The Mayors of Los Angeles

From Feliz to Aguilar (1781-1872)

By John P. Schmal
Published on LatinoLA: April 17, 2004

The Mayors of Los Angeles

Mayors are uniquely talented people. They were appointed or elected as executive officers presiding over the lives of their neighbors, friends and families. From its founding in 1781, Los Angeles has had many chief executives. The title has undergone several changes, starting with the appointment of Comisionado (Military Commissioner) Jos? Vicente Feliz in the 1780s. In 1786, the leader of Los Angeles was called by the Spanish term, Alcalde. But in later years, the chief administrator was called Juez de Paz (Justice of the Peace). Under American rule, the title was changed to the English term, Mayor.

As you will see in the following list, many of the early Mayors of Los Angeles were natives of Mexico; in particular many of them came from Sinaloa, Sonora and Jalisco. However, when Los Angeles evolved from a Spanish town to a Mexican town in 1821/22, many of the Mayors / Alcalde?s were native-born Angelinos, whose parents had come from Mexico. Many of them were the sons of wealthy landowners who had received land grants for their military service. The following list gives small amounts of information about some of the Chief Executives of Los Angeles in the Olden Days.

1781 - 1786 Jos? Vicente Feliz, Comisionado (area military commissioner),
Corporal Jose Vicente Feliz, a veteran of the Anza Expedition of 1776, was one of the soldiers assigned to guard the Pueblo of Los Angeles in its early years. In 1787, Governor Fages appointed Feliz as Comisionado of the Los Angeles Pueblo, giving him the powers of Mayor and Judge. For his service, Vicente Feliz was granted 6,677 acres, which became El Rancho de Los Feliz. Feliz was born in Alamos, Sonora sometime around 1741.

1786-1788 ? Alcalde Jos? Vanegas. Jos? Vanegas was born about 1753 in Real de Bolanos, Jalisco. He had enlisted as a settler in Sinaloa in 1780 and arrived in Los Angeles in 1781 as a 28-year-old Indian. He was a shoemaker by trade. He became the first Alcalde of Los Angeles.

1789-1790 ? Jos? Sinova was a blacksmith from Mexico City who married Mar?a Gertrudis Boj?rquez, a mestiza from Villa de Sinaloa.

1790- 1793 ? Mariano de la Luz Verdugo, a native of San Xavier, Baja California, came to California in the 1769 expedition and, for the next two decades, served at various presidios in California. Mariano retired to Los Angeles around 1787 and served as Alcalde of the Pueblo from 1790 until 1793. In 1784, Corporal Verdugo was awarded a 36,403-acre land grant, one of the largest in Los Angeles County.

1793-1795 ? Juan Francisco Reyes was a mulato from Zapotl?n el Grande in Jalisco. Reyes became the original owner of the San Fernando Rancho, where he raised his cattle. Juan Francisco Reyes is regarded by many as the first Black Mayor of Los Angeles.

1796 ? Jos? Vanegas (2nd term)

1797 - 1798 Manuel Arellanes was a weaver from Puebla. He came to California with Anza in 1775/76 and served as a soldier for many years. He retired from the military in 1786 and moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a weaver.

1798-1799 ? Guillermo Cota was the owner of Rancho Los Cerritos. He was born in 1768 in Loreto, Baja California.

1799-1800 ? Francisco Serrano, a native of Villa de Sastago, Aragon, Spain. He served for many years in the Spanish military.

1800-1802 ? Joaquin Higuera was a mestizo farmworker from Villa de Sinaloa. Joaquin served as a soldier at the San Diego Presidio as early as 1775, but retired to the Pueblo around 1790.

1802 ? 1809 ? Mariano Verdugo (second term)

1810-1811 ? Francisco Avila was a farmworker from Villa de Sinaloa. He was the son of Cornelio Avila and his wife Isabel Urquidez who came to Los Angeles in 1783 from El Fuerte, Sinaloa. Francisco built ?La Casa de los Avilas? ? located on Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles ? in 1818, now regarded as the oldest building in Los Angeles.

1811 - 1812 Manuel Guti?rrez was a native of Spain.

