THE BEAR FLAG SESQUICENTENNIAL

Sonoma, the last-settled of California's mission towns, had been fortified to stabilize Mexico's northern frontier against agitation by Russians, Indians, the British, the French, Americans and native Californios. As these threats seemed to fade, and the attention of the central Mexican authority was drawn elsewhere, the small adobe fortress in Sonoma was manned by fewer and fewer soldiers. This tiny and isolated garrison would be quickly overpowered on June 14, 1846, by a small band of Americans bent on claiming California for their own. Before sundown on that day the Americans -- without a shot fired or a life lost -- would raise a new flag over what had been Mexico's northernmost, richest, and some say most neglected province.

A new republic would soon be declared, and a constituency of fewer than a hundred would elect William B. Ide -- a settler who had arrived by wagon train the year before -- as its first and only leader. On his election, Ide would issue a proclamation guaranteeing everyone in the new nation "freedom in their persons, property, religion [and] social relations."

Though the California Republic lasted only twenty-five days before the U.S. Navy raised the Stars and Stripes over Sonoma, it accelerated a process that today finds California the richest and most populous State in the Union. From a region of scattered missions and villages, California has become a marvelous tapestry of cultures and peoples; from a land of ranchos and small farms, California has developed into a mighty engine of business, industry and agriculture one of the world's largest economies.

Had a prophet in June of 1846 foretold such a future to Mariano Vallejo, Mexico's incarcerated "General of the Northern Frontier," or to William Ide, leader of the Bear Flag Party, surely both would have thought him mad.

The people of California will mark both their success and the Sesquicentennial of the Raising of the Bear Flag with a celebration on the famous eight-acre Plaza in Sonoma.

You are cordially invited!


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