General Mariano Vallejo

Long before the United States acquired California from Mexico, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo was already an important man. Born in Monterey to an aristocratic Spanish family 15 years before Mexico achieved its independence from Spain and assumed control of California, he was educated by tutors and maintained a love of books and learning throughout his life. His family remained prominent in the new regime, and in 1836 his nephew Juan Alvarado, then governor of California, appointed Vallejo military commander of northern California. A year earlier he had founded Sonoma near his Rancho Petaluma, an estate so large Vallejo claimed he had never personally ridden out to its boundaries. Vallejo married Francisca Benecia Carrillo—daughter of another influential family—a gracious and beautiful woman for whom the city of Benecia is named. Although he wasn’t unfriendly to the notion of a U.S. takeover, Vallejo was arrested at his home by Bear Flaggers in 1846, three weeks before the Stars and Stripes was unfurled over Monterey Bay. After his release he became one of the leading proponents of cooperation with the new authority. He was a delegate at California’s first Constitutional Convention in 1849, and served in the state senate the following year. General Vallejo lived in Sonoma until his death in 1890.