California Missions – San Francisco De Asis

THE story of Bucareli’s determination to found a presidio at San Francisco, and Anza’s march with the colonists for it from Sonora, has already been recounted. When Serra and Galvez were making their original plans for the establishment of the three first Missions of Alta California, Serra expressed his disappointment that St. Francis was neglected by asking : ” And for our founder St. Francis there is no Mission? ” to which Galvez replied : ” If St. Francis desires a Mission, let him show us his harbor and he shall have one.” It therefore seemed providential that when Portola, Fages, and Crespi, in 1769, saw the Bay of Monterey they did not recognize it, and were thus led on further north, where the great Bay of San Francisco was soon afterwards discovered and reasonably well surveyed.

Palou eventually established the Mission October 9, 1776. None of the Indians were present to witness the ceremony as they had fled, the preceding month, from the attacks of certain of their enemies. When they re-turned in December they brought trouble with them. They stole all in their reach ; one party discharged arrows at the corporal of the guard ; another insulted a soldier’s wife ; and some other attempted to kill the San Carlos neophyte who had been brought here. The officer shut up one of these hostiles, whereat a party of his comrades rushed to the rescue, fired their arrows at the Mission, and were only driven back when the soldiers arrived and fired their muskets in the air. Next day the sergeant went out to make arrests and another struggle ensued, in which one was killed and one wounded. All now sued for peace, which, with sundry floggings, was granted. For three months they now kept away from the Mission.

In 1777 they began to return, and on October 4 the Padre Serra, on his first visit, was able to say mass in the presence of seventeen adult native converts. Then, passing over to the presidio on October 10, as he stood gazing on the waters flowing out to the setting sun through the purple walls of the Golden Gate, he exclaimed with a heart too full of thanksgiving to be longer restrained : ” Thanks be to God that now our father St. Francis with the Holy Cross of the Procession of Missions, has reached the last limit of the Californian continent. To go farther he must have boats.”

General Vallejo states that the temporary building erected by Palou for a church was about a thousand varas to the northwest of the present site. The small lake of Dolores, from which the Mission gained its popular name, was near by, but as the city has grown it has been drained, filled up, and is now built over.

On the 14th of September, 1779, two vessels, originally from San Blas, on an exploring expedition north, stopped at San Francisco on their return for six weeks, to recuperate the health of the scurvy-stricken sailors. One of the captains, Bodega y Cuadra, presented a bronze image of Nuestra Senora de los Remedios to the San Francisco Mission, and it was placed on the altar with most impressive ceremonies on the 3d of October. The next day three natives brought from the northern coast were baptized. Soon a courier arrived from Sonora, announcing the death of Viceroy Bucareli, and that war was declared between Spain and England. This made the vessels leave in haste.

In 1782, April 25, the corner-stone of a new church was laid at San Francisco. Three padres were present, together with the Mission guard and a body of troops from the presidio. In the Mission records it says : ” There was enclosed in the cavity of said corner-stone the image of our Holy Father St. Francis, some relics in the form of bones of St. Pius and other holy martyrs, five medals of various saints, and a goodly portion of silver coin.”

In 1785 Governor Fages complained to the Viceroy, among other things, that the presidio of San Francisco had been deprived of mass for three years, notwithstanding the obligation of the friars to serve as chaplains. Palou replied that the padres were under no obligation to serve gratuitously, and that they were always ready to attend the soldiers when their other duties allow.

In November, 1787, Captain Soler, who for a brief time acted as temporary governor and inspector, suggested that the presidio of San Francisco be abandoned and its company transferred to Santa Barbara. Later, as I have shown elsewhere, a proposition was again made for the abandonment of San Francisco; so it is apparent that Fate herself was protecting it for its future great and wonderful history.

In 1790 San Francisco reported 551 baptisms and 205 deaths, with a present neophyte population of 438. Large stock had increased to 2000 head and small to 1700.

