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Brief Sketch of the Conquest of California and of the Founding of the Missions. Hospitality of the Missions. Care and Benevolence of the Missionaries Towards the Indians.
Father Junipero Serra and Don Gaspar de Portolá decided on the following plan; that Junipero Serra with Fathers Francisco Paloú and Francisco de Lasuén would remain in San Diego, where Serra was to establish his first mission while Portolá with Fathers Crespí and Gomez, Captain Rivera y Moncada, Lieutenant Fages and some of the Spanish dragoons and muleteers started overland to explore the country, and in quest of the Harbor of Monterey, carrying with them the map of Sebastian Vizcaino. This expedition was to result in the memorable "March of Portolá," which lasted about eight months. Missing the Harbor of Monterey on account of an error in the reckoning of Vizcaino's map, the explorers marched as far north as what is now San Francisco and discovered the Harbor that bears that name; so named later by Junipero Serra in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order. After continuing a fruitless search for Monterey, the expedition returned to San Diego. Junipero Serra was overjoyed at the unexpected discovery of the Harbor of San Francisco, which Portolá and his companions so enthusiastically extolled, and was not discouraged over their failure to find the Port of Monterey, but hoped to make another trial to find that Port on which their most laudable ambitions were centered. But here a sad difficulty presented itself. Governor Portolá returned to San Diego with sad gaps made into his ranks by sickness and hardship, but hopeful with the expectation that the relief ship promised by Don José Galvez had arrived, and that the San Diego Mission well established would be able to give his forces a well deserved chance to recuperate. But what was his dismay? The relief ship had not arrived, and Junipero Serra had indeed founded a mission with the usual elaborate ceremonies of the Church, but the untiring zeal and labors of himself and his companions had not been blessed with a single convert. No neophyte could be counted among the numerous natives of the place, who had even proved hostile at times; and the mission too, was in the sorest need; Junipero Serra and his companions ofttimes adding to their usual fasts and abstemiousness, "that others might have more." Still the relief ship was delayed! Surely this was not the fault of good Don José Galvez, but it might have met a tragic fate; thus thought the discouraged land and sea forces; and Governor Portolá was too good a soldier not to know that the best course to follow was to start at once back to Mexico and abandon the glorious dream, before starvation and death overtook everyone of them. But here Junipero Serra interposed, and as if inspired pleaded with the Governor for "one more day;" Portolá out of respect did grant just "one more day" before ordering the whole expedition back.
Junipero Serra then repaired to the summit of the Presidio Hill and with arms extended, prayed as if in ecstasy from sunrise until sunset, "storming the heavens" that the relief ship might come, and the conversion of the heathen of California be realized. O unquestionable miracle! "More things are wrought by prayer, than this world ever dreamed of!" As the last rays of sun kissed his venerable brow, from out the gold and purple horizon, he sighted the top-most point of a mast, which while he was still "pouring his soul" no longer in supplication but in thanksgiving, grew into the unmistakable figure of the long expected ship. But for that "one more day" what would California be now? No converted Indians, no monumental missions, no exploration and colonization no civilization! The ship had been delayed on account of the rough voyage it encountered. But now relief, contentment, renewed hope, renewed courage; and the Mission of San Diego was but the first of the twenty-one which were to strew El Camino Real (the Royal Road, literally, commonly called the King's Highway) of California. And chivalrous Portolá, filled with even greater reverence for the humble priest Junipero Serra, whom his lofty soul had always appreciated, once more gathered his forces, and started anew in search of Monterey. Junipero Serra left the Mission of San Diego in charge of two of the good fathers and a small garrison as guards, and set out with Portolá on his second expedition; and it was Serra whose very presence seemed to draw the blessings of heaven, who pointed out to the Governor the error on Vizcaino's map which caused him to miss the Port of Monterey.
This expedition was also divided into two parts, one to go overland the other by sea. Father Serra went with the sea party which sailed on the Paqueboat San Antonio. A number of Spanish dragoons from the fair province of Catalonia, muleteers, and some of the convert Indians recruited from the mission of La Paz were in the overland party.
