Good Herb Becomes San Francisco

Given a different set of factors, I’d now reside in the city that used to go by the name of Yerba Buena (Good Herb).  Maybe a another differing set of factors would have the result that the city might still be known as Yerba Buena.  However, 165 years ago, today, Lieutenant Washington Bartlett saw fit to change the name of Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

AN ORDINANCE WHEREAS, the local name of Yerba Buena, as applied to the settlement or town of San Francisco, is unknown beyond the district; and has been applied from the local name of the cove, on which the town is built: Therefore, to prevent confusion and mistakes in public documents, and that the town may have the advantage of the name given on the public map.
IT IS HEREBY ORDAINED, that the name of SAN FRANCISCO shall hereafter be used in all official communications and public documents, or records appertaining to the town.
 Washington Bartlett, Chief magistrate, January 30, 1847

The name change was basically the beginning of the United States’ portion of the history of the city.  Many of us know that the Mexican territory known as Alta California was claimed by the U.S. Navy as American territory in July of 1846.  In quick succession, the military hoisted the stars and stripes over the Yerba Buena town plaza.

Soon, thereafter, Lt. Bartlett was placed in charge of the town.  Then on January 30, 1847 he signed the proclamation naming the town San Francisco.  Alta California, along with the town of San Francisco, became a military territory of the U.S. in 1848 at the close of the Mexican-American War.  Admission of California as a state happened on September 9, 1850.  Shortly afterwards, San Francisco received her charter as a City and a County.

Prior to the events just outlined in the thumbnail U.S. chapter of the history came the Spanish and Mexican stories.  A very abbreviated version goes like this:

Spanish explorers led by Portola claimed the peninsula and bay as a part of “New Spain” in November, 1769.  In 1776, Mission San Francisco de Asis (St. Francis of Asisi) and Mission Dolores was officially established.  To build the mission, a pueblo was needed to house the workers.  That village was named Yerba Buena.  This village and the associated fort were located at the present day location of The Presidio near the Golden Gate.

The original Yerba Buena was not in the same location as the later day Yerba Buena nearer to the present day downtown. The later Yerba Buena was incorporated in 1835.  This location is around the present day Portsmouth Square neighborhood.

All of these milestones set the stage for the rapid settlement and the ensuing colorful history of the city.  The events include the gold rush, the devastating earthquakes and the various political and economic events for which San Francisco is noted.

I have only outlined the barest possible historical framework of the city.  Those who know and love San Francisco can talk for several hours about singular events and landmarks.  A person could spend a lifetime recounting the various histories of the city by the bay.  I think the city is the most interesting place in North America.


The Blue Jay of Happiness especially enjoys Golden Gate Park’s Conservatory of Flowers.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
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