Narration of the Distinguished California
Matron, Doña Teresa de La Guerra de Hartnell,
dictated March 12, 1875 in the Alizal Ranch
and checked March 21, of the same month in the same ranch

by Enrique Cerruti

The 26th of February, 1875, I visited the hacienda of the widow of William Hartnell and after giving her a letter of recommendation that General M.G. Vallejo gave me, I told her that the object of my visit was to ask her about the times when California was an integral part of the Mexican Republic. Señsora Hartnell with her famous courtesy told me she would be greatly pleased to help me.

She told me she was the daughter of Captain Don José de la Guerra y Noriega, that her father was born in Novales, Province of Santander, Old Spain; that at 12 years of age he had emigrated to Mexico, the capital of the country of the same name; that in his first years in America he dedicated himself to business in his maternal uncle's house, but at the end of 10 years of residing in America, he had entered as a cadet in the Royal Army, where at the end of 2 years service he was named ensign of the cavalry and invested with this commission came to the Royal Presidio of Monterey.

Señora Hartnell added that in 1804 her father married Maria de Carrillo, first born daughter of the Commandante of the Presidio at Santa Barbara, Don Raymundo Carrillo.

They had 7 sons and 4 daughters. The sons were called Jose Antonio, Juan, Francisco, Pablo, Joaquin, Miguel and Antonio Maria, and the girls were called Teresa, Augustias, Anita and Maria Antonia. Teresa, the oldest of the daughters, married Don William Hartnell, an English citizen, who as a young man, went to South American and lived along time in Valpairiso and Callao. In 1822 he left Callao on board the English ship John Begg. Captain John Lincoln carried cargo for the house of John Begg of Lima consigned to the young men, McCullock and Hartnell, who were passengers on the same boat and who came to California and established in the port of Monterey a big business house whose principal business was purchasing hides and tallow from the missionary priests of Alta California. In the first years, McCullock and Hartnell did very good business but later the American Captain, John M. Cooper, favored by Governor Arguello, was granted privileges and given advantages that were unfavorable to other businessmen. Also owing to the defection of David Spence, an old man from Aberdeen who had been contracted to help the business of McCullock and Co.; and who after residing in California a few years married Doña Aidais (sp.?) of this name, and left his benefactors and taking advantage of the mercantile knowledge he acquired in this country, opened his own store and little by little contributed to the loss of business for Hartnell & Co.

After two years of bad business McCullock & Hartnell liquidated their business and dedicated themselves to other tasks.

After closing the business, William Hartnell and the Reverend Father Short opened a college in Monterey, where many young Californians were educated, but the earnings were so small that they were not sufficient for the requirements of the two professors so at the end of a few years the college was closed.

Father Short went to Valparaiso, where he still lived in 1870, the last time we had news of him.

Mr. Hartnell accepted the position of General Inspector of the Missions, which brought him little remuneration. I think he accepted it to please Governor Alvarado, who trusted him, but not to any particular financial advantage for him and his family since he went from one place to another continually travelling in Alta California. Nobody living can imagine the suffering involved as General Inspector of Missions: There were in those times many people who had contributed in some way to over-throw Governors Chico and Gutierrez and considered they had a full right to dispose of the goods of the Indians.

Indian Conditions: The priests helped and taught the Indians. They aided them when ill. She mentions Father Narciso Durán and Father Sanchez especially.

Even in 1838, the Indians conspired against Californians. They burned the Sanchez family ranch, etc.

So we should thank these fine ministers of God and civilization is indebted to them. I remember my parents and others talking about the good they have done. I admired their virtues when I was young, and as a mother of 20 sons and 5 daughters, and now with one foot in the grave, I still remember them with satisfaction.

But now the Indians have disappeared and the forests, rivers, plains have been explored by the indomitable missionaries. (She repeats that her mother and father also admired the missionaries.)

The second daughter of Don José de la Guerra y Noriega married the distinguished Dr. Santiago Ord, citizen of the U.S.A. and born in Washington D.C. Dr. Ord came to California in January, 1847, as surgeon and doctor for Company F of the Flying Artillery. He stayed in the service of the Government until the conclusion of the war. Afterwards he stayed in Monterey and practiced medicine, which paid him well and permitted him to accumulate a more than normal fortune.

After becoming rich, Dr. Ord made several trips to Mexico. He was there when President Benito Juarez - the Indian whom luck crowned with laurels that rightly belonged to Rivas Palacios, Placido de la Vega, Jesus Gonzales Ortega, Diego Alvarez and Pirfirio Diaz - when Juarez died in the whole Mexican treasury there were only 48 pesos and they had trouble finding money to bury him. (At the time of the death of Benito Juarez, Dr. Ord was consul general of the U.S. in Mexico.)

The third sister, Anita, married Alfred Robinson, merchant of Boston, who arrived in Monterey in 1827 on board the North American frigate Brookline, owned by William A. Gale, alias 4 eyes. Señor Robinson came to California as super-cargo on the aforementioned boat, but liking our country remained among us carrying on business in the ports and most of the time travelling up and down the coast on board the ships of Mr. Gale, whose interest he managed as he pleased, since Mr. Gale, as well as the missionaries, had the highest opinion of Mr. Robinson, who although of Protestant religion, had been baptized and received the Holy Sacrament in California for the purpose of promoting himself into the good favor of the Catholics here.