On May 24th, 1770, the expedition reached Point Pinos on the Coast of Monterey; after going south about six miles and encamping on a picturesque spot on the shores of the Bay, the missionaries raised an altar and Junipero Serra celebrated the first Mass on the shores of Monterey on June 3rd, 1770. It is more than likely that the Carmelite fathers who came here with Vizcaino had done so one hundred and sixty eight years before, but as there is no official record of the fact, the Mass celebrated on the improvised altar under the oak (which is preserved in the premises of San Carlos Church, Monterey), is recorded as the first. Mass over, Junipero Serra and Gaspar de Portolá exhorted the Spanish soldiers to hold to the traditional faith and purity of the Spanish race, and to kindness to the natives, calling them "weaker brethren who should be christianized, not debauched." Then Junipero Serra planted a Mission Cross and blessed the Spanish flag which Portolá hoisted, taking possession of the land in the name of "His Most Catholic Majesty King Carlos III, by right of discovery." Junipero Serra also blessed the sea and land.
As Monterey was from the first established as the civil, military and religious headquarters of the Spanish kingdom in California, her Presidio was known as el Presidio Real (the Royal Presidio), and the present parish church of Monterey, which was built as a chapel for the Presidio was la Capilla Real de San Carlos (the Royal Chapel of Saint Charles).
Junipero Serra found the Indians of Monterey and the surrounding country very docile, while the Indians from Lower California soon learned their dialect and acted as interpreters of the missionaries. The Cross which Vizcaino had planted in 1602 was found decked with skins and shells. On inquiry the Missionaries were told by the Indians that they had often seen mysterious rays of light around it, and thinking that some god was angry they were trying to propitiate him by means of those offerings.
As we have already noted Junipero Serra said his first, Mass in Monterey on June 3rd, 1770, and two years later he recorded his first baptism. From that date the Indians would come in dozens to present themselves for instruction. Then the marvels that had attended Junipero Serra at Sierra Gorda in Mexico, were repeated in Monterey. The naked savages were clothed, many of them were beginning to learn Spanish and to sing the Latin responses of the Mass and hymns both in Spanish and Latin, playing such musical instruments as the cymbal and triangle, keeping perfect time to every beat. The flocks and cattle were increasing and the harvest fields were golden with grain. While some of the Indians were taught to till the soil others were herdsmen, and some were taught to work as artisans. Nearly fifty trades were taught the California Indians under the supervision of the Missionaries. In 1771 Junipero Serra founded the San Carlos Mission in the most entrancing location of the Carmelo Valley that the nature loving Serra could have chosen; the forests of oak, pine and cypress for which Monterey is noted to this day, stretch with even greater beauty as we pierce farther into the interior, while the fertility of the land drained by the beautiful Carmelo River together with the commanding position of the spot, made the site of the Mission ideal. And this Mission of the Carmelo Valley of Monterey, was Junipero Serra's headquarters, here he lies buried, and here was the center of that unequalled hospitality and pure society for which every mission was noted. The Spanish Government made large grants of land to the missions, and under the labor, care and excellent methods of the missionaries, they became powerful and wealthy institutions, the pride and blessing of New Spain. Fine stock, teeming grain fields and luscious orchards graced every mission, and Mission San Carlos was no exception, indeed it was one of the most prosperous and beautiful.
Fathers from the Mission at Carmelo, attended the Royal Chapel of San Carlos in Monterey and continued to do so until long after the last Act of Secularization in 1835 had been passed by the Mexican Government, and San Carlos of Carmelo was left desolate with no priest to guard her own altar light. But of this we shall, alas, have but too much reason to speak later. Junipero Serra did not stop his arduous work by founding beautiful San Carlos of Carmelo and consecrating the Royal Chapel of Monterey; he was to christianize all California, for all California had now been added to the Crown of Castile and Leon. Spain followed in California the same policy which has distinguished her in her other possessions such as Cuba, the Philippines and other colonies, steeped in idolatry until the Spanish Missionary, whose zeal is proverbial, wrested their countless inhabitants from the cymmerian gloom of paganism. Thus as soon as San Carlos Mission was founded, the glorious march of El Camino Real continued.
