California Missions – Santa Ines

“BEAUTIFUL for situation ” was the spot selected for the only Mission founded during the first decade of the nineteenth century, — Santa Ines.

Governor Borica, who called California ” the most peaceful and quiet country on earth,” and under whose orders Padre Lasuen had established the five Missions of 1796-97, had himself made explorations in the scenic mountainous regions of the coast, and recommended the location afterwards determined upon, called by the Indians Alajulapu, meaning rincon, or corner.

The native population was reported to number over a thousand, and the fact that they were frequently engaged in petty hostilities among themselves rendered it necessary to employ unusual care in initiating the new enterprise. Presidente Tapis therefore asked the Governor for a larger guard than was generally assigned for protecting the Missions, and a sergeant and nine men were ordered for that purpose.

The distance from Santa Barbara was about thirty-five miles, over a rough road, hardly more than a trail, winding in and out among the foothills, and gradually climbing up into the mountains in the midst of most charming and romantic scenery. The quaint procession, consisting of Padre presidente Tapis and three other priests, Commandant Carrillo, and the soldiers, and a large number of neophytes from Santa Barbara, slowly marched over this mountainous road, into the woody recesses where nestled the future home of the Mission of Santa Ines, and where the usual ceremonies of foundation took place September 17, 1804. Padres Calzada, Gutierrez, and Cipres assisted President Tapis, and the two former remained as the missionaries in charge.

The first result of the founding of this Mission was the immediate baptism of twenty-seven children, a scene worthy of the canvas of a genius, could any modern painter conceive of the real picture, — the group of dusky little ones with sombre, wondering eyes, and the long-gowned priests, with the soldiers on guard and the watchful Indians in native costume in the background, — all in the temple of nature’s creating.

This auspicious opening was not followed by uninterrupted prosperity. During the existence of the Mission, about thirty years, there was an annual average of forty-five baptisms, but also an annual average of forty-two deaths. The largest number of neophytes at any one time was in 1816, when there were 768; but many of these came from neighboring Missions. Although comparatively few in number, the results of their toil demonstrated the efficiency of padres and people. According to official reports, the total number of cattle, sheep, horses, mules, and swine possessed by them in 1821 was 12,368. They raised large crops of wheat, barley, corn, and beans, and accumulated stores of tallow, hides, wool, and soap. Between 1822 and 1827 they furnished supplies to the presidio at Santa Barbara valued at $10,767, — all the fruit of the labors of the neophytes, the so-called ” lazy Indians,” who received nothing in return for these contributions but ” drafts ” on the California treasury, that were never honored.

The first church erected was not elaborate, but it was roofed with tiles, and was ample in size for all needful purposes. In 1812 an earthquake caused a partial collapse of this structure. The corner of the church fell, roofs were ruined, walls cracked, and many buildings near the Mission were destroyed. This was a serious calamity, but the padres never seemed daunted by adverse circumstances. They held the usual services in a granary, temporarily, and in 1817 completed the building of a new church constructed of brick and adobe, which still remains. In 1829 the Mission property was said to resemble that at Santa Barbara. On one side were gardens and orchards, on the other houses and Indian huts, and in front was a large enclosure, built of brick and used for bathing and washing purposes.

The character of the natives of this region was of a more turbulent nature than that of some of the California tribes. They were alert, intelligent, and not slow to discover occasion for resentment either among themselves or in their association with the white race. They were the first occupants of the land, and the yoke that compelled them to labor for the support of the soldiers and submit to their control was galling. This spirit of revolt led to an up-rising that caused much temporary alarm. It was on Sun-day, February 21, 1824, that they attacked the Mission. It is a matter of history that they had no ill-feeling against the padres, but the severe treatment received at the hands of the soldiers was the culminating cause of this act of rebellion. It was supposed that the plan had been brewing for months among the natives of the surrounding country; but either circumstances did not permit of a well-concerted scheme for attack at different points, or they lacked competent leadership. The attack on Santa Ines was severe. Though no one was killed, a large part of the Mission buildings were burned, though it is probable the church was not seriously injured, as there is no record of its having been rebuilt. On Monday Sergeant Carrillo, from Santa Barbara, arrived with a force, and the hostiles fled to Purisima, where, as elsewhere recorded, there was severe fighting.

