As the battlefield around them constricted, writes Janssens, “Repeatedly the cry was heard among us, [each was] to save himself before we should be cut off from retreat.”
But then they heard another cry: “Jatinil!”
The feared Indian chief from northern Baja, a friend of Macedonio, had learned of the ambush from spies the day before. With 200 Indians, Jatinil rode all night up Valle de las Palmas, through Tecate, and on to Stonewall Peak.
“With the yell of ‘Jatinil!’ and the resistance of his men,” writes Janssens, “we were given the chance of getting out of the ambush. But for this, more than half of us, and perhaps more, would have fallen victims.”
All were wounded, at least 20 by arrows and spears, the rest by rocks. “Jatinil, the pagan, after God, was our salvation.”
Somewhere on the way home, Macedonio forgot what happened. When he later told the story, he always left out Jatinil (after he tried to bargain with the Indians, he told Juana Machado, they “then took the girls down from the rock and retreated”; no battle). Maybe the “Potentate of the Frontier” didn’t want the word spread that a band of Indians had saved his life.
Jatinil didn’t return to his village at Neji. Instead he moved his people to a mesa on the Baja coast, where they built a fortress to defend themselves against reprisals.
According to Janssens, the three chiefs took the young women to the Colorado River.
Accounts vary as to what happened after that. In one version, two of the chiefs, Cartucho and Martín, married Tomasa and Ramona. According to Antonio Coronel, during the expedition’s four-month search, the Indians burned and pillaged native villages at random. The women “had become liabilities” to their captors and were murdered. (Coronel got this account from two of the chieftains who accompanied him on a trip to Sonora. As long as the chieftains were alive, Coronel says, he was afraid to tell anyone for fear of retaliation.)
Father Zephyrin Englehardt writes that “these unfortunates [Tomasa and Ramona] roused such jealousy in the Indian women that the latter, choosing a time when the men of the tribe were on a hunt, fastened the two prisoners to trees and stoned them to death.”
“It was my understanding,” Apolinaria Lorenzana says in her memoir, “that the Indians who committed those hostile acts were from Tecate, the Colorado River, and other well-known places.” But the “real leaders were the Indians from the rancho [Jamul] who encouraged the other Indians to participate.”
Two years after the attack on Jamul, Lorenzana became an official ranchera. Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado granted her the 8881-acre Rancho Jamacha. The 47-year-old woman, who’d come to San Diego as an orphan, eventually owned Rancho la Cañada de los Coches (“the glen of the hogs”) and Rancho San Juan de las Secuas as well. These had been mission lands used for growing cotton and grazing horses, sheep, cattle, and, at Los Coches, hogs. The San Diego friars, fearing secularization, deeded Lorenzana the grants “to preserve what could be saved of the mission’s property,” writes Stephen Van Wormer.
Lorenzana was never wealthy. She represents, writes Lisbeth Haas, “the relatively poor landowners of the colonial and Mexican periods who worked with their hands and labored for others.” Lorenzana may have regarded the ranchos more as something to protect for her beloved mission than possess. She had lived at Jamacha, off and on, for several years prior to owning it. Some suggest she abetted her health by drinking from its famous mineral spring, which Alfred H. Isham later claimed was the Fountain of Youth.
Lorenzana, who never married, renamed her ranchos for saints. Jamacha, for example, became “Santa Clara de Jamacha” (for St. Claire of Assisi). Two years after she took over the rancho, one of her servants, named Muñoz, decided to go to Sonora, Mexico. He took his wife and young son, whom Lorenzana had baptized.
Muñoz lived in Mexico “for quite some time.” When his wife died (possibly his son as well), he returned to San Diego on his only horse. His saddlebags held gifts for Lorenzana.
Somewhere along the way — he didn’t say where — Muñoz saw a woman sitting behind a house. She dressed like an Indian — cropped hair, rabbit skins, white powered upper body — but spoke “excellent” Spanish.
After he greeted her, he asked who she was.
“I’m from San Diego,” she replied, adding that her name was Ramona Léiva and that Indians had abducted her from Rancho Jamul many years ago. She was María de los Angeles’s youngest daughter. “Take me home!” she pleaded.
“But I can’t,” Muñoz replied.
He’d come all the way from deep into Sonora on one horse. “It was already quite tired,” he told Lorenzana later. “If I took the girl with me, the horse would tire even more and the Indians would be able to catch up and kill us both.”
Muñoz made his apologies to Ramona Léiva and rode north.
Lorenzana: “I do not know if anything else was done to rescue those girls.”
Next time: Rampage
Bancroft, Herbert Howe, History of California, vol. 3, 1825–1840, San Francisco, 1886.
Beebe, Rose Marie, and Senkewicz, Robert M., eds., Testimonios: Early California through the Eyes of Women, 1815–1848; Lorenzana’s recollections, pp. 165–192; Berkeley, 2006.
Coronel, Antonio F., “Cosas de California,” Bancroft Library (BANC MSS C-D61), Berkeley, 1877.
Ellison, William, and Price, Francis, eds., The Life and Adventures in California of Don Agustín Janssens, 1834–1856, San Marino, 1953.
Englehardt, O.F.M., Zephyrin, San Diego Mission, San Francisco, 1920.
Haas, Lisbeth, Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769–1936, Berkeley, 1995.
Jatinil, “Testimonio,” Bancroft Library, pp. 45–51.
Machado, Doña Juana, “Times Gone By in Alta California,” trans. Raymond S. Brandes, The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, September 1959; also in Testimonios, pp. 119–144.
Monroy, Douglas, Thrown Among Strangers: The Making of Mexican Culture in Frontier California, Berkeley, 1990.
Nasatir, A.P., “Pueblo Postscript: San Diego during the Mexican Period, 1825–1840” (includes Vicente Romero’s “Notes of the Past”), Journal of San Diego History, January 1967, vol. 13, no. 1.
Phillips, George Harwood, Chiefs and Challengers: Indian Resistance and Cooperation in Southern California, Berkeley, 1975.
George Harwood Phillips: “Even going only as far as the Valle de la Viejas, about 33 miles northeast of the Presidio, was considered dangerous, and the greatest caution was used by the soldiers.”
Douglas Monroy: “Typical of retaliations against Indian raids throughout the Americas, it was the peaceful natives who especially suffered the wrath of the righteous avengers.”
Juana Machaco: “Some years afterwards, when these same Indians were at peace, [Macedonio] again offered them ransom, but all his efforts were in vain.”