It is my understanding that in Alta California, priests and natives in Missions earned no cash salary, but Spanish army officials would have. From the governor down to a junior soldier, what did they earn?

The answer will be somewhat loose: I read that they went unpaid during the entire decade of the Mexican War of Independence.

  • 1
    Unpaid is a bit disingenuous, as no-one can go without food, and particularly water, in a semi-arid climate for ten years. So clearly they were supplied with the necessities of life, or would have rapidly died. Nov 26, 2016 at 18:35
  • Don't assume that local production could not meet their needs. During the war period when no supply ships arrived, the Mission system supplied the Presidios, and trade continued with visiting ships. I don't think anyone starved to death. Nov 26, 2016 at 20:22
  • The answer is simply "lot." Before the Hoover Dam life and living was really good out that way. Silver, gold...absolutely massive land holdings in some cases. At first settlers from the East were quite welcome out that way as we provided an enormous amount of security and freedom from "imperial entanglements." Everything changed with the end of the US Civil War. The US Army suddenly appeared in force and moved very aggrressively to secure present day Los Angeles. All of Mexico descended into chaos with the Western USA not much better although the Comanche were wiped out. Nov 26, 2016 at 20:54
  • @AaronBrick: If you are being fed, supplied with fluids and a warm place to sleep at night, then you are NOT UNPAID. Nov 27, 2016 at 3:02
  • @PieterGeerkens: first sentence of the question says "cash salary". Nov 27, 2016 at 4:55

2 Answers 2


According to Martha Ortega Soto, Alta California, una frontera olvidada del noroeste de México 1769-1846, in 1773 the commander earned 4000 pesos per year, the captain 3000, a sergeant 450, a corporal 400, and a soldier 300, but payment was made mostly in goods -including horses, guns, equipment, food, contribution for reparations and pensions/insurances-. I guess that only the officials -and maybe the master artisans that served at the presidios: carpenters, smiths, etc...- were really well paid for their jobs.

  • Nice. A longer list of 1772 rates is also given in "Upper California" by Zephyrin Engelhardt. Nov 30, 2016 at 2:11

The first two images below are samples from a book which appears to be a record of payments in kind made to soldiers in the San Francisco Presidio in 1817, which perhaps confirms the suggestion in the question that they were unpaid during the war.



The document in the following images appears to show the payments made to the officers and men in the San Francisco Presidio for the period 1 January 1828 to 31 March 1828. This is of course outside the period of Spanish rule but I believe the Presidio was still manned by the same personnel as before Mexican independence in 1821.



The above documents form part of the Vallejo Family Papers collection reference BANC MSS C-B 441 at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

  • You are digging up some great stuff. Have much experience with Bancroft materials? The available indexing is far from satisfactory. Feb 3, 2020 at 4:44
  • In a word, no. Only what I've found in the 78 volume online Vallejo documents. I have seen reference to an index but don't have access to it. I believe I've identified the majority of the McCulloch Hartnell & Co documents up to 1833 and if anyone's interested I'm happy to provide the direct links. An index would be straightforward to create. Perhaps find 78 people willing to cooperate and do a volume each :-).
    – macean
    Feb 3, 2020 at 10:54
  • I have seen an index to MGV's own letters in the library, but the individual documents are very numerous. It took major funding for the ECCP to index the contents of the mission registers. Just a better index to the Bancroft summary volumes would help: I have often been unable to follow a citation into these materials. Feb 3, 2020 at 19:23
  • I shall shortly add to this answer something which does contradict my suggestion that it would be straightforward, as the document description is in Spanish which I can't read, whereas the descriptions for the McCulloch docs. were in English so you could create an index of the descriptions included in the online resource. I worked out that what I wanted was in the Personal and Professional volumes then looked at samples in each to determine the period each volume covered as they're in date order. Then examined those page by page to get the McCulloch docs. The document above I just got lucky:-)
    – macean
    Feb 3, 2020 at 21:08

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