1830s California’s Mission Dolores remembered

Enjoying sailing the ocean that is the Internet Archive and Google Books today and came across this 1889 memoir of 1830s California memories – with a delightful shout out to “fine red California wine” made at Mission Dolores from Santa Clara/San Jose “Mission” grapes – by William Heath Davis: “Sixty Years in California.” You can read the whole book for free on @google.book or the @internetarchive

So much is painfully problematic to read now, but truly evocative of the era.

“…drank as fine red California wine as I ever have since, manufactured at the Mission from grapes brought from the Missions of Santa Clara and San Jose.”

William Heath Davis in his 1889 memoir “Sixty Years in California”
Title page of Davis' 1869 memoir "Sixty Years in California"
Title page of Davis’ 1869 memoir “Sixty Years in California”

Handwritten note on author: “KNOWN AS ‘KANAKA DAVIS’ (A HALF BREED)” … and later marginalia in the intro notes, “And he was a consummate liar.” Oh my. Guess there were library trolls before internet trolls!

NAPA VALLEY CONNECTION: This was about the same time Napa Valley’s George Yount first came to California and began working as a carpenter for General Mariano Valllejo in Sonoma. (Yount’s Rancho Caymus land grant —roughly Yountville to Rutherford—came in 1836 and his Rancho La Jota on Howell Mountain in 1843.)

Davis was born in Hawaii (his grandmother was Hawaiian) and he married into the Rancho San Leandro Californio family of José Joachin Estudillo, and later founded what is now Downtown San Diego! More on Davis here.

Imagining Portsmouth Square, soon after to become the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown, as a big Irish potato field. And the Mission work being accomplished by 2,000 Indians, skilled at blacksmithing, ship-building carpentry, shoe-making, masonry, and tailoring.