THE story of the conception, foundation, the rise and the fall of the Franciscan Mission establishments in California is at once one of the most unique, colorful and romantic stories in the annals of human history, and one of the most important.
In order to bear out the truth of this statement, it should be necessary only to state the plain, concrete fact of history that the result of this splendid adventure was to snatch from the darkness and ignorance of heathenism a whole savage race, lifting it into the light and intelligence of civilization and Christianity. The story is all the more wonderful because of the fact that the Indians of California, when found by the Franciscans in the year 1769, were little above the level of the most degraded physical beings and the most mentally slothful human creatures on the face of the earth. A more hopeless task was neyer attempted by the agencies of religion and civilization, yet the results accomplished were as astounding as any that have ever been accomplished under the most auspicious circumstances and with the most susceptive and noble of savage races to work upon. The Jesuits and other missionaries to America never accomplished more, and in many instances they accomplished far less, with the Iroquois, Sioux and other tribes that were really so noble in their primitive characters as to be called almost enlightened, than the Franciscans accomplished in California with Indians who spoke a different tongue in every village, who had not even learned to clothe themselves, whose physical and moral habits were filthy in the extreme and who had been saved from annihilation solely by the kindliness of the climate in which they lived.
From this pathetic material the Franciscans evolved civilized men and women whom they taught to read and write, to sing, to play upon musical instruments, to carve in wood, to paint pictures and to follow agriculture and the crafts of the artisan with striking success. And to add further to an achievement so wonderful that it almost deserves the title of a miracle, the work was all done well within the period of a single generation.
Prior to the year 1769, the Jesuits had founded and erected many missions among the Indians of Baja or Lower California. The work of that great Order there was of the utmost importance and furnishes a luminous page in the history of civilization. But in the year 1767 a decree of the Spanish Cortes expelling the Jesuits from Mexico was enforced and their missions were offered to the Franciscans, who immediately supplanted the Jesuits. It was then, also, that the old dream of the military, civil and religious conquests of Alta or Upper California was vigorously revived. Two years after the accession of the Franciscans the conquest of Upper California was fully decided upon. This decision, as well as the effective manner in which it was carried out, may be said to have been due almost wholly to the faith and splendid vigor of two men, Don Jose Galvez, the Visitador General of Mexico, and Fra Junipero Serra.
In Galvez, the Spanish Government had at last found a man possessed of the military genius to set the conquest of Upper California in motion. The great problem which faced Galvez was to find a religions coadjutor, equally vigorous, courageous and with a genius as great as his own, to assist him. The military and the religious conquests of California had to go hand in hand. The one could not move without the other. Galvez found his man in Junipero Serra.
Galvez and Serra were molded from much the same clay. Both were enthusiasts. The Visitador General, unlike some of the representatives of the Spanish Crown in the New World at that time, was a deeply religious man. First of all, he was a vigorous, effective and highly successful military and civil executive, carrying out eyery trust placed in his hands to the entire satisfaction of the King. But he was, as well, a loyal son of the Church ; indeed, a pious man. And while the duty imposed directly and particularly on him was to secure possession of Upper California for the Spanish Crown and to direct the military and civil operations necessary to maintain the dignity of the Crown in the new country and to hold the same, he was, nevertheless, as eager for the religious conquest of the new land as was Serra. As a consequence the two men got along famously, working together with the utmost harmony and enthusiasm. But as far as Serra was personally concerned, the military aspect of the expedition appealed to him only as he deemed it necessary to aid him in carrying out his work of religious conquest. Serra was a true Franciscan, glorying in his vows of poverty. The material wealth of the new country toward which he was bound, whatever that wealth might prove to be, appealed to him not at all. What he looked for-ward to, alone, was the acquisition of the heathen for Christ. And to accomplish this desire, his heart and soul were inflamed with an unquenchable zeal.
Early in the summer of the year 1768 Galvez got into action. Embarking from San Blas with a large force he proceeded to Santa Ana, a place near La Paz, where he arrived on July 6. Father Junipero was then at Loreto, the famous shrine of the Madonna of the Pearls. Galvez immediately sent word to Junipero to join him in the camp at Santa Ana. Junipero immediately set out on foot to answer the summons, a distance of nearly two hundred and fifty miles, over a wild, rough and dangerous country, arriving in due time, safely.
It is fascinating to look back into the dim and misty past and picture these two very remarkable men planning and dreaming one of the most fateful em-prises in the history of human endeavor. As they sat in Galvez’s tent in the camp at La Paz, they had before them the map of the coast of California, pre-served from the immortal voyage of Sebastian Vizcaino, made in the year 1602, one hundred and sixty-six years before. They noted the points along the golden coast at which Vizcaino had touchedSan Diego’s Harbor of the Sun, the smoky little estuary of San Pedro, Santa Catalina’s Magic Isle, the sun-swept channel and the dreamy isles of Santa Barbara, cape and headlands and swinging shores away north beyond Mendocino.
We see Don Jose Galvez, type of the Spanish conquistadore that brought half the world into subjection under the bright blue banner of Castile and Leon. Plumed and bucklered, he searches the map with his keen yet kindly eye, his heart warming with the great dream. Facing him sits Father Junipero, sandaled and wearing the rough brown robe of his Order.
It was not destined that Galvez should accompany the conquest. His task was to fit the expedition out and to send it with a Godspeed on its way; but the fact that he was not to go, did not lessen his enthusiasm. As soon as he had agreed with Junipero on all the necessary details of their great plan, he set himself with a restless energy to put the expedition in the best possible shape. He even worked with his own hands at loading and repairing the ships, and reserved for himself as a dear and precious privilege the selection of articles necessary for use and ornamentation in the new churches that were to be built, especially articles for the altar and the vestments for the priests. Finally, he selected the sites on the coast as shown by Vizcaino’s map, at which the first three Missions were to be erected. These were as follows : The first at San Diego, the second at Monterey and a third in between, to be known as San Buenaventura. It was then, when Galvez had selected these sites and had given names to the new Missions to be established, that a conversation took place between the priest and the soldier Which is remembered to this day in California.
“Don Jose,” said Father Junipero, “you have named a Mission for San Diego de Alcala, another in honor of San Carlos at Monterey and a third for San Buenaventura. But is there to be no Mission in honor of our Father St. Francis Q”
“If St. Francis desires a Mission,” answered Don Jose, with a smile, “let him show us his harbor.”
As matters turned out, St. Francis did in due time show his harbor and, as it proved, it was a harbor well worthy of himthe greatest of all the harbors of the world. It also turned out that the successful launching of this expedition, due so much to the energy, the courage and the faith of Don Jose Galvez, practically ended his connection with the story of the Franciscan Missions of California.
On the other hand, however, the connection of Junipero Serra with the emprise was just to begin, and, as he came to be the soul of it, it is important that we shall know at the very beginning the kind of man he was whose name is, to this day, the best known and the best loved name in California.
Miguel Jose Serra was born in the village of Petra on the Isle of Majorca, November 24, 1713, and was, therefore, fifty-six years of age when he left La Paz to become the founder and first president of the Franciscan Missions in Alta California. His parents were pious people and quite poor. Even as a child, Serra, by his gentleness and piety, gave promise of his future career in the Church; and because of this, the inability of his parents to pay for his education was overcome by the Church gratuitously taking him in charge. He was instructed in Latin and taught to sing in his native village and was afterwards taken to Palma, the capital of the Island, where his education was completed.
Reading with great avidity books that dealt with the lives of saints and the labors of apostles, and being of a very imaginative and impressionable mind, young Serra early determined to become a missionary among heathen savages, going so far in his meditations as to crave secretly the crown of martyrdom.