Three years later, on November 14, the celebrated English navigator, George Vancouver, in his vessel ” Discovery,” sailed into San Francisco Bay. His arrival caused quite a flutter of excitement both at the presidio and Mission, where he was kindly entertained. The Governor was afraid of this elaborate hospitality to the hated and feared English, and issued orders to the commandante providing for a more frigid reception in the future, so, on Vancouver’s second visit, he did not find matters so agreeable, and grumbled accordingly.

Vancouver gives a description of the Mission buildings, etc., which is quite interesting. He says that they form two sides of a square, without any apparent intention of completing the quadrangle, the architecture and material being as at the presidio, but the apartments larger, better constructed, and cleaner. At this time all the roofs were of thatch, and the dwellings of the Indians were huts of willow poles, basket-work of twigs, and thatch of grass and tules, about twelve feet high, six or seven feet in diameter, and abominably infested with every kind of filth and nastiness. One large room was occupied by Indians working looms, making blankets from native wool. ” The looms,” he says, ” though rudely wrought, were tolerably well contrived, and had been made by the Indians. The produce is wholly applied to the clothing of the converted Indians. I saw some of the cloth, which was by no means despicable ; and, had it received the advantages of fulling, would have been a very decent kind of clothing.” Borica, however, though he ordered that Mission blankets should henceforth solely be used at the presidio, refused to allow the padres to erect a fulling-mill. A pottery was also established in 1796.

In March, 1795, certain neophytes having escaped across the bay from San Francisco, a band of their fellows was sent to bring them back. After two days of marching this band was attacked by gentile Indians and eight or ten of them slain. The Governor condemned the padres for their action in this matter and refused to avenge the death of the slain, as the gentiles, though warlike, had hitherto been friendly. In June, 1797, in spite of the attitude of the Governor, another party was sent out after runaways, and the result of this was that the Sacalanes threatened to attack the Mission San Jose. Sergeant Amador was sent from San Francisco to investigate, and he reported to the Governor that these Indians were threatening to kill the Christians if they continued to work, and the soldiers if they dared to interfere. The Governor then decided to teach these haughty savages what it meant to defy the Spanish power, and a force of twenty-two men was placed under the orders of Amador to capture the head men of the tribe, and also bring back the fugitives. In the fight which ensued two soldiers were wounded and seven natives killed; but Amador returned victorious with eighty-three of the escapes and nine gentiles. Borica was severe with some of the renegades, condemning them to receive from twenty-five to seventy-five lashes, and to work in shackles at the presidio from two months to a year. In the examination as to the cause of the neophytes running away, they gave as their reasons excessive flogging, hunger, and the death of relatives. Padre Danti, one of the padres in charge at San Francisco, was undoubtedly very harsh and severe in his treatment of the Indians, but his associate Fernandez was the very reverse. All were glad when Danti’s term of service expired and he returned to Mexico:

Tiles were made and put on the church roofs in 1795 more houses were built for the neophytes, and all roofed with tiles. Half a league of ditch was also dug around the potrero (pasture ground) and fields.

In 1806 San Francisco was enlivened by the presence of the Russian chamberlain, Rezanof, who had been on a special voyage around the world, and was driven by scurvy and want of provisions to the California settlements. He was accompanied by Dr. G. H. von Langsdorff, from whom I have already quoted. Langsdorff’s account of the visit and reception at several points in California is interesting. He gives a full description of the Indians and their method of life at the Mission; commends the zeal and self-sacrifice of the padres ; speaks of the ingenuity shown by the women in making baskets ; the system of allowing the cattle and horses to run wild, etc. Visiting the Mission of San Jose by boat, he and his companions had quite an adventurous time getting back, owing to the contrary winds.

In 1810 Moraga, the ensign at the presidio, was sent with seventeen men to punish the gentiles of the region of the Carquines Strait, who for several years had been harrassing the neophytes at San Francisco, and sixteen of whom they had killed. Moraga had a hard fight against a hundred and twenty of them, and captured eighteen, whom he soon released, ” as they were all sure to die of their wounds.” The survivors retreated to their huts and made a desperate resistance, and were so determined not to be captured that, when one hut was set on fire, its in-mates preferred to perish in the flames rather than to surrender. A full report of this affair was sent to the King of Spain, and as a result he promoted Moraga and other officers, and increased the pay of some of the soldiers. He also tendered the thanks of the nation to all the participants.

