Andrea Baratie

(1838—1920)



 BORN 9 February 1837 in Talcahuano, Bahía de Concepción, Chile.
 DIED 10 May 1920
 
 FATHER George Foster (b. Newcastle upon Tyne, England.)
 MOTHER Francesca Joffre (b. Valparaiso, Chile.)
 
 MARRIED 1   Alexander Murray (1834-1870)
 
 MARRIED 2   Benjamin Muñoz


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Andrea was born of an English father and a Chilean mother in the town of Talcahuano on the Bahía de Concepción about 500 km south of Santiago. Her mother tongue was Spanish, but according to various censuses, she spoke and wrote English; after all, she had been in the U.S. from the age of 13, arriving in 1850—the year California officially became the 31st State in the Union. Perhaps her family had been drawn by the gold rush.

At the time she met Alexander, Andrea was the widow of the Frenchman Bartolo Baratie, who had been murdered for his money by brigands on 12 May 1858. According to this story, which was written up by Walter Murray within weeks of the events, Baratie and his companion M. Jose Borel, two Frenchmen from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, had come down from Oakland to settle on the Rancho San Juan Capistrano, 45 miles from SLO (in a northerly direction, near Estrella in the Paso Robles/San Miguel area—this is not the mission town of San Juan Capistrano, which is south of Los Angeles.) Ten days after their arrival, they were attacked and killed by a band of eight men. Andrea was effectively kidnapped and had to ride through the countryside for a week accompanied by one of the gang, Luciano the Mesteno, but was released by him in a house near San Juan. (This must be San Juan Bautista, a mission town about 100 miles south of Oakland and San Francisco.) She took the stagecoach to Oakland but later returned by steamer to San Luis Obispo to testify at the trial of some of the culprits, who had been apprehended by Walter Murray’s Vigilance Committee of 1858. At that time, Andrea would have been 21 years old, and had lived for the previous five years in Oakland. Walter does not name her, except as Madam Baratie, but refers to her as a respectable and educated lady of mixed Spanish and English blood.

The lynching by the vigilantes of a number of the gang members, including Luciano El Mesteno Tapia who had released Mme Baratie, and the evident animosity between the Californians, Spanish-speakers who had been present before the 1847 treaty with Mexico (the majority), and the newly-arrived Americans and foreigners (the minority who, like Walter Murray, were certain of their moral superiority) give an idea of the difficult times the new state was experiencing. San Luis Obispo, being in an isolated location, was a wilder part of the west than many others. From Monterey to Los Angeles was the lonely coast road, with occasional ranchos and the villages of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara widely separated, with many mountains in which were dark canyons … offering concealment and seclusion, and to this region gathered the worst bandits of California.

After Alexander’s death, Andrea worked as a dressmaker, married a farmer called Benjamin Muñoz, apparently 20 years her junior, and was subsequently divorced. Over the years, she lived in a number of rented dwellings in San Luis Obispo. At the end of her life (in the 1920 census), she is found living with her nephew Albert Deleissignes and his family in Nipomo, 26 miles south of San Luis Obispo on what is now Highway 101. Albert’s wife Rebecca, though born in California, had both parents born in Chile—it may be that one of them was Andrea’s sibling. Albert, variously described as butcher and farmer, had a French father and a Californian mother; he himself was born in California.

Andrea died on 10 May 1920, aged 83 (the age of 81 in the 1920 census must be wrong because it does not tally with ages she had previously and consistently given; perhaps toward the end—four months before her death—she was confused or unable to answer for herself). [JCC 2004]



Alexander Murray & Andrea, about 1860.


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