John Bautista Rogers Cooper (September 11, 1791, Alderney, British Channel Islands – June 2, 1872, San Francisco, California). Raised in Massachusetts in a maritime family, he came to the Mexican territory of Alta California as master of the ship Rover, and was a pioneer of Monterey, California when it was the capital of the territory. Marrying into the family of the Mexican territorial governor, he acquired extensive land holdings in the area prior to the Mexican-American War.
John (Juan) Bautista Rogers Cooper was born John Rogers Cooper on the island of Alderney, Guernsey, in the British Channel Islands, son of Thomas Cooper and Anne Rogers. His mother and he relocated to Boston, Massachusetts when he was a boy. His mother married twice, and Captain Cooper was a half-brother of Thomas O. Larkin.
After moving to Boston with his mother, he traveled extensively, first attending school in Charleston and then serving as second mate on a missionary trip to the Hawaiian Islands. He arrived in Monterey, Alta California as master of his own vessel, the trading schooner Rover, in 1823.
Upon his arrival in Monterey, Cooper made arrangements to sell the Rover to the government of newly-independent Mexico, which as yet had no ships on the Pacific Coast with which to maintain contact with Alta California. To help cash-poor California governor Luis Arguello pay him for the ship, Cooper agreed to stay on as captain and enter the lucrative China trade, twice carrying Californian and Hawaiian goods to Canton and returning with Chinese manufactured goods. Cooper and Arguello quarreled, however, over how to split the profits, and it was many years before Cooper received the payment due. Collection was made more difficult when Arguello was replaced as governor in 1825. In 1826, the Rover was sent south under a new captain, and never returned to Monterey.
No longer having a ship to sail, Cooper drew on his trade knowledge to open a general merchandise store in Monterey. He boarded with Ignacio Vallejo (one of whose children became General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo), and later proposed to his daughter Encarnacion. After Cooper was baptised as a Roman Catholic, the couple married in 1827, and Cooper's baptismal name became Juan Bautista Rogers Cooper. His padrino (sponsor) was William Edward Petty Hartnell, a native Englishman who had been residing in Monterey as a trader since 1822.
After passage of an 1829 law requiring permanent residents to be Mexican citizens, both Cooper and Hartnell were naturalized in 1830. Before 1829, naturalization was not strictly required but, along with conversion to Catholicism and marriage into a prominent family, helped Cooper become accepted in Monterey and obtain land grants.
Captain Cooper later returned to the seafaring life but, having acquired land, he gradually quit the sea. From 1839 to 1844 he made many trips to the Mexican coast and to the Hawaiian Islands, in command of the government-owned Californian, which carried mail, prisoners, and government officials from Monterey to Mexico. In 1846 he made a voyage to Peru, and in 1849 he went as master of the Eveline to China.
Being the territorial capital and port of entry meant that anyone coming to Alta California eventually had to come to Monterey to get official permission to remain. In 1827, Cooper hosted and escorted trapper/explorer Jedediah Smith, the first U.S. citizen to travel to California overland. Cooper helped Smith obtain a passport so his party could continue north into Oregon.
Cooper acquired Rancho Bolsa del Potrero y Moro Cojo, in the area of present-day Castroville, California, in 1829. Another early California English-speaker, the Irishman John Milligan (or Mulligan), had a house on the rancho (labeled "Casa de Milligan" on the diseño). Cooper received a second grant in 1833, when Governor José Figueroa granted him Rancho El Molino. In 1840, Cooper traded Rancho Bolsa del Potrero y Moro Cojo for Juan Alvarado's Rancho El Sur. Alvarado was a nephew of Encarnacion Vallejo Cooper. Also in 1840, Governor Alvarado granted him Rancho Punta de Quentin, which later became the site of San Quentin State Prison. Cooper built a mansion out at the point. Cooper and Pablo de la Guerra were granted Rancho Nicasio by Governor Manuel Micheltorena in 1844. He sold his interests in both Marin County ranchos in 1850.
From 1850, Captain Cooper lived with his family in Monterey, and was appointed in 1851 to the post of Monterey Harbormaster. In 1865 he moved to San Francisco, where he died in 1872. Cooper's eldest daughter, Ana Maria de Guadalupe, married Herman Wohler, a German who had come to California in 1848. Cooper's daughter Amelia, married Eusebio Joseph Molera in 1875.
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