Yerba Buena (town)

Yerba Buena was the name of a town in the Mexican territory of Alta California that became the city of San Francisco, California, after it was claimed by the United States.


The name of the town was taken from the plant with the same name that grew around the settlement that was adjacent to the Mission San Francisco de Asís (or "Mission Dolores"). The plant's common name, Yerba buena, the same in English and Spanish, is an alternate form of the Spanish hierba buena (meaning "good herb"). The herb was given its name by the pioneer Catholic priests of Alta California as they settled an area where the plant is native.


A Spanish exploration party, led by Don Gaspar de Portolà, arriving on November 2, 1769, was the first documented European visit to San Francisco Bay, claiming it for Spain as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Seven years later a Spanish mission, Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores), was established, and a small settlement with an associated military fort was built in what is now the Presidio. Upon independence from Spain in 1821, the territory of Alta California became part of Mexico. In 1835, Englishman William A. Richardson erected the first significant homestead outside the immediate vicinity of the Mission Dolores, near a boat anchorage around what is today Portsmouth Square. Together with Mission Alcalde Francisco de Haro, he laid out a street plan for the expanded settlement, and the town, which was named Yerba Buena, began to attract American settlers.

On July 7, 1846, US Navy Commodore John D. Sloat claimed California for the United States during the Mexican-American War, and US Navy Captain John Berrien Montgomery and US Marine Second Lieutenant Henry Bulls Watson of the USS Portsmouth arrived to claim Yerba Buena two days later by raising the American flag over the town plaza, which is now Portsmouth Square in honor of the ship. Henry Bulls Watson was placed in command of the garrison there. On July 31 1846, Yerba Buena doubled in population when about 240 Mormon migrants from the East coast arrived on the ship Brooklyn, led by Sam Brannan. In August 1846, Lt. Washington Allon Bartlett was named alcalde of Yerba Buena. On January 30, 1847, Lt. Bartlett's proclamation changing the name Yerba Buena to San Francisco took effect. The city and the rest of California officially became American in 1848 by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War. California was admitted to the U.S. as a state on September 9, 1850 — the State of California soon chartered San Francisco as both a City and a County.

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