Mission San Antonio de Padua, the third mission, was established in July 1, 1771. The beauty of the spot and wonderful eagerness of the Indians to receive baptism greatly touched Junipero Serra and the other two Franciscan Fathers who accompanied him as well as some of the soldiers who were in the party. To-day Mission San Antonio is almost in ruins, but its very ruins are piles which speak of mystic beauty, and in the days of mission glory San Antonio was one of the fairest of the missions.
On returning to Carmelo, Junipero Serra filled the other missionaries with joy over this latest conquest of souls, and sent messengers to Fathers Soméra and Cambón whom he had left in charge of the Mission at San Diego, to establish a mission in southern California, which they would name San Gabriel. The two Fathers, with ten soldiers as guards, started a march northward until they came to the present sight of San Gabriel, which they saw immediately was a good location for a mission, particularly as a beautiful stream flowed through the Valley, and wherever possible the Fathers chose a spot where there was water for the mission orchards and gardens.
Here we may add that the Fathers had a system of irrigation by means of ditches, traces of which may be seen to this day in the sites where stood many of the old mission orchards. The fruits from these good Fathers gardens were the fairest and most luscious that California has ever seen, none of our lovely grapes compare with theirs, and their olives were larger and better than any of which California boasts to-day.
Although not deviating from our subject we have wandered from the thread of our story in the foundation of Mission San Gabriel. One incident contained in the records of this Mission may hardly be passed over in silence. The good Franciscans and their brave little bodyguard found the Indians in a very hostile mood, still they blessed a Mission Cross and planted it; but the Indians increasing their threatening attitude, the Fathers unfurled a large white banner bearing the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, placing the side of the banner with the image in full view of the heathens. Priests and soldiers then knelt and implored the intercession of the Redeemer's Immaculate Mother for their safety and for the conversion of the Indians to the Faith of her Divine Son. Immediately came the answer from Heaven! The Indians not only abandoned every sign of hostility, but came forward towards the Fathers with every sign of sincere submissiveness, and after due instruction were baptized. For it must be remembered that the Church does not, and cannot force her belief on anyone who does not willingly accept it; the poor savage is no exception; instruction, kindness, prayers may always be employed, no more. As in many cases the nature of the Indian was too elementary to be moved at first by the lessons and exhortations of suffering and self-denial of Our Saviour, and the bridling of the human passions; in many instances the Fathers would first win the Indians' confidence by giving them blankets, beads and such things as attracted them, then by degrees unfolded the tenets of religion and mysteries of faith, to which in most cases these erstwhile savages clung with firmness and gave many edifying signs of true and sincere christianity. A band of white beads around the head distinguished the christian Indians from the pagan.
The flocks, vineyards and orchards of Mission San Gabriel, as well as the skill of its Indians, in time became famous throughout California, and it was from here that Governor Felipe de Neve, third Governor of California, started in 1781 with several of the Fathers and a company of soldiers to found the present city of Los Angeles.
The fifth Mission, San Luis Obispo, was founded on September 1, 1772, by Junipero Serra in person; the saintly Father making a pilgrimage there for that purpose. Thus in the space of three years, five missions were founded. A royal record of the zeal of the missionaries and of the humanity of the Spanish Government and Authorities.
In 1774 the Spanish Viceroy of Mexico informed Junipero Serra that he intended to establish a presidio in San Francisco "for the further extension of Spanish and Christian power." Junipero Serra, on receipt of this letter, selected Fathers Paloú and Cambón to accompany the soldiers, and Lieutenant Juan de Ayala was ordered with his ship stationed at Monterey to further explore the San Francisco Bay; Juan de Anza, another brilliant officer, was entrusted with the establishment of the new presidio; the site he chose being the identical one on which the Presidio of San Francisco stands today. Lieutenant Juan de Ayala of the Royal Navy of Spain, was the first to steer a ship through the Golden Gate, and a strange coincidence was that his ship was the San Carlos which had come to San Diego with a portion of the first Spanish pioneers in 1769. With Lieutenant Ayala was Father Vincente de Santa Maria who, with Fathers Paloú and Cambón, planted a Mission Cross and founded Mission Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, which has withstood so many ravages of time and change, of man and elements.