An easy index to the man’s nature is gained by the fact that upon entering the Franciscan Order he chose the name of Junipero. It will be remembered that among the disciples whom St. Francis had about him at Assisi was a lay-brother known as Brother Juniper, renowned in the chronicles of the place as the “Jester of the Lord.” It was Brother Juniper who tried to outdo St. Francis himself in ministrations to the poor. Nothing in the larders of the community was safe from Brother Juniper’s hands, if there were anywhere near Assisi a hungry mouth. Once he was caught stripping the golden lace from the cloth of the altar that he might sell it and, with the money, buy bread for the poor. So impressed was young Serra with this quaint character that upon assuming the brown robe of the brotherhood he himself took the name of Junipero.
Serra proved himself to be a most remarkable student. Before he had reached his majority he was not only ordained to the priesthood but taught in the colleges as a professor of theology and had obtained the degree of Doctor. He became noted as one of the most eloquent pulpit orators of Europe and was sought after even by the Court itself. Although in boyhood he was frail, delicate and undersized, he became tall and robust as he grew older. He was sought out by every source that had honors to confer and it is said that a Cardinalate would have been within his easy reach had he remained in Spain; but knowing all these things, he still clung with greater fervor than ever to his boyhood’s desire to become a missionary to the heathen savage. Consequently, at the first opportunity he left Spain in company with Francisco Palou, a brother priest, his life-long friend and biographer and for a short time his successor in California after Junipero ‘s death. It is related that their voyage was a tempestuous one and that during a great storm at sea, Serra, by his personal courage and great religious faith, calmed the fears of crew and passengers and thus averted a serious catastrophe.
With Father Palou as his assistant, Serra reached the College of San Fernando in Mexico on January 1, 1750. After a sojourn of five months there, the two friends gladly accepted a call to go to the Sierra Gorda, a long distance northward where a Mission had been founded some six years previously. The Sierra Gorda was then, as it is now, a most desolate, wild and inhospitable region, yet never went man more gladly to a wedding feast in a palace than Junipero Serra went upon this dangerous mission. There among the savages whose language he learned and to whom he imparted a knowledge of his own musical tongue, the man who might have remained at home in the Old World, surrounded by every luxury and with all the honors of Rome heaped high upon him, taught the heathen savage in the vast desolation of the Sierra Gorda for nine long years with the faithful Palou at his side. And when at length he left those bleak hills to return under orders to the City of Mexico, the Mission of which he had been in charge had become the model Mission of the country. The con-version of the heathen was quite complete ; the naked were clothed, the hungry were fed and the light of God and civilization was burning brightly in the souls and minds of the poor wretches to whom he had come as a savior. That his labors had been attended by untold hardships goes without saying, and as a proof of it he went away from the Sierra Gorda with a wound on his leg that never healed and that caused him constant pain to the day he died.
For several years more Father Junipero labored throughout Mexico in the Missions and elsewhere until, at length, as has been noted, he arrived at La Paz for the meeting with Galvez and to prepare him-self for his labors in the new and quite unknown land of Alta California.
After many months of great exertion the expedition was ready to start. Three ships were in condition to make the voyagetwo of them to be sent out together and the third to be sent later as a relief ship. It will be well to keep this third ship in mind because it plays a part in a most dramatic incident.
The two ships that were to sail upon the appointed day carried a portion of the troops, the camping out-fit, the ornaments for the new churches that were to be builded, a goodly supply of provisions and car-goes of agricultural implements with which the Indians in the new country were to be taught to till the soil. Simultaneously with the sailing of the ships two land parties started out, one somewhat in advance of the other, their purpose being mainly to pick up cattle and sheep at Loreto and to bring them with them to stock the new country. Four missionaries went on the ship, but Father Junipero decided to go with the second land party. With him was the newly appointed governor, Don Gaspar de Portola. On January 9, 1769, Don Jose Galvez, Visitador General, assembled all the people together who were to set out on the great adventure, both by land and sea. He addressed them in feeling words, stir-ring their hearts as best he could to meet bravely whatever dangers might await them. Father Junipero then administered the sacrament, blessed the ship and placed the whole expedition under the guidance of St. Joseph, the patron saint of California.
The first ship to sail was the San Carlos, a bark of some two hundred tons burden, under the command of Vicente Villa. On this ship were also the surgeon, Pedro Prat; Father Fernando Paron, one of the Franciscan missionaries; twenty Catalonian soldiers under command of Lieutenant Pedro Fages; and many other important personages, and also a blacksmith, a baker and a cook.
As soon as Galvez had the satisfaction of seeing the San Carlos well on its way, he started the second vessel which was known as the San Antonio. It was on January 11, 1769, that Galvez saw the last of the San Carlos and it was on February 15, following, that he started the San Antonio under command of Juan Perez with two additional Franciscan Fathers, Francisco Gomez and Juan Vizcaino.
The two land expeditions were by this time also upon their way, but by the time the second expedition reached San Xavier, in Lower California, the old wound in Father Junipero’s leg became so troublesome and so cruelly painful that Father Palou advised him to remain at San Xavier until he should be in better condition to proceed. But to this proposal Junipero would give no heed.
“Let us speak no more upon the subject,” he said. “I have placed my faith in God and trust in His goodness to plant the standard of the Holy Cross not only at San Diego but even as far as Monterey.”
In a few days Junipero’s party resumed its journey, traversing the wild mountain districts and desert plains of Lower California, stopping now and then at previously established Missions, Father Junipero suffering intensely all the time until one of the muleteers, by applying tallow mixed with herbs to the wound, accomplished a surprising and most welcome measure of relief. Some of the Indians died upon the way. Several of the soldiers deserted. But at last on July 1, 1769, Junipero Serra and Don Gaspar de Portola came with swelling hearts in view of the long-sought port of San Diego.
The two ships sent out from La Paz by Galvez were rocking joyously in the bright Harbor of the Sun, their crews and passengers were on shore and the first land party under command of Captain Fernando Rivera y Moncada had also arrived at the port.
As the second land party with Father Junipero and Governor Portola came within view of the destination for which the whole expedition had set out, and as they saw that every other arm of the enter-prise had fared successfully, the ships lying with folded sails in the lovely, peaceful harbor, the tents of the voyagers by sea and the wayfarers by land set up and waiting with welcome in the clasp of the brown hills of the shore, Junipero Serra experienced then one of the happiest hours of his life. Portola ordered his soldiers to fire their guns to attract the attention of those already in San Diego and the camp immediately responded with salvos from cannon on the decks of the ships and the rattle of musketry from the Catalonian soldiers in the newly founded presidio. The whole camp went forth to meet Portola and Junipero and there was great rejoicing.
This day, forever memorable, may be considered as the natal day of California. White men had been in San Diego beforeCabrillo’s expedition in 1542 and the expedition of Vizcaino in 1602 but they came merely to explore, and with no idea whatever of attempting colonization or even temporary settlement. They left nothing behind them save little stone monuments here and there on the golden coast to bear record of their visits.
All told, the expedition now safely arrived at San Diego numbered one hundred and thirty souls, but many of these were sick or hurt and were under the constant care of Pedro Prat, the surgeon. Those whose cases were most serious were put on board the San Antonio and sent back to Mexico, leaving the other ship, the San Carlos, to remain. In a few days, as soon as the camp was as well bestowed as possible, Father Junipero and Portola went into conference in order to decide upon the next step to be taken, which was to find the Port of Monterey and there establish the second Mission according to the instructions of Don Jose Galvez.
The original intention was to proceed from San Diego to Monterey by water, but it was now discovered that the San Carlos was in bad condition and by no means seaworthy, so that the only alternative, if haste were to be made, was to send a party by land to find Monterey and to gain a footing there. The plan agreed upon then was that Father Junipero should remain in San Diego and begin the first Mission, while Portola was to place himself in command of the overland party which was forthwith to start out in search of Monterey. Accordingly, on July 14, this overland expedition started out, Portola in command. Also in the party were the two Franciscan Fathers, Crespi and Gomez, Capt. Rivera y Moncada, Lieutenant Fages, Costanso, the engineer, and Sergeant Jose Francisco de Ortega, together with a number of soldiers, Indian servants from Lower California and Old Mexico, and muleteers, the whole company numbering sixty-four persons.
