California Missions – Chapel At Santa Isabel (San Diego)

In 1816—-19 the padres at San Diego urged the Governor to give them permission to erect a chapel at Santa Isabel, some forty miles away, where two hundred baptized Indians were living. The Governor did not approve, however, and nothing was done until after 1820. By 1822 the chapel was reported built, with several houses, a granary, and a graveyard. The population had increased to 450, and these materially aided San Diego in keeping the mountainous tribes, who were hostile, in check.

A recent article in a southern California magazine thus describes the ruins of the Mission of Santa Isabel:

” Levelled by time, and washed by winter rains, the adobe walls of the church have sunk into indistinguishable heaps of earth which vaguely define the outlines of the ancient edifice. The bells remain, hung no longer in a belfry, but on a rude framework of logs. A tall cross made of two saplings nailed in shape, marks the consecrated spot. Beyond it rise the walls of the brush building, enramada, woven of green wattled boughs, which does duty for a church on Sundays and on the rare occasions of a visit from the priest who makes a yearly pilgrimage to these outlying portions of his diocese. On Sundays, the General of the tribe acts as lay reader and recites the services. Then and on Saturday nights the bells are rung. An Indian boy has the office of bell-ringer, and crossing the ropes attached to the clappers he skilfully makes a solemn chime.”

The graveyard at Santa Isabel is neglected and forlorn, and yet wears many evidences of the loving thoughtfulness of the loved ones who remain behind.