English Navigators Visit Peninsula

The next navigator to pass the shores of the future San Mateo County after Sebastian Viscaino and Gaspar de Portola was an English Captain, George Vancouver, in command of the sloops “Discovery,” and “Chatham.” He arrived in the bay of San Francisco toward the end of 1792, and anchored off the Presidio, where he was invited ashore by the genial Franciscan friars and entertained.

At their suggestion he made the trip down the peninsula on horseback to see the Santa Clara Mission.

The following passages are taken direct from his book, “A ‘Voyage of Discovery round the World,” in which he describes his trip from the Presidio to Santa Clara, through the future San Mateo County

“At about noon, having then advanced about twenty-three miles, we arrived at a very pleasant and enchanting lawn, situated midst a grove of trees at the foot of a small hill, (El Cerrito) by which flowed a very fine stream of excellent water. This delightful pasture was nearly enclosed on every side, and afforded sufficient space for resting ourselves and baiting our cavalry.

“We had not proceeded far from this delightful spot, when we entered a country I little expected to find in these regions. For about twenty miles it could only be compared to a park, which had originally been closely planted with the true old English oak ; the underwood, that had probably attended its early growth had the appearance of having been cleared away, and had left the stately lords of the forest in complete possession of the soil, which was diversified with pleasing knolls and valleys; which, with the range of lofty mountains that bounded the prospect, required only to be adorned with the neat habitations of an industrious people, to produce a scene not inferior to the most studied effect of taste in the disposal of grounds. Having passed through this imaginary park, we advanced a few miles in an open, clear meadow, and arrived in a low, swampy country, through which our progress was very slow, the horses being nearly kneedeep in mud and water for about six miles. About dark we reached better ground. Soon after the night closed in, we arrived at the mission of Santa Clara, which according to my estimation is about forty geographical miles from San Francisco.”

Captain Vancouver was followed on the western coast of America by another Englishman, Capt. F. W. Beechey, who in 1826 was sent by the English naval department with a detail of men from Yerba Buena to pay his respects to the Commandant at Monterey. They tell of a night passed at Rancho de las Pulgas, and of seeing great herds of cattle among which droves of wild deer were feeding. Farther down the valley they reported partridges, pigeons, and geese in great flocks.

1 thought on “English Navigators Visit Peninsula”

  1. Nice article but Beechey himself did not travel over land from San Francisco to Monterey, 3 of his crew did, along with an escort. Also, they did not pass a night at Pulgas, they stopped there before reaching Mission Santa Clara at night. All details in Beechey’s book.

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