Thus on July 14, 1769, began from San Diego the historic march of Don Gaspar de Portola and his men on the vain and fruitless search for Monterey, but which resulted in the discovery of another and a greater harbor that made the name of Portola immortal.
Never was there port so elusive as that same Monterey that now the whole world knows so well. The trouble was that Cabrillo had made an error in his reckonings when he placed Monterey on his map, and, because of this, Portola was led a sorry chase when he set out from San Diego. For weeks and weeks the party marched through valleys beautiful with oak and sycamore, redolent with the perfume of wild flowers and vibrant with the songs of thrush and linnet and mocking-bird ; for weeks and weeks they climbed the brown hills shining with the splendor of the dawn, royal with sunset’s purple and diademed with the jeweled stars of nightbut still no sign of Monterey gleaming in glory among her cypressed shores.
And it came to pass that on the first day of November in that fateful year, 1769, Portola’s expedition had marched far beyond the spot it was seeking. Every morning and every last look at evening from the hills showed still no crescent cut of shore or estuary that could be hailed as Monterey even by the wildest flight of the imagination. Sickness and weariness had made pathetic inroads on Portola’s ranks, the men who still remained strong carrying on litters those who could no longer keep up the heart-breaking pace.
At last the brave little band reached that spot from which the fascinated traveler of today, trekking from the south, may look out upon the great ocean, beholding Point Reyes to the northward and the rocky islets of the Farallones in the cobwebs of the mists, off shore.
There Portola pitched a camp and sent Ortega, his sergeant, to explore. Some soldiers who were left in camp resolved to go forth on a forage, which they did, and as they returned, near evening, they fired their guns to apprise Portola that they came with great news. They reported having seen a vast arm of the sea which stretched far inland. Was it Monterey, at last New hopes inspired the expedition and the coming of morning was most eagerly and restlessly awaited.
The rest of the story is soon told. Pushing east-ward, next day, across the hills, Gaspar de Portola and his companions looked down, not upon Monterey, but upon the dancing waters of the Bay of St. Francis and the bronze portals of the Golden Gate !
In imagination we can see them stillthat little band of immortal pathfindersdumb with wonder on the brown and windy hill, drinking in with enraptured eyes the far-flung splendor of the mightiest harbor in all the world. There stands Portola, wide-eyed and swart of face under his plumed hat. Beside him are his officers, Moncada, Fages, Costanso and Ortega in short velvet jackets, slashed breeches, bright sashes and gold lace ; the two brown-robed, sandaled Franciscan Fathers, Crespi and Gomez ; the soldiers in their leather coats; the rough, sombreroed muleteers and the half-naked Indians brought from Baja California in the far south.
Backward now marched Portola to San Diego with the disheartening report that he had failed in his effort to establish a Mission at Monterey. But when he told of the tremendously greater harbor he had found, Father Serra was wildly elated.
“Ah,” he cried, “the challenge that Galvez flung at me has been answered. Our Father St. Francis has made known his port to us. We shall name it San Francisco in his honor, and we will build a Mission there.”
Portola’s expedition had been absent on its great quest for a period of eight months ; it returned to San Diego early in March, 1770, sadly the worse for the hard experience which it had undergone. It had left behind it a path of grief, and the majority were poor wanderers incapacitated by sickness. The Governor was deeply discouraged and had been buoyed up alone by the hope that he would find cheering news upon his return to San Diego.
But in this he was terribly disappointed. During the eight months of his absence Father Junipero had accomplished practically nothing more than the ceremonious foundation of the first Mission. Not one Indian neophyte had been secured from the hundreds of natives in the surrounding country. The camp had been frequently attacked by the sayages who wounded many and had slain one of the Mission defenders. There had been a great deal of sickness, and the new Mission establishment was on the verge of starvation.
Don Gaspar de Portola, the Governor, was not slow to grasp the true situation and to make up his mind what action to take. He ordered all hands on board the San Carlos that the entire expedition might return at once to Old Mexico while it was still possible to do so.
Serra was dismayed, and pleaded with all his soul against the abandonment. At last they gave him one more day to remainjust one little day moreand then he must put away his dream and sail south with the ships.
Now Galvez, in New Spain, had promised to send a relief ship in due time to San Diego, but the time had long passed and no one hoped for it any more. Doubtless it had been lost, they said, as others of their ships had been lost. Certainly it had not come when Galvez said it would come. It might be he had kept his word and had sent the ship, but it was with the fishes at the bottom of the sea these many months. A child might know as much.
But the situation had one indomitable soul still to reckon with. Junipero Serra could not give up ; he would go to God for help and pray to Him for succor across the blue waves. On the morning of that “last day” he climbed to the topmost pinnacle of Presidio Hill and stormed the white gates of Heaven with supplicating prayers for San Diego, even as the garrison was feverishly packing whatever was worth the carrying away. The record of that day is told in Smythe’s vivid history of San Diego :
“Father Serra went up to the hilltop on that fateful morning and turned his eyes to the sea as the sun rose. All day long he watched the waste of waters as they lay in the changing light. It was a scene of marvelous beauty, and as he watched and prayed, Junipero Serra doubtless felt that he drew very close to the Infinite. So devout a soul, in such desperate need, facing a scene of such nameless sublimity, could not have doubted that somewhere just below the curve of the sea lay a ship, with God’s hand pushing it on to starving San Diego. And as the sun went down he caught sight of a saila ghostly sail, it seemed, in the far distance. Who can ever look upon the height above the old Presidio, when the western sky is glowing and twilight stealing over the hills, without seeing Father Serra on his knees pouring out his prayer of thanksgiving.”
Thus was wrought what, in the tents of the faithful, is called a “miracle,” and by what better name shall the Gentiles call it? Did not Junipero Serra ask for another day, and did not the day bring the ship to “starving San Diego I”
And what does that day mean to California and the world? It means that, had it never been, the wonderful Franciscan Missions of California had never risen, standing as they do today, most of them in ruin, but still the most priceless heritage of the Common-wealth. Came never that day on Presidio Hill with Junipero Serra on his knees, there would have been no Mission San Diego de Alcala in the Mission Val-ley, no Pala in the mountain valleys, no San Luis Rey, no San Gabriel or Santa Barbara’s towers watching above the sea, no San Luis Obispo or Dolores or any of the twenty-one marvelous structures that dot El Camino Real”The King’s Highway”between the Harbor of the Sun and the Val-ley of the Seven Moons, and which to see, untold thousands of travelers make the pilgrimage to California every year.
With the arrival of the relief ship confidence and courage were again restored. All thought of abandoning the great emprise now faded from everybody’s mind. Father Junipero, who had declared to Portola that he would remain alone in California, now found his companions willing and glad to remain with him. He preached a great sermon to them at Mass, strengthening their faith in God by his own sublime faith and moving them to tears of gratitude as he could so well do with his marvelous eloquence. He spoke of the beauty of the land to which they had come. Plucking up a wild rose from its stem he said : “Even the roses here are like the roses of Castile.”
But Father Junipero was now eager to be on his way to the lost Port of Monterey where he had decided to establish the headquarters of all the Missions. Taking Vizcaino’s old maps he clearly explained to Portola how he had missed his quest and assured him that this time there would be no difficulty. So, leaving behind him at San Diego a chosen company to care for the Mission there, Junipero and Portola started for Monterey. In the party left at San Diego were Fathers Parron and Gomez, the Commander of the ship, Vicente Villa, with five sailors, a small number of neophyte Indians from Lower California and eight soldiers in charge of Sergeant Ortega.