1812-1816 ? Guillermo Soto, as Comisionado, assumed the same responsibilities of an alcalde

1816 - 1819 Antonio Mar?a Lugo was the son of the famous soldier Francisco Salvador Lugo, who was one of the first soldiers to stand guard at the Los Angeles Pueblo in the 1780s. Although his family was from Villa de Sinaloa, Antonio Mar?a was born in 1775 at the San Antonio de Padua Mission near Monterey. Antonio had arrived in the Pueblo as a retired soldier in 1809 and received a land grant of 29,514 acres of land south of the pueblo as a reward for his 17 years of service in the Spanish military.

1819 - 1822 Jos? Anastasio Avila was the son of Cornelio Avila and his wife Isabel Urquidez, who came to Los Angeles in 1783 from El Fuerte, Sinaloa. He was the brother of Francisco who had served as Alcalde earlier in 1810-1811. He also served in other positions of authority during the Pueblo?s early decades.
Mexican Los Angeles

1822-1824 ? Manuel Gutierrez (second term).

1824 ? Guillermo Cota (second term)

1824 ? Encarnacion Urquides

1825 ? Jos? Mar?a Avila

1826 ? Jos? Antonio Carrillo

1826-1827 ? Jos? Mar?a Claudio Lopez was born around 1767 in Real de Santana, Baja California. He settled in Los Angeles in the 1780s and was involved in local politics.

1827-1828 ? Guillermo Cota (third term)

1828-1829 ? Jos? Antonio Carrillo (second term)

1829 ? 1830 ? Guillermo Soto (second term)

1830-1831 ? Tiburcio Tapia. Tiburcio was a member of the famous Tapia family that owned a great deal of land around present-day Malibu.

1831-1832 ? Jos? Vicente Anastacio Sanchez was born at the San Gabriel Mission in 1785, but both of his parents were from Alamos, Sonora. Vicente was a prominent figure in Mexican Los Angeles, but also a controversial figure.

1832-1833 ? Manuel Antonio Fernando Dominguez ? Manuel served in various positions of authority in Los Angeles and San Pedro.

1833-1834 Jos? Antonio Carrillo (third term)

1834-1835 ? Jos? Perez

1835-1836 ? Francisco Xavier Alvarado. Born around 1756 in Loreto Presidio, Baja California, Francisco Xavier Alvarado served in the military during the latter part of the Eighteenth Century. In retirement, he made his home in Los Angeles where he served as both Comisionado and Sargento Encargado.

1836-1837 ? Manuel Requena

1837 ? Jos? Sepulveda ? Jose Loreto Sepulveda was born in 1815 at the San Gabriel Mission. With his brother, Juan Sepulveda, he was a grantee of Rancho Los Palos Verdes in 1846. He held various positions of authority in the Pueblo during the 1840s.

1838-1839 ? Luis Arenas

1839-1840 ? Tiburcio Tapia & Jose Sepulveda (served jointly as First and Second Alcalde). Tiburcio Tapia was a prominent merchant who received a 13,000-acre tract called the Rancho Cucamonga from Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado on March 3, 1839.
Office of Alcalde Abolished. Los Angeles then governed by two Jueces de Paz (Justices of Peace)

1841 ? Ignacio Palomares & Ignacio Alvarado
Ignacio Mar?a Palomares was born near the San Fernando Mission in 1811, but his father was from San Jos? Canelas, Durango. Ignacio received the large Azusa and San Jos? land grants in eastern Los Angeles, in the area of present-day Pomona. He served in many capacities at Los Angeles: Juez de Campo, Regidor, Juez de Paz, Elector, and Assembly member.

1842 ? Manuel Dominguez & Jose Sepulveda ? Juan Jose Sepulveda was the owner of Rancho Santa Ana (in Orange County).

1843 ? Manuel Dominguez & Antonio F. Coronel

The Office of Alcalde was restored in 1844, with two men serving as First Alcalde and Second Alcalde.

1844 ? Manual Requena & Tiburcio Tapia

1845 ? Vicente Sanchez & Juan Sepulveda ? Vicente Sanchez was the owner of Rancho La Cienega O? Paso de la Tijera. Juan Capistrano Sepulveda had been born in 1814 at the San Gabriel Mission. Born into a politically active family, Juan was a grantee with Jos? Loreto Sepulveda of Palos Verdes in 1846. After the American occupation, he served as Los Angeles Supervisor and as County Assessor during the 1850s.

1846 ? Juan Gallardo & Jose L Sepulveda.

