General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo
In 1834 the missions of California were secularized and Vallejo was appointed to oversee the disposition of the properties of Mission San Francisco de Solano located in Sonoma. in 1835 he was named Military Commandant of the northern frontier and director of colonization north of San Francisco Bay. That same year he negotiated an alliance with Chief Solano of the Suisun that was to serve him well far into the future. Governor Figueroa's death in September 1835 ushered in a period of deteriorating relations between Mexico City and the political centers of California - San Diego, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Francisco and Sonoma. In 1836, Vallejo's close friend Juan Alvarado initiated a revolt against unpopular Governor Nicolas Gutierrez. A group of American frontiersmen under the leadership of Issac Graham, were associated with Alvarado in the bloodless uprising. Following the coup Vallejo was promoted to colonel and named Commandant General and military governor of the "Free State of Alta California" by the rebels. Alvarado took the position of civilian governor of Alta California for himself.
In 1839 John A. Sutter, a Swiss citizen with a checkered past, arrived in California and struck up a friendship with Alvarado who encouraged a skeptical Vallejo to allow him to build New Helvetia (Sutter's Fort) at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. By 1840 in Monterey, relations between Graham's followers and Alvarado had deteriorated to the point that Alvarado ordered their deportation. President Anastasio Bustamante in Mexico City was pressured by the English and American governments and the deportation order was revoked. In 1841 Graham and a few followers were permitted to return to California. That same year a major American naval force under Lieutenant Charles Wilkes visited San Francisco Bay, the Russian Manager, Peter Kostromitinov, sold Fort Ross to Sutter for $30,000, and the first American group of immigrants (Bidwell-Bartleson party) entered California.
The Bidwell-Bartleson party arrived at John Marsh's ranch in the Sacramento Valley in late fall 1841. They were the forerunners of a rising tide of Americans beginning to move west to fulfill what the politicians of the time referred to as "America's Manifest Destiny". Even though their presence in California was against Mexican law, Vallejo decided to permit them to stay. In 1842 the Mexican government named General Manuel Micheltorena to replace both Alvarado and Vallejo. The new governor was a friend of Santa Anna and brought a force of several hundred undisciplined troops with him to San Diego.
On October 20, 1842, Captain Thomas Catsby Jones sailed the USS United States and the USS Cyane into Monterey harbor and occupied the town in the mistaken belief that Mexico and the United States were at war. Governor Micheltorena was still in the south and so it fell to Acting Governor Alvarado to surrender the town to the Americans. The day following the occupation Thomas Oliver Larkin, a long time American resident of Monterey, convinced Captain Jones that he had made an error and the Americans returned the town to the Mexican authorities and departed. In March, 1843 Vallejo paid the government $5,000 for the support of the governor's troops and in return was granted the 80,000 acre Rancho Soscol on the Carquinez Straits. On May 1, 1843 Thomas Oliver Larkin was appointed US Consul in Monterey. Governor Micheltorena finally arrived in Monterey in August, 1843.
In 1844 Doctor Edward Turner Bale, a British citizen, challenged Vallejo's brother Salvadore to a duel. Salvadore easily defeated Bale but did not kill him. A few months later Bale attempted to kill Salvadore but failed. Bale was captured and about to be hung when saved by Vallejo who wanted to see the matter turned over to a court. William Richardson warned Vallejo that a group of Americans at Sutter's Fort were planning to rescue Bale. Zeke Merritt and Andrew and Benjamin Kelsey were said to be leaders in the group but eventually it was decided that there was nothing to the rumor. A trial was held in Sonoma and Bale was found guilty. The decision was sent to Governor Micheltorena for confirmation. The Governor interceded on Bale's behalf for fear of antagonizing the British government. Salvadore and Bale reconciled their differences and no further trouble came of the incident.