Runaway neophytes gave considerable trouble for several years, and in 1819 a force was sent from San Francisco to punish these recalcitrants and their allies. A sharp fight took place near the site of the present Stockton, in which 27 Indians were killed, 20 wounded, and 16 captured, with 49 horses.

The Mission report for 1821–30 shows a decrease in neophyte population from 1252 to 219, though this was largely caused by the sending of neophytes to the newly founded Missions of San Rafael and San Francisco Solano.,

San Francisco was secularized in 1834-35, with Joaquin Estudillo as comisionado. The valuation in 1835 was real estate and fixtures, $25,800; church property, $17,800; available assets in excess of debts (chiefly live-stock), $16,400, or a total of $60,000. If any property was ever divided among the Indians there is no record to show it.

On June 5, 1845, Pio Pico’s proclamation was made, requiring the Indians of Dolores Mission to reunite and occupy it or it would be declared abandoned and disposed of for the general good of the department. A fraudulent title to the Mission was given, and antedated February 10, 1845 ; but it was afterwards declared void, and the building was duly returned to the custody of the archbishop, under whose direction it still remains.

After Commodore Sloat had taken possession of Monterey for the United States, in 1846, it was merely the work of a day or so to get despatches to Captain Montgomery, of the ship ” Portsmouth,” who immediately raised the stars and stripes, and thus the city of the Golden Gate entered into American possession. While the city was materially concerned in the events immediately following the occupation, the Mission was already too nearly dead to participate. In 1846 the bishop succeeded in finding a curate for a short period, but nothing in the records can be found as to the final disposition of the property belonging to the ex-Mission. In the political caldron it had totally disappeared.

The graveyard of Dolores is an interesting old place, and it is a great pity that it and the old Mission church are not made more accessible to visitors. Saturdays and Sundays only are they admitted. It is scarcely in keeping with the progressive spirit of the leaders of the great church that controls these sacred memorials of the past that such slight facilities are offered to the people who are the heirs of their history. At the least, certain hours — ex-tended enough not to be prohibitive — should be set aside in each day of the week, when all who come in the proper spirit may have full — if not free — entrance to them.

In the early days the Mission Indians were buried in the graveyard, then the soldiers and settlers, Spanish and Mexican, and the priests, and, later, the Americanos. But all is neglected and uncared for, except by Nature, and, after all, perhaps it is better so. The kindly spirited Earth Mother has given forth vines and myrtle and ivy and other plants in profusion, that have hidden the old gravelled walks and the broken flags. Rose-bushes grow untrimmed, untrained, and frankly beautiful; while pep-per and cypress wave gracefully and poetically suggestive over graves of high and low, historic and unknown. For here are names carved on stone denoting that beneath lie buried those who helped make California history. Just at the side entrance of the church is a stone with this inscription to the first governor of California : ” Aqui yacen los restos del Capitan Don Luis Antonio Arguello, Primer Gobernador del Alta California, Bajo el Gobierno Mejicano. Nacioen San Francisco el 21 de Junio, 1774, y murioen el mismo lugar el 27 de Marzo, 1830.”

Farther along is a brown stone monument, erected by the members of the famous fire company, to Casey, who was hung by the Vigilantes — Casey, who shot James King of William. The monument, adorned with firemen’s helmets and bugles in stone, stands under the shadow of drooping pepper sprays, and is inscribed: ” Sacred to the memory of James P. Casey, who Departed this life May 23–1856 Aged 27 years. May God forgive my Persecutors. Requiescat en pace.”

Poor, sad Dolores ! How utterly lost it now looks, surrounded by parvenu buildings of pretentious greatness, and led up to by asphalt pavements and cement sidewalks. It is forlorn and neglected. The tiles on its roof and ridge are irregular and uneven. The wooden cross on the front is old and staggering. Even the fachada has been degraded with a new coat of whitewash, so that all its time-honored wrinkles are gone.