Famous Missions of California - W. H. Hudson

How the Missions of Santa Barbara,

La Purisima Conception, Santa Cruz, Soledad, San Jose,
San Juan Bautista, San Miguel, San Fernando, San Luis Rey,
and Santa Inez, Were Added to the List.

After Junipero's death the supervision of the missions devolved for a time upon Palou, under whose management, owing to difficulties with the civil powers, no new foundations were undertaken, though satisfactory progress was made in those already existing. In 1786, Palou was appointed head of the College of San Fernando, and his place as mission president was filled by Father Firmin Francisco de Lasuen, by whom the mission of Santa Barbara was dedicated, on the festival day of that virgin-martyr, before the close of the year. Just twelve months later, the third channel settlement was started, with the performance of the usual rites, on the spot fixed for the Mission of La Purisima Concepcion, at the western extremity of the bay; though some months passed before real work there was begun. Thus the proposed scheme, elaborated before Junipero's death, for the occupation of that portion of the coast, was at length successfully carried out.

Mission of Santa Barbara


Hardly had this been accomplished before the viceroy and governor, having resolved upon a further extension of the mission system, sent orders to Father Lasuen to proceed with two fresh settlements, one of which was to be dedicated to the Holy Cross, the other to Our Lady of Solitude. Time was, as usual, consumed in making the necessary preparations, and the two missions were finally founded within a few weeks of each other—on the 28th of August and the 9th of October, 1791, respectively. The site selected for the Mission of Santa Cruz was in the neighborhood already known by that name, and near the San Lorenzo River; that of Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, on the west side of the Salinas River, in the vicinity of the present town of Soledad, and about thirty miles from Monterey.

A glance at the map of California will help us to understand the policy which had dictated the creation of the four missions founded since Junipero's death. The enormous stretch of country between San Francisco and San Diego, the northern and southern extremes of evangelical enterprise, was as yet quite insufficiently occupied, and these new settlements had been started with the object of to some extent filling up the vast vacant spaces still left among those already existing. For the efficient performance of missionary work something more was needed than a number of separate establishments, no matter how well managed and successful these in them selves might be. Systematic organization was essential for this it was requisite that the various missions should be brought, by proximity, into vital relations with one another, that communication might be kept up, companionship enjoyed, and, in case of need, advice given and assistance rendered. The foundations of Santa Barbara, La Purisima, Santa Cruz and Soledad, had done something, as will be seen, towards the ultimate drawing together of the scattered outposts of church and civilization. But with them a beginning had only been made. Further developments of the same general plan which aimed, it will be understood, not alone at the spiritual conquest, but also at the proper control of the new kingdom—were now taken under consideration. And, as a result, five fresh missions were presently resolved upon. One of these was to be situated between San Francisco and Santa Clara; the second, between Santa Clara and Monterey; the third, between San Antonio and San Luis Obispo; the fourth, between San Buenaventura and San Gabriel; and the fifth, between San Juan Capistrano and San Diego. The importance of these proposed settlements as connecting links will be at once apparent, if we observe that by reason of their carefully chosen locations they served, as it were, to put the older missions into actual touch. When at length the preliminary arrangements had been made, no time was wasted in the carrying out of the programme, and in a little over a year, all five missions were in operation. The mission San Jose (a rather tardy recognition to the patron-saint of the whole undertaking), was founded on the 11th June, 1797; San Juan Bautista thirteen days later; an Miguel Archangel on the 25th July, and San Fernando Rey de Espana on the 8th September of the same year; and San Luis Rey de Francis (commonly called San Luis Rey to distinguish it from San Luis Obispo), on the 13th of the July following. The delay which had not at all been anticipated in the establishment of this last-named mission, was due to some difficulties in regard to site. With this ended—so far as fresh foundations were concerned—the pious labours of Lasuen as padre-presidente. He now returned to San Carlos to devote himself during the remainder of his life to the arduous duties of supervision and administration. There he died, in 1803, aged eighty-three years.

Interior, Santa Barbara


His successor, Father Estevan Tapis, fourth president of the Upper California missions, signalized his elevation to office by adding a nineteenth to the establishments under his charge. Founded on the 17th September, 1804, on a spot, eighteen miles from La Purisima and twenty-two from Santa Barbara, on which Lasuen had already directed attention, this was dedicated to the virgin-martyr, Santa Inez. It was felt that a settlement somewhere in this region was still needed for the completion of the mission system, since without it, a gap was left in the line between the two missions first-named, which were some forty miles apart. With the planting of Santa Inez thorough spiritual occupation may be said to have been accomplished over the, entire area between San Francisco and San Diego, and from the Coast Range to the ocean. The nineteen missions had been so distributed over the vast country, that the Indians scattered through it could everywhere be reached; while the distance from mission to mission had at the same time, been so reduced that it was in no case too great to be easily covered in a single day’s journey. The fathers of each establishment could thus had frequent intercourse with their next neighbors, and occasional travellers moving to and fro on business could from day to day be certain of finding a place for refreshment and repose.