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   Chapter 9 SAN DIEGO DE ALCALá

The Old Franciscan Missions Of California By George Wharton James Characters: 13997

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The story of the founding of San Diego by Serra has already been given. It was the beginning of the realization of his fondest hopes. The early troubles with the Indians delayed conversions, but in 1773 Serra reported that some headway had been made. He gives the original name of the place as Cosoy, in 32° 43', built on a hill two gunshots from the shore, and facing the entrance to the port at Point Guijarros. The missionaries left in charge were Padres Fernando Parron and Francisco Gomez.

About the middle of July ill health compelled Parron to retire to Lower California and Gomez to Mexico, and Padres Luis Jayme and Francisco Dumetz took their places.

San Diego was in danger of being abandoned for lack of provisions, for in 1772 Padre Crespí, who was at San Carlos, writes that on the thirtieth of March of that year "the mail reached us with the lamentable news that this Mission of San Diego was to be abandoned for lack of victuals." Serra then sent him with "twenty-two mules, and with them fifteen half-loads of flour" for their succor. Padres Dumetz and Cambon had gone out to hunt for food to the Lower California Missions. The same scarcity was noticed at San Gabriel, and the padres, "for a considerable time, already, had been using the supplies which were on hand to found the Mission of San Buenaventura; and though they have drawn their belts tight there remains to them provisions only for two months and a half."

Fortunately help came; so the work continued.

The region of San Diego was well peopled. At the time of the founding there were eleven rancherías within a radius of ten leagues. They must have been of a different type from most of the Indians of the coast, for, from the first, as the old Spanish chronicler reports, they were insolent, arrogant, and thievish. They lived on grass seeds, fish, and rabbits.

In 1774, the separation of the Mission from the presidio was decided upon, in order to remove the neophytes from the evil influences of the soldiers. The site chosen was six miles up the valley (named Nipaguay by the Indians), and so well did all work together that by the end of the year a dwelling, a storehouse, a smithy built of adobes, and a wooden church eighteen by fifty-seven feet, and roofed with tiles, were completed. Already the work of the padres had accomplished much. Seventy-six neophytes rejoiced their religious hearts, and the herds had increased to 40 cattle, 64 sheep, 55 goats, 19 hogs, 2 jacks, 2 burros, 17 mares, 3 foals, 9 horses, 22 mules,--233 animals in all.

The presidio remained at Cosoy (now old San Diego), and four thousand adobes that had been made for the Mission buildings were turned over to the military. A rude stockade was erected, with two bronze cannon, one mounted towards the harbor, the other towards the Indian ranchería.

The experiments in grain raising at first were not successful. The seed was sown in the river bottom and the crop was destroyed by the unexpected rising of the river. The following year it was sown so far from water that it died from drought. In the fall of 1775 all seemed to be bright with hope. New buildings had been erected, a well dug, and more land made ready for sowing. The Indians were showing greater willingness to submit themselves to the priests, when a conflict occurred that revealed to the padres what they might have to contend with in their future efforts towards the Christianizing of the natives. The day before the feast of St. Francis (October 4, 1775), Padres Jayme and Fuster were made happy by being required to baptize sixty new converts. Yet a few days later they were saddened by the fact that two of these newly baptized fled from the Mission and escaped to the mountains, there to stir up enmity and revolt. For nearly a month they moved about, fanning the fires of hatred against the "long gowns," until on the night of November 4 (1775) nearly eight hundred naked savages, after dusk, stealthily advanced and surrounded the Mission, where the inmates slept unguarded, so certain were they of their security. Part of the force went on to the presidio, where, in the absence of the commander, the laxity of discipline was such that no sentinel was on guard.

An hour after midnight the whole of the Mission was surrounded. The quarters of the Christianized Indians were invaded, and they were threatened with instantaneous death if they gave the alarm. The church was broken into, and all the vestments and sacred vessels stolen. Then the buildings were fired. Not until then did the inmates know of their danger. Imagine their horror, to wake up and find the building on fire and themselves surrounded by what, in their dazed condition, seemed countless hordes of savages, all howling, yelling, brandishing war-clubs, firing their arrows,--the scene made doubly fearful by the red glare of the flames.

In the guard-house were four soldiers,--the whole of the Mission garrison; in the house the two priests, Jayme and Fuster, two little boys, and three men (a blacksmith and two carpenters). Father Fuster, the two boys, and the blacksmith sought to reach the guard-house, but the latter was slain on the way. The Indians broke into the room where the carpenters were, and one of them was so cruelly wounded that he died the next day.

Father Jayme, with the shining light of martyrdom in his eyes, and the fierce joy of fearlessness in his heart, not only refused to seek shelter, but deliberately walked towards the howling band, lifting his hands in blessing with his usual salutation: "Love God, my children!" Scarcely were the words uttered when the wild band fell upon him, shrieking and crying, tearing off his habit, thrusting him rudely along, hurting him with stones, sticks, and battle-axe, until at the edge of the creek his now naked body was bruised until life was extinct, and then the corpse filled with arrows.

Three soldiers and the carpenter, with Father Fuster and two boys loading the guns for them, fought off the invaders from a near-by kitchen, and at dawn the attacking force gathered up their dead and wounded and retired to the mountains.

No sooner were they gone than the neophytes came rushing up to see if any were left alive. Their delight at finding Father Fuster was immediately changed into sadness as others brought in the awfully mutilated and desecrated body of Father Jayme. Not until then did Father Fuster know that his companion was dead, and deep was the mourning of his inmost soul as he performed the last offices for his dear companion.

