Josefa Zamorano

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I'm looking for any information, images or life details about Josefa Maria Zamorano (also known by her birth name of Josefa Maria de la Paz Zamorano).

I already know that she was born around Monterey, California around Feb. 12, 1834 and was possibly baptised at the Carmel Mission. Her father was Don Agustin Vicente Zamorano (1798-1842) who was the first printer in California and briefly served as a governor during the 1830s. Her mother was Doña Maria Luisa Arguello de Zamorano who died in Los Angeles around 1847.

Josefa was described as being very personable and beautiful and was deeply mourned in San Diego following her early death at her grandfather's rancho on July 7, 1851. A heartfelt obituary can be found in the San Diego Herald of that period:

July 10, 1851
DIED - July 7th, after an illness of a few weeks, at Tijuan, the residence of her grand-father, Don Santiago Arguello, Maria Josefa Zamorano - daughter of the late Capt. Zamorano, of the Mexican Army -- aged 17 years. This young and delicate flower, the beloved and esteemed by all, drooped and withered; and the spirit had now been recalled by that Being, who "gave and has the right to take away." It is hard to realize the fact, that one so young, so lovely, and so endeared to all her friends, by her mild and affectionate disposition, her purity, her truth, her meekness and gentleness -- Indeed by all the finer traits that adorn the female character -- should this be irrevocably taken from the midst of her loving relations and friends; and that never more on this earth, will her kind words be heard, or her sweet smile be seen -- but even now, consolation can be found in the conviction, that her angelic spirit has winged its way to a world of brighter skies. "T"

[I'm also curious to know who "T" was].

The 1850 census of San Diego lists her as "Samorano, Maria Josefa, 16."

I later found the following information online:

"The issue of July 10, 1851, tells of the death at the age of 17 years of Senorita Maria Josefa Zamorano, daughter of the late Captain Augustin Vicente Zamorano, and a grand-daughter of Don Santiago Arguello, at the Arguello residence at La Punta. She was regarded by many as the most beautiful of the many beautiful young Spanish women of the San Diego of those days. The old Arguello home, built in 1836, is still in fair condition, is occupied and stands as a remarkable landmark near the head of San Diego Bay."

[NOTE: 1951 - The Montgomery Freeway was built from the border to Harbor Boulevard in National City and was named in honor of aviation pioneer John J. Montgomery whose home and farm were in the right-of-way and were demolished. The home was the old adobe of Santiago Arguello that had been purchased by John's father Zachary Montgomery who owned a farm at the Fruitlands. By 1973 this freeway was expanded to 8 lanes and became the southernmost section of Interstate 5.]

In addition, I found the following:

"Another news on the Argüello family which we found in ecclesiastical books is the registry of the father apostolic missionary J. Chrisostom Holbein of the following act: “Day 8 of 1851 July, in the cemetery of this town ecclesiastical Josefa Zamorano, unmarried, from age of 16 years, received the holy sacraments in the farm of the Tia Juana.” Maria Josefa Zamorano was daughter of Agustín Zamorano and Maria Luisa Argüello [daughter of Don Santiago] that lived in San Diego and spent seasons in his farm of Tijuana."

There was also an oil on wood portrait being 8½ by 12 inches of Josefa's younger sister, María Eulalia Dorotea Zamorano at age fourteen, which was painted by B. Williston who then presented in to Santiago Argüello in December of 1850. Could a similar portrait exist of Josefa herself?

And finally, in his biography Don Agustin V. Zamorano: Statesman, Soldier, Craftsman & California's First Printer, author George Harding wrote this about Josefa:

"The fifth child of Don Agustin was born at Monterey on February 13, 1834. Her godparents were Don Ignacio del Valle and Doña Ramona Carrillo, the widow of Don Romauldo Pacheco. She was baptized as Josepha María although she is remembered in the family as Josepha Rosa. She is said to have died at San Diego at about the age of seventeen, unmarried. She was a beautiful and vivacious young woman."

So does anyone out there have anything I haven't already collected here? I would very much appreciate any information no matter how trivial or obscure it may be. Thank You!


in Genealogy Help by

2 Answers

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Hello, I believed to experience her spirit on the day of the dead in 2019. I was not scared, it was a very peaceful experience. This has brought me to do research on her and it seems difficult to find any further information on her maybe of her passing at a young age. Bless her soul.

Hi Karen!

I too felt her presence in June 2007 when I visited her grave at Campo Santo in Old Town San Diego. She seemed very serene to me, if somewhat sad. That’s why I started researching her life, though I’ll admit not much is left about her to find. I did find a few family photos, however, which I’ll share if you’re interested. 
No way ? ! What made you think it was her? How was your experience?

Yes, I was in San Diego as well.  A year prior going to San Diego, I experience deja vu when seeing someone’s snap chat story. I was taken a back because everything the person was recording I had seen before. He mentioned he was at a Mexican  Restaurant in San Diego. Which was weird because I never been to San Diego before. A year forward, I happened to go celebrate my friends birthday and I ran into her grave on day of the dead and I experience a sense of deja vu all of over again.  

