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The Old Franciscan Missions Of California By George Wharton James Characters: 8511

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

For thirteen years the heart of the venerable Serra was made sick by the postponements in the founding of this Mission. The Viceroy de Croix had ordered Governor Rivera "to recruit seventy-five soldiers for the establishment of a presidio and three Missions in the channel of Santa Barbara: one towards the north of the channel, which was to be dedicated to the Immaculate Conception; one towards the south, dedicated to San Buenaventura, and a third in the centre, dedicated to Santa Barbara."

It was with intense delight that Serra received a call from Governor Neve, who, in February, 1782, informed him that he was prepared to proceed at once to the founding of the Missions of San Buenaventura and Santa Barbara. Although busy training his neophytes, he determined to go in person and perform the necessary ceremonies. Looking about for a padre to accompany him, and all his own coadjutors being engaged, he bethought him of Father Pedro Benito Cambon, a returned invalid missionary from the Philippine Islands, who was recuperating at San Diego. He accordingly wrote Padre Cambon, requesting him, if possible, to meet him at San Gabriel. On his way to San Gabriel, Serra passed through the Indian villages of the channel region, and could not refrain from joyfully communicating the news to the Indians that, very speedily, he would return to them, and establish Missions in their midst.

In the evening of March 18, Serra reached Los Angeles, and next evening, after walking to San Gabriel, weighed down with his many cares, and weary with his long walk, he still preached an excellent sermon, it being the feast of the patriarch St. Joseph. Father Cambon had arrived, and after due consultation with him and the governor, the date for the setting out of the expedition was fixed for Tuesday, March 26. The week was spent in confirmation services and other religious work, and, on the date named, after solemn mass, the party set forth. It was the most imposing procession ever witnessed in California up to that time, and called forth many gratified remarks from Serra. There were seventy soldiers, with their captain, commander for the new presidio, ensign, sergeant, and corporals. In full gubernatorial dignity followed Governor Neve, with ten soldiers of the Monterey company, their wives and families, servants and neophytes.




Now at Dominican Convent, Mission San José.


At midnight they halted, and a special messenger overtook them with news which led the governor to return at once to San Gabriel with his ten soldiers. He ordered the procession to proceed, however, found the San Buenaventura Mission, and there await his arrival. Serra accordingly went forward, and on the twenty-ninth arrived at "Assumpta." Here, the next day, on the feast of Easter, they pitched their tents, "erected a large cross, and prepared an altar under a shade of evergreens," where the venerable Serra, now soon to close his life-work, blessed the cross and the place, solemnized mass, preached a sermon to the soldiers on the Resurrection of Christ, and formally dedicated the Mission to God, and placed it under the patronage of St. Joseph.

In the earlier part of the last century the Mission began to grow rapidly. Padres Francisco Dumetz and Vicente de Santa Maria, who had been placed in charge of the Mission from the first, were gladdened by many accessions, and the Mission flocks and herds also increased rapidly. Indeed, we are told that "in 1802 San Buenaventura possessed finer herds of cattle and richer fields of grain than any of her contemporaries, and her gardens and orchards were visions of wealth and beauty."

On his second visit to the California coast, Vancouver, when anchored off Santa Barbara, traded with Padre Santa Maria of San Buenaventura for a flock of sheep and as many vegetables as twenty mules could carry.

It is to Vancouver, on this voyage, that we owe the names of a number of points on the California coast, as, for instance, Points Sal, Argüello Felipe, Vicente, Dumetz, Fermin, and Lasuen.

In 1795 there was a fight between the

neophyte and gentile Indians, the former killing two chiefs and taking captive several of the latter. The leaders on both sides were punished, the neophyte Domingo even being sentenced to work in chains.

In 1806 the venerable Santa María, one of the Mission founders, died. His remains were ultimately placed in the new church.

In 1800 the largest population in its history was reached, with 1297 souls. Cattle and horses prospered, and the crops were reported as among the best in California.

The earthquake of 1812-1813 did considerable damage at San Buenaventura. Afraid lest the sea would swallow them up, the people fled to San Joaquin y Santa Ana for three months, where a temporary jacal church was erected. The tower and a part of the fachada had to be torn down and rebuilt, and this was done by 1818, with a new chapel dedicated to San Miguel in addition.

That San Buenaventura was prosperous is shown by the fact that in June, 1820, the government owed it $27,385 for supplies, $6200 in stipends, and $1585 for a cargo of hemp,--a total of $35,170, which, says Bancroft, "there was not the slightest chance of it ever receiving."

In 1823 the president and vice-prefect Se?an, who had served as padre at this Mission for twenty-five years, died August 24, and was buried by the side of Santa María. After his death San Buenaventura began rapidly to decline.

In 1822 a neophyte killed his wife for adultery. It is interesting to note that in presenting his case the fiscal said that as the culprit had been a Christian only seven years, and was yet ignorant in matters of domestic discipline, he asked for the penalty of five years in the chain gang and then banishment.

The baptisms for the whole period of the Mission's history, viz., for 1782-1834, are 3876. There is still preserved at the Mission the first register, which was closed in 1809. At that time 2648 baptisms had been administered. The padre presidente, Serra, wrote the heading for the Index, and the contents themselves were written in a beautiful hand by Padre Se?an. There are four signatures which occur throughout in the following order: Pedro Benito Cambon, Francisco Dumetz, Vicente de Sta María, and José Se?an.

The largest population was 1330 in 1816. The largest number of cattle was 23,400 in the same year. In 1814, 4652 horses; in 1816, 13,144 sheep.

Micheltorena's decree in 1843 restored the temporalities of the Mission to the padres. This was one of the two Missions, Santa Inés being the other, that was able to provide a moderate subsistence out of the wreck left by secularization. On the 5th of December, 1845, Pico rented San Buenaventura to José Arnaz and Marcisco Botello for $1630 a year. There are no statistics of the value of the property after 1842, though in April of 1843 Padre Jimeno reports 2382 cattle, 529 horses, 2299 sheep, 220 mules and 18 asses, 1032 fruit trees and 11,907 vines. In November of that same year the bishop appointed Presbyter, Resales, since which time the Mission has been the regular parish church of the city.

In 1893 the Mission church was renovated out of all its historic association and value by Father Rubio, who had a good-natured but fearfully destructive zeal for the "restoration" of the old Missions. Almost everything