Famous Missions of California - W. H. Hudson

How Father Junipero Came To San Diego

As a result expedition the should be sent conference out in between two Galvez and Father Junipero, it was decided that their joint expedition should be sent out in two portions—one by sea and one by land; the land portion being again sub-divided into two, in imitation, Palou informs us, of the policy of the patriarch Joseph, "so that if one came to misfortune, the other might still be saved." It was arranged that four missionaries should go into the ships, and one with the advance-detachment of the land-force, the second part of which was to include the president himself. So far as the work of the missionaries was concerned their immediate purpose was to establish three settlements—one at San Diego, a second at Monterey, and a third on a site to be selected, about midway between the two, which was to be called San Buenaventura. The two divisions of the land-force were under the leadership of Captain Fernando Rivera y Moncada and Governor Portola respectively. The ships were to carry all the heavier portions of the camp equipage, provisions, household goods, vestments and sacred vessels; the land-parties were to take with them herds and flocks from Loreto. The understanding was that whichever party first reached San Diego was to wait there twenty days for the rest, and in the event of their failure to arrive within that time, to push on to Monterey.

Mission of San Juan Capistrano


The sea-detachment of the general expedition—the "Seraphic and Apostolic Squadron," as Palou calls it, was composed o three ships—the San Carlos, the San Antonio, and the San Joseph. A list, fortunately preserved, gives all the persons on board the San Carlos, a vessel of about 200 tons only, and the flagship of Don Vicente Vila, the commander of the marine division. They were as follows:—the commander himself; a lieutenant in charge of a company of soldiers; a missionary; the captain, pilot and surgeon; twenty-five soldiers; the officers and crew of the ship, twenty-five in all; the baker, the cook and two assistants; and two blacksmiths: total, sixty-two souls. An inventory shows that the vessel was provisioned for eight months.

The San Carlos left La Paz on the 9th of January; the San Antonio on the 15th of February; the San Joseph on the 16th of June. All the vessels met with heavy storms, and the San Carlos, being driven sadly out of her route, did not reach San Diego till twenty days after the San Antonio, though dispatched some five weeks earlier. We shudder to read that of her crew but one sailor and the cook were left alive; the rest, along with many of the soldiers, having succumbed to the scurvy. The San Antonio also lost eight of her crew from the same dreadful disease. These little details serve better than any general description to give us an idea of the horrible conditions of Spanish seamanship in the middle of the eighteenth century. As for the San Joseph, she never reached her destination at all, though where and how she met her fate remains one of the dark mysteries of the ocean. Two small points in connection with her loss are perhaps sufficiently curious to merit notice. In the first place, she was the only one of the ships that had no missionary on board; and secondly, she was called after the very saint who had been named special patron of the entire undertaking.

The original plan, as we have seen, had been that Father Junipero should accompany the governor in the second division of the land-expedition; but this, when the day fixed for departure came, was found to be quite impossible owing to the ulcerous sore on his leg, which had been much aggravated by the exertions of his recent hurried journey from Loreto to La Paz and back. Greatly chafing under the delay, he was none the less obliged to postpone his start for several weeks. At length, on the 28th of March, in company with two soldiers and a servant, he mounted his mule and set out. The event showed that he had been guilty of undue haste, for he suffered terribly on the rough way, and on reaching San Xavier, whither he went to turn over the management of the Lower California missions to Palou, who was then settled there, his condition was such that his friend implored him to remain behind, and allow him (Palau) to go forward in his stead. But of this Junipero would not hear, for he regarded himself as specially chosen and called by God for the work to which he stood, body and soul, committed. "Let us speak no more of this," he said. "I have placed all my faith in God, through whose goodness I hope to reach not only San Diego, to plant and fix there the standard of the Holy Cross, but even as far as Monterey." And Palou, seeing that Junipero was not to be turned aside, wisely began to talk of other things.

Mission of San Diego


After three days devoted to business connected with the missions of the lower province, the indomitable father determined to continue his journey, notwithstanding the fact that, still totally unable to move his leg, he had to be lifted by two men into the saddle. We may imagine that poor Palou found it hard enough to answer his friend's cheery farewells, and watched him with sickness of heart as he rode slowly away. It seemed little likely indeed that they would ever meet again on this side of the grave. But Junipero's courage never gave out. Partly for rest and partly for conference with those in charge, he lingered awhile at the missions along the way; but, nevertheless, presently came up with Portola and his detachment, with whom he proceeded to Villicata. Herd during a temporary halt, lie founded a mission which was dedicated to San Fernando, King of Castile and Leon. But the worst experiences of the journey were still in store. For when the party was ready to move forward again towards San Diego, which, as time was fast running on, the commander was anxious to reach with the least possible delay, it was found that Junipero's leg was in such an inflamed condition that he could neither stand, nor sit, nor sleep. For a few leagues he persevered, without complaint to any one, and then collapsed. Portola urged him to return at once to San Fernando for the complete repose in which alone there seemed any chance of recovery, but after his manner Junipero refused; nor, out of kindly feeling for the tired native servants, would he ever hear of the litter which the commander thereupon proposed to have constructed for his transportation. The situation was apparently beyond relief, when, after prayer to God, the padre called to him one of the muleteers. "Son," he said—the conversation is reported in full by Palou, from whose memoir of his friend it is here translated—"do you not know how to make a remedy for the ulcer on my foot and leg?" And the muleteer replied: "Father, how should I know of any remedy? Am I a surgeon, I am a mule-driver, and can only cure harness-wounds on animals." "Then, son," rejoined Junipero, "consider that I am an animal, and that this ulcer is a harness-wound . . . and prepare for me the same medicament as you would make for a beast." Those who heard this request smiled. And the muleteer obeyed; and mixing certain herbs with hot tallow, applied the compound to the ulcerated leg, with the astonishing result that the sufferer slept that night in absolute comfort, and was perfectly able the next morning to undertake afresh the fatigues of the road.

Of the further incidents of the tedious journey it is needless to write. It is enough to say that for forty-six days—from the 15th of May to the 1st of Ju1y—the little party plodded on, following the track of the advance-division of the land-expedition under Rivera y Moncada. With what joy and gratitude they at last looked down upon the harbour of San Diego, and realized that the first object of their efforts had now indeed been achieved, may be readily imagined. Out in the bay lay the San Carlos and the San Antonio, and on the shore were the tents of the men who had preceded them, and of whose safety they were now assured; and when, with volley after volley, they announced their arrival, ships and camp replied in glad salute. And this responsive firing was continued, says Palou, in his lively description of the scene, "until, all having alighted, they were ready to testify their mutual love by close embraces and affectionate rejoicing to see the, expeditions thus joined, and at their desired destination." Yet one cannot but surmise that the delights of reunion were presently chilled when those who had thus been spared to come together fell into talk over the companions who had perished by the way. History has little to tell us of such details; but the sympathetic reader will hardly fail to provide them for himself.

The condition of things which the governor and the president and confronting them on their arrival was indeed the reverse of satisfactory. Of the one hundred and thirty or so men comprising the combined companies, many were seriously ill; some it was necessary to dispatch at once with the San Antonio back to San Blas for additional supplies and reinforcements; a further number had to be detailed for the expedition to Monterey, which, in accordance with the explicit instructions of the visitador general it was decided to send out immediately. All this left the San Diego camp extremely short-handed, but there was no help for it. To reach Monterey at all costs was Portola's' next duty; and on the 14th of July, with a small party which included Fathers Crespi and Gomez, he commenced its northwest march.