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William Richardson
Born August 27, 1795(1795-08-27)
London, England
Died August 27, 1795 (aged -61)
Sausalito, California

William A. Richardson (August 27, 1795 – April 20, 1856) was an early California entrepreneur, influential in the development of Yerba Buena which later became San Francisco. Richardson was the first to receive a land grant in the city, deeded to him by the alcalde José Joaquín Estudillo.[1] He was subsequently awarded even larger land holdings across the San Francisco Bay, a private rancho comprising a large portion of present-day Marin County. On these lands he founded the city of Sausalito.


Richardson arrived aboard the British whaler "Orion" in San Francisco Bay in 1822, shortly after Mexico had won its independence from Spain. An English mariner who had picked up a fluency in Spanish during his travels, he quickly became an influential presence in the now-Mexican territory. By 1825, Richardson had assumed Mexican citizenship, converted to Catholicism and married Maria Antonia Martinez (1803–1887), the daughter of Ygnacio Martinez, commandant of the Presidio of San Francisco and in 1842, grantee of Rancho El Pinole. His ambitions now expanding to land holdings of his own, Richardson submitted a petition to Governor Echeandía for a rancho in the headlands across the water from the Presidio, to be called "Rancho Saucelito". [2] Sausalito is believed to refer to a small cluster of willows, a moist-soil tree, indicating the presence of a freshwater spring. [3]

Even before filing his claim, Richardson had used the spring as a watering station on the shores of what is now called Richardson Bay (an arm of the larger San Francisco Bay), selling fresh water to visiting vessels. However, his ownership of the land was legally tenuous: other claims had been submitted for the same region, and at any rate Mexican law reserved headlands for military uses, not private ownership. Richardson temporarily abandoned his claim and settled instead outside the Presidio, building the first permanent civilian home and laying out the street plan for the pueblo of Yerba Buena (present-day San Francisco). His seafaring experience was instrumental is his also being appointed Port Captain, responsible for overseeing maritime commerce and often personally piloting arriving ships to their anchorage.

After years of lobbying and legal wrangling, Richardson was given clear title to all 19,751 acres (79.93 km2) of Rancho Saucelito on February 11, 1838. By 1841 he had sold his holdings across the bay and taken possession of the rancho, while still serving as Port Captain of Yerba Buena.


Richardson Bay is named for William Richardson.


  1. ^ Eldridge, Zoeth Skinner (1912). The Beginnings of San Francisco: From the Expedition of Anza, 1774, to the City Charter of April 15, 1850. p. 505.,M1.  
  2. ^ Robert Ryal Miller, Captain Richardson, Mariner, Ranchero, and Founder of San Francisco Berkeley: La Loma Press, 1995 [Call number at SSU: Regional Room F869 .S353 R546] 1995
  3. ^ Tracy, Jack. Sausalito Moments in Time: A Pictorial History of Sausalito 1850-1950. Sausalito:Windgate Press 1983. ISBN 0-915269-00-7


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