Pere D’Alberni, captain of the first company of the catalonian volunteers at Nootka Sound (1790-1792)

Alberni was born on January 30, l747 to a noble family, in the city of Tortosa, region of Catalonia, Spain and died at fifty-five in Monterrey, California on March 11, 1802. He married Juana Velez, from Tepic.

Pere d’Alberni, a forty-year-career Spanish officer, left his mark in Mexico, California and in British Columbia. He commanded the Catalonian Volunteers in Nootka, Nayarit, Guadalajara, Sonora, Veracruz and the four military garrisons of California.

Port Alberni is named after him. He also has a street named after him in Vancouver and in Tortosa.

On July 1762, he joined the army as a cadet and on 1767 he crossed the Atlantic Ocean with destination to the Spanish Colony of NEW SPAIN (now MEXICO) on May 27, from Cadiz, Spain to Veracruz, Mexico.

He participated in different campaigns in this Colony. On 1789 he received an order from the Viceroy of New Spain to be ready to travel the Northwest Coast with his Company. They departed on January of 1790 with de Eliza’s expedition and they arrived at Nootka Sound on April of the same year. His mission: to take care of the Spaniards living in the Spanish Fort at Nootka Sound.

After this assignment he was sent to the Castle of San Juan de Ulúa, in Veracruz as commander of the military. On April of 1796 he moved with his company to California to take care of the Spanish military garrisons of San Francisco, Monterrey and San Diego. He founded a town called Villa Branciforte (Santa Cruz). In 1800 he became the overall commander of the four military garrisons that Spain had in the whole of California (San Diego, San Francisco, Monterrey and Santa Barbara) and also Interim Governor of California in 1800.

He was a man of great character, education and diplomacy. As well, he was a gardener, linguist, meteorologist and overall, highly resourceful. He defended his men against the bureaucratic Spanish civil servants and fought to have them properly clothed as well as for the pay that was owed to them. Alberni was punished for this by being under arrest for 70 days on his way to Nootka Sound.

He was the first gardener in BC and in the Northwest coast to keep a list of what grew better and to make a type of beer from the coniferous trees.

He kept a record of the climate making him the first weatherman in BC

He also acted as a linguist recording 633 words of the language of first nations of Nootka Sound and translating them into Spanish.

To gain the friendship of local Chief Maquinna he wrote the lyrics of a song and dedicated it to him. He then made his soldiers sing it every time they marched:

Maquinna, Maquinna, Maquinna
Is a great prince and our friend
Spain, Spain, Spain
Is a friend of Maquinna and Nootka.

When he left Nootka Sound he was named "Commander of Arms and Governor of Nootka" by the Spanish Monarchy. Everybody missed him including Chief Maquinna who for a two years and 80 days had been his best friend.

Angelina Miró
Coordinadora de la comissió del Bicentenari de la mort de Pere d'Alberni
(Translation to English by Carme Ortega)