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Verger’s Report to the Viceroy Incorporating Crespí’s Diary of Exploration of San Francisco Bay March 20 to April 5, 1772

122. VERGER, Fr. Rafael José (1722-1790). Manuscript report in ink, signed at end, written to Mexican Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa, dated at Colegio de San Fernando de Mexico, December 25, 1772. 16 pp. on laid paper with watermark of horse, folio (30.5 x 21.5 cm), loosely stitched. Two tiny wormholes running through entire manuscript, only occasionally touching a letter, otherwise very fine. This document appears to be a file copy kept by Verger in that it does not contain an address cover (carátula) or internal address, nor does it contain any annotations or marginal notes by Bucareli. The signature, nevertheless, appears to be that of Verger. The text is in a very clear and legible hand, possibly that of Verger himself, typical of religious script of the period.

     On July 15, 1772, Mexican Viceroy Antonio María Bucareli y Ursúa wrote Father Rafael Verger requesting that the latter provide him with an account of the California missions. This document is Verger’s response. The first part of the document is Verger’s unpublished report; the second part of the document incorporates Father Juan Crespí’s diary detailing his second exploration of the San Francisco Bay area.

     The two documents are crucial, important descriptions of the San Francisco Bay area at the time of Spanish settlement. San Diego had been founded in 1769, only a few years earlier; Monterey, founded in 1770, was just a small presidio and Mission Carmel. As is obvious from Verger’s report, the Spanish settlers were still attempting to understand the landscape and to arrive at the best means to convert and Christianize the Indian populations. Because it is so early, this is probably the first dissemination of this Crespí diary. Precisely how the reports and the diary came to Verger, who was in Mexico City, is unknown, but they may have been delivered by Father Junípero Serra on his way to Mexico. In the end, Verger’s recommendations were acted upon. In 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza led about 240 people consisting of soldiers, settlers, women, and children to found the present-day city of San Francisco, over 170 years after explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno had urged that Alta California be populated.

      The first part of Verger’s report details the miseries and problems being caused by faltering efforts to found the missions and the problems being caused by wayward soldiers. Despite the problems, he reports that he has received word of the founding of Mission San Antonio de Padua on 21 July by friars Buenaventura Sitjar and Miguel Pieras in Cañada de los Robles. The report states that there were 132 baptisms of children but no adults, because the latter were hunting and gathering since there was no food at the mission. The report continues with information regarding the planting of wheat, beans, barley, fava beans, lentils, and a garden with cabbage, lettuce, onions, and other crops. The land and water are good. He immediately, however, launches into his litany of complaints about the troops, about which he has received many reports. There is a lack of workers for planting and building because the soldiers will not work, and they scandalize the natives. Fray Ángel Fernández reports from Mission San Gabriel de los Temblores about disturbances among the neophytes because the soldiers have abused their women; Fray Luís Jayme of San Diego has written to Fray Francisco Palóu in Loreto that he has a similar problem. Fray Antón Paterna and Father President Fray Junípero Serra have recently reported the same excesses at their missions.

     Verger concludes that because such conduct retards conversions, it would be desirable, in light of the royal decree of April 8, 1770, ordering the acceleration of the conversion of California, to issue orders to halt this problem in the interest of the defense of the territory against enemy powers. He doubts that reducing the soldier’s pay to trim royal expenses would result in savings, since six well-paid soldiers of good character would be better than twenty of these others who cause problems with the natives. Soldiers of excellent character set a good example and contribute to conversion. Father Jayme reports that the Indians are not idolaters, drunks, incestuous, polygamous, fornicators, or adulterers.     Verger then proceeds to describe San Francisco Bay and its chief physical features. Verger is very clear about the importance of San Francisco Bay, which he considers the key to the whole area (that conviction is probably the reason he abstracts Crespí’s diary). After giving geographical details concerning the Bay, including the fact that it is protected from all winds, he states that most of the Indians around the bay are blond and bearded and very docile. Those along the river are white, blond, bearded like Spaniards, docile, and competent, not talkers like those of the Santa Barbara Channel. There are many forests of oaks. He doubts that a better port could be found, especially if ocean-going vessels can be admitted. Even if not, he reports, larger craft could anchor outside the bay, and supplies ferried to the port itself by lighters, which could easily be built with the abundant wood in the area. The river that enters the bay is so large that it extends a great distance to the interior, coming close to New Mexico. Because the land is so vast and fertile, it should be made subject to the crown.

     To both secure the establishment of the missions and to seize the Bay area, Verger concludes that Carlos III should consider augmenting the pay of the soldiers and covering other necessary costs, since the matter is of such importance to the crown and Christianity. He urges again that the soldiers involved in the crimes be recalled and replaced with a corresponding number of married, leather-jacket volunteers, who, with their wives, would be stationed at the Presidio of Monterey. Any further infractions by the Spanish should be punished in such a way that the Indians do not seek revenge. He concludes by asserting that adequate supplies should be sent to the area and that the military should not impede the friars in their searches for farm workers, as done by captain Pedro Fagés at missions San Diego, San Gabriel, San Antonio, and San Carlos.

