The Early Settlement of Los Angeles

Los Angeles is located in the state of California and was founded in September of 1781 by Spanish governor Felipe de Neve. Following the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, Los Angeles became part of Mexico, and it wasn’t until the end of the Mexican American War, that Los Angeles became part of the United States. This was by way of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. On April 4, 1850, Los Angeles was incorporated as a municipality, five months prior to California achieving statehood. The City of Angels, as its sometimes known, has a rich and diverse history.

Felipe de Neve saw the need for a pueblo to be established along the Los Angeles River and this occurred in the late 18th century. The main purpose of the pueblo was to reaffirm claim over the territory by Spain in the face of Russian and British encroachments. The pueblo was also meant to help keep Spain’s military garrisons fed and supplied so that they did not need to be supplied irregularly by ship. Governor de Neve had a site for the pueblo in mind that had previously been recommended to him by a man named Father Juan Crespi. Crespi was a Franciscan priest who had taken part in an earlier expedition through California. Once de Neve received authority from the King of Spain, he issued an order for the pueblo to be established, and the recruitment of colonists and soldiers began.

Governor de Neve immediately went to work creating detailed plans for his vision of the new pueblo. Meanwhile, the efforts being made to recruit settlers were not very successful despite incentives including livestock, money, and land. At the time, the area was considered desolate and remote and there were rumors circulating that kept people from agreeing to settle. Eventually, after months of searching, twelve families were recruited to settle in the area. While one family never made it to the new pueblo, the eleven other families as well as mission priests, and soldiers made it to Los Angeles on September 4, 1781. The city was initially named El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, or The Town of the Queen of the Angels. Governor de Neve’s statue still stands today in downtown Los Angeles, in the Plaza of Olvera Street.

Founding and Settlement of Los Angeles Timeline

December 1779 – Governor Felipe de Neve’s proposal for the Los Angeles pueblo as well as the settlement of Santa Barbara were approved. On December 27th, Don Fernando Rivera Y Moncada was appointed by General de la Croix to oversee the recruitment of colonists for the newly approved settlements.

August, 1780 – Rivera Y Moncada is able to recruit seven settlers in addition to 45 soldiers who agreed to settle in Los Angeles.

November, 1780 – After continuing to work on recruiting, Rivera Y Moncada finally reaches his goal for soldiers however he has only found fourteen settlers, two of which change their minds and completely disappear. It is decided that recruitment will stop and plans will proceed with the remaining settlers and their families that had already agreed to the plan.

February 1781 – The first round of settlers and their families, along with 17 soldiers acting as escorts, set out from Alamos, Sinaloa, to their destination of Loreto, Baja, California.

March 1781 – There is a smallpox outbreak among the settlers and some of the party must remain in Loreto to recuperate while healthy settlers continued traveling up the Baja coastline.

June, 1781 – The first settlers arrive at the the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, and a month later the second half of the group arrives.

August 1781 – The final settlers arrive at the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel.

September 1781 – On September 4, 1781, Los Angeles is officially established by governor Felipe de Neve.

California, and Los Angeles in particular, continues to thrive as a diverse city. It is actually the most populated city in the state of California and the second most populated city in the country. Continue reading about the settlement of Los Angeles by consulting the resources listed below.

Diana Weiss Aizman