Yes I would love to see the photos ! 

I’m not sure exactly how I sensed Josefa, other than I was standing near her grave at sunset and felt a powerful wave of emotion come over me. It may sound weird, but I felt really sad being there—like some part of me was still in mourning for her. This has only happened to me three times in my almost 40 years and this instance was the second time.

I’ve also had some kind of strong connection with Old Town San Diego since I was a kid. Sometimes I can see split-second glimpses of it in my mind like it looked a long, long time ago. And when tour guides and historians talk about local historical figures like Juan Bandini, Pio Pico, the Estudillo family, Josefa Fitch, Thomas Whaley, Robert Stockton, Stephen Kearney etc., they feel like real flesh and blood people who walked around, laughed, talked, smoked, worshipped, gambled, and made plans. For me, they weren’t just names out of a book. I have a similar connection to Olvera Street in LA, especially at La Placita Church. Same goes for the San Diego Mission, San Juan Capistrano, Julian, Mission San Gabriel and other Mexican-era landmarks. They all hold a strange fascination for me.

Here’s another example: I once saw Pio Pico’s riding cloak on display at the Bowers Museum and I swear I’d seen it somewhere before. It felt very familiar despite being over 160 years old and in fragile condition. I couldn’t say how I saw it though or why I felt the way I did. It wasn’t even like it stood out any because it was tucked away in a corner.

This period of history feels like a half-remembered dream to me. So I wanted to learn more about it. I’ve since collected and read many books and searched the Internet about it for years afterwards. I’ve never stopped being interested.

Anyway, below are the Internet links where I found all my Zamorano family photos. Hope they’re as interesting for you as they were for me!

Thank you for those links !

Wow how fascinating ! I had a similar experience inside the Whaley house. The minute you enter the house, there are heavy vibes but one particular place upstairs of the house, I wanted to drop down and cry.

I’m glad I was able to connect with you by having similar experiences. I thought I was going crazy. I agree even though this happen back in November, I still think about her every now and then. Her obituary date is the same date as my brothers birthday. Obviously having the same last name has resonated with me because I haven’t met any of my relatives since they all reside in Mexico.  

Let me ask you this; all the experiences and strong feeling of dream like for this era, why do you think it is or what do you believe it is ?
That’s amazing! I found myself thinking about her too, despite not having a picture or any specific details about her life. It was all based on vague feelings I can’t fully explain, but they were strong feelings.

As to why I’m having them, my best guess is that I somehow tapped into memories from another life. I’m not sure how or why. I try to visit Old Town San Diego every year because it feels like coming home.

What you said about the Whaley House is very interesting! I wonder why you felt the way you did upstairs? I wonder what happened there? I know the house was built over the site of a gallows where criminals like Yankee Jim Robinson were hanged. I also know from reading that the house was the scene of a lot drama and strife. I sometimes feel faint feelings of guilt and sadness near the downstairs parlor where a guide once told me Violet Whaley passed away.

Maybe you and your family are distantly related to Josefa. Even in the 1800s she had relatives living in Mexico. She was living at her grandfather’s ranch near Tijuana when she became ill and passed away.

I once found a photo of an unidentified young woman that reminds of her. I like to think she might’ve looked something like this in life. Maybe you’ll think so too:
I wonder if you were near Violet’s bedroom? It’s located upstairs near the back of the Whaley House on the right side.
I also like to believe it was a past life experience. Like you said it was a sense of being home. Maybe Josefa was using my body as a vessel, or wanting her name to be known since she died at a young age so she can still be alive in the after life. Thank you for that insight, definitely  a probability that we’re related... the picture is lovely !

That’s a great idea, I would love to visit her grave once a year as well.

Also, yes that’s exactly where I was at. I was facing out looking towards the window. I immediately had to leave, cutting people off while going down stairs  because I was about to start crying.

Wow! It sounds like you might have a connection with Violet Whaley as well.

I wonder sometimes if other people have sensed Josefa the same way we have. I think it’s fascinating if she did reach out to a family member. Maybe she has a message of some kind that she wanted to share.

I’m glad if I was any help to you and I hope you enjoy your future visits to Old Town!

Yea exactly my thoughts. I even said to myself as I was looking at her grave, “I don’t know what you’re trying to communicate but I hear you...feel you loud and clear.”

This was a great connection, thank you for everything you’ve provided & you too!
My pleasure! I’m very glad to have heard from you! And I’m grateful (and relieved) to know I wasn’t the only one to experience this connection.
Hello! I manage the majority of the Zamorano Memorials on Find A Grave and several Family Trees. I too have experiences with Josefa and her 2 brothers also located at El Campo Santo. She was someone special in life and moreso, to this day. I'm close with Zamorano descendants and they too are salt of the earth. Hoping the history of Josefa will surface in this lifetime.

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