California: Land of Many Flags To see a large view of the battle scene from the Mexican-American War click here (Battle of Buena Vista image courtesy of the Library of Congress).

The arrival of the Spanish in the San Francisco Bay area in 1775 led to the rapid demise of native Californian populations. Diseases, declining birth rates, and the effects of the mission system served to eradicate the aboriginal life ways. In 1822, Spain ceded California to the Republic of Mexico. During the first year of Mexican rule, Captain William A. Richardson moved to the Bay area, developed maritime trade, and ultimately founded the settlement of Yerba Buena in 1835. Migration of American settlers from the east into California began and relations between the United States and Mexico became unstable. In 1836, a revolution in Texas drove out the Mexican government and created an independent republic. This republic was annexed to the United States in 1845 and the following year Mexico and the U.S. were at war. American attempts to seize control of California ensued, and soon California was conquered by the United States. With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the war ended and California was officially annexed by the United States. The town of Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco, and would become California's commercial center. While this aided the development of the little community, rapid expansion did not occur until the discovery of gold.

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