José Castro

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José Castro
Jose Castro signed.jpg
Mexico 19th Governor of Alta California
In office
Appointed by José Figueroa
Preceded by José Figueroa
Succeeded by Nicolas Gutierrez
California Lone Star Flag 1836.svg 1st President of Alta California
In office
Succeeded by Juan Bautista Alvarado
Governor of Baja California
In office
Personal details
Born 1808
Monterey, California
Died February 1860
Profession Soldier
Military service

Mexico Mexico

California Lone Star Flag 1836.svg Alta California
Service/branch Mexico-branch-colour Cavalry(blue).gif Cavalry
Rank Tnte corl.gif Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/wars Battle of Providencia
Revolution of 1836

José Antonio Castro (1808 – February 1860) was acting governor of Alta California in 1835.[1] He was also Commandante General of Alta California during the Bear Flag Revolt and the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.


José Castro was a Californio, born in Monterey, California. As a young man, Castro was a vocal and active supporter of Californian self-rule and semi-independence from Mexico.[2] His first public office was as secretary to the Monterey ayuntamiento (town council).

In 1830, Castro was arrested for his opposition to the Mexican governor of Alta California. By 1835 he was Vocal Primero (First Member) of the legislature and acting governor.[1] Along with his brother-in-law Juan Bautista Alvarado, he was a vocal proponent of California-born governors and sought a semi-independent status for Alta California.[3] He helped lead the overthrow of Mexican Governor Nicolás Gutiérrez in 1836,[3] becoming the first President of a briefly independent California, and then Commandante General.[1]

Under his brother-in-law, Governor Alvarado, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo became Commandante General, while in 1837-38, Castro became Lieutenant-Colonel of militia. Once again he was appointed First Member of the Diputación as well as Prefect of the District of Monterey. In 1839, Alvarado granted him Rancho San Justo, one of three ranchos attached to Mission San Juan Bautista, after the secularization of mission property by the Mexican government in 1833-35.

His father José Tiburcio Castro was a soldier, member of the Diputación (territorial legislature),[1] the administrator of Mission San Juan Bautista after it was secularized, and grantee of Rancho Sausal. He built an adobe house on San Juan Bautista Plaza in 1841. Castro used the house as an administrative base for his military operations, and as a residence for his secretary.[2]

Back in 1840, Alvarado had arrested about one hundred Americans in California and transported them to San Blas, an action that sparked an international diplomatic incident known as the "Graham Affair". By 1844-45, Castro was a leader of the new revolt against Governor Manuel Micheltorena, once again becoming Commandante General of California.[3]

During the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846 and Mexican-American War that followed, Castro was the commanding general of Alta California. When California joined the United States in August of 1846, Castro left for Baja California, taking up residence in Sinaloa. Castro returned to Alta California in 1848, but by 1853 had gone to Mexico again where he was appointed governor and military commander of Baja California.[4]

After the U.S.-Mexican War, José Castro gave his adobe house in San Juan Bautista to an Irish settler, Patrick Breen. Breen and his family were surviving members of the Donner Party. They arrived at San Juan Bautista in February 1848, nearly a year after completing their journey through the Sierra Nevada. The Breens were the first English-speaking Americans to live in the town. Castro allowed them to live at his house until they could afford to buy it from him.[2] By 1853, Castro had gone to Mexico, where he was appointed governor and military commander of Baja California.[2]

One of Patrick Breen’s teenage sons made a fortune as a gold miner and purchased the house from Castro in 1854. The Breen family established a working ranch and an inn. Guests included gold rush prospectors and Helen Hunt Jackson author of Ramona (1884). She began writing her famous novel about Spanish California while living in San Juan Bautista in the early 1880s.[2]

The Breen family owned the house until 1935, when the State of California bought the property and it became part of the San Juan Bautista Plaza Historic District.

Castro never surrendered his Mexican citizenship nor military rank. In February 1860, Castro was assassinated by the bandit Marguez.


The Jose Castro House in San Juan Bautista is now a National Historic Landmark. Castro Street and the Castro District in San Francisco are named for him.


  1. ^ a b c d Killea; Lucy Lytle (October 1966). "Journal of San Diego History". San Diego Historical Society. Archived from the original on April 22, 2005. Retrieved 16 June 2010. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e "José Castro House San Juan Bautista, California". U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved 26 August 2016.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b c Grafe, Ernest. "Intrigue and Confrontation; The Castros of California" (PDF). Grafe. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  4. ^ "California and the Indian Wars, José Antonio Castro, Commandante-General and Acting Governor of Alta California". The California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. 

This article incorporates content in the public domain from the U.S. National Park Service and The California State Military Museum.