The first page of a three-page article in the 1932 annual Historical Society of Southern California publication on Gerónimo López and his recollections of the Treaty of Caheunga ending the Mexican-American War in California on 13 January 1947.
On 14 March 1921, just over a month before his death atr the age of 91, Gerónimo López gave a statement to Charles J. Prudhomme that was published over a decade later in the 1932 annual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California. While the title of the published article is that in the title of this post, a short summary identified the narrower subject: “Reminiscences of old days during the Mexican War of 1846-47 as related by Don Geronimo Lopez, who at that date is still in fairly vigorous condition.”
The short piecestarted by giving his birth date of 30 September 1828 at Los Angeles, adding that he was educated at the Felíz family private school at their Casa de Cahuenga with instruction given by his relative, Francisco López, Jr. The narrative then went into López’ recollections of principal figures in the battle for Alta California, including General José María Flores, commander of local forces, but who, however, left the area prior to the last battle at Los Angeles in early 1847 and Captain Juan Bautista Moreno was placed in charge of the Californios arrayed against the Americans under the command of General Stephen Watts Kearney.
On 8 January 1847, the two sides met on the west side of the San Gabriel River (which became the Rio Hondo after flooding in 1867 created a “New San Gabriel River” to the east which emptied into the Pacific where Seal Beach and Long Beach meet–whereas the old channel emptied into the Los Angeles River) and what López referred to as El Paso de Bartolo, which seems to refer to someone named Bartolo, though exactly who this was is unknown, and which later was the name of a ranch owned by Pío Pico, who was the govenor of Alta California at the time of the American invasion, but who had left for Mexico, ostensibly to seek help from the embattled central government losing ground rapidly to Americans marching towards the capital. López also referred to this locale as Paso de Corruga, which would mean a “crimped pass,” referring to the narrowed opening of the San Gabriel River through the Montebello Hills to the west and the Puente Hills eastward.
In this battle at the San Gabriel River, for which there is a small monument within the City of Montebello today, four Americans and two Californios were killed, but the Americans forced the retreat of the Californios toward what López referred to as El Aliso Alto, a tall sycamore tree on the Rancho San Antonio, the property of Antonio María Lugo and which was still standing in 1921 three miles from Los Angeles. On the 9th, the Californios made a stand there and clashed in what the narrative called “a guerrilla skirmish,” implying that the defenders did not engage in a conventional battlefield formation but tried surprise attacks. The ranch owner, Lugo, joined with Captain Moreno in organizing this action, but, again, the local forces had to retreat, with some suggestion that they moved into what is now Boyle Heights, on land partially owned by López family members, including Gerónimo. Kearney and his forces then marched into and took possession of the pueblo of Los Angeles.
Two days later, on the 11th, López recalled, General Andrés Pico, who as related in the last post, led a smashing defeat of the Americans by mounted Californios near San Diego, sent for the 18-year old López and said to him, “Here are these special letters. Go , and deliver them in person to Captain Ugenio Montenegro,” this officer being in command of one hundred troops at Mission San Fernando. After the young messenger arrived, Montenegro received him, reviewed the docuements, and replied, “This letter is for me and this other letter is for Lt.-Colonel John C. Frémont.” Frémont [it might be remarked here that while Frémont’s name had the accent in the text of the 1932 article, there were no accents on any of the names of the Californios mentioned in the article, these being added for this post] was marching down from northern California with a cadre of troops.
As related by López, Montenegro then ordered fifteen mounted soldiers to appear to deliver the letter from Pico to Frémont and “Young Gerónimo López was appointed to carry the ‘Flag of Truce’.” The detachment went north and “down on the slope near Newhall they came in sight of Lt.-Colonel Frémont’s camp.” Montenegro then delivered the letter and received a reply from the American commander, which “he in turn gave it to young Gerónimo López . . . then young López proceeded to the headquarters of General Andrés Pico and delivered him the message.”
On the 12th, Frémont and his soldiers proceeded to Mission San Fernando, which Montenegro had abandoned and, the following day, marched to the Casa de Cahuenga, the same adobe house that López had received his education, and met Pico there. Negotiations ensued about creating a document of capitulation by which Pico would surrender Alta California to Frémont, rather than to Kearney, who was his superior in rank and command, with Pico evidently being concerned for his life in dealing with the general.
In any case, on the 13th, the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed at the site which exists as a landmark across from Universal Studios and López witnessed the historic occasion. Moreover, he recalled to Prudhomme that “While Lt.-Col. Frémont and his soldiers were marching to the Pueblo, I, Gerónimo López, was sent to San Gabriel Mission with a message for the people giving them the information that the Treaty had been signed.” Afterwards, the messenger rode on to Los Angeles and he recalled that the Californios gave a grand ball (baile) at the house of Alexander Bell and the southeast corner of Aliso and Los Angeles Streets (now directly under the 101 Freeway), where Frémont established his headquarters. According to López, the event was in honor of Frémont, Kearney and Commodore Robert Stockton, who had led the initial conquest of Los Angeles in fall 1846 and, after which, the Californios had repulsed the garrison left behind and recaptured their town.
As remebered by López, “I was present and Lt.-Colonel Frémont knew me as being the one who had carried the ‘Flag of Truce.’ He came and shook hands with me.” As an aside, the narrative ended with the statement that, “Don Gerónimo López adds that Lt.-Colonel Frémont was known among the inhabitants as El Coronel Fla-mont, same being the sound in the Spanish language for Frémont.
The document was then signed by López and witnesses J. C. Villegas and Mrs. John Wilson. López’ daughter María had married Inocencio Villegas and another daughter Grace was the wife of John T. Wilson.