Alfred Robinson in one of his trips to the United States published an anonymous book entitled Travels in California, which she couldn't evaluate as she understood little English. However, she remembers her brother, now dead, telling his friends that Mr. Robinson had shown much partiality in his story; that at best most of the events he described he had tergiversated in such a manner that the very same participants of the events described would not recognize the description given by Mr. Robinson. Various other friends of the family, including her husband and her uncle, General Vallejo, had told her that the book titled Travels in California appeared more of a work written to gain the good opinion of people of importance in the country that a history capable of transmitting to posterity a true account of the events he mentioned.

As for what kind of a person he was - he was immeasurable as a husband and father. He did everything to make his wife and family happy. That when Howland Aspinwall and Henry Chauncey, because of the Panama Railroad held a high post in the Pacific Mail Company, they named Mr. Robinson agent of said company in San Francisco. That also in discharging his duties in the work, he deserved praise from the company and the public. That actually Mr. Robinson lived in San Francisco and took care of the business of Ex-Governor Pico Pico and many other old Californians who trusted him.

The youngest daughter married a Spanish merchant La Fayado who died after a few years leaving her a widow with four children.

With reference to the gentleman and French writer, Don Duflot de Mofras, the following is said. That Señor de Mofras came to the Alizal while the owner was in San Diego in 1841 on his business as Inspector General of the Missions. That Sr. Mofras entered the house without asking permission which was customary in private homes - although it was always the custom of California ranchers to offer hospitality gratuitously, notwithstanding it was polite to ask permission. It seems Sr. de Mofras knew our proverbial hospitality but he didn't know that although not as civilized as the people in his country, we had established among ourselves certain customs that nobody had to envy the exalted French civilization. After tying his horse, he opened the living room door and immediately went to the library, where with an impudence, amazing to remember, he began to look over books and papers he could find. She also remembers when it was time to eat she sent a servant to ask what he would like. Answering with much loftiness and impudence, Sr. Mofras said: "Mr. Hartnell, your husband, has given me permission to come to his house and I hope you will have ready what I need. I will stay here some days and I wish a room to sleep." Believing him, she fixed him a room. At mealtime, he seated himself at the head of the table and took the best portions of food and complained of certain dishes that they did not please him. Finally, she said to him. "Señor, what is on my table to eat is what the family ranch supplies; if it doesn't please you, do as you please.'' This insinuation of indicating the door would have been enough for most men. Not for Sr. Mofras; notwithstanding his absence was preferable to his presence, he stayed.

After the meal, Sra. Hartnell took him to his bedroom, and she did not see him again during the evening. Next morning she sent the servants to call him for breakfast, but he didn't answer the repeated knocks on his door so she told them to force the door and when they entered they saw the guest stretched out on the floor completely nude and drunk, that the bed was in a state that gave off odors very distinct from the perfume of roses and jasmine. I asked Sra. Hartnell to what reason she attributed such an eloquent state of affairs and she told me that in the room arranged for Sr. Mofras there was a barrel of 20 gallons of wine for mass that Father Jose de la Guerra y Noriega had sent them as a gift from Santa Barbara; and since the wine was old and of superior quality they had stored it in the room set aside for strangers since if they stored it in the regular storeroom the servants would have drunk it and she was saving it for the use of the priest who said mass daily in the private chapel on the ranch. She believed that Sr. Mofras as a good Frenchman smelled the wine and decided to sample it, found it good and drank so much that he lost his senses. Also she told me that the big drunk brought on a serious illness to the young diplomat and he had to stay in bed several days. She was sorry for him, far from his native land, his mother, brothers and sisters (Note - I don't remember it being said that Mofras had brother and sisters in France), that she took loving care of him and carried him chicken broth, as if he were her own son.

After many days, when he was in a convalescent stage, he was accustomed to order his horse saddled and he rode about the Alizal and vicinity. One day he rode off without saying good-bye and she never had news of him again until accidentally Mr. David Spence came to the Alizal. He told her that he had seen the French diplomat, Mr. Mofras in Monterey dancing with Doña Augustias. One month after de Mofras had left her house, her husband William Hartnell returned home and that she complained about his having sent as a guest such a "drunk Frenchman" (the name the servants called de Mofras). Her husband assured her that he had not authorized such a thing and that undoubtedly she had been surprised by an audacious adventurer that didn't have any scruples about lying in order to attain his objective. A few days after his return, Mr. Hartnell went to the bedroom used by de Mofras in order to take out of a trunk a black suit to wear at the baptism of one of his daughters. He found the lock forced and the black suit missing. On his trip to Monterey her husband found out that de Mofras was the person who had robbed him.

I asked Señora Hartnell if she knew de Mofras later had been imprisoned in San Antonio. She told me that she had heard the Capt. Jesus Pico had ordered him jailed but she didn't know the details. I asked her if she thought de Mofras lacked education and understanding and she told me in her opinion he had studied much more than young Californians. When he wasn't drunk and when he was dealing with European people he showed that he understood completely all the rules of good education. However, even when sober and talking with the native people, he assumed an arrogant tone, which in her opinion as well as various other Californians and various other strangers, showed he considered the Californians inferior to the Europeans. She firmly believed that this idea was rooted in the head of the agent of the King of France and that it would have been impossible to dissipate this unjust opinion of Californians.

I asked her if she minded having made public any of the things she told me and she said there was no reason to make secret conversations that could not harm the innocent, that she gave me full right to publish all the historic information she gave me at the request of H.H. Bancroft, to pastorate a story that reflects the times past.

On March 21, I returned to visit the Alizal ranch and read to Sra. Hartnell in the presence of her estimable daughter Doña Amelia and General M. G. Vallejo the 20 pages that she gave in my first interview on 12th, and having found it a true account, she signed it below.

MCHS Home Page

History Home Page

Main Index

Name Index