Today, the California State Quarter Coin remembers the birthday of the city of Los Angeles 234 years ago.
In his Herald’s History of Los Angeles City, Charles Dwight Willard wrote of the founding of Los Angeles:
On the 4th day of September, 1781, therefore, the expedition set out from San Gabriel, the governor leading the way in person, followed by a detachment of soldiers bearing aloft the banner of Spain.
Then came the settlers, forty-four persons in all, eleven being men, eleven women, and twenty-two children of all ages.
The plaza had already been laid out, and the boundaries fixed for the building lots that faced it.
As they neared the selected spot a procession was formed, made up of the soldiers, with the governor at their head, the priests from San Gabriel, accompanied by their Indian acolytes, then the male settlers, and, lastly, the women and the children, the former bearing a large banner with the Virgin Mary painted upon it.
We may suppose this banner to have been loaned by the mission authorities, and it may have been the same one that to submission when Padres Somera and Cambon first met them on the banks of the San Gabriel, ten years before.
The procession marched slowly and impressively around the plaza, followed, no doubt, by the wondering gaze of the Indians from Yang-na, who had assembled for the event.
When the circuit was completed the priests asked a blessing on the new city that was about to come into existence. Then Governor Felipe de Neve delivered a formal speech to the settlers, of which no report has come down to us, but which we may safely assume was full of excellent advice to the citizens, and of glowing prophecy for the pueblo’s future.
Prayers and a benediction from the padres concluded the ceremony, which was probably the most extensive and the most impressive that was ever held over the founding of an American city.
The comparison is easily made, for the reason that probably not more than a half a dozen American cities ever enjoyed the distinction of being really founded.
Similarly, in Semi-tropical California, Its Climate, Healthfulness, Productiveness, and Scenery, Benjamin Cummings Truman quoted a description of those early days made by Colonel J. J. Warner:
“The city of Los Angeles was founded on the fourth day of September, 1781, in conformity with the laws of Spain, providing for the settlement and organization of towns (pueblos), or municipal communities.
“The founders of the town had, mostly , if not all, been soldiers; and, although relieved from active service, were entitled to and continued to receive pay and rations during the supremacy of the Spanish government in California.
“The settlement consisted of twelve families. One of the settlers was a widower having one child, a daughter, aged eleven years. The others were all married, and eight of them had children. The eldest of the settlers was sixty-seven years old, one was fifty -five, and three were fifty years of age, and one was forty- two, and the others were from nineteen — the youngest an Indian — to thirty-eight.
“The average age of the twelve male settlers was thirty-nine and two thirds years. There were eleven married women. The whole number of children were twenty-three, only three of which were over ten years old. Eleven of the children were boys and twelve were girls. The community numbered in all forty-six souls.
“Of the twelve men, heads of families, two were Spaniards, two mulattoes, two negroes, four Indians, one Chinaman and one half-breed (Indian and negro.) Of the women, six were mulattoes and five were Indians.
“The adults were natives of Lower California, Sonora, and Sinaloa, excepting the two Spaniards and the Chinaman.
“The surnames of the twelve settlers were Lara, Navarro, Rosas, Mesa, Villavicencio, Banegas, Rosas, Rodriguez, Camero, Quintero, Mereno and Rodriguez.
“Each family was furnished from the royal treasury with two oxen, two mules, two mares, two sheep, two goats, two cows with one calf, one ass and one hoe, and to the community the necessary tools of a cart maker.
“These articles, inclusive of the live stock, were all charged to the individuals or the community, at a price established by the government, and that amount was to be deducted, in small installments, from their pay.
“For the town site a parallelogram one hundred varas long by seventy-five in width was laid out. Upon three sides of this twelve were house lots, each forty by twenty varas, excepting the two corner lots, which, fronting in part on two sides of the square, were of a different figure.
“One half the remaining side of the parallelogram was open, the other half was for the guard house, royal officers and a granary. The location of this town site was above, or north-east of the present Catholic church site.
“The guard-house and royal building which occupied the west half of the south-western side of the parallelogram were on the opposite side of Main street from Campbell’s store. The four lines of the parallelogram, instead of running toward the four cardinal points, were about equidistant between these points.”
The California State Quarter Coin shows against a view of Los Angeles, circa 1857.