Governor Juan Alvarado

California’s longest-tenured governor under Mexican rule was Juan Bautista Alvarado, who held office for six years from 1836 to 1842. The son and grandson of respected Spanish military sergeants on both sides of his family, he was born in Monterey, California, in 1809. Only 11 years old when Mexico won its independence from Spain and became ruler of his homeland, Juan was raised for part of his formative years by his maternal relatives the Vallejo family, who provided him with tutors in a chaotic and unstable province that had no public schools. His first public service and regular employment began when, at age 18, he was chosen as secretary for the Diputacion, a group of elected men who acted as legislature and advisor to each new territorial governor dispatched north from Mexico City. By the time Juan reached full adulthood, his generation of native-born Californians were calling themselves Californios, and favored home rule over obedience to the unfair laws of far-off Mexico City. By then an elected, respected member of the Diputacion, Alvarado assumed the governorship in December 1836, following a bloodless revolt. Among other things, Alvarado’s regime is remembered for his administrative work in finalizing the secularization of the missions, and an international scandal known as the Graham Affair, caused by the deportation of some unruly foreigners led by Tennessee backwoodsman Isaac Graham. Favorable comments by historians report that Alvarado was conspicuous for his industry, his sincerity of purpose and high sense of justice, and his interest in education. Juan Alvarado died in 1882, on his ranch in San Pablo.


14 thoughts on “Governor Juan Alvarado”

  1. I love California history and found it interesting that Alvarado’s mother’s side was the Vallejo family.

    1. In fact, Juan Alvarado’s uncle was General Mariano Vallejo. Vallejo was just two years older than his nephew, and they grew up in the same household as boys. I’ll be posting more about Mariano Vallejo later.

    2. I come from my Mothers side and as a lil girl I remember stories of my Great Grandmother His Mistress and I have a picture of 2 of the 5 daughters they had together… My Grandmothers name was Juanita and my Mothers name was Eva Valencia

  2. Love reading the history of San Pablo where I have resided since 1946.
    I grew up in the shadows of the old and original home of the Alvarado family on the corners of Church Lane and San Pablo Ave.
    My Brother Bob along with friends Richard and Jack Texeria use to play inside of the original Adobe as kids and were often run off.

    Please keep these stories coming, makes for great reading as well as a source for some local and informative history about this area.

    1. Jim, you are so lucky to grow up learning and appreciating early California people and events. Have you read “Juan Alvarado: Giovernor of California 1836-1842” (a biography) by Robert Ryal Miller?

      1. I have always been fascinated by the early California history of California especially here in my home town of San Pablo
        Often I would imagine of what it would have been like during the days of Juan Alvarado and the Mexicans who lived here prior to statehood in 1848.
        I just wish that I could find time and get myself involved with the San Pablo Historical Society, there is still so much to learn even at the tender age of 79.
        Thanks for your reply, I never seem to get enough of the early days of San Pablo.
        Just wish that when I was much younger, I would have been more inquisitive of the much older generations that lived here and this includes some who lived here in the late 1800’s.
        So many regrets in life and this is one of them….

        1. But it’s not too late to learn! Think of it as a hobby, and delve in. Even if you don’t have time to volunteer, the San Pablo Historical Society probably has a monthly newsletter, or a website. My father tried to tell me about the early days of Sacramento (he was a transplant here, but still interested), especially the devastating floods. Do 13 year olds ever listen? Recently I saw a sketch of Governor Juan Alvarado’s “carriage”–really just an open-air, fancier Mexican oxcart drawn (in his case) by mounted horsemen. I’ll try to find more about San Pablo, and post it here.

        2. I am the grand daughter of Archibald Alvarado. His Family were related to Juan Alvarado, he was my great, great….(I am not sure how many)grandfather. I was always told the stories of my great, great grandmother and how she would put her long Spanish hair up in beautiful combs and each evening pull the single comb out and her black hair would fall to her waist where she would brush it out by lamp light.

          1. Hi Sharon, thanks for writing. How exciting to be descended from a former California governor! Have you read his biography by Robert Ryal Miller? Title is: “Juan Alvarado Governor of California 1836 – 1842.” Published by University of Oklahoma Press–very interesting.

  3. My grandmothers grandmother was Delores Alverado. She was Juan Alversdo’s daughter.
    Wish I know more. I just remember playing as a child out on the old Yorba Slaughter adobe as a child. Grandma Alice was curator.

  4. I am one of Juan Bautista Alvarado’s 5x’s great grandaughters, and I’m facinated with juan’s life. I do wish
    he could have escaped the presence of alcohol, seeing how he missed out on so much of what should have been highlights of his life. Thanks for writing about him, he had so many good qualities.

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