The seventh Mission was San Juan Capistrano, founded November 1, 1776, by Father Lasuén. This Mission was also a very flourishing Mission, the Indians were laborers in its construction, which lasted nearly fourteen years.
Mission Santa Clara was the eighth to be established. It was founded on January 12, 1777. The original lines of this once beautiful Mission are almost entirely changed but like all its sister missions it still retains much of its dear old atmosphere, and can boast of the tomb of Father Magin Catalá who died there in 1836 "in the odor of sanctity." Mission Santa Clara was founded by Father Tomas de la Peña y Saradia; and its history is fascinating and romantic. The Mission Cross which Father de la Peña y Saradia planted here, is still standing.
The ninth Mission was San Buenaventura, founded also by Junipero Serra in person, in company with Governor Felipe de Neve, on Easter Sunday of March 31, 1783.
From San Buenaventura, Junipero Serra and Governor de Neve marched to what is now Santa Barbara. Here the Indians were numerous and more intelligent than any in California, where the Indians were far denser than either the Incas of South America or the Aztecs of Mexico. Delays, caused by military differences, retarded the foundation of Santa Barbara Mission, which would have been the tenth, but Junipero Serra planted a Mission Cross and selected the site on which it was destined to be founded four years after his death. From here Serra returned to Carmelo; his journeys from one Mission to another being always on foot.
And here we must pause: We have come in our narrative to that momentous year in the history, not only of the missions, but of California. The year when. Junipero Serra, true priest of God, christianizer, civilizer, wonderful among wonderful pioneers, or as Governor Gaspar de Portolá had spoken of him years before, "the humblest, bravest man of God I ever knew," had done his work! Junipero Serra was ready for his throne in Heaven, his crown awaited him, his rough Franciscan habit was to be glorified. We have briefly glanced at his chief characteristics from his boyhood in historic Spain, and must have gauged the measure of his untiring and tried virtue from the time he landed in Mexico and San Diego, on through the years he labored as the Apostle of California; to these let us add just a few of the private practices of mortification which he imposed on his innocent flesh, notwithstanding his age, his physical infirmities, extraordinary labors and hardships in a new, half explored country. Virtually they sound like a passage from the lives of the Saints. His journeys were always on foot, although the old sore on his leg remained like an instrument of torture throughout his life, nothing being able to help him. El Camino Real, from San Francisco to Monterey and from Monterey to San Diego, with its rough roads, was as familiar to him who walked it with so much difficulty as it is to us who enjoy it by comfortable travel on the railroad or pleasurable motor trips; his fasts were austere and frequent, wine he never used, the discipline was no stranger to him, a bed was not among his possessions, on the bare floor or bench at most he would rest his sore missionary body; yet he never imposed unnecessary penance on anyone, he was hard only on himself, he was gentle and affectionate to a marked degree, his faith, trust in Providence, humility and charity, were heroic. Of his seventy-four years of life, fifty-four he had been a Franciscan Priest and thirty-five he had devoted to missionary work, of which nine were spent in Mexico and fourteen in California. His wonderful eloquence and magnetic power for preaching which had won him honors in the Old World even as a newly ordained priest, he had used and adapted for the instruction of thousands of heathens of the New World; and now that christianity and civilization were beginning to bud with springtime loveliness like the Castilian roses he had planted in some of the mission gardens, while the sun of Spanish glory was still in the ascendency and no threatening omens of the fall of Spanish or Franciscan power, or nightmares of the Acts of Secularization disturbed the cloudless skies, while the Presidio Real of Monterey bore the arms of the Spanish King and the Capilla Real do San Carlos was thronged with gallant officers and brave men of the Royal Army and Navy of Castile and Leon, and Our Lady seemed to smile blessings on her Valley of Carmelo, before the beauteous dream, nay, realization of noble ambitions, had vanished like a fair sun, God called His faithful Servant unto Himself, in his cell at his beloved San Carlos Mission about 2:30 P. M. on August 28, 1784, according to the entry of Father Francisco Paloú, in the archives of San Carlos Mission, preserved in San Carlos Church of Monterey. And what a day this was! The archives here are full of touching detail. Solemn salutes were fired from the ships stationed in the Harbor of Monterey, and the grief of the people was inexpressible. The Indians were inconsolable. The officers of the Royal Navy claimed his sandals as a precious keepsake, and the Fathers could not restrain the people from cutting pieces of his habit to carry away as souvenirs; the Indians claimed his Franciscan cord and many cut locks of his silver hair; his corpse had to be dressed twice on account of this pious proceeding. In a plain redwood coffin his precious remains were laid in a vault "on the gospel side of the altar within the sanctuary of San Carlos Mission." O! holy grave, how many changes thou hast seen! O happy Serra, from the dazzling splendors of God's light how often thou must have prayed for thy work, thy people, thy neophytes! In God's inscrutable Providence the good are ofttimes permitted to suffer, but the same All Wise Hand can brush away with a single stroke, the wrong done to His own, and His time seems near!
