporarily as habilitado. Maitorena was postmaster in the earlier
years, and Sergeant Carrillo in the later. In these republican times there was also a form of civil government, and an ayuntamiento elected
for the first time in December 1826 by order of Echeandia, though the list of officials as recorded is very imperfect.33