origin of the name San Francisco

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Where did the name San Francisco come from? Is it in honor of Sir Francis Drake? I am in general interested in the origins of the names of california cities. So if you know the origins of San Diego, San Jose, Yuba City, Napa, Petaluma, etc., I would appreciate it very much if you could share your knowledge with me.

-- Steve Chen (steve_chen@hp.com), April 12, 1998


Steve: San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego, all started as Spanish missions in the 1700's. The padres named the missions after Catholic saints. SF was named after St. Francis of Assissi. I suggest you pick up a book of California place names--there are a number of them around.

-- Dorothy (leland@dcn.davis.ca.us), April 13, 1998.

From: San Francisco Bay by Harold Gilliam: (summary) sixteen years after Drake left California, The Spanish captain, Cermeno, in the galleon San Agustin, named the bay at Point Reyes "La Bahia de San Franciso". 149 years later, Portola discovered San Francisco Bay. "From the reports of Portola and of subsequent expeditions, the Spaniards assumed that this newly discoved body of water was simply an arm or estuary of the Bahia de San Francisco under Point Reyes. It was thus first known as the "Estero de San Francisco", and the confusion concerning the two bays had begun. In 1846, the US took possession of California and promptly changed the name of the settlement from Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

-- Randy Grandin (rlgrandin@aol.com), October 03, 1998.

There's much more to this story. San Francisco was originally (1835) called Yerba Buena, Spanish for "Good Herb", a fragrant mint plant that grew along the shorline of the bay. The name was given by William Richardson, who set up the first trading post at Montgomery and Clay (that was the original shoreline of Yerba Buena Cove) and the first private home on Grant near Washington.

In 1846, rumor had it that a town at the convergence of the Sacramento River and San Francisco Bay would name itself San Francisco. Lt. Washington Bartlett, who had been second in command on the U.S.S. Montgomery when it landed in San Francisco to claim it for the U.S. in 1846, was mayor of Yerba Buena. He realized that sailors and merchant ships were associating Yerba Buena with the name San Francisco Bay, and that if another town claimed that name, the shipping might go there.

To ensure that the ships would still come into our harbor, he quickly engineered the name change from Yerba Buena to San Francisco, which became official on January 30, 1847. That other town then decided to take the name Benicia, which was the name of the daughter of General Mariano Vallejo, the last Mexican governor of California. Benicia actually became capitol of California for a few years in the 1800's.

-- Peter Moylan (pmoylan@trammellcrow.com), July 02, 1999.

San Francisco is very cool hehehehehe

-- Bahar Alast (BFB_35@yahoo.com), December 09, 1999.

How many people are living in San Francisco?

-- Mittelschule BRD in Sachsen (MSK.Koewa@t-online.de), March 16, 2000.

I am interested in getting more information on Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Garden. Thank you

-- Michael W. Strong (Mwstrong1895@cs.com), October 20, 2000.

In response to Mittelschule BRD in Sachsen's question: Do you mean living there and having a good time? Just about all of the 500,000 or so the sign on the Bay Bridge claims live here .....

Seriously, though: City statistics can be gotten at the city's website (get there via www.yahoo.com, Regional, US States, California, San Francisco).


-- Rosa Debonneheure (rosadebon@yahoo.com), July 21, 2001.

Hello Steve, A great source for name origins is Erwin G. Gudde's "California Place Names"; Univ. of California Press, 1998. As a teaser, I can tell you that Yuba City was named after the Yuba River which, previously, had been named by John Sutter after a Maidu village at the site of the confluence of the Yuba and Feather Rivers. D.M.

-- Don Martinich (dutchm@dcn.davis.ca.us), July 23, 2001.

this friggen website blows... if you wanna find out the spanish origin of cities fuckin look in an encyclopedoa od history book...idiot.

-- meliss fegfefghe (cuttiepie299@netscape.net), December 05, 2002.

زبان فطرة ہے اس پہ ناطق ببارگاه نبي صادق شجر شجر كا درود اترے حجر حجر كا سلام جائے

اللهم صل على محمد وعلى ال محمد

-- Your Full Name (-- Steve Chen (steve_chen@hp.com)), August 18, 2003.