This new expedition to Monterey was divided into two parties, one to go by water on the newly arrived ship which proved to be the San Antonio; the other party to go by land. Father Junipero, true Franciscan that he was, decided to accompany the land party. In those days and for years afterwards the members of the Order of St. Francis invariably made their journeys on foot and declined to ride in any kind of conveyance unless absolutely forced to do so. With Father Junipero and Governor Portola were a number of soldiers, neophytes and muleteers.
The land party reached Point Pinos, May 24, 1770, and on June 3, following, Father Junipero celebrated the Mass under the same oak tree on the shores of the Bay of Monterey where that same ceremony had been performed by the chaplain of the Vizcaino expedition one hundred sixty-eight years before; but the party which left San Diego in the San Antonio at the same time the land party started, did not reach Monterey for a month and a half afterward, owing to the fact that the ship had been buffeted by the winds and driven from its course.
There could be no question now that the lost port of Monterey had been refound. The cross that Portola had erected on his previous journey was still standing, his records buried under it, unharmed and undisturbed. The wondering Indians who came down told the strangers that the mystic cross had been left unmolested because of the awe in which they held it. They said that at night it had always shone with a strange and heavenly brightness that could be seen for many miles. They hung fish and berries upon it by day, thinking thus to propitiate it, as they would one of their own gods. Again they thought it was angry with them, and they came and buried their arrows beside it in the sand to show that they were at peace with the Holy Cross. And never had sacrilegious hand been laid upon it.
June 3, 1770, was the first great clay in the history of Monterey-a history destined to be filled with many great days. It was upon that date that Father Junipero Serra founded there his own Mission of San Carlos with the celebration of the Mass, the singing of the Te Deum Laudamus and all the stately ceremonial of the Roman ritual. On the same day the royal standard of Charles III, King of Spain, was unfurled and saluted by salvos of artillery, and California claimed for the ancient throne of Castile and Leon. The presidio was named “The Royal Presidio,” and was ever afterwards so called during Spain’s dominion over California to distinguish it from the other presidios that were to be, and that were afterward established. And it was decided to call the church to be erected at the Mission, the “Royal Chapel,” thus establishing Monterey as the civil, military and religious headquarters of the Kingdom of Spain in California.
Hoping and praying for the best at San Diego, Father Junipero now started in with a will to build up the Mission San Carlos at Monterey. He built a chapel adjacent to the soldiers’ quarters on perhaps the same spot where the stone church of San Carlos at Monterey now stands. Around the church a palisade was erected. This done, he immediately set forth to realize the passion of his life, which was to bring the heathen savage to the cross of Christ.
Accompanied by Father Crespi, Serra visited the Indians in the surrounding neighborhood, offering them gifts and by other acts of kindness endeavoring to attract them to him. One of the Indian neophytes who had been brought from Lower California soon learned the dialect of the Monterey Indians and in that way Father Junipero was enabled to hold speech with them. Toward the end of December he was inexpressibly rejoiced to record the first baptism among the heathen and from that beginning his number of converts rapidly increased. The Indians often came to him in parties numbering a dozen or more to offer themselves for baptism.
At the end of the second year it could be seen how splendidly Junipero Serra’s great dream was unfolding. Already the naked savages were clothed, they were learning to speak the Spanish tongue, to make the responses of the Mass in Latin, to sing and to play upon musical instruments and to work as artisans and husbandmen. In the lush harvest fields of Monterey their swinging scythes rang blithely; upon the mountain side, in the dream-kissed valleys rose the song of the Indian herder as he guarded the magically increasing flocks.
Before a year had passed, however, Father Junipero decided that it would be better from every point of view to find a more suitable location for his Mission of San Carlos. In the first place, the opportunities for agricultural development on the immediate shores of the Bay of Monterey were not sufficiently large or promising for his purposes. But a more important reason than this decided him to make the change, and this reason was that it was not good for his Indian neophytes to remain in such close contact with Spanish soldiers who, like most of the Sons of Mars in the olden times, were not any too particular concerning their own morals or the morals of others. Father Junipero found that his neophytes were being corrupted and that unless something were done they would fall into a worse plight than that in which he had found them. Better, indeed, to have left them in their nakedness, homeless and unchristianized, subsisting as best they could on insects, acorns, raw fish and such wild game as they could kill or trap with their bows and arrows, than to bring them into a state of civilization which could mean for them only physical decay and the damnation of their redeemed souls.
Perhaps Junipero had still another reason for the removal. He loved, intensely, the beautiful in nature, and there is no more beautiful spot in all God’s green world than the Valley of Carmelo. Yonder it lies across the pine-clad hill five or six miles distant from the crescent shores of the Bay of Monterey, that little vale where Junipero Serra set up the throne of his kingdom, which, like the Kingdom of his Master, was not of this earth. Beautiful Carmelo, clasped so tenderly within the enfolding hills, the bright river dancing down to the little bay, the sun kissing it with a tireless and never faithless loveblessed and holy Carmelo, the Valley of Junipero Serra’s heartit is worth a journey over all the oceans and all the lands on earth to see it.
As you cross the green hill that rolls back so gently from the shining waters and the clustering roofs of Monterey, you will pass through aisles of pine tuned to the music of soft sea winds, passing to and fro from either side. The wild deer will look at you, not askance but fearlessly there in the knowledge of his safety; the hush of the forest will soothe you as you journeyup hill half the way, then down hill for the other half. But you must not fall adream too cosily either as you walk or ride, for suddenly Carmelo will break upon the view, and you must not lose the first glimpse of it, lest it may chance that you shall not come again that way. You will see it, soft with the peace of GodCarmelo that was once so busy with the day’s work, that was once so thronged with dusky faces, new-lit with mystic joyCarmelo that is so silent now, so lonely and so deserted, yet beautiful as at first. Like a pink cameo on the silken-green bosom of the vale, the mission church of Carmel still stands, towered and belfried, waiting in its entrancing yet pathetic loneliness for your welcome footsteps. You will be loath to come awayand you never can for-get.
It was in the beginning of June, 1771, that Serra decided on the Valley of Carmelo as the new site of his Mission San Carlos. He immediately placed there some forty of his Lower California neophytes, three sailors and five soldiers, and gave the necessary directions for the hewing of timber and the erection of barracks. Also he gave directions that a wooden chapel, a storehouse and guardhouse, dwellings and corrals should be completed. Late in the following December the whole Mission establishment was transferred from Monterey to Carmel. The Royal Chapel at Monterey was not, of course, abandoned, but was afterwards regularly served by the padres from Carmel.
So eager was Serra to establish new Missions that he did not wait to see work begun at Carmelo. Once the plans for the new Mission were fully arranged, he set forth into the wilderness to found the third Mission, accompanied by two of his brother Franciscans, some soldiers and with the necessary supplies. The party traveled south from Monterey along the Salinas River till they came at length, more than a distance of seventy-five miles, to a wondrously beautiful glen, studded with live oak trees. So entrancing was the spot that Father Junipero at once decided he would there build a Mission. The place was called Los Robles.
There was not a single Indian in sight, nor were there any visible signs of the existence of a rancheria, as the Indian communities were termed, anywhere about. Yet, notwithstanding this, Junipero at once ordered the mules to be unloaded and, taking the bells which were carried along, he hung them to a branch of a tree and began vigorously to ring them, at the same time shouting in a sort of ecstatic frenzy : “0 Gentiles, come, come, come to the holy church; come, come, come to receive the faith of Jesus Christ!”
The brown-robed brothers at his side were astonished that Serra should put himself to what seemed to them to be much useless exertion, and they vigorously expostulated with him. “Why do you tire yourself ? they asked. “This is not the place where the church is to be erected, nor are there any Indians here. It is useless to ring the bells.” And Junipero answered them saying : “Let me satisfy the longings of my heart, which desires that this bell might be heard over all the world, or that at least the Gen-tiles who dwell about these mountains mav hear it.” More to humor their superior than for any other reason, perhaps, the padres and the soldiers erected a large wooden cross and a cabin of green bows in which was built a rude altar.
