The Berryessa Family



There are many branches of the descendents of Nicholas Antonio Berryessa, all of which are very interesting. I have concentrated on his granddaughter, Clara Berryessa Beasley, since she is my direct ancestor. I would like to follow her life after she left Sonoma County but thought I should start with her "roots". My daughter, Kathryn (S. Howard) Crow, helped assemble my research for this publication. Roger Rhem, of the Yolo County Historical Society, had accumulated much information on the Berryessa family, which he generously made available to me.

Betty (Elizabeth Ann Kendall) Howard

Arriving in New Spain[1]



The father of Jose de Jesus Berrelleza (name unknown at this time) and his wife (name unknown at this time) came as a married couple to Sinaloa, New Spain in the 1680s, from the Basque provinces of Spain.


Mexico started civilizing Mexican land and its inhabitants with a handful of Jesuit priests and a small military force.  Starting in 1600, they made their way northward, valley by valley, until they got to the River Sinaloa.  It was there that they had major confrontations with Yinckui Indians.  It took many years before security was achieved.  The priests separated and lived somewhat of a lonely life.


During the 1680s some 600 Spanish families came to live in the “north”.  Approximately 1200 people found themselves starting their own ranches with their livestock and their own capital that they brought from Spain.  As Sinaloa became an important place for arrivals, many people lived there.  We know that the father of Jose de Jesus Berryessa and his wife came as a married couple[2] from the Basque provinces of Spain.[3]



Jose de Jesus (Cayetano) Berrelleza



Jose de Jesus (Cayetano) Berrelleza was born in 1717, in Sinaloa.  He married Maria Nicolasa Micaela Leyba in 1735, in Sinaloa.  They are the parents of Nicholas Antonio Berrelleza and Ana Isabel Berrelleza.






Nicholas Antonio Berrelleza



Nicholas Antonio Berrelleza, b. 1761 Sinaloa; d. 19 October, 1804; buried Mission Santa Clara


Nicholas came north with the 2nd De Anza Expedition in 1776 with his sister Ana Isabel (b. 1754, wed to Juan Jose Peralta, brother of Maria Gertrudis Peralta, in San Francisco, April 7,1777. They had no children.)


The Spanish government desired colonists to occupy the California territory, which was part of Mexico, so in 1775 it commissioned army colonel Juan Bautista d Anza to form and expedition party of immigrants to the California Territory to fulfill the purpose.  Anza set about recruiting a party of approximately 200 men women and children, including quite a number of enlisted soldiers who were provided as a means of protection for the immigrants.  Each of the recruits was equipped with a set of clothing from head to foot and given pay and rations for the journey.  The party set out for California on 23 October, 1775 and arrived in the San Francisco area on 27 March, 1776.  Included in the party were the two children of Juan (Cayetano ) and Maria Leyba


The story has come down through generations that these two young people were very unhappy over the arrival of a stepmother in their home after their mother died.  Seeing a chance to leave home, they joined the Anza Expedition. At the time, Isabel was 21 and Nicholas was just 14. They made the journey in the company of Gabriel Peralta family.[4]




Arriving in Alta California


Nicholas Antonio Berrelleza married Maria Gertrudis Peralta, 12 October, 1779 in Mission Santa Clara. 


Nicholas Antonio Berrelleza, b. 1761, la Villa Sinaloa; d. 19 October 1804, 20 October; 1804 buried at Mission Santa Clara


Nicholas came north on the second De Anza Expedition in 1776, at the age of 14 with his sister Ana Isabela, age 21.  Ana Isabel, b. 1754, married Juan Jose Peralta (brother of Maria Gertrudis Peralta) in 7 April 1777 and did not have any children.  Nicholas enlisted in the San Francisco Company, 1 October, 1782. At the time of his death he was a corporal.



Maria Gertrudis Peralta, b. 1766 in Presidio de Tubac, Sonora; d. 19 October, 1804 or 31 December, 1802; buried 1 January, 1803, Mission San Jose.