     In a dramatic conclusion, Verger opines that his proposed reforms are such that if they are not implemented, the missionaries and soldiers should be retired and no further expenditure made for the settlement projects. Unfortunately, doing so would cause the loss of what has actually been accomplished and quadruple the cost to reestablish it. He reports that the neophytes have learned much about how to combat Spanish arms, and if the Spanish leave, they would return to the wild without being converted and might fight the Spanish soldiers and prevail.

     To support his petition and demonstrate the importance of this mission, Verger concludes with Crespí’s detailed, descriptive diary with daily entries beginning with his departure on March 20, 1772, traveling from Monterey with captain Pedro Fagés and six Catalán volunteers, six regular soldiers, a mule driver, and a neophyte interpreter-guide. Traveling northward via San Benito, the party reached the southern end of San Francisco Bay on the 24th; exploration continued up the San Francisco peninsula, where the Farallones were sighted and the Golden Gate was reached on the 28th. Crespí estimated that the opening to the bay was adequate for heavy draught vessels because whales were spotted inside the bay. Returning southward, they reached the eastern shore of the bay, and exploration to the north continued to a slough that had two branches forming an island (Alameda), and then a third (Carquinez Strait); the Sierra Nevada was sighted from the Oakland hills. The return to Monterey was begun on the 3rd, and two days later they reached the presidio. Crespí’s report mentions a map, not included in the present report, although there is one with the original.

     The report reflects several aspects of the newly established Alta California missions—the founding of San Antonio de Padua, the conflict between missionaries and soldiers regarding provisioning and treatment of Indians, and the exploration of San Francisco Bay with the first expedition to the eastern shore up to the Carquinez Strait. This version of the diary is possibly the first abridgement of it. The discovery of the Carquinez and the Sacramento-San Joaquín river system led to the belief that a great river ran from the interior of the continent (Great Salt Lake) to the Pacific. Bucareli was vitally interested in Spanish expansion into Alta California and the Pacific Northwest, and this report certainly promoted that interest.


The regulations presented on 15 November 1772 are found in Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico, Provincias Internas 152. The complete Crespí diary is found in Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Guadalajara 515; the map is in Guadalajara 512. A copy of the diary is in Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico, Historia 3. The diary has been published in a number of variations:

BOLTON, Herbert Eugene. Fray Juan Crespí, Missionary Explorer on the Pacific Coast, 1769-1774. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1927; New York: AMS Press, 1971.

PALÓU, Francisco. Recopilación de Noticias de la Antigua y de la Nueva California. José Luis Soto Pérez; Lino Gómez Canedo, eds. México: Editorial Porrúa, 1998. 2 vols.

____. Noticias de la Nueva California. Petra (Mallorca): Vicedo, 1989.

____. Noticias de la Nueva California. San Francisco: E. Bosqui, 1774. 4 vols.

____. Documentos para la Historia de México. Cuarta Serie. VI, VII. México: 1857.

____. Historical Memoirs of New California. Herbert E. Bolton, ed. Berkeley: University of California, 1926; New York: Russell and Russell, 1966.

Noticias del Puerto de San Francisco. San Francisco: Windsor Press, 1940.

STANGER, Frank M. and Alan K. Brown, Who Discovered the Golden Gate? San Mateo: San Mateo County Historical Society, 1969.

The map to which Verger refers (“Mapa de lo substancial del famoso Puerto y Rio de San Francisco”) is reproduced in:

HARLOW, Neal. The Maps of San Francisco Bay. San Francisco: Book Club of California, 1950.

SANTA MARÍA, Vicente., The First Spanish Entry into San Francisco Bay, 1775. John Galvin, ed. San Francisco: John Howell, 1971.

Online at Archive of California

See also:

BROWN, Alan K. “The Various Journals of Juan Crespí,” The Americas 21 (1965), 375-398.

Verger, b. Mallorca in 1722, came to New Spain with Junípero Serra and Francisco Palóu, Juan Ramos de Lora, Juan Crespí, and Fermín de Lasuén to the College of San Fernando in 1749, missionary in the Sierra Gorda from 1750 to 1758, elected guardian 1770-1774 and 1777-1780; bishop of Linares (Nuevo León) 1783-1790, established Monterrey as seat of diocese, d. Monterrey in 1790.

Crespí, b. Mallorca in 1721, student of Fray Junípero Serra from 1740-1745, joined Serra and others bound for New Spain in 1749, missionary in the Sierra Gorda from 1752 to 1767, missionary to La Purísima Concepción de Cadegomó in Baja California in 1768, to San Diego with Fernando de Rivera y Moncada in 1769, to Monterey with Gaspar de Portolá in 1769-1770, returned to Monterey with Portolá in 1770 in founding of Mission San Carlos Borromeo, (knowledgeable in the use of an astrolabe, he produced precise, detailed diaries of these expeditions), missionary with Serra at San Carlos Borromeo, lead expedition to San Francisco Bay in 1772, continued as missionary at San Carlos, to Nootka with Fray Tomás de la Peña in 1774, died and was buried at his mission of San Carlos in 1782. ($6,000-12,000)

Sold. Hammer: $30,000.00; Price Realized: $35,250.00

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