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The Old Franciscan Missions Of California By George Wharton James Characters: 5101

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Estevan Tapis now became president of the Missions, and under his direction was founded the nineteenth Mission, that of Santa Inés, virgin and martyr. Tapis himself conducted the ceremonies, preaching a sermon to a large congregation, including Commandant Carrillo, on September 17, 1804.

With Lasuen, the Mission work of California reached its maximum power. Under his immediate successors it began to decline. Doubtless the fact that the original chain was completed was an influence in the decrease of activity. For thirteen years there was no extension. A few minor attempts were made to explore the interior country, and many of the names now used for rivers and locations in the San Joaquin Valley were given at this time. Nothing further, however, was done, until in 1817, when such a wide-spread mortality affected the Indians at the San Francisco Mission, that Governor Sola suggested that the afflicted neophytes be removed to a new and healthful location on the north shore of the San Francisco Bay. A few were taken to what is now San Rafael, and while some recovered, many died. These latter, not having received the last rites of religion, were subjects of great solicitude on the part of some of the priests, and, at last, Father Taboada, who had formerly been the priest at La Purísima Concepción, consented to take charge of this branch Mission. The native name of the site was Nanaguani. On December 14, Padre Sarría, assisted by several other priests, conducted the ceremony of dedication to San Rafael Arcángel. It was originally intended to be an asistencia of San Francisco, but although there is no record that it was ever formally raised to the dignity of an independent Mission, it is called and enumerated as such from the year 1823 in all the reports of the Fathers. To-day, not a brick of its walls remains; the only evidence of its existence being the few old pear trees planted early in its history.

There are those who contend that San Rafael was founded as a direct check to the southward aggressions of the Russians, who in 1812 had established Fort Ross, but sixty-five miles north of San Francisco. There seems, however, to be no recorded authority for this belief, although it may easily be understood how anxious this close proximity of the Russians made the Spanish authorities.

They had further causes of anxiety. The complications between Mexico and Spain, which culminated in the independence of the former, and then the establishment of the Empire, gave the leaders enough to occupy their minds.

The final establishment took place in 1823, without any idea of founding a new Mission. The change to San Rafael had been so beneficial to the sick Indians that Canon Fernandez, Prefect Payeras, and Governor Argüello decided to transfer bodily the Mission of San Francisco from the peninsula to the mainland north of the bay, and make San Rafael dependent upon it. An exploring expedition was sent out which somewhat carefully examined the whole neighborhood and finally reported in favor of the Sonoma Valley. The report being accepted, on July 4, 1823, a cross was set up and blessed on the site, which was named New San Francisco.

Padre Altimira, one of the explorers, now wrote to the new padre presidente--Se?an--explaining what he had done, and his reasons for so doing; stating that San Francisco could no longer exist, and that San Rafael was unable to subsist alone. Discussion followed, and Sarría, the successor of Se?an, who had died, refused to authorize the change; expressing himself astonished at the audacity of those who had dared to take so important a step without consulting the supreme government. Then Altimira, infuriated, wrote to the governor, who had been a party to the proposed removal, concluding his tirade by saying:

"I came to convert gentiles and to establish new Missions, and if I cannot do it here, which, as we all agree, is the best spot in California for the purpose, I will leave the country."

Governor Argüello assisted his priestly friend as far as he was able, and apprised Sarría that he would sustain the new establishment; although he would withdraw the order for the suppression of San Rafael. A compromise was then effected by which New San Francisco was to remain a Mission in regular standing, but neither San Rafael nor old San Francisco were to be disturbed.

Is it not an inspiring subject for speculation? Where would the modern city of San Francisco be, if the irate Father and plotting politicians of those early days had been successful in their schemes?

The new Mission, all controversy being settled, was formally dedicated on Passion Sunday, April 4, 1824, by Altimira, to San Francisco Solano, "the great apostle to the Indies." There were now two San Franciscos, de Asis and Solano, and because of the inconvenience arising from this confusion, the popular names, Dolores and Solano, and later, Sonoma, came into use.

From the point now reached, the history of the Missions is one of distress, anxiety, and final disaster. Their great work was practically ended.

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