The history of the encounter between European and native people in California stretches back at over 500 years. You can use this timeline to put events into context and relate them to one another, either by scrolling through the years, or selecting a specific year.
- Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo publishes Las Sergas de Esplandián in Seville, with the first known reference to a place known as California.
- Spanish ships reach the tip of Baja California.
- Hernán Cortez and crew reach Baja California.
- Francisco de Ulloa confirms that Baja California is a peninsula and not an island.
- Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo arrives in San Diego Bay. He later sails as far as the Oregon coast.
- Francis Drake lands near San Francisco.
- Sebastián Vizcaíno sails into Monterey Bay.
- Junípero Serra born at Petra, Mallorca.
- Vitus Bering arrives in Alaska.
- Junípero Serra and companions land at Veracruz.
- June: Spanish troops enforce expulsion of Jesuits from Baja California.
- July: Junípero Serra appointed president of the Baja California missions.
- James Cook rounds Cape Horn.
- March: Junípero Serra lands at Loreto in Baja California.
- March: Serra founds Mission San Fernando de Velicatá in Baja California.
- July 1: The land expedition of Gaspar de Portolá, accompanied by Junípero Serra, arrives in San Diego, establish first Alta California presidio. Portolá later reaches Monterey by land.
- July 16: Mission San Diego de Alcalá founded.
- Cook arrives in Tahiti.
- First presidio established at Monterey.
- June 3: Mission San Carlos Borromeo founded.
- July 14: Mission San Antonio de Padua founded.
- September 8: Mission San Gabriel Arcángel founded.
- September 1: Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa founded.
- Juan Bautista de Anza leads first expedition overland to Monterey from Tubac.
- Second Anza expedition brings settlers to northern Alta California.
- June 29: Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) founded.
- September 17: Presidio of San Francisco established.
- November 1: Mission San Juan Capistrano founded.
- Jan. 12: Mission Santa Clara de Asís founded.
- Nov. 29: Pueblo of San José founded – first Spanish town in Alta California.
- Sep. 4; Founding of the Pueblo of Los Ángeles (Nuestra Señora, Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula).
- March 31: Mission San Buenaventura founded.
- August 28: Junípero Serra dies at Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel.
- December 4: Mission Santa Bárbara founded.
- December 8: Mission La Purísima Concepción founded.
- August 28: Mission Santa Cruz founded.
- October 9: Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad founded.
- June 11: Mission San José founded.
- June 24; Mission San Juan Bautista founded.
- July 25: Mission San Miguel Arcángel founded.
- September 8: Mission San Fernando Rey de España founded.
- June 13: Mission San Luis Rey de Francia founded.
- Sep. 17: Mission Santa Inés founded.
- Sep. 16: Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla launches the Mexican independence movement.
- December 14: Mission San Rafael Arcángel founded.
- November-December: The pirate Hippolyte Bouchard attacks the coast of Alta California
- Aug. 21: Spain formally accepts Mexican independence.
- July 4: Mission San Francisco Solano founded.
- Beginning of the revolt of Estanislao.
- December: Mexican Congress passes law ordering Spaniards to leave all Mexican territories.
- October: Estanislao and his followers are pardoned by Gov. José María de Echeandía by request of Fr. Narciso Durán.
- January: A group of Mexican Franciscans arrives to take over missions in northern Alta California.
- August: Mexican Congress passes Act of Secularization for missions in Alta California.
- Texas declares independence from Mexico.
- General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo establishes the Presidio of Sonoma or “Sonoma Barracks.”
- October: Thinking to be at war, three U.S. warships mistakenly capture the port of Monterey.
- Californios successfully wrest control from Mexican Governor Manuel Micheltorena. Pío Pico becomes first native-born governor of Alta California.
- December: U.S. annexes Texas.
- April: Outbreak of Mexican-American War.
- May: U.S. officially declares war on Mexico.
- June: Bear Flag Revolt in Sonoma.
- Unofficial Treaty of Cahuenga signed, ending hostilities in Alta California. Beginning of U.S. military occupation.
- January: Gold discovered at Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra foothills.
- February: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brings end to U.S.-Mexico War.
- September: U.S. Congress declares California a state.