Famous Missions of California - W. H. Hudson

Of the Tragedy at San Diego

And Missions at San Juan Capistrano, San Francisco, Santa Clara

Though, as we thus see, Father Junipero had ample reason to be encouraged over the progress of his enterprise, he still had various difficulties to contend with. The question of supplies often assumed formidable proportions, and the labors of the missionaries were not always as fruitful as had been hoped. Fortunately, however, the Indians were, as a rule, friendly, notwithstanding the fact that the behaviour of the Spanish soldiers, especially towards their women, occasionally aroused their distrust and resentment. At one establishment only did serious disturbances actually threaten for a time the continuance of the mission and its work. Junipero had lately returned from Mexico, with undiminished zeal and all sorts of fresh designs revolving in his brain, when a courier reached him at San Carlos bringing news of a terrible disaster at San Diego. Important affairs detained him for a time at Monterey, but when at length he was able to get to the scene of the trouble, it was to find that first reports had not been exaggerated. On the night of the 4th of November, 1775, eight hundred Indians had made a ferocious assault upon the mission, fired the buildings, and brutally done to death Father Jayme, one of the two priests in charge. "God be thanked," Junipero had exclaimed, when the letter containing the dreadful news had been read to him, "now the soil is watered, and the conquest of the Dieguinos will soon be complete!" In the faith that the blood of the martyrs is veritably the seed of the church, he, on reaching San Diego, with his customary energy, set about the task of re-establishing the mission; and the buildings which presently arose from the ruins were a great improvement upon those which had been destroyed.

Mission of San Gabriel


Before these alarming events at the mother-mission broke in upon his regular work, the president had resolved upon yet another settlement (not included in the still uncompleted plan), for which he had selected a point on the coast some twenty-six leagues north of San Diego, and which was to be dedicated to San Juan Capistrano. A beginning had indeed been made there, not by Junipero in person, but by fathers delegated by him to the purpose; but when news of the murder of Father Jayme reached them, they had hastily buried bells, chasubles and supplies, and hurried south. As soon as ever he felt it wise to leave San Diego Junipero himself now repaired to the abandoned site; and there, on the 1st of November, 1776, the bells were dug up and hung, mass said, and the mission established. It is curious to remember that while the padre-presidente was thus immersed in apostolic labors on the far Pacific coast, on the other side of the North American continent events of a very different character were shaking the whole civilized world.

Though the establishment of San an Capistrano is naturally mentioned in this place, partly because of the abortive start made there a year before, and partly because its actual foundation constituted the next noteworthy incident in Junipero's career, this mission is, in strict chronological order, not the sixth, but the seventh on our list. For some three weeks before its dedication, and without the knowledge of the president himself, though in full accordance with his designs, the cross had been planted at a point many leagues northward beyond San Carlos, and destined presently to be the most important on the coast. It will be remembered that when Portola's party made their first futile search for the harbour of Monterey, they had by accident found their way as far as the Bay of San Francisco. The significance of their discovery was not appreciated at the time, either by themselves or by those at headquarters to whom it was reported; but later explorations so clearly established the value of the spot for settlement and fortification, that it was determined to build a presidio there. Some years previous to this, as we have seen, a mission on the northern bay had been part of Junipero's ambitious scheme; and though at the time he was forced by circumstances to hold his hand, the idea was constantly uppermost in his thoughts. At length, when, in the summer of 1776, an expedition was despatched from Monterey for the founding of the proposed presidio, two missionaries were included in the party—one of these being none other than that Father Palou, whose records have been our chief guides in the course of this story. The buildings of the presidio—store house, commandant's dwelling, and huts for the soldiers and their families—were completed by the middle of September; and on the 17th of that month—the day of St. Francis, patron of the station and harbour—imposing ceremonies of foundation were performed. A wooden church was then built; and on the 9th of October, in the presence of many witnesses, Father Palou said mass, the image of St. Francis was borne about in procession, and the mission solemnly dedicated to his name.

It was at San is Obispo on his way back from San Diego to Monterey, that Father Junipero learned of the foundation of the mission at San Francisco, and though he may doubtless have felt some little regret at not having himself been present on such an occasion, his heart overflowed with joy. For there was a special reason why the long delay in carrying out this portion of his plan had weighed heavily upon him. Years before, when the visitador general had told him that the first three missions in Alta California were to be named after San Diego, San Carlos and San Buenaventura (for such, we recollect, had been the original programme), he had exclaimed:—"Then is our father, St. Francis, to have no mission?" And Galvez had made reply:—"If St. Francis desires a mission, let him show us his port, and he shall have one there." To Junipero it had seemed that Portola had providentially been led beyond Monterey to the Bay of San Francisco, and the founder of his order had thus given emphatic answer to the visitador's words. It may well be imagined that he was ill at rest until the saint's wishes had been earned into effect.

But this was not the only good work done in the north while Junipero was busy elsewhere; for on the 12th of January, 1777, the Mission of Santa Clara was established in the wonderfully fertile and beautiful valley which is now known by that name. The customary rites were performed by Father Tomas de 1a Pella, a rude chapel erected, and the work of constructing the necessary buildings of the settlement immediately begun.

It should be noted in passing that before the end of the year the town of San Jose—or, to give it its full Spanish title, El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe was founded near by. This has historic interest as the first purely civil settlement in California. The fine Alameda from the mission to the pueblo was afterwards made and laid out under the fathers' supervision.