Famous Missions of California - W. H. Hudson

How Father Junipero Established the Missions

Of San Antonio De Padua, San Gabriel, and San Louis Obispo

News of the establishment of the missions and military posts at San Diego and Monterey was in due course carried to the City of Mexico, where it so delighted the Marques de Croix, Viceroy of New Spain, and Jose de Galvez, that they not only set the church bells ringing, but forthwith began to make arrangements for the founding of more missions in the upper province. Additional priests were provided by the College of San Fernando; funds liberally subscribed; and the San Antonio made ready to sail from San Blas with the friars and supplies. On the 21st of May, 1771, the good ship dropped anchor at Monterey, where, in the meantime, Junipero, though busy enough among the natives of the neighborhood, was suffering grievous disappointment because, from lack of priests and soldiers, he was unable to proceed at once with the proposed establishment of San Buenaventura. The safe arrival of ten assistants now brought him assurance of a rapid extension of work in "the vineyard of the Lord." He was not the man to let time slip by him unimproved. Plans were immediately laid for carrying the cross still further into the wilderness, and six new missions—those of San Buenaventura, San Gabriel, San Louis Obispo, San Antonio, Santa Clara and San Francisco—were presently agreed upon. It was discovered later on, however, that these plans outran the resources at the president's disposal, and much to his regret, the design for settlements at Santa Clara and San Francisco had to be temporarily given up.

Carmel Mission, a nearer view


There was, none the less, plenty to engage the energies of even so tireless a worker as Junipero, for three of the new missions were successfully established between July, 1771, and the autumn of the following year. The first of these was the Mission of San Antonio de Padua, in a beautiful spot among the Santa Lucia mountains, some twenty-five leagues southeast of Monterey the second, that of San Gabriel Archangel, near what is now known as the San Gabriel river; and the third, the Mission of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, for which a location was chosen near the coast, about twenty-five leagues southeast of San Antonio.

In his account of the founding of the first named of these, Palou throws in a characteristic touch. After the bells had been hung on trees and loudly tolled, he says, the excited padre-presidente began to shout like one transported:—"Ho, gentiles! Come to the Holy Church; Come! Come and receive the faith of Jesus Christ!" His comrade, Father Pieras, standing by astonished, interrupted his fervent eloquence with the eminently practical remark that as there were no gentiles within hearing, it was idle to ring the bells. But the enthusiast's ardour was not to be damped by such considerations, and he continued to ring and shout. I, for one, am grateful for such a detail as this.

An even more significant story, though of a quite different sort, is recorded of the dedication of San Gabriel. It was, of course, inevitable that here and there in connection with such a record as this of Serra and his work, there should spring up legends of miraculous doings and occurrences; though on the whole, it is, perhaps, remarkable that the mythopoeic tendency was not more powerful. The incident now referred to may be taken as an illustration. While the missionary party were engaged in exploring for a suitable site, a large force of natives, under two chiefs, suddenly broke in upon them. Serious conflict seemed imminent; when one of the fathers drew forth a piece of canvas bearing the picture of the Virgin. Instantly the savages threw their weapons to the ground, and, following their leaders, crowded with offerings about the marvellous image. Thus the danger was averted. Further troubles attended the settlement at San Gabriel but in after years it became one of the most successful of all the missions, and gained particular fame from the industries maintained by its converts, and their skill in carving wood, horn and leather.