Spanish and Mexican Era (1776-1846)

Brand IronSpanish and Mexican Era (1776-1846)

The Spanish government in Mexico first sent explorers, then missionaries and settlers into this area in the late 1700s. Mission Dolores in San Francisco was founded in 1776. They soon found the ground in San Francisco inhospitable for planting, and so by 1815 they established Rancho San Pablo on the opposite coast (in Spanish the contra costa) of the bay to raise cattle and food for the mission. Rancho San Pablo was the first permanent non-Indian settlement in all of what is now Contra Costa county.

The name San Pablo was given to the land in 1811 by Ramón Abella, a priest from Mission Dolores who explored the bay and the northern rivers. He named the two points opposite each other on the bay "Point San Pablo" and "Point San Pedro." (Thus Saints Paul and Peter guarded the bay.)

Mexico gained independence from Spain, and began to divide up land owned by the missions.
Alvarado Adobe Circa 1880 
 Alvarado Adobe Circa 1880

The overseer of Rancho San Pablo requested permission to claim the rancho as his own and in 1823, Francisco Castro was granted 17,000 acres of land.

This covered land that is now Richmond, El Sobrante, and Pinole, and extended all the way out to the bay. That's why the upper bay is called San Pablo Bay today.

Governor of Mexican Alta California, Juan Alvarado, married one of the Castro daughters in 1839. After his term as governor was completed, they retired to her family property in Rancho San Pablo.

The Alvarado Adobe, in the Civic Center, is a replica of the home they lived in on that very spot from 1848 until the governor's death in 1882. The Adobe is open to the public every Sunday and admission is free.