1847 ? Jose Salazar & Enrique Avila

1848 ? Ignacis Palomores & Jose Sepulveda

American Los Angeles
1848-1850 ? Stephen C. Foster. Foster graduated from Yale University in 1840. After practicing medicine in Missouri, he arrived in Los Angeles in 1847 as an interpreter for the Mormon Battalion. He was serving as Mayor at the time the U.S. took over Los Angeles and was elected to the City Council in 1850.

1850-1851 ? Alpheus P. Hodges

1851-1852 ? Benjamin D. Wilson. Born in Tennessee in 1811, Benjamin D. Wilson was originally a fur trapper by trade. Wilson arrived in California in the 1840s and became a prominent merchant and landowner. Wilson organized the first Los Angeles Police Force. He was later elected to the California State Senate. Mount Wilson was named for him.

John G. Nichols. Nichols served as Mayor twice. He was a businessman and builder and lived in the first brick house to built in Los Angeles. His son was the first American child to be born in Los Angeles.

1853-1854 ? A former Mexican army officer, Antonio Franco Coronel (1817 -1894) came to Los Angeles in 1834 and became the owner of Rancho Los Feliz. Coronel was noted as both an orange grower and educator. He taught school in Los Angeles during the 1830s and studied the culture of early Los Angeles. He also served as City Councilman, and was later elected as state treasurer.

May 4, 1854 - Jan. 13, 1855 ? Stephen C. Foster

Jan. 25, 1855 - May 9, 1855 Stephen C. Foster (Partial term)

May 9, 1855 - May 7, 1856 ? Dr. Thomas Foster. Foster was a physician who took a great interest in the development and improvement of water, sewer, and educational facilities.
May 7, 1856 - Sept. 22, 1856 Stephen C. Foster (Partial term)

Sept. 22, 1856 - Oct. 4, 1856 ? Manuel Requena (served as Council President, Acting Mayor).

Oct. 4, 1856 - May 9, 1859 ? John G. Nichols

May 9, 1859 - May 9, 1860 Damien Marchessault. A native of Quebec, Canada, Marchessault was a very active and aggressive mayor. He committed suicide in the Council Room of the Los Angeles City Hall in 1868.

May 9, 1860 - Dec. 26, 1860 ? Henry Mellus. Mellus arrived in California in 1835, accompanied by Richard Henry Dana, the Author of ?Two Years Before the Mast.? When Mellus became Mayor in 1860, the population of Los Angeles stood at 4,399.

Dec. 27, 1860 - Jan. 7, 1861 (Council President, Acting Mayor) ? William Woodworth

Jan. 7, 1861 - May 6, 1865 (Four terms) ? Damien Marchessault

May 5, 1865 - May 10, 1866 (One term) ? Jos? Mascarel. Mascarel was a French sea captain, who arrived in Los Angeles in 1844.

May 10, 1866 - Dec. 7 1868 (Two terms) ? Cristobal Aguilar

Dec. 9, 1868 - Dec. 9, 1870 (Two terms) ? Joel Turner. At the time he served as Mayor, the population of Los Angeles had grown to 5,614.

Dec. 9, 1870 - Dec. 5, 1872 (Two terms) ? Cristobal Aguilar
The last Latino to serve as mayor of the City of Los Angeles was Cristobal Aguilar who held office twice from 1866 to 1868 and 1870 to 1872. When Aguilar became Mayor, there were less than 6,000 residents. When the city council proposed selling off the city's water rights to bring in additional revenue, Aguilar vetoed the proposal. If Aguilar had not used his power of veto, Los Angeles would have lost control of its water rights, leading to serious problems later.

At the time Aguilar was elected in 1870, the Latino voter registration was about 22%. However, when Aguilar ran for reelection, he lost to an Anglo opponent, who made an issue of his poor English. Aguilar was the last Hispanic Mayor of Los Angeles up to the year 2004.

A list of the early Hispanic Los Angeles Mayors can be accessed at the Los Angeles Almanac website at:


Given Place Publishing Co. ?Los Angeles Almanac: Demographics, History, Statistics? Online: (1998-2004).

Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, ?Mayors of Los Angeles?

William Marvin Mason, ?The Census of 1790: A Demographic History of Colonial California? (Menlo Park, California: Ballena Press, 1998).

About John P. Schmal:
John Schmal is an associate editor of and a contributing editor for "Encyclopedia Latina" (scheduled for publication in Feb. 2005).

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