Beginnings 180 years ago San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin

Today, the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the humble beginnings of a little settlement called Yerba Buena that changed its name and grew into a large city.

The book, The Bay of San Francisco, printed in 1892, discussed the beginning of present day San Francisco:


It is understood that in 1834 instructions were issued by Governor Figueroa to facilitate trade in Yerba Buena.

William A. Richardson, an English master mariner, who had become a Mexican citizen, was the first settler in 1835, and erected a temporary dwelling of rough boards, which a year or two later was replaced with an adobe structure.

This building stood near the corner of the present Dupont and Clay streets.

Richardson’s business was to collect produce from all points around the bay for vessels visiting the port. This operation was effected with a few lighters belonging to himself and the missions, and manned by Indians.

The water front was then what is now Montgomery street.

The next settler in Yerba Buena was Jacob P. Leese, an American from Ohio, who, in partnership with William S. Hinckley and Nathan Spear, both Massachusetts men, erected a wood house and store near Richardson’s.


In the History of California printed in 1885, Theodore Henry Hittell described the first settlement of San Francisco:


In May, 1835, Figueroa, who was then at San Gabriel, met William A. Richardson there; informed him that he had resolved to lay out a settlement for the convenience of public officers at the anchorage of Yerba Buena and offered, if Richardson would settle there, to make him captain of the port.

He was induced to do so on account of a memorial in favor of the place, which had been written by Richardson in 1828.

Richardson, who had married and settled and become naturalized in the country, consented; and a few days afterwards, in company with Figueroa, he and his family set off on the journey northward.

At Soledad, Figueroa turned off for Monterey, while Richardson and his family continued on to Yerba Buena, where they arrived in June.

In August, Richardson was called by a message from Figueroa to Monterey; but, upon his arrival there in September, he found that Figueroa was dead.

Jose Castro, the “primer vocal ” or first member of the deputation, informed him, however, that Figueroa had before his death made arrangements for the laying out of the new village and that he, as captain of the port, was to select a lot for his habitation.

The only restriction upon his choice was that his location was not to be within two hundred varas of the beach, all that space being reserved for public purposes.

Richardson answered that he had left his family alone in a tent on the site of the proposed settlement and was anxious to get back as soon as possible, to which Castro replied that he might return at once and that orders for laying out the village would be sent after him.

Soon afterwards Francisco de Haro, alcalde of San Francisco residing at the Mission Dolores, received orders to lay out the village of Yerba Buena at the cove.

He proceeded to do so in the latter part of October by marking upon the ground a single street, called “La Calle de la Fundacion” or the foundation street.

It ran from a point near the present corner of Kearny and Pine streets in a direction a little west of north towards North Beach.

By his direction, Richardson made a rough map of the location and selected his building lot one hundred varas square, commencing on the westerly side of the street four hundred varas from where it started and at a point about what is now the middle of Dupont street between Clay and Washington streets; and there he fixed his residence — a tent rather than a house or a little of both — which was the first erected at Yerba Buena and the commencement, so to speak, of the future city.


The San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows beside a portrait of William A. Richardson.

San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin