Chapter History

The organizing regent, Mrs. Emily Karns Dixon, was a member of DAR’s Sierra Chapter in Berkeley, California, some years before the organization of Gaspar de Portola Chapter. In November, 1924, Mrs. Frank Schofield asked Mrs. Dixon to lead a movement to organize a new chapter. The organizing meeting for Gaspar de Portola Chapter took place on December 12, 1924, at the home of Mrs. Emily Karns Dixon in Palo Alto. There were 12 members of The National Society present as they organized the new chapter. The name chosen for the chapter, Gaspar de Portola, gives honor to the first governor of California.


Gaspar de Portola took office as governor of California in October 1767. With the advance of Russia down the coast, Spain decided to establish missions in Alta California with the presidios for military protection. Portola was the commander of the expedition sent from New Spain to colonize Alta California. He and Junipero Serra came by land from Baja California to San Diego, where Serra founded the first mission.

On July 14, 1769, Portola began his march to Monterey. The personnel of this expedition contained some of the best known names in California. Portola, the first governor; Rivera, commandant of California from 1773 to 1777; Fages, first commandant of California, 1769-1773, and governor, 1782 to 1790; Ortega, pathfinder, explorer, discover of the Golden Gate and Carquinez Strait.

The party followed the historic trail, the El Camino Real. They traveled up the coast until they came to a point where they encountered rugged mountains. They continued and circled around trying to find Monterey Bay. Portola, bewildered and confused, concluded that some mistake had been made. He thought the harbor must be further north. The party continued up the coast until they reached Half Moon Bay.

On the night of October 30, 1769, they camped under Palo Alto (tall tree) on the bank of San Francisquito Creek, now part of Palo Alto. Members of the party sighted San Francisco Bay while searching for game. The party returned to San Diego after an absence of eight months. Father Serra named the bay San Francisco for the good Saint Francis. This bay was later to become the most important port in western America.

The name of Gaspar de Portola is associated with the entire state, not just one locality, since he was governor of both Baja and Alto California. His preservations of documents, his history and his unquestioned Christianity, courage and patriotism make his name one worthy to be honored as a chapter’s name.

Above excerpt from "History of Gaspar de Portola Chapter 1925-1990" by Mrs. Jessie Alexander (Phillip)

Gaspar de Portola Chapter has members who live on the Peninsula from Belmont to San Jose. Our meetings are held during the third week of each month from September through May. Each regular meeting includes devotions, general order of business, President General's message, a three minute National Defense report, and a program. A light dessert and social time follows. We extend a warm welcome to anyone interested in joining us at our meetings.