When Governor Chico came up to assume his office in 1835 he claimed to have been insulted by a poor reception from Padre Jimeno at Santa Ines. The padre said he had had no notice of the Governor’s coming, and therefore did the best he could. But Presidente Duran took the bold position of informing the Governor in reply to a query, that the government had no claim whatever upon the hospitality of unsecularized Missions. Chico reported the whole matter to the assembly, who sided with the Governor, rebuked the presidente and the padres, and confirmed an order issued for the immediate secularization of Santa Ines and San Buenaventura (Duran’s own Mission). J. M. Ramirez was appointed comisionado at Santa Ines. At this time the Mission was prosperous. The inventory showed property valued at $46,186, besides the church and its equipment. The general statistics from the foundation, 1804 to 1834, show 1372 baptisms, 409 marriages, and 1271 deaths. The largest number of cattle was 7300 in 1831, 800 horses in 1816, and 6000 sheep in 1821. After secularization horses were taken for the troops, and while, for a time, the cattle increased, it was not long before decline set in.

In 1843 the management of the Mission was restored to the friars, but the former conditions of prosperity had passed away never to return. Two years later the estate was rented for $580 per year, and was finally sold in 1846 for $1700, although in later times the title was declared in-valid. In the meantime an ecclesiastical college was opened at Santa Ines in 1844. A grant of land had been obtained from the government, and an assignment of $500 per year to the seminary on the condition that no Californian in search of a higher education should ever be excluded from its doors ; but the project met with only a temporary success, and was abandoned after a brief existence of six years.

In 1844 President Duran reported 264 neophytes at Santa Ines, with sufficient resources for their support.

When Pico’s order of 1845 was issued, the Mission was valued at $20,288. This did not include the church, the curate’s house or rooms, and the rooms needed for the courthouse. This inventory was taken without the co-operation of the padre, who refused to sign it. He — the padre — remained in charge until 1850, when the Mission was most probably abandoned.

At Santa Ines there were several workers in leather and silver whose reputation still remains. In various parts of the State are specimens of the saddles they made and carved and then inlaid in silver that are worthy a place in any noteworthy collection of artistic work.

In the Santa Ines Valley, several miles from the Mission, are some ruins which are claimed to be those of the first hospital ever erected in California.

There are five bells at Santa Ines, and I was interested enough to obtain their pitch. There were two D’s and three F’s, in two octaves. The inscription on one of the back bells bears the legend ” Manuel Vargas me fecit ano de 1818.” Another: “Ave Maria Purisima 1807,” and this inscription is duplicated on the bell now used on the parish church at Lompoc. The one to the right is in-scribed: ” S. S. Juan Bautista ano de 1803,” and still another : ” Me fecit ano de 1818 Lima, Mision de la Purisima de la Nueba California.” There is no inscription on the top bell. It is not improbable that the two bells inscribed to Ave Maria Purisima were contributed to the later-built Mission, as was also the one from San Juan Bautista.

The top bell has an interesting wooden frame holding it, by means of which it was intended it should be swung, though now it is out of repair.

Only ten arches remain at Santa Ines of the long line of corridor arches that once graced this building. in the distance is a pillar of one still standing alone. Between it and the last of the ten, eight others used to be, and beyond it there are the clear traces of three or four more.

The church floor is of red tiles. All the window arches are plain semicircles. Plain, rounded, heavy mouldings about three feet from the floor, and the same distance from the ceiling, extend around the inside of the church, making a simple and effective structural ornament.

The original altar is not now used. It is hidden behind the more pretentious modern one. It is of cement, or plastered adobe, built out, like a huge statue bracket, from the rear wall. The old tabernacle, ornate and florid, is still in use, though showing its century of service. There are also several interesting candlesticks, two of which are pictured in the chapter on woodwork.

Almost opposite the church entrance is a large reservoir, built of brick, twenty-one feet long and eight feet wide. It is at the bottom of a walled-in pit, with a sloping entrance to the reservoir proper, walls and slope being of burnt brick. This ” sunk enclosure ” is about sixty feet long and thirty feet across at the lower end, and about six feet below the level to the edge of the reservoir.

Connected with this by a cement pipe or tunnel laid underground, over 660 feet long, is another reservoir over forty feet long, and eight feet wide, and nearly six feet deep. This was the reservoir which supplied the Indian village with water. The upper reservoir was for the use of the padres and also for bathing purposes.

The water supply was brought from the mountains several miles distant, flumed where necessary, and then conveyed under ground in cement pipes made and laid by the Indians under the direction of the padres. The water-right is now lost to the Mission, being owned by private parties.