Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sonoma: Barracks, Mission, Bear Flag

For those living in the Northern California area, I would recommend a visit to Sonoma to view the historical sites.

The Sonoma Mission was founded on July 4, 1823.  It was the farthest North of the California missions.  It was also the last mission founded.    It was secularized in the 1830s, and was eventually sold for private use.

The Sonoma Barracks are next to the Mission. The Barracks were made under the direction of General Mariano Vallejo.  They were built as a response to the Russian presence at Fort Ross on the coast.  It was built in stages between 1834 and 1841.  In there busiest time there were 40 soldiers stationed there.  However the Russians left Fort Ross and the Fort Ross was sold to John Sutter.  As a result the presence at the Barracks was reduced and in 1846 there were no troops.

 Across the street from the Barracks is the monument commemorating the Bear Flag Revolt.  Conditions between the newly arrived American immigrants to California, and the Mexican Government was not good.  This was exacerbated by the U.S. agreeing to the admittance of Texas as a state.  Mexico still claimed Texas.  The rumor among the new immigrants is that they were being told they had to leave California, leaving all their possessions behind.  This did not set well with them, and encouraged by Captain John Fremont of the U.S. military who was in the area on a surveying mission, they decided to strike against General Vallejo in Sonoma.  He represented the Mexican government in the area.  He was sympathetic, but still the same, it was decided to take him prisoner.  Thirty-three armed men, mountain men and new immigrants, poorly dressed but heavily armed pounded on the General's door early in the morning of June 14 and demanded his surrender and the surrender of the fort.  He donned his best uniform.  The "Bear flaggers" had constructed a flag of a grizzly bear, with a lone star (in sympathy of Texas) and a red bar at the bottom with the words California Republic.  (General Sonoma thought the bear looked more like a pig.)
After taking him prisoner, the question of authority came up.  Some questioned what right they had to act this way.  William Ide thought they should be doing more.  He admonished the men that they should be more than "thieves in the night" but should be a revolution.  "Choose ye this day what you will be! We are robbers, or we must be conquerors!" Most of the men followed him, but a few took General Vallejo back to Fort Sutter where Captain Fremont was situated.  The flag was raised on the plaza June 14, 1846.  William Ide spent much of the night writing a proclamation to the local residents, inviting them to join the revolt.  He had experience having helped write the presidential platform for Joseph Smith, the martyred Mormon prophet. 
The California Republic effective existed for about a month, until the U.S. troops, under the direction of  Commodore Sloat. took over the Barracks.  William Ide had been the president of the Republic for about a month.


  1. Sandra Olsen Johnson Sonoma is a great place-- I spent 2 different times there on my mission back in 1992-93

  2. I would be fascinated to know your source for stating that Ide helped write the presidential platform for Joseph Smith.