We will now resume the story of the foundation of the missions, for we really stopped at the ninth. Junipero Serra's life-long friend, Father Paloú was chosen temporary President of the Missions, for within a year he retired to the Franciscan College of San Fernando, where he gave most of his time to writing, and to him we are indebted for a complete and accurate biography of Junipero Serra. After Father Paloú's resignation, Father Francisco de Lasuén was appointed Father President of the Missions. Father Lasuén was an arduous laborer and able priest of the original heroic band of missionaries, and his first act was to establish Mission Santa Barbara, where Junipero Serra had planted a Mission Cross nearly four years previous. This was accomplished on December 4, 1787, and of the twenty-one missions which were spoliated in later years, Santa Barbara was the only one which tyrannical laws could never dispossess of its lawful owners, hence to this day the Sons of Saint Francis are there to guard the "altar light."
From Santa Barbara, Father Lasuén traveled north to Lompoc, and founded Mission La Purisima Concepcion on December 8, 1787.
Mission de Nuestra Señora de in Soledad was founded in October of 1791. The last Act of Secularization in 1835 fell very heavily on this lovely Mission of which scarcely a trace remains today. This mission was noted for its fine stock and luxuriant pastures.
On Christmas day of 1791 was founded the Mission of Santa Cruz. This Mission never rivaled the other missions in wealth, but in later years it was honored with a martyr. Here is the authentic story of Father Quintana, whose martyr's death occurred here as late as 1817. Father Quintana was a holy and zealous priest of this mission, who had carried on the work of the conversion of the Indians most of whom were already christian, but a small portion still remained heathen, and these were very hostile. As was later discovered, while the good priest was reading his breviary in his office, some of these hostile Indians entered, and most cruelly murdered him, then taking his body into the mission orchard placed it against a capulin tree (a tree much resembling the cherry tree in fruit and form). On thus discovering the corpse the other Fathers immediately sent a message to the surgeon of the Royal Presidio of Monterey, who at the time was Don Manuel Quixano (step-father of the writer's great grandmother). After holding an autopsy on the martyred body, Dr. Quixano found that the saintly Father had been horribly and cruelly murdered. The details are preserved in the Santa Cruz Mission archives, but are not given to the public. The capulin tree which the Indians made use of to make it appear that the Father's death was a natural one, was at the time in full bloom, and in a few hours became a dry lifeless trunk. A remarkable act of Providence indeed!
The fourteenth and fifteenth missions established were Mission San Jose and beautiful Mission San Juan Bautista, founded respectively on June 11th and June 24th of the year 1797.
We have generously used words denoting beauty and prosperity in describing the missions, but no less can be said of these mighty and bountiful institutions, who, even in their regal ruins are California's chief attraction to this day.
The sixteenth mission was San Miguel, founded by Fathers Francisco de Lasuén and Buenaventura Sitjar, with very impressive and elaborate ceremonials, on July 25th, 1797. The brilliant frescoing of this mission was done in 1824 by the writer's great grandfather, Estéban Munrás, a Spaniard from Barcelona, who had studied art in his native city, and who was intimately connected with the early missionaries, especially those of Monterey, where he resided. Estéban Munrás did the frescoing of San Miguel Mission at the request of Father Juan Cabot, also a native of Barcelona. Thus we see the undaunted steadfastness of these early missionaries who, although California had already passed from Spanish to Mexican rule, and mission power was beginning to wane, still were zealous for the greater adornment of God's holy temples.