As it happened, a lone Indian who was straying in that direction and who was attracted by the ringing of the bells, came up and looked wonderingly upon the strangers and the work in which they were engaged. Junipero joyfully approached the Indian, gave him presents and by means of signs caused him to understand that he wanted him to go and find his people and bring them back with him. This the astonished native did, in due time reappearing with large numbers of his tribe bearing an abundance of seeds and nuts as presents to the missionaries.
Thus was established the Mission of San Antonio de Padua, which now is seldom visited by anyone although what remains of it is still a ruin of great beauty. It lies far from the beaten track of travel and only those who are in love with beauty take the trouble to search it out. But in the days of the glory of the Missions San Antonio was in many respects the most famous of them all. The Indian neophytes there converted from heathenism to Christianity were more numerous than those of all the other Missions combined, and it was there for many, many years that those wonderful horses were bred which have made California famous down to this day.
Junipero Serra had now indeed become a busy man. He remained fifteen days at the new Mission of San Antonio and returned to his own Mission of San Carlos at Carmelo about August 1, 1771, with glowing accounts of his latest conquest which filled his missionary companions with joy. He at once sent word to Fathers Somer. and Carbon to do as he himself had done, namely, to fare forth and establish a new Mission which was to be called San Gabriel.
In accordance with these instructions the two Franciscan Fathers named left San Diego with a guard of ten soldiers and marched steadily northward until they came to a great wide valley with a bright stream flowing through it. It was a valley that appeared to extend far eastward between the Sierra Madre mountains on the north and a chain of serranos on the south. On the eighth day of September, 1771, the missionaries and soldiers halted at what appeared to them to be a most advantageous site for a Mission. The Indians who appeared for the purpose of watching their movements assumed a threatening attitude, but the padres under the protection of the soldiers erected a large wooden cross, sprinkled the ground with holy water and chanted the hymns usual to such occasions. The attitude of the Indians constantly grew more threatening, resolving itself, at length, into palpable preparation for a war-like attack. The little party of Spaniards was dismayed and probably would have suffered annihilation had it not been for a happy thought on the part of the missionaries. They carried with them a large banner upon which was emblazoned a picture of the Virgin and which they suddenly unfurled to the astonished vision of the savages. The effect was instantaneous. The Indians threw down their arms and came forward with every indication of submission, prostrating themselves at the feet of the padres.
It was in this manner that the Mission San Gabriel was founded. It came, in time, to be an establishment so great and so vast that it was often called “The Queen of the Missions.” It gathered into its fold thousands of neophytes, its flocks and herds were thick in the deep, fertile valley and upon the hill-sides. Its graneries were never empty. Much good wine was made there during its many years of happy existence. Its Indian artizans became so skilful that they once built a ship which was launched in the harbor of San Pedro. In the tumble and wreck and ruin of the sad days which followed secularization, the church building at San Gabriel withstood the ravages of decay and it is still in a very good state of preservation. It was from this Mission that Felipe de Neve, accompanied by the Fathers of the Mission, a goodly company of soldiers, pablodores and Indians, marched westward a distance of eight miles towards the sea and, amid religious ceremonies and the thunder of artillery, founded the present city of Los Angeles. The . date was September, 1781, and Felipe de Neve was then Governor of California.
The next or fifth Mission to be established was that of San Luis Obispo. It was founded by Father Serra in person. The date was September 1, 1772. The occasion was made a part of The Father President’s first official journey southward from his own Mission of San Carlos at Carmelo to San Diego. The fact that by this time five Missions had been founded and established in the short space of three years, gives eloquent proof of the restless and indefatigable energy of Junipero Serra. The battle-line of Christ was already far-flung in the new land.
On this journey, as indeed on all his journeys during his life in California, Father Junipero went afoot. How many times he walked all the way from Monterey to San Francisco, then down to San Diego and back again, it were difficult to say. And the old cruel wound in his leg that he received in the Sierra Gorda grew never better, but always a little worse, thus adding to his physical sufferings a torture which few men would have been able to withstand.
The founding of Mission San Luis Obispo was conducted with the usual ceremonies. Although Father Junipero remained there one day only on this occasion, he wrote that he had great hopes for the success of the new establishment. “Let us leave time to tell the story of the progress which Christianity will make among these Gentiles,” he said, “in spite of the Enemy who has already begun to lash his tail by means of bad soldiers.” We see that the good padres had already begun to have their griefs. San Luis Obispo grew to be a fairly successful establishment and it is said that the curved, red roof-tiles, so familiar in California, were first manufactured at this Mission.
Toward the end of the year 1774 the Spanish Viceroy in Mexico notified Father Junipero and Capt. Rivera y Moncada that he intended to establish a new presidio at San Francisco, simultaneously with which Serra was requested to begin his contemplated Mission at that point in order that it might serve as a base of operations for the extension of Spanish and Christian power. Father Junipero selected Fathers Cambon and Palou to accompany the soldiers and found the Mission at the same time that the presidio was to be founded by the military. Lieut. Juan de Ayala was ordered to proceed from Monterey with the ship he commanded and explore the waters in the region of San Francisco bay.
The establishment of the new presidio at San Francisco was placed in the hands of Juan de Anza, the famous captain of Tubac, who had then successfully completed his march from Sonora in Mexico, overland to Montereythe first man to blaze the inland trail. Anza selected the site for the new presidio where it still stands after having passed under the domination of four distinct successive governments Spain, Mexico, The Bear Flag Republic and the United States.
Then came the first sailor who ever steered his ship through the Golden Gate. He was Juan de Ayala, Lieutenant of the Royal Navy of Spain, and his ship was the San Carlos-the same sturdy vessel that brought the first pioneers to San Diego when California began. It was on the night of August 5, 1775, that the San Carlos struck in from sea and won the harbor of St. Francisthe first sail that ever entered there. Buoyant as a white gull from the wastes of the wild waters, leaping on the tides that ran as a mill-race between the broken headlands of Lobos and Benita, soft and silent under the stars, sailed the San Carlos that night, and Juan de Ayala, with soul athrill, upon her deck. At morn she lay with folded sails in the quiet harbor, with supplies for the new Mission and presidio, seed for the harvests that were to be, neophytes and artisans to break the waiting loam and erect the buildings, soldiers in whose keeping was the honor of Spain ; and last, but not least, the good padre, Vicente de Santa Maria, to bless it all.
“If St. Francis desires a Mission, let him show us his harbor,” Don Jose Galvez had said to Junipero Serra at La Paz when the conquest of California was being planned. Here was the harbor and a Spanish ship riding at anchor between its brown hills, and on shore was already risen the wooden cross of the new Mission of St. Francis.
Junipero Serra did not see the new Mission at San Francisco until October, 1777, at which time he also first saw the great harbor which he had named. As he stood gazing upon that wonderful inland sea he exclaimed, with deep emotion: “Thanks be to God that now our Father St. Francis, with the Holy Cross of the procession of Missions, has reached the farthest boundary of the California continent. To go farther he must have boats.”
The church building which was in due time erected has well withstood all the buffets of time and is still standing in good condition. It was left unharmed by the great earthquake of 1906 and escaped the conflagration which accompanied that awful cataclysm, although all the buildings around it were utterly destroyed.
In August of 1775, the Father President was able to rejoice in the success of six flourishing missionary establishments. At a conference of the Fathers in charge of these institutions, held at Monterey, the founding of a new Mission to be known as San Juan Capistrano, some seventy-five miles north of San Diego, was decided upon. Accordingly this Mission was begun on October 30, following, with Father Lasuen officiating. The dedication ceremonies took place the following day, namely, November 1, 1776.
