Maria Ygnacia Lopez de Carrillo, 1793-1849

Maria's land grant, Cabeza de Santa Rosa, covered over 8,800 acres of what is now the City of Santa Rosa, California. She owned and managed the rancho herself, which was unusual for that era. Benicia, the former State Capitol of California, was named for Maria's daughter. Grandson Romualdo Pacheco became the first and only Hispanic Governor of the State of California.

Capsule Biograph

  • January 31, 1793. Maria Ygnacia de la Candalaria Lopez was born, probably, at the San Diego Presidio. Her mother, Maria Feliciana Arballo, came to California as part of the Anza Expedition. Her mother left the expedition at San Gabriel and married a soldier, Juan Francisco Lopez, who became Maria’s father.
  • September 3, 1809. At age sixteen, Maria married Joaquin Victor Carrillo, also sixteen. Joaquin, born in Baja California, came North to serve as a soldier under his cousin Francisco Maria Ruiz, the San Diego Presidio Commander. Thirteen children were born to Maria and Joaquin, twelve living to adulthood.
  • 1818. Maria and the children moved inland when the pirate, Hippolito Bouchard, raided the California coastline.
  • Circa 1824. The Carrillo family returned to San Diego and took up residence in the Ruiz adobe on the flats below the Presidio. A portion of this adobe still stands and bears a plaque, "La Casa de Carrillo."
  • 1829. Maria's oldest daughter, Josefa, eloped with New England sea captain, Henry Delano Fitch. The couple returned to San Diego over a year later with their newborn son. Joaquin was so angry with them, Josefa and Henry Fitch were arrested, kept separated, and forced to undergo an ecclesiastical trial at San Gabriel to determine the validity of their marriage.
  • 1834. Hijar-Padres colonist, Agustin Janssens, passed through San Diego on the way North in 1834. He stayed with the Carrillo family and later wrote that Maria cared for the colonists "in such a kind manner that we could almost look on her as a mother. Mother and daughter did everything possible for our comfort, giving us milk, green vegetables, fruit, and whatever else we wished, or which they saw we needed, without accepting a single cent. They continued to do for others what they did for us during the whole time we were in San Diego."
  • Circa 1836. Maria's husband died at age 43. Maria was left with no source of support beyond her garden and orchard of about 35 trees.
  • Circa 1837. Maria packed up her nine unmarried children and moved North. For a while, they lived at Sonoma with her daughter and son-in-law, Francisca and Mariano G. Vallejo.
  • 1838. Maria was granted permission to occupy the land grant, Cabeza de Santa Rosa. She designed and built a large adobe home along Santa Rosa Creek. The final grant, one of very few grants to a single woman, was made in 1841.
  • By 1842, Maria owned about 3,000 head of cattle, 1500 horses, and some sheep. She cultivated large fields of wheat, barley, oats, corn, beans, peas, lantejas, and vegetables of every variety, as well as watermelons and muskmelons. Her son, Ramon, handled the livestock while Maria supervised the farming.
  • Several hundred unchristianized Native Americans lived and worked on the rancho. Maria learned their dialect and her treatment of them was firm but fair.
  • June 14,1846 - Bear Flag Revolt at Sonoma. Maria's sons-in-law, Mariano and Salvador Vallejo, were both jailed at Sutter's Fort in the Sacramento Valley. Her son Julio was also imprisoned at the fort when he tried to deliver a message.
  • Two Americans, Cowie and Fowler, were caught trespassing on Maria's rancho and murdered. Kit Carson, at Captain John Fremont's command, shot and killed two innocent boys and their elderly uncle at San Rafael in retaliation for the murders of Cowie and Fowler.
  • Fremont's men appropriated Carrillo and Vallejo family livestock, horses, provisions, and weapons for themselves.
  • Maria's sons, Joaquin and Ramon, both fought at the Battle of Olompali. Ramon continued South to fight at Chino, Los Angeles, and at the Battle of San Pascual.
  • January 13,1847. Maria's nephew, Andres Pico, negotiated the Treaty of Cahuenga with Fremont, surrendering his Californio forces to the United States.
  • February 1847. In a gesture of peace and goodwill, all the officers of the war, both American and Californio, were invited to attend the San Gabriel wedding festivities of Maria's son, Ramon, to Vicenta Sepulveda de Yorba.
  • January 24,1848. Gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill. Twelve days later, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, whereby Mexico officially ceded California to the United States.
  • February 28,1849. Maria Carrillo died and was buried beneath the holy water font in the Chapel at Mission St. Francis de Solano in Sonoma, California.
  • Fall 1997, Maria Carrillo High School opens in Santa Rosa, California.


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  • Janssens, Agustin. Life and Adventures in California. San Marino, 1953.
  • Lorda, Linda. Photograph of Maria Carrillo High School. 1999.
  • Pourade, Richard F. Anza Conquers the Desert, The Anza Expeditions from Mexico to California and the Founding of San Francisco, 1774-1776 . Commissioned by James S. Copley. San Diego: Union Tribune Publishing Co., 1971 [Call number at SSU: Oversize Stacks F864 .A587 (q)]
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