THE CALIFORNIA DONS by Edna Deu Pree Nelson


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As the author states in a note at the end of this book, ""(it) is not a history of California. It is a brief story of a handful of Spanish military men and their sons, who held the country from 1769 to 1846, against the threat of foreign powers from across the seas."" Beginning with Don Francisco Ortega, one of the most courageous and commendable of the conquistadores of the area, and concluding with Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who supported annexation by the U.S. in 1846, and his opponent, Governor Pio Pico, who unsuccessfully sought British protection, she follows in detail the lives of seven individuals of consequence. Two other quotations key the author's approach and her book's limitations: ""With high purpose, the dons rode forth...""; their mission was to save California from Russia, and their natural enemies were ""the sly, treacherous Indians"". Spanish misrule, she would have you believe, could be attributed to the padres. The dons she portrays, however, seem to have shown little except ""high purpose"". A fictional approach has been attempted, incorporating dialogue and motivation, for which there is little historical basis: but even so the book scarcely captures the color and life of its people and period while sacrificing much of its variety and complexity.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1962
Publisher: Appleton-Century-Crofts