Gertrudis came with her parents, Corporal Gabriel Antonio Peralta and Francisca Xavier Valenzuela from Presidio of Tubac, Sonora, in the second De Anza Expedition of 1776. The burial register of Mission San Jose reveals that Father Gil y Taboda officiated on New Year’s Day, 1803, at the funeral of one of earliest pioneers...Gertrudis Peralta, who had passed away at the prime of her life at the age of 36… As a 9 yr old child she had left her native province of Sonora with her parents.  At the age of 15, she became the bride of her childhood sweetheart, Nicholas Berrelleza.  It was Gertrudis’ brother, Luis Maria Peralta, who in 1820 received the San Antonio Rancho from Governor Sola, as a reward for his 40 years of military service in California. Today, on that famous rancho, stand the cities of Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley.


The Large concourse of Spanish settlers who assembled to pay their respects to the beloved young matron at her funeral, rode again, in throngs, to the mission six months later. this time in gladness, to attend the marriage of her beautiful young daughter, Maria de luz Berrelleza, to the dashing caballero, Joaquin Soto.[5]


Nicholas and Maria Gertrudis had nine children:


1.               Maria Gabriela b. 26 November, 1780, Mission Francisco Castro; d. 21 December, 1851; buried San Francisco de Asis

2.               Maria de la Luz Ynez b. 21 January, 1783, Mission Jose Joaquin Sate; bapt. 1 June, 1803, Mission Santa Clara, 1803; d. 1812; buried Mission Santa Clara

3.               Jose de los Reyes b. 6 January, 1785, Mission Santa Clara; m. Maria Zacarias Bernal (daughter of original pobladores); d. 28 June, 1846


Jose de los Reyes was one of the first victims of the war of conquest.  Fremont’s men killed him 28 June, 1846, as he landed by boat at San Rafael on his way to Sonoma to visit his son, the alcalde of Sonoma.  With him were twin sons of Francisco de Haro, Francisco and Ramon, bearers of dispatches from Castro to his lieutenant Joaquin de la Torre.[6] Details[7]


4.              Jose Nasario Antonio b. 28 July, 1787, Mission Santa Clara; m. Maria Antonia Villela

5.               Nicolas Antonio II, b. 12 June, 1787, Mission Santa Clara; bapt. 12 July, 1789, Mission Santa Clara (Eventually he became a soldier de cuera of the Presidio of San Francisco); m. Maria de (en) Gracia Padilla, 13 February, 1811, Mission Dolores; Grantee of las Milpitas Rancho (160,000 acres) from the Spanish Government

6.               Juan Jose, b. San Francisco de Asis 1792

7.               Ignacio Maria, Mission Santa Clara 1794-1794

8.               Juana Ignacia, b.1796-1796, Santa Clara Mission

9.               Maria Antonia Trinidad, b. 1797


Nicholas m. 19 November, 1803, Maria Ignacio Amador; b. 1790 in San Francisco


Nicholas and Maria Ignacio had one child:    

1.     Josofia Antonia Gregoria, b. 1805, d.1840


Nasario Antonio Berryessa


(child 4.) Nasario (Jose) Antonio Berryessa married Maria De Jesus Antonia Villela in 1806.


          Nasario Antonio Berryessa, b. 28 July, 1787, Mission Santa Clara; bapt. 29 July, 1787; m. Maria de Jesus Antonia Villela (age 13) 1806


He was a corporal at the San Francisco Presidio from 1819-1824.[8] In the 1830s, Nasario Antonio moved onto the land that was once a lush valley and is now covered by water and known as Lake Berryessa.  He brought with him 100 Indians who were to work his cattle ranch.  The land was so rich that the Pomo Indians who had called this area home for thousands of years had been able to live a life of ease due to the wide-ranging game and natural vegetation.


As the white man settled there, the Indians retreated.  For several years, Nasario Antonio ran herds of 5,000 cattle and 20,000 horses on this land and over the mountain into what is today Capay Valley.  In later years James Clyman, an American adventurer and trapper, stated his memories of Nasario’s valley and ranching operation.


Crops were grown under the care of the Indians, who protected them from roaming stock.  The mountains were full of bear and deer.  The bear made trails over the mountains that if followed made the trip to the Capay Valley possible for men and cattle.


Meanwhile, two of Nasario’s sons, Sexto (Sisto) Antonio and Jose de Jesus, were in the Mexican army and stationed in San Francisco.  In 1838, at age 20, Sisto married Nicholasa Higuerra in Santa Clara.  Jose married Nicholas’ twin, Maria Anastasia Higuerra, the same year.  (In 1839)… the two couples moved up to their father’s ranchero.