Strange to say, so careless was the garrison that not until a messenger reached it from Father Fuster did they know of the attack. They had placed no guards, posted no sentinels, and, indifferent in their foolish scorn of the prowess and courage of the Indians, had slept calmly, though they themselves might easily have been surprised, and the whole garrison murdered while asleep.

In the meantime letters were sent for aid to Ri

vera at Monterey, and Anza, the latter known to be approaching from the Colorado River region; and in suspense until they arrived, the little garrison and the remaining priests passed the rest of the year. The two commanders met at San Gabriel, and together marched to San Diego, where they arrived January 11, 1776. It was not long before they quarreled. Anza was for quick, decisive action; Rivera was for delay; so, when news arrived from San Gabriel that the food supply was running short, Anza left in order to carry out his original orders, which involved the founding of San Francisco. Not long after his departure Carlos, the neophyte who had been concerned in the insurrection, returned to San Diego, and, doubtless acting under the suggestion of the padres, took refuge in the temporary church at the presidio.

An unseemly squabble now ensued between Rivera and Padre Lasuen, the former violating the sanctuary of the church to arrest the Indian. Lasuen, on the next feast day, refused to say mass until Rivera and his violating officers had retired.

All this interfered with resumption of work on the church; so Serra himself went to San Diego, and, finding the ship "San Antonio" in the harbor, made an arrangement with Captain Choquet to supply sailors to do the building under his own direction. Rivera was then written to for a guard, and he sent six soldiers. On August 22, 1777, the three padres, Choquet with his mate and boatswain and twenty sailors, a company of neophytes, and the six soldiers went to the old site and began work in earnest, digging the foundations, making adobes, and collecting stones. The plan was to build a wall for defense, and then erect the church and other buildings inside. For fifteen days all went well. Then an Indian went to Rivera with a story that hostile Indians were preparing arrows for a new attack, and this so scared the gallant officer that he withdrew his six men. Choquet had to leave with his men, as he dared not take the responsibility of being away with so many men without the consent of Rivera; and, to the padre's great sorrow, the work had to cease.

In March of 1778 Captain Carrillo was sent to chastise hostile Indians at Pamó who had sent insolent messages to Captain Ortega. Carrillo surprised the foe, killed two, burned others who took refuge in a hut, while the others surrendered and were publicly flogged. The four chiefs, Aachel, Aalcuirin, Aaran, and Taguagui, were captured, taken to San Diego, and there shot, though the officer had no legal right to condemn even an Indian to death without the approval of the governor. Ortega's sentence reads: "Deeming it useful to the service of God, the King, and the public weal, I sentence them to a violent death by two musket-shots on the 11th at 9 A.M., the troops to be present at the execution under arms also all the Christian rancherías subject to the San Diego Mission, that they may be warned to act righteously."

Ortega then instructed Padres Lasuen and Figuer to prepare the condemned. "You will co-operate for the good of their souls in the understanding that if they do not accept the salutary waters of baptism they die on Saturday morning; and if they do--they die all the same!" This was the first public execution in California.

In 1780 the new church, built of adobe, strengthened and roofed with pine timbers, ninety feet long and seventeen feet wide and high, was completed.

In 1782 fire destroyed the old presidio church.

In 1783 Lasuen made an interesting report on the condition of San Diego. At the Mission there were church, granary, storehouse, hospital, men's house, shed for wood and oven, two houses for the padres, larder, guest-room, and kitchen. These, with the soldiers' barracks, filled three sides of a square of about one hundred and sixty feet, and on the fourth side was an adobe wall, nearly ten feet high. There were seven hundred and forty neophytes at that time under missionary care, though Lasuen spoke most disparagingly of the location as a Mission site.

In 1824 San Diego registered its largest population, being then eighteen hundred and twenty-nine.

When Spanish rule ended, and the Mexican empire and republic sent its first governor, Echeandía, he decided to make San Diego his home; so for the period of his governorship, though he doubtless lived at or near the presidio, the Mission saw more or less of him. As is shown in the chapter on Secularization, he was engaged in a thankless task when he sought to change the Mission system, and there was no love lost between the governor's house and the Mission.

In 1833 Governor Figueroa visited San Diego Mission in person, in order to exhort the neophytes to seize the advantages of citizenship which the new secularization regulations were to give to them; but, though they heard him patiently, and there and at San Luis Rey one hundred and sixty families were found to be duly qualified for "freedom," only ten could be found to accept it.

On March 29, 1843, Governor Micheltorena issued a decree which restored San Diego Mission temporalities to the management of the padre. He explained in his prelude that the decree was owing to the fact that the Mission establishments had been reduced to the mere space occupied by the buildings and orchards, that the padres had no support but that of charity, etc. Mofras gives the number of Indians in 1842 as five hundred, but an official report of 1844 gives only one hundred. The Mission retained the ranches of Santa Isabel and El Cajon until 1844-1845, and then, doubtless, they were sold or rented in accordance with the plans of Pio Pico.

To-day nothing but the fachada of the church remains, and that has recently been braced or it would have fallen. There are a few portions of walls also, and a large part of the adobe wall around the garden remains. The present owner of the orchard, in digging up some of the old olive trees, has found a number of interesting relics, stirrups, a gun-barrel, hollow iron cannon-balls, metates, etc. These are all preserved and shown as "curios," together with beams from the church, and the old olive-mill.

By the side of the ruined church a newer and modern brick building now stands. It destroys the picturesqueness of the old site, but it is engaged in a good work. Father Ubach, the indefatigable parish priest of San Diego, who died a few years ago, and who was possessed of the spirit of the old padres, erected this building for the training of the Indian children of the region. On one occasion I asked the children if they knew any of the "songs of the old," the songs their Indian grandparents used to sing; and to my delight, they sang two of the old chorals taught their ancestors in the early Mission days by the padres.





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