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Pedro Fages

Pedro Fages
Lieut. Governor of Las Californias
In office
July 9, 1770 – 1774
Preceded by Gaspar de Portolá
Succeeded by Fernando Rivera y Moncada
2nd Governor of Las Californias
In office
July 12, 1782 – April 16, 1791
Preceded by Felipe de Neve
Succeeded by José Antonio Roméu
Personal details
Born 1734
Guissona, Lérida/Lleida province, Catalonia, Spain
Died 1794
Mexico City
Nationality Spanish
Spouse(s) Eulalia Callis
Profession soldier, explorer, and military Governor of Las Californias

Pedro Fages (1734–1794), nicknamed L'Ós ("The Bear", in catalonian) was a Spanish soldier, explorer, second Lieutenant Governor of Las Californias province of New Spain from 1770 to 1774, and second Governor of Las Californias province from 1782 to 1791.


  • Career 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Fictional portrayals 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5


Fages was born in Guissona, Lérida/Lleida province, Catalonia, Spain. In 1767, Lieutenant Fages left Spain with the Free Company of Volunteers of Catalonia for New Spain, to serve under Domingo Elizondo in Sonora. In 1769, he was selected by Visitador (Inspector general) José de Gálvez to lead the ship-borne portion of the Gaspar de Portolá led expedition to found San Diego, California. Fages sailed from the Baja California Peninsula town of La Paz on January 10, 1769, aboard the San Carlos, and arrived at San Diego Bay on April 29 with scurvy-ridden troops, after sailing over 200 mi (320 km) off course because of cartography errors. From San Diego Fages and 25 of his Catalonian soldiers accompanied Portola on the 1769-70 land expedition to locate Monterey Bay. During this time he was promoted to captain.

After Portolá left California in 1770, Captain Pedro Fages was left in charge of the Presidio of Monterey, as the somewhat independent lieutenant-governor of California Nueva (New California), which in 1770 became part of Las Californias, and was later split from Baja California to become Alta California. In March of 1770 Felipe de Barri, in Baja California, was the made governor of both Baja and Alta California (1770-1775), but as Monterey was far away, Fages was free to run Alta as acting governor. Later in 1770, Fages led another expedition from Monterey by land to explore the east side of San Francisco Bay. Rather than follow Portola's difficult trail around Monterey Bay to Santa Cruz and along the coast, Fages found an easier route through present-day Salinas and the Santa Clara Valley (today's U.S. Route 101).[1] Fages' new trail became the preferred route, and missions were later established along that road at Mission San Juan Bautista, Mission Santa Clara and Mission San Jose.

Fages set out again in 1772, following his own trail north, but pushed on past his previous stopping point. Accompanied this time by Fray Juan Crespi, who kept a daily journal,[2] the party skirted San Pablo Bay but were prevented from going farther north by the Carquinez Strait. Following the bay around to the east, Fages' group climbed the slopes of Mount Diablo and became the first Europeans to see the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the Central Valley of California and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Seeing that it was impossible to cross the wide river without boats, the party looped around to return to San Jose through today's Contra Costa County (roughly following today's I-680 highway).

Fages earned his nickname l'ós while hunting bears near San Luis Obispo. He quarreled with Father Junípero Serra, president of the Alta California missions, and was replaced as lieutenant-governor by Fernando Rivera y Moncada in 1774.

In 1777 Fages returned to Sonora to fight the Apaches, where he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. In 1781 he successfully quelled the Quechan (Yuma) Indian revolt and temporarily reopened the Colorado River crossing of the Anza trail at Yuma, Arizona. The Quechan successfully re-closed the trail for the next 50+ years after he and his troops departed.

Pedro Fages was appointed Governor of Las Californias in 1782, replacing Felipe de Neve. He returned to Monterey, which had replaced Loreto as the capital of the Californias in 1777.

During Fages's tenure as governor the second time, two missions were founded: Mission Santa Barbara (December 4, 1786) and La Purisima Mission (December 8, 1787). Fages was promoted to colonel in 1789, and resigned his governorship in 1791, at the request of Father Serra. Pedro Fages moved back to Mexico City, where he died in 1794.

Personal life

Fages married Eulalia Callis June 3, 1780 in Mexico City. She was born October 4, 1758 in Barcelona, Spain and journeyed to Mexico City with her mother and brother to join her father Agustín Callis, the original captain of the Free Company of Volunteers of Catalonia. Eulalia loved fashion and believed in charity. At Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, she gave away her clothing after seeing the lack of clothing worn by the Indians.

Fictional portrayals

Pedro Fages appears as a minor character in the 1955 film Seven Cities of Gold, which presents a fanciful and historically inaccurate account of the founding of Spanish California. Lieutenant Fages is played by Mexican actor Victor Junco. In the credits, Fages' name is misspelled as "Faces."[3]

Governor Fages and his wife make a brief appearance in the Isabel Allende novel Zorro. Pere Fages is the protagonist of the historical novel La última conquista (2005) by Ramón Vilaró and is a secondary character in Los acasos (2010) by Javier Pascual.


  1. ^ Fages, Pedro. Expedition to San Francisco Bay in 1770 (translated and annotated by Herbert Eugene Bolton for publication in 1911). Berkeley: University of California University Press. Retrieved 2014-03-21. 
  2. ^ Bolton, Herbert E. (1927). Fray Juan Crespi, missionary explorer on the Pacific coast, 1769-1774. HathiTrust Digital Library. pp. 275–303. Retrieved March 2014. 
  3. ^


  • California State Military Museum article about Fages
  • 21:2 (Spring 1975), translated by Iris W. EngstrandJournal of San Diego History"Pedro Fages and Miguel Costansó: Two Early Letters From San Diego in 1769",
  • The History of California by Hubert Howe Bancroft (vol. 1, 1542-1800), pp. 486–487.
  • "The Señoras Gobernadoras of Spanish Alta California A Comparative Study", Papers from the Presidio (1998) by Donald A. Nuttall.
  • A historical, political, and natural description of California, by Pedro Fages and Herbert Ingram Priestley (1937). Berkeley: University of California Press.
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