In 1842, (Sexto and Jose de Jesus or) Nasario petitioned the governor (Micheltorena) for the land grant, El Rancho de las Putas, in the name of his two sons (and for the good of the family)[9].  (On November 3rd )… 1843 it was official.  The grant was 8 leagues or 35,515 acres.[10]



            Maria de Jesus Antonia Villela, b. October 1793, Monterey Presidio: christened 6 October, 1793, Mission San Carlos


Maria’s  father, Marcos Villela, came in the second De Anza Expedition and her mother was Viridiana Maria, neofite of San Carlos Mission (Indian)[11]


Nasario and Maria had sixteen children, many of whom died in infancy.  Children 1-7 are boys:[12]


1                 Hipolito Casiano b. & bapt. 7 August, 1807, Mission San Francisco de Asis; buried 18 August, 1807, Mission San Francisco de Asis

2                 Pedro y Pablo b. & bapt. 3 July, 1810, San Francisco de Asis; d. 3 April, 1812; buried San Francisco de Asis

3                 Jose de Jesus b. 31 January, 1815, Pueblo de San Jose; bapt. 2 February, 1815; m. Maria Anastasis Nicolasa Iguera, 7 January, 1838, Mission San Francisco de Solano

4                 Guadalupe b.1816; m. Maria Delores Alviso, 30 November, 1837, Mission Santa Clara


Both died in 1850 of cholera and are buried in Mission Santa Clara.


5                 Sixto Antonio, b. 28 March, 1818, San Francisco Presidio; bapt. San Francisco de Asis; m. Maria Nicolasa Iguera (widow), 10 August, 1838, Mission San Francisco de Solano; d. 23 September, 1847


They lived in Putas, Napa County, the current location of Lake Berryessa.


6                 Feliz de Jesus b. 19 November, 1819, San Francisco Presidio; bapt. 30 November, 1819, San Francisco de Asis; d. 1856

7                 Jose Martin b. 11 November, 1821; bapt. 12 November, 1821

8                 Clara Berryessa, b. 31 December, 1823, Mission Santa Clara; bapt. 1 January, 1824; m. 18 June, 1848, Mission San Francisco de Asis

9                 Ramon Juan, b. 26 December, 1826; bapt. 29 December, 1829, Mission Santa Clara; m. Evangelista

10             Antonia Maria, b. 15 May, 1828, Mission Santa Clara; d. October 1829

11             Maria Ynes, b.31 August 1829

12             Miguel Santiago, b. 29 July 1831

13             Maria Antonia, b. 1833

14             Nasario de Jesus (Nacario de Jesus), b. 27 July, 1835

15             Isidoro de Moso Antonio, b. 4 April, 1837[13]


Clara Berryessa

Photo taken on her 82nd birthday in 1905



(child 8.) Clara Berryessa married Jesse Loyd Beasley, 18 June, 1848, Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores).


          Clara Berryessa, b. 31 December, 1823, Mission Santa Clara; d.15 January 1915 Willows, California


The father of her first two children (Polo - buried in Willow’s Cemetery, and Corsuth – died at the age of 12) was Salvador Vallejo.  Polo Vallejo went with Clara and Jesse Beasley to Willows. Later in life, Polo was robbed and murdered on his way home to Willows from a family owned bar in Artois. Clara’s  marriage to Salvador, the brother of Mariano Vallejo, is yet to be verified.    The unverified story is that Mariano, married to Benicia Carillo, wanted Salvador to marry Benicia’s sister, which he did.


Jesse Loyd Beasley, b. 9 January, 1814 Kentucky; d. 6 February, 1899 Willows, California


Jesse Beasley was a rancher/explorer/merchant who probably came west from Pennsylvania (Kentucky)with the Chiles-Walker Expedition, 1843.[14] He was a member of the Sonoma Town Council in 1847. In company with Cooper 1848 in Sonoma County; and then had Sonoma Rancho in 1849. He lived with Clara at Stonyford, Colusa County in 1871. It was called originally Indian Valley, later called Stony Creek Valley and settled in 1850.  Smithville, now called Stonyford, was started in 1860s by John L. Smith.  In 1890 the name changed to Stonyford.  Stony Creek Indians were friendly with local settlers.


Clara and Jesse may have had up to seventeen children, though this is likely hearsay.