San Juan Capistrano was very successful from the first hour of its existence. The Indians were kindly disposed from the start. They readily accepted the Christian faith and, as time passed, they became industrious agriculturists and herdsmen and noted as artisans. The stone church which was later erected at this Mission was in its time the finest and handsomest church edifice in all California. It is said that fourteen years were consumed in its construction, the Indian neophytes quarrying the stone from the adjacent hills and freighting it down to the mission with infinite patience and labor. They builded the church, stone upon stone, with their own hands, an indisputable proof of the high state of manual skill and civilization to which the most degraded and least hopeful race of savages on the face of the earth was lifted by the patient love and tireless teaching of the Franciscan padres. The beautiful church was ruined by an earthquake in 1812 on a Sunday morning, resulting in the death of forty persons, mostly Indian neophytes who were in attendance upon divine service. The glory of San Juan Capistrano has passed even as the beauty of the dream which called it forth, but what still remains of it stands as the most entrancing ruin on the American continent.
Santa Clara was the eighth Mission to be founded. In the original arrangement it was intended to found this Mission at the time of the foundation of the San Francisco Mission, but a delay was occasioned because of the jealousy that was then rampant in military circles. Consequently, the foundation of Santa Clara did not take place until January 12, 1777. It was conducted by Padre Tomas de la Pena Saradia, under the direction of Father Junipero, the Father President, who was then at his own Mission of San Carlos at Carmelo.
The history of the Mission Santa Clara is splendid with achievements and glamorous with romance. It still remains a highly successful institution al-though its physical outlines are greatly changed from the original, owing to many repairs and alterations. The original church building, however, remains quite intact and a cross that was reared on the day the Mission was founded is still standing. But the Franciscans are no longer there. In their place are the Jesuits, their ancient rivals, from whom, as it was ordained, the Franciscans snatched the glory of christianizing California. Standing in the heart of the deep lush Valley of Santa Clara, the old Mission re-mains a busy place. From its ancient walls issue, year by year, throngs of eager students whom the Jesuits train for the work of the world. If Junipero Serra could come back to earth he might regret that his own brown-robed brethren have been supplanted in a well-loved spot, but he would see much else that would satisfy him. He would not look upon ruin and desolation such as would sadden his vision at San Diego, Capistrano, and many other places sacred to memory and very dear to him in the days of his labor on earth. But, instead, he would behold life and energy and power, and that industry in both worldly and spiritual affairs which he taught and which he exemplified in his own restless, indomitable and self-sacrificing career. And he would see enclosing the ancient church from whose altars he preached, not the adobe walls upreared by his neophytes, but the clustering rooftrees, the long, shaded streets and the gardens of Santa Clara town, thick with roses the whole year round.
It will be remembered that the instructions of Don `Jose Galvez to the expedition of 1769 that left La Paz, were that after a Mission had been built at San Diego and a second at Monterey, the third was to be built at a place between which was to be called San Buenaventura, but it transpired that San Buenaventura was not the third but the ninth Mission to befounded. Busy though he was with other trying affairs at the time, and also much worn by his ever increasing labors and old age, Father Junipero walked down to San Gabriel from his own Mission at Carmel and, meeting there Padre Cambon and Governor Felipe de Neve, they all set out for the Santa Barbara channel with the usual company of soldiers and neophytes, founding on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1783, Mission San Buenaventura. The Mission waxed fat from a material point of view, at one time standing at the head of the list in the number of head of cattle owned. It also flourished from a spiritual aspect, but when it began to decay its decline was very rapid. Its old church is among the best preserved of Mission structures and is a familiar sight along the old King’s Highway, now busy with the traffic of modern times.
The famous Mission of Santa Barbara, the next to be established, was inevitable not only because of the luring splendor of the spot, its physical charm and sheltered location, but more so because it was densely populated with Indians. Above all things it was the Indians whom the padres soughtthe heathen Gen-tiles whom they so eagerly desired to bring into the fold of Christianity. Moreover, the Santa Barbara Indians and all the so-called Channel Indians were the superiors in strength and intelligence of any of the aborigines of California whom the Spaniards had yet seen.
As soon as the Mission San Buenaventura had been established, Junipero Serra and Governor Felipe de Neve moved up to the point now known as Santa Barbara for the purpose of founding a Mission there. But it was a presidio only that was founded upon this occasion. The military had already grown jealous of the ever growing power and wealth of the Missions under Father Junipero’s masterly guidance and direction. For one reason or another Governor de Neve made excuses for delay and finally Father Junipero left him to erect a garrison, although a cross was reared and a site selected for a Mission. Four years afterward, on December 4, 1786two years after Father Junipero ‘s deathhis successor, Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, founded the Mission Santa Barbara with a Mass, the singing of the Veni Creator and the pomp and splendor of the Roman liturgy.
When fell upon Junipero Serra’s great dream, long after his death, the wreck and ruin of evil days and El Camino Real was strewn, not with prosperous Mission hospices but with their fallen and silent roofs and towers, and the brown-robed Franciscans and their happy neophytes were hunted back to the wilderness to starve and die, this Mission of Santa Barbara was the one grey fortress that never surrendered. Within its quiet walls the Franciscans held their ground. At times their numbers dwindled to a mere handfuloften no more than two of the brethren were left to keep alive the altar lightsbut they never wholly departed.
In consequence of the fact that in California the Franciscans, for many years, could be found only at Santa Barbara, there arose a popular belief that the forbidden garden of this Mission was an institution peculiar to itself. Hence, the famous “Sacred Gar-den of Santa Barbara,” into which women are not allowed to enter. The truth is, however, that there was at every Mission a garden of this character, as there always is and always was in connection with every Franciscan community.
During the two years following the founding of the Mission San Buenaventura and the selection of a site for a Mission at Santa Barbara, no new Missions were built during the life of Father Junipero Serra. The time was spent by him in ceaseless labor for the upbuilding of the Missions already established, but the days of his labors were now about to close. He had been given authority by Rome to confer the rite of confirmation in order to meet the demands of the work which he was directing for the Church, but he had never been consecrated to the office of Bishop. Therefore, for the purpose of confirming the neophytes who had been baptized and also for the purpose of directing the work of the Missions in person, he seems to have been almost continuously traveling up and down the length of California from San Francisco to San Diego. These journeys were made in-variably on foot, and his bed at night was never any other than the bare ground. When at his own Mission of San Carlos or at any of the other Mission establishments which he founded, he slept always on a bare bench with neither cushion nor mattress to soften the asperities of so inhospitable a bed. He ate sparingly at all times of the commonest and poorest food. He drank no wine. When preaching he was wont to throw himself into a religious frenzy during which he would mercilessly flay his bare shoulders with a whip and cruelly strike his bare breast with a stone. These fearful hardships to which he subjected himself were enough to have killed ten strong men before the time that they brought at last this marvelous and heroic old pioneer and proselytizer to the verge of his waiting grave.
On the twenty-eighth of August, 1784, at the age of seventy years, nine months and twenty-one days, Junipero Serra went to his everlasting rest at his own Mission of San Carlos in his loved valley of Carmelo, a little before two o’clock in the afternoon. For almost fifty-four years he had been a Franciscan priest, thirty-five years of which had been spent in missionary labors.
During the sixteen years of Junipero’s labors in California, nine Missions had been established, either directly by himself or under his direction. In those Missions were five thousand eight hundred Indian neophytes whom he had converted, with the assistance of his companions, from heathenism to Christianity. This number of people whom he had found living worse than the lives of dogs he left in a new world of light and health and joy. He had taught the hand of the savage to do a Christian white man’s work, to sing Christian music and speak prayers. Within the valleys and the sun-swept hills where he had found only waste and desolation he left unnumbered flocks and herds. It is, perhaps, quite safe to say that there is not in all the history of civilization one other single man whose individual labors for God and humanity bore such a bountiful harvest. The name of Junipero Serra is today the best loved name in California, without distinction of class or creed. His memory is honored and revered by all the people.