On September 8, 1797, Mission San Fernando, Rey de España was founded. In June of the following year San Luis, Rey de Francia, fifty-four Indian children being baptized on the day of its foundation. It was in the patio (court yard) of this mission that the first pepper tree in California was planted by Father Antonio Peyri.
On September 17, 1804, beautiful Santa Ynez Mission was founded. Here Father Arroyo, a brilliant scholar, prepared a working grammar of the language of the Indians of the San Juan region. In December, 1817, San Rafael was founded, and made a splendid record of conversions. Not a trace of this mission remains today.
The last mission was San Francisco Solano within the city limits of the present town of Sonoma, and was founded as late as 1823, thus again is shown the wonderful courage and zeal of the missionaries in the face of obstacles, for at this date as we have already noted Spanish Mission power had begun to wane, and while Mexico was unable to wipe out entirely Spanish rule and influence for many years, still she had already claimed California as her own. Many wealthy Russian traders lived in the country about Sonoma, who showed themselves extremely friendly to the missionaries, assisted at the ceremonies of the founding of the mission and made generous contributions for its adornment.
And now our march of El Camino Real is ended; but let us take another look at mission life. The plan of the missions was most wonderful, situated in the most beautiful spots, the journey of one day from one another, and the seats of learning and well earned prosperity in California; their architecture was the best imitation of the Spanish Gothic style which the Spanish laborers could build with the tools and materials which were then possible to have in the New World. The only share the Indians had in the building of the missions was in assisting to carry beams, stone, making the beautiful red tiles found in every mission roof, and the like, but the actual construction was done by Spanish workmen under the supervision of the Fathers.
Besides the church proper, the missions consisted of groups of buildings set aside for converted Indians and their families, a storehouse, a guardhouse, a monastery and spacious quarters for guests. For at a mission not only friends of the Fathers and persons of standing, but every wayfarer whoever he might be "found warmth and plenty" as long as he chose to remain under their blessed shelter. And so great was mission hospitality that a pile of silver was laid in the bedroom of a guest to be taken by him or left as he saw fit; of course no well bred guest who was not in need would impose on the holy Fathers' generosity, but it was their delicate way of assisting an unfortunate pilgrim who might be in need. The missions too, were the centers of important gatherings and peaceful rendezvous of persons of social standing, even after the first two Acts of Secularization had been passed in after years. But these noble entertainment's, wealth of luscious fruits, golden sheaves, luxuriant pastures and fleecy lambs, were as the least gifts of these matchless institutions, for we can never exaggerate the marvels wrought for the betterment of the heathen natives, or the fairer fruits of the countless heroic virtues practiced within these enclosures. The Indians clung to the Fathers like little children to their parents, and from the vices of paganism, under a healthy and kind rule drawn for them by the wise Fathers, christian virtues took a deep root in at least a great many of these poor "children of the soil" and so great was the care exercised by the Fathers that nightly they would make a round of the rooms allotted to every christian and neophyte Indian family to see that order and decency reigned in each group; for we must remember these souls were but recently rescued from the dark sins of heathenism.
Blessed temples! noble hospices! heroic priests! We are loathe to change the scene, but winter's storms must come ere the laurel wreath crowns the glorified brow! Still, we need not leave the "enchanted palace" yet, vernal loveliness still charms the eyes and summer is just begun.
If it be but for one brief moment let us ruminate the glories, the wealth, the beauty of mission joys, before the least cruel echoes of Secularization are heard. The sun of Franciscan and Spanish glory is still mounting the firmament higher and higher. The sky still wears Our Lady's blue and no penitential purple has appeared with the departing rays of sunset, only the royal purple and gold which years before had made the scene a fairylike setting for the heavenset relief ship to San Diego and assured the noble enterprise of the exploration and christianizing of California.
 Official title of the Kings of Spain.
 Blue and white are the symbolical colors of the Blessed Virgin Mary.