Grave stones of Clara and Jesse Beasley

Cemetery, Willows, Glen County, California

Photo taken c.1995

According to Clara Berryessa's obituary in the "Grizzly Bear", March 1915: Mrs. Clara Berryessa, a native of California, passed away in Willows, California January 15th, at the age of 92. She is said to have been the first caucasian girl born at the Mission Santa Clara.


          (Child) John Beasley--------------- (wife) Gertrude Prior


Their children include Clara Emily, Kate, and John. Clara Emily married Edward Blaisdell Kendall.


Clara Emily Beasley



(Child) Clara Emily Beasley married Edward Blaisdell Kendall


          Clara Emily Beasley


          Edward Blaisdell Kendall


Clara and Edward had six children:


1.     Edward Hope Kendall

2.     Elizabeth Ann Kendall (Grandma Betty!)

3.     Spencer Robert Kendall

4.     Richard Prior Kendall

5.     Mary Katherine Kendall

6.     Emily Louisa Kendall





Letters written by Jesse Beasley copied from letters located in the California State Library Archive, Sacramento, California


Beasley, Jesse and Company

Jesse Beasley, Jesse – December 13, 1846 – Sonoma

To: Mr. Davis


Dear sir:  I wish you could do me the favor to send me up to 50 lbs of almonds and wash basins and pitchers 2 pair and three sets of tea cups and cigars and one puncheon of Brandy and I shall pay you the most of the money on delivery.  If you have got any dress patterns send me up two pieces and one piece of blue Driel if you please.


          No more at present, but I remain yours


                    Jesse Beasley



Mr. Davis,                                                                         Mar. 24, 1847



          Sir, Your launch arrived here on Wednesday with liquor – one hundred pounds of sugar – I am going to send you 41 hides with the launch likewise the barrel belonging to Mr. Brown and one barrel for yourself. I wish you to do me the favor to save for me one barrel of the brandy as low as you can. I understand that this is two or three vessels arrived at the Yerba Buena.  I hope that the liquor will be lower than it is now but if not buy me one barrel of French Brandy and one barrel of wine if you can get it. Sir, the piece that you was speaking of that you have will not suit me for pants. If there is  only almonds in the place send me up one barrel of them likewise some raisins or currents or some good cigars if you can get them. Certainly there is some of that kind of things there now as there is so many ships there if you send the launch with the brandy we shall send you some more hides if you want them.  The hides that we sent you are thirteen r each as we get them from the McMotters.  No more at present but I remain yours.


                                Beasley, J.L.







1.               California Colonization – Frontier Settlement up to 1846 – F591 Y25   v. 21

2.               Fremont and ’49, Dullenbaugh, Samuel E415 – 8P4

3.               Vallejo, Son of California, McKittrick, Myrtle – 308T R65

4.               Pioneer Register Index

5.               History of California, Bancroft, pg. 306 – vol. 21, Chiles Walker.  Vol. 35, Padre Viadez (priest at Mission Santa Clara)

6.               History of San Jose, Hall (Berryessa)

7.               History of San Francisco, Elredge vol. I and II The Beginnings of San Francisco pp. 291 – 306

8.               History of Santa Clara County, Sawyer, Eugene Taylor

9.               Saint Mary’s College, microfilm – Brother Denis 1922 (researched by Barney Langan)

10.           Los Californios – a society in Willows, California

11.           The Pony Express, Stories of Pioneers and Old Trails vol. XXXVI no. 5 no. 425  Sonora, California, October 1969

12.           San Jose Mercury News, Wednesday, April 4, 1990, 5B




[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Berryessa information came from respective mission records as researched by Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Kendall Howard

[2] Barney Langan: microfilm and conversation with Father Dennis at Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA.




[5] Mission San Jose, California 1797-1835, by Rev. Francis Florence McCarthy




[8] Pioneer Register

[9] Historical Spots in California, 1966 edition. P24

[10] Echos of Solano’s Past , Deleplane, Kristen:

[11]Mission Records Spanish Mexican Families of Early California, 1769 –1850 vol. 1, pub. 1976, 2nd. Ed. 1987 by Marie Northrup,

[12] Thomas Workman Temple; Genealogical tables of Spanish and Mexican Families of California. FMF860

[13] Mission Santa Clara records

[14] Pioneer Register, vol. 2 pg. 713

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