The day he died the guns on the ships in the harbor of Monterey boomed in solemn salute as though a Prince of the Realm had gone to rest. Yet this tribute was slight compared with the tears and lamentations that fell upon Carmelo when Father Junipero was no more. The Indians in their frantic grief fought for the shreds of his poor brown robe and for the white locks of his hair. His sandals were borne away by the officers of the Royal Navy to be kept with them at sea, against storm and danger. Never looked the sky so fair over Carmelo again; never sang the bright river so gladly any more.
He passed, his labors and his sufferings ended, to be at last quite forgotten, his very grave neglected and covered with debris in the sad years that came to undo the work of his great heart and his tireless hand. But when the vandal years had had their fling, Time again bethought itself of that holy dust lying within the broken Mission walls in the silent vale. After he had lain a century and a quarter dead, his fame leaped up again like a sudden flame from abandoned embers. And Junipero Serra came then again to his own. Today, as it shall be throughout all the days to come, the tramp of many feet go to seek him in his quiet grave.
The progress of the Missions did not end with the death of Serra. On the contrary, their glory had just then begun. The religious and material prosperity which then ensued stands now as one of the brightest memories in the history of human achievements. Immediately after Junipero ‘s death the in-crease in the Missions’ flocks and herds and the harvests of the fields, as well as the astounding increase in the number of Indian converts, was doubtless due to the impetus which the Founder and first Father President had given to the work. His Franciscan associates and successors, however, piously declared that the great success which then came about was due to Father Junipero’s intercession at the Great White Throne in the other world, to which he had departed, for the last promise he made on earth was that he would plead for the success of the Missions when he came face to face with his Creator.
For a very brief period Father Palou, Junipero Serra’s old friend and his illustrious biographer, succeeded him in the Presidency of the Missions, but in a few months Father Palou retired to the College of San Fernando in Mexico to reap the reward of a well-earned rest and to devote himself to his writings. Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen was then appointed Father President of the California Missions.
Lasuen was a man of great ability, tireless energy and holy life. He proved to be a successor who endeavored in every possible way to be worthy of the great honor and trust which were imposed upon him. He at once began the erection of new Missions and put forth all his fine energies for the increase of the old establishments.
Leaving the presidio at Santa Barbara and traveling back into the mountain valleys to where the present town of Lompoc is situated, Father Lasuen, with the usual ceremonies and surrounded by the usual company, founded the Mission La Purisima Concepcion on December 8, 1787. Missionaries were placed in charge, as was the case with all these foundations, and to them were delegated the work and the responsibility of making the establishment successful. La Purisima became indeed highly successful with a proud record of baptisms, bounteous harvests and large flocks.
In 1789 two additional Missions were decided upon, the first to be named in honor of The Holy Cross. This was the Mission popularly known as Santa Cruz, located where now stands the beautiful city of that name. Not a trace of the Mission now remains. Owing to the many unfortunate obstacles which rose and to much sickness and other species of ill luck, Santa Cruz became nothing more than a fairly successful Mission. The date of its founding was December 25, 1791.
In the October preceding, the other Mission which had been decided upon was successfully founded. It was named in honor of Our Lady of Solitude, and is now commonly known as “La Soledad.” It is now, as it has ever been, a lonely spot. It was at this Mission when, in the wake of secularization, the days of evil came to scatter the flocks of the fold that Father Sarria, who devotedly remained at his post, though broken down by years and exhausted by hunger, died on the steps of the altar of the church from sheer starvation one Sunday morning as he was about to celebrate Mass in the presence of a little handful of Christian Indians who alone were left of all the great throngs that once were wont to assemble there.
Father Lasuen now determined that the time had come to found a Mission in honor of St. Joseph, the patron saint of California. Consequently, on June 11, 1797, the Mission San Jose de Guadelupe was founded among the brown foothills, in a place of running streams, opposite Mission Santa Clara, a distance of some twenty miles, on the northerly side of the Santa Clara Valley. Thus that famous Valley was distinguished in the possession of two Missions. Mission San Jose was, in its time, very prosperous, though now only a trace of the buildings remains. In these times it is often visited because of the natural beauty of the spot and, of course, for the sake of the sacred and romantic memories which have their habitation there, and also because of the wonderful marble tombs still to be seen in the quaint cemetery of the old Mission patio, which were carved in Italy and brought to California to adorn the sepulchers of rich old. Spanish and Mexican overlords who once dwelt there in power and luxury.
The delightful and picturesque little valley of San Benito with its fertile fields and great abundance of water next attracted the attention of the missionary and civil authorities who decided that a new Mission should be built there to administer to the spiritual wants and physical needs of its numerous Indian in-habitants. This Mission was, accordingly, founded and was named San Juan Bautista in honor of St. John the Baptist. The date was June 24, 1797. This Mission, the buildings of which have splendidly withstood the onslaughts of time, is located in the quaint and historic old village of San Juan only a few miles distant from the thriving and modern city of Hollister. San Juan Bautista had a long and prosperous career.
The sixteenth Mission to be established was named in honor of Michael, The Archangel, and is known as Mission San Miguel. It is located in the city of that name. In order to realize the spiritual and romantic atmosphere as well as to be informed as to the method of procedure at the foundation of a new Mission, Father Lasuen’s account of the beginning of San Miguel will prove interesting. “Here,” he says, “on July 25, 1797, with the assistance of Father Buenaventura Sitjar, and of the troops destined to guard the new establishment, in the presence of a great multitude of Gentiles of both sexes and of all ages, whose pleasure and rejoicing exceeded even our expectation, thanks be to God, I blessed the water and the place, and a great cross which we venerated and raised. Immediately I intoned the Litany of the Saints and after it sang the Mass, during which I preached, and we concluded the ceremonies by solemnly singing the Te Deum. May it all be for the greater honor and glory of God, Our Lord. Amen.”
By the summer of 1797, while the military and civil authorities of California were busily engaged in in-trenching the Spanish power by the establishment of pueblos, the Padres were even more busily engaged in filling up the gaps in Junipero ‘s far-flung line of religious establishments by the erection of new Mission hospices.
On September 8, 1797, Lasuen came down from Santa Barbara and founded the Mission San Fernando Rey de España, the ruins of which still remain, a distance of twenty-two miles from the city of Los Angeles. Father Francisco Dumetz, who was des-tined to become the last survivor of the immortal band of Franciscans who came to California with Junipero Serra, was present and took part in the ceremonies at the founding of this Mission. Like its near neighbor, San Gabriel, the Mission San Fernando became a very prosperous establishment both from a material and spiritual point of view.
One month following the founding of San Fernando another important step toward the closing of the gap was taken by the establishment of the famous Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. Although it was upon the date mentioned that this Mission was decided upon, it seems that its erection was not really begun until June of 1798. San Luis Rey began very auspiciously, fifty-four Indian children having been baptized on the spot the day of its foundation. The church that was later built was wonderfully spared from the vandalism of time and in the later days of the nineteenth century experienced a thrilling restoration. After long years of loneliness and isolation, the brown-robed Franciscans came back to San Luis Rey, repaired its fallen roofs, set up anew its wavering walls and once again rang the music of the ancient Mission bells across the dreaming valley and up into the silent hills. In answer to that melodious call, the remnant of the once happy community of neophytes, tottering old Indian men and women with their children and their children’s children, came flocking back to San Luis Rey to hear again the Padres’ voices and the well-loved music of the Mass, their hearts filled with gladness beyond the power of words to tell. Here also at San Luis Rey was planted the original California pepper tree in the patio of the Mission where Father Antonio Peyri placed it in the loving soil with his own gentle hands.
