Excerpted from MHS Newsletter 2022 Q1

Early Moraga family history in Alta California (Susan Sperry)

Joaquin Moraga’s grandfather, Lieutenant Don Jose (Joseph) Joaquin Moraga, only 5 feet 2 inches tall, was courageous and brave in battle, in charting unexplored lands and defending new colonies against Indian attacks. In fear of the encroachment of the English and Russians in Alta California in 1775, Juan Bautista Anza, commandante of the presidio in Sonora, Mexico chose Jose Joaquin Moraga to join him on the trek north to meet this threat. Once in Monterey, Anza returns to Mexico City and leaves Moraga in charge. On June 17, 1776 Moraga and a party of colonists and soldiers sail from Monterey to the future site of San Francisco with supplies for a new community. As “Commandante” Moraga supervised the selection of a location for the presidio, supervised its construction and provided leadership. He also built a ramada (a roof supported by poles) which would become Mission Dolores. Many consider Moraga the “Founder of San Francisco”. In 1777, Moraga founded a second mission, Santa Clara Mission, and in 1778 founded the pueblo of San Jose. In 1781, his family joined him in Los Angeles and by 1785 Jose Joaquin Moraga had died at the age of 44. He is buried at Mission Dolores.

Joaquin’s father, Lieutenant Gabriel Antonia Moraga, was born at the Sonora presidio in 1765 but missed the trek to San Francisco because his mother was ill. Little is known of his childhood, but we know he could read and write because of the journals he kept. He enlisted in the Spanish army on December 1,1783 and was married at Mission Dolores on August 2, 1784. He served from presidio to mission to pueblo. His fifth child was born on May 28, 1793 at the mission in Soledad and was Jose Joaquin Moraga de la Santisima Trinidad Moraga (Joaquin Moraga). In 1793 Gabriel was appointed Mayor of San Jose. Because of his success here, he was given orders to establish San Cruz and serve as the pueblo’s first mayor. From 1800 to 1819 he was sent to many missions to quell Indian attacks. During this time of exploration Gabriel can be credited with exploring and naming the Kings, San Joaquin, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Cosumnes, American, Sacramento, Calaveras and Feather Rivers. After the death of his first wife, Gabriel remarried and in total fathered 14 children. He retired in 1823 but died on June 14, 1823 and is buried at Mission Santa Barbara. He had served in the military for 40 years and reached the level of lieutenant.

Jose Joaquin Moraga de la Santisima Trinidad Moraga (Joaquin Moraga) was never involved in any activity important enough to be recorded in any diaries or narratives. He only served minor positions with routine duties at the Presidio in San Francisco, Mission Santa Cruz and Monterey Presidio. He resigned from the Royal Spanish Army in 1819. For the next seven years Joaquin and his wife had six children and lived in the San Jose valley where Joaquin remained a superintendent of fields in charge of the herds and flocks for Mission San Jose.

In 1835 Joaquin Moraga and his cousin Juan Bernal formally requested a land grand from Governor Alvarado in return for “long, unpaid military service”. A common practice sine Mexico passed a law in 1828 authorizing such grants, Moraga and Bernal were granted Rancho Laguna do los Palos Colorados in 1841.