In June 1822 the Scottish merchant Hugh McCulloch landed at San Diego from the brig John Begg. He was the founding partner of the business McCulloch Hartnell & Co which for three years from 1 January 1823 had a monopoly of the Hide and Tallow Trade with the Californian missions. His story is told here https://durnesstocalifornia.blogspot.com. Was he the first Scotsman to ever set foot in California?

  • In 1822, was Alta California still in the Spanish Empire? Jun 27, 2020 at 8:30
  • No but they landed there as a direct result of Mexico gaining its independence from the Spanish Empire. The link in the question explains the reason.
    – macean
    Jun 27, 2020 at 8:57

1 Answer 1



In 1814 a Scotsman by the name of John Cameron jumped ship. He later changed his name to Gilroy. Here's some info from the city of Gilroy California web page.

John Cameron was born in a southern district of Inverness-shire, Scotland in 1794. At 19, he left home, hiring aboard a British trading ship which arrived, in 1814, at what was then the Spanish harbor of Monterey. It’s unclear when the young sailor changed his surname to Gilroy, his mother’s maiden name, but he was baptized Juan Bautista Gilroy at the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo, and before long was conversant with Spanish. Eventually, he journeyed further inland to Rancho San Ysidro where he made barrels for the Rancho’s owner, Don Ygnacio Ortega. In 1819 Gilroy received permission from the Viceroy of Spain to remain in California and to marry. Two years later Gilroy wed the Ortegas’ daughter, Maria Clara, at Mission San Juan Bautista. Of their 17 children, 9 survived to adulthood. In 1833, Gilroy became a naturalized citizen of Mexico; Don Ortega died in this same year. The Governor of Mexico granted that Rancho San Ysidro’s land be divided equally amongst Ortega’s three adult children and their spouses. On his portion of the rancho, Gilroy raised cattle, wheat and also ran a soap-making business. Known for his hospitality and community spirit, he served as alcalde (mayor) of San Ysidro, and in 1846 was appointed Juez de paz (Justice of the Peace) for the district. Gilroy died in July of 1869, and left many descendants who live in the area. He is buried in the Old St. Mary Cemetery.

You can find several entries concerning Gilroy in Bancrofts History of California (though he labels him as an Englishman)

My answer here, to the question Which Irishman worked at Mission Santa Cruz? , mentions another. (From A Memorial and Biographical History of the Coast Counties of Central California) :

John Gilroy in 1814, and John Rose, in 1818 were Scotchmen

So third at best.

  • Excellent thank you. Will accept if there are no better offers. So far then my man is the second Scot in California.
    – macean
    Jun 23, 2020 at 14:16
  • sorry, third so far.
    – justCal
    Jun 23, 2020 at 14:17
  • So John Rose was a Scottish drummer who deserted from the privateer Bouchard (from the "Burning of Monterey"). Great stuff. Thank you. Oh well perhaps I can say my man was "one of the first".
    – macean
    Jun 23, 2020 at 14:34
  • Sounds accurate. Just out of curiosity, I see John Begg listed as a merchant out Peru, do you have a source for the ship name?
    – justCal
    Jun 23, 2020 at 14:37
  • The brig John Begg was owned by the man John Begg and chartered to McCulloch Hartnell & Co. My McCulloch story in the link I posted in the question has more info. The brig John Begg is mentioned in many original letters, documents, Lloyds List w.h.y. I'm happy to provide any details you'd like. I know a lot more than is in the story which I tried to keep brief. Read "The Partners" page in the story.
    – macean
    Jun 23, 2020 at 14:48

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