The next Mission to be built, the nineteenth in chronological order, was not founded until September 17, 1804. This was the Mission Santa Ynez, beautifully located in the mountains seventy miles distant from San Luis Obispo. It came to be a prosperous place despite earthquakes and Indian attacks which for some years placed great obstacles in the way of its progress. It was at this Mission that Father Arroyo resided for some years. He was in many respects a remarkable man, and was noted as a scholar. He was especially skilful in languages and, during his labors at Santa Ynez and other Missions, prepared a working grammar of the language of the Indians of the whole San Juan region. What remained of the buildings of the Mission, after the many years of decay that followed secularization, haye lately been restored.
Not a trace now remains of San Rafael, which was really a branch of the Mission at San Francisco, its situation having been a distance of perhaps not more than eighteen miles northward. During the comparatively short period of its existence San Rafael made a fine record, particularly in regard to conversions. The date of its foundation was December, 1817.
The twenty-first and last of the Franciscan Missions in California was established within the limits of what is now the city of Sonoma, about forty-five miles north of San Francisco. It was named in honor of St. Francis of Solano. This was in 1823 and the ceremonies of foundation took place in the presence of a number of Russians who had by this time made their appearance on the North Pacific Coasttheir presence a testimony to the fact that Latin power in this quarter of the world was already on the wane. But the Russians at Sonoma were very friendly to the missionaries and donated a number of useful and ornamental articles to the new Mission.
In the crazy-mad hurry and scurry of today it will ease the heart a bit and soothe a jangled nerve to open the dusty doorways of the past and look in on those who lived and toiled and had their being in the old Missions of California before the day of eyil befell them.
At 5 o’clock in the morning the Mission was astir. The brown priests rose quickly, slipped their feet into their sandals and hastened to the chapel to say Mass. The corporal and his six soldiersa mighty military establishment, thattumbled out of their quarters, grudgingly, perhaps, after the manner of rough men of war. They, too, must join in the prayers. Then, from within and without the great, gray adobe walls, the neophytes, men, women, children and all, came to kneel and ask God’s blessing on the new day. After the Mass, the monks retired to the dining-room to partake, standing and in silence, of their breakfast of bread and coffee.
Now everybody, brown priests and all, turn to the day’s busy task, some to the wide, far-flung fields, others to shop and mill, and others still to tend the herds and flocks. There was the sound of anvils ringing and the quaint chant of harvest songs from the fields. The women were at the looms or sewing. At eleven o’clock the bells summoned the workers to their midday meal, which consisted of simple but whole-some fare. Looking in where the Franciscans are dining, we find one of their number reading to the others from some pious book. After the meal there were prayers again in the chapel and the recitation of a psalm; then an hour or so for recreation or siesta. The afternoon was spent in toil again until six o’clock, which was the supper hour. This meal concluded, there was recreation once more for all but the monks, who had still their tasks of teaching Spanish, music and Christian doctrine to those who were fitted for or in need of such instructions. At nine o’clock the day was donea day spent in prayer and toilthe stars gleamed above the Mission towers, enfolding it and its happy people in peace and dreams.
This was the usual daily routine, but life at the Mission was not permitted to become monotonous. There were great feast daysmany of them, indeed when the whole community gave itself over to some religious celebration, followed by play and sport, horse-racing, feats of strength and endurance, games and every kind of innocent pleasure.
The result of this system on the Indians was little short of marvelous. From degraded “diggers” with-out law or morals to guide them, they grew into the stature of civilized beings. There is little foundation for the idiotic and far-fetched lie that the Franciscans treated the Indians cruelly,or even with harshness except in rare instances. There was a strict discipline, to be sure, and punishment for crimes and misdemeanors. But equal justice was meted out to all. There was an occasion on which it was shown that a corporal at San Gabriel was guilty of lewd and immoral actions with the Indian women. When Father Serra came on the next visit he had the corporal lashed and driven from the place.
In proof of the love the Indian neophytes bore their brown-robed teachers and guardians, history records many striking incidents. Whenever a padre for any reason departed from a mission establishment it was always a cause for deep grief among the neophytes. Once when a specially beloved padre was leaving California to return to Mexico, the Indians followed him down to the shore in great throngs weeping and wailing, several of them swimming out to the ship in the harbor, boarding its decks and refusing to return. Nothing could be done except to carry them away.
In the days when the prosperity of the Missions was at its height, Junipero Serra’s dream had, indeed, reached splendid proportions. Within the sheltering walls of those vast establishments there were as many as thirty thousand Christianized Indians at one time, leading not only wholesome Christian lives, but following, as well, all the occupations of artisans known to those days. It is asserted that fully fifty distinct trades and crafts were taught the Indians by the Franciscan Fathers. Besides this, the Missions farmed vast areas of land and were in possession of thousand upon thousand of heads of sheep and cattle. They also had come to have a large and profitable commerce with Yankee and foreign ships in hides, tallow, wine and other products, as well as manufactured articles.
Now comes the question : Why did this seven-hundred-mile chain of producing establishments fail and how has it come to pass that they now lie wasted and broken and ruined on The King’s Highway, their greatness and their glory departed ?
History itself furnishes the answer, and it is this : The Spanish Crown and, later, the Mexican Government, which succeeded the Spanish Crown, had successively on their hands military establishments in California which subsisted on the industry of the Missions. The soldiers did not work, but had to be fed just the same. Both Spain and Mexico, in the course of time, came to owe the Missions a great deal of money for the food and supplies which were furnished to the various presidios and garrisons. Looking the matter over coolly and calculatingly, after the manner of thrones and nations in the pains of a poverty resulting from criminal waste and extravagance, they decided that it would be much easier to boldly confiscate the Mission establishments, with all their fruitful fields, orchards, flocks and herds, than to pay the debts they owed them.
Wherefore, as early as 1813, the Spanish Cortes passed a decree secularizingwhich was to say, confiscatingthe California Missions and all other Missions in Spanish America. Thus was the robbery for it was nothing lessinaugurated, and although Spain never got around to the point of carrying out the scheme, the Mexican Republic, which succeeded Spain in California, took up the idea with enthusiasm and pushed it through to its sad and squalid finish. One after another the great, splendid hospices were sold at auction to greedy buyers. As an instance of the way these things were done, it is necessary only to state that the beautiful Mission San Juan Capistrano was disposed of to a purchaser for the ridiculous sum of seven hundred dollars.
It was not the Franciscans who were robbed but the Indians. It was the Indians who owned the Missions. A Franciscan never owned anything, not even laying claim to the sandals on his feet or the rough brown robe on his back. They simply acted as trustees for the native people whom they had redeemed through infinite suffering and sacrifice from savagery and heathenism.
Thus, by the time the United States came into possession of California in 1848, the Franciscan Missions begun by Junipero Serra in 1769 had passed into history. They were no more. The great high-way which bound these establishments together was called El Camino Real, The Royal RoadThe King’s Highway. Each Mission was situated a day’s journey on foot, the one apart from the other. Their doors were always open in welcome and shelter to the wandering wayfarer, whoever he might be. The plenty that was there was for whoever might come to partake of it. Now the hospice roofs have fallen in the dust, the Mission bells are silent, and from fertile field and peaceful patio the dusky faces once thronging there have departed.
Very many writers who have put forth what they wrote as historical records, and many other less ostentatious writers who have written on the subject of the California Missions, have invariably concluded their chronicles with the statement that the labors of Junipero Serra and his brown-robed successors in the work of the Missions ended in failure. They say it was a dream that had no realization.
But they miss the point. The material aspect of the Missions was merely subsidiary and auxiliary to their spiritual aspect. What Junipero Serra came to California to do was to Christianize the Indians. To feed and clothe them and to teach them trades were secondary considerations, which, in the wisdom of Serra and his associates and successors, were regarded as a necessary service to perform. But the dream was, first and foremost and above all things, to convert the heathen to Christianity. The Indians and their descendants lost the land and the Mission establishments which the Franciscans taught them to till and to build, but they have never lost the religion which the padres brought them. Their descendants have it to this day. Wherefore, the dream of Junipero Serra is a dream come true.