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José de los Reyes Berreyesa
Born January 6, 1785(1785-01-06)
Died June 28, 1846
Children José de los Santos Berreyesa

José de los Reyes Berrelleza (also spelled Berreyesa) was born at Mission Santa Clara de Asís on January 6, 1785, the third child and first son in the family of María Gertrudis Peralta and Nicholas Antonio Berrelleza.[1] He served as an army sergeant at El Presidio Real de San Francisco. In 1805, he married María Zacarias Bernal at Mission Santa Clara. The couple had 13 children during 1807–1833, with 10 living past infancy.[1] They moved in 1834 to hold land in Almaden Valley.

In 1842, José de los Reyes Berreyesa received from Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado a grant giving him one square league, or 4,438 acres (18 km2), of the land he had been cultivating, called Rancho San Vicente, near the Santa Teresa Hills and at the south end of Almaden Valley. The grant included a large section of the rocky hills upon which a rich source of mercury-carrying cinnabar ore was found in 1844–1845, and the discovery was made public. Mercury was an important part of gold- and silver-mining operations, and was in demand the world over, and especially in the California gold fields after 1848. The neighboring grant, Rancho Cañada de los Capitancillos, was now held by Andres Castillero, who claimed the mercury mine was part of his land. Robert Walkinshaw and some other men squatted on the land in February 1845 and began to take lumber and limestone away for sale in August.[2] The New Almaden mercury mine began producing a small amount of rich ore in 1846.

In 1846, during the Bear Flag Revolt, three of the sons of José de los Reyes Berreyesa were imprisoned by John C. Frémont in Sonoma, California, where one of the sons, José de los Santos Berreyesa, had been serving as alcalde.[3] Accompanied by two cousins, twin sons of Francisco de Haro, the 61-year-old father went to see how his sons were being treated in prison. After they landed their boat in San Rafael, the three men were shot and killed by three of Frémont's men, including Kit Carson,[3] and they were stripped of their belongings.[4] When asked by prisoner José de los Santos Berreyesa whether their father had been killed, Frémont said it might have been a man named Castro. A soldier of Frémont's was seen wearing the elder Berreyesa's serape, and Frémont refused to assist José de los Santos Berreyesa in retrieving it as a final token of their father to give to their mother. The three brothers resorted to buying the serape from the soldier for the extortionate price of $25.[4] Later, Carson told Jasper O'Farrell that he regretted killing the Californios, but that the act was only one such that Frémont ordered him to commit.[4]

See also


  1. ^ a b Descendants of Luis Cayetano (Berrelleza) Berreyesa. Retrieved on August 14, 2009.
  2. ^ The United States vs. Andres Castillero: "New Almaden" : transcript of the record, Volume 1. United States District Court, California, Northern District. 1859.
  3. ^ a b Eldridge, Zoeth Skinner. The Beginnings of San Francisco: From the Expedition of Anza, 1774, to the City Charter of April 15, 1850 : with Biographical and Other Notes, Z.S. Eldredge, 1912, pp. 406–408.
  4. ^ a b c Eldredge, Zoeth Skinner. The Beginnings of San Francisco, 1912. "Appendix D: The Murder of Berreyesa and the De Haros." Hosted at SFGenealogy. Retrieved on August 16, 2009.

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