Bold, well-educated, tolerant and hospitable, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo saw three nations rule California during his lifetime. He was among the first of the leading "Californios," or California Mexicans, to embrace American control of the state -- and was all but wiped out financially as a result.
Born into a wealthy Monterey family in 1808, when California still was under Spanish rule, Vallejo became a Mexican army officer and led several victorious expeditions against California Indians. Even though he rose to become military commander of Northern California, Vallejo was critical of the autocratic Mexican government. He supported the idea of an independent California, and saw the area's "liberation" during the Mexican War as a welcome change.
Despite this, Vallejo was imprisoned at Sutters' Fort by Gen. John C. Fremont for several months during the fighting, and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to his estates. After the war, Vallejo was one of a handful of Californios to become a delegate to the constitutional convention, and later was elected to the state Senate.
Like most other Californios, however, Vallejo's claim to vast land holdings was washed away by the flood of 49ers. By the time he died in 1890, he was left with a modest 200-acre ranch near Sonoma. But he did not die bitter.
"The inhabitants of California," he wrote in his memoirs, "have no reason to complain of the change of government, for if the rich have lost thousands of horses and cattle, the poor have been bettered in condition."