San Francisco was named after a 1950's California hard core gay porn star. He was one of the Cities founding fathers after the great earthquake of 1948 which nearly destroyed the gay pron industry. He went by the name Count San Francisco von hugen rod.

There is a statue of him accross the street from the City Hall.

-- Jill thrillstein (jill_4_thrill@yahoo.com), May 12, 2004.

No, dear, that's not a statue, that's a street lamp. San Francisco took its very short name in the early 1800's, not wanting to make the same mistake as La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assis.

-- Rosa (rosadebon@yahoo.com), May 12, 2004.

My fellow posters here are very much correct as the name San Francisco was taken from the name Sebastian Cermino named after the Bay that he thinks Drake landed in as that is exactly what the distinguished Hal Gilliam told me as you quoted from his book. Hal by the way has to be in his mid to late 80s now, a little bit younger than me. I haven't seen him in several years but hope he is doing OK and getting over that nasty skin cancer he had. He was always a serious walker and sun worshipper and that has kept him healthy but also gave him skin cancer.

In his land expedition, Portolla was seeking San Francisco Bay which at that time was Drake's Bay. He didn't know about the bay in between and so was stopped cold right here. Eventually, the name was transferred over to our Bay and so it seemed like not a bad idea in 1846 or so to name our City San Francisco especially when there was pressure to do so since the town council at Benicia wanted to name their city San Francisco.

But the origin of the name San Francisco itself has much deeper roots and comes first from a patron saint named Sir Francis of Assissi. Francis was named by his father after the country of France. The name France itself originates from a name given to a Barbarian tribe by the Turks. The Turks called these people the Franks and the descendants of those Franks came from the Israelite tribe of Reuben who was the firstborn son of Jacob through Leah, one of his wives.

So the name of San Francisco has great historical significance not only originating from the country of France but going all the way back to events that happened in the bible.

-- Harry Murphy (harrymurphy*@bigmailbox.net), May 13, 2004.

The best answer was that contributed in 1999 by Peter Moylan.

As he indicated, San Francisco was originally called Yerba Buena at its founding in 1835. The bay, however, was known as San Francisco Bay.

In 1847 word had it that the town known today as Benicia was going to name itself "Francisco". Fearing that Francisco would be associated with San Francisco Bay and draw shipping away from Yerba Buena, local authorities passed an ordinance officially changing the name of Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

The first San Francisco newspaper was the California Star, which commenced publication in 1847. Examining examples of the California Star in my library, I find that the first 10 issues bore the town name "Yerba Buena". However, the 11th issue was the first newspaper in all of history to bear the name "San Francisco" in its masthead.

In the interior of this issue is an article, which I find highly amusing. To paraphrase in synopsis form, the editor writes that in keeping with the new ordinance they have changed the name on the newspaper to San Francisco, but they don't like it.

In conclusion, were it not for Benecia, we might have witnessed a final second touchdown pass from Joe Montana to Jerry Rice as we cheered madly for the Yerba Buena 49ers!

Eldon Grupp November 12, 2004

-- Eldon Grupp (eldongrupp@yahoo.com), November 12, 2004.

I believe that Benicia was Vallejo's wife tho he may have also had a daughter by that name.

-- rosemarie garman (cngarman@earthlink.net), March 06, 2005.

As the submitter above indicates, in my response in 1999, I was incorrect about Benicia. She was Francisca Benicia Vallejo, the wife of Mariano Vallejo. Thus, the original intent was to name the town Francisca, then it became Benicia when Yerba Buena changed to San Francisco. The first state capitol was San Jose in 1850-1851, during the constitutional convention. Vallejo was the next capitol from 1852-1853, then Benicia in 1853-54, and finally Sacramento.

-- Peter Moylan (pmoylan@pacbell.net), March 13, 2005.

PETER - you neglected to mention that SAN FRANCISCO was the temporary state capital from January 24, 1862 to May 15, 1862 due to severe flooding in Sacramento. Small detail, but interesting nevertheless.

-- strange (stranger@yahoo.com), March 13, 2005.

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