History does not record exactly when Estanislao, a Lakismani Indian, arrived at Mission San Jose but most likely it was in the early 1820's during the administrations of Fathers Buenaventura Fortuni and Narciso Duran.
It was into this community of 250 whites and 500-600 Indian
neophytes that a young Indian brave named Cucunuchi went for religious
instruction and education. He learned the habits and customs of the whites, and
was baptized in the pueblo chapel and given the name Estanislao, after a saint
of the church.
Estanislao was an Indian of considerable intelligence and
showed a more than ordinary degree of loyalty which gained him an appointment as
a native alcade. Under Mexican law, an alcade was one who dispensed justice
among the natives. He was at the mission at a time of friction and intense
jealousy among political leaders of the northern and southern jurisdictions of
California. This brought on a time constant turmoil and lack of cohesion at the
Jose Maria Echeandra was Governor of Mexican California and
did not support the efforts of the padres and belittled their work. Followers of
the governor preached a doctrine of liberty and equality of converted Indians
with the Spaniards. This caused the Indians to be neither content with their
menial tasks nor obedient to their educators.
In the spring of 1828, Estanislao left the mission and led a
number of Indians, who fled with him, back to the San Joaquin Valley. On the Rio
Laquismes (later renamed Rio Estanislao), at the point near where it joined the
San Joaquin River, he and his band set up a rancheria.
Because of their cattle stealing, and their looting and
killing of white inhabitants, the Indians under Chief Estanislao, made
themselves the terror of the area. Father Duran, of Mission San Jose,
immediately called upon Mexican Commandante Ignacio Martinez, at the San
Francisco Presidio, for troops to destroy the fortification and bring the
fugitive Estanislao and his band of Indians back to the mission.
The Commandante gave Sergeant Antonio Soto the assignment of
heading up an expedition. Sergeant Soto had many years of experience fighting
Indians and was confident in his ability to quickly end the violence and capture
the leader, Chief Estanislao. Sergeant Soto and his troops left San Francisco
and proceeded inland to the San Joaquin Valley.
From a dense and impenetrable thicket the Indians repelled
Soto's forces and the battle raged all day. The arrows and spears of the Indians
proved too much and the Mexican forces withdrew at sunset with two soldiers
killed and another eight wounded in addition to the sergeant. The Indians
suffered one dead and ten wounded. Due to the exhaustion of the men and the
wounded needing attention, Sergeant Soto was forced to abandon the siege and
retreat to San Jose. Here the sergeant died a few days later as a result of his
Upon his return to the mission, Soto forwarded had reported
to the Commandante at the San Francisco Presidio that a larger force would be
necessary to successfully fight the Indians. So, a second group of forty men,
under the leadership of Sergeant Jose Sanchez was sent to punish the rebel
Indians. In contrast to Sergeant Soto's rash actions, Sergeant Sanchez was very
cautious and made careful preparations for the expedition.
When Sanchez and his men arrived at Estanislao's camp, he
found it very quiet and it looked deserted. However, the sergeant proceeded very
carefully into the camp when suddenly the soldiers had arrows and spears coming
at them from all directions. Sergeant Sanchez and his men were lucky to get out
alive and again the Mexican forces retreated.
Realizing that this might become a major encounter, the
Commandante of the San Francisco Presidio joined forces with that of the
Monterey Presidio to send a third and much larger force of one hundred and seven
soldiers to defeat Chief Estanislao and his Indian band.
This force was organized under the command of a young
twenty-year old officer named Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (see note #1). Vallejo's
Army was equipped with infantry, cavalry and a three-pound cannon for artillery.
Lieutenant Vallejo's forces joined with those of Sergeant Sanchez at San Jose
and proceeded to the San Joaquin River, where the combined forces crossed the
river by raft on May 29, 1829. The next day they were at the scene of the
Vallejo's forces used the cannon to break through the
stockade walls, causing the Indians to retreat to the thicket and to the tunnels
dug previously for defense. The Mexican forces set fire to the thicket and
destroyed many Indians as they came to the edge. The battle continued all day
and the next morning Vallejo entered the thicket to find that the surviving
Indians had fled during the night. Lieutenant Vallejo returned to Mission San
Jose on June 1st having, what he claimed, conquered Chief Estanislao with no
losses but thirteen wounded.
On the other side of the story, not a single neophyte Indian
was returned to the mission. Later Estanislao delivered himself to Father Duran
and was ultimately pardoned by Governor Echeandra.
Estanislao appears again in the annals of the year 1836 as a
leader of renegade Indians accused of horse stealing, driving away livestock and
causing the death of several settlers. Word among the first settlers of Knights
Ferry gives Estanislao residence there in the late 1840's, but no record of him
is found in 1851 when the U.S. Indian Commission met with area chieftains at the
Horr Ranch, east of Waterford, to make a treaty.
Evidence, in the way of artifacts and documented
descriptions, has been found which places the location of the battle between
Estanislao and his Indian band and Vallejo and his Mexican force along the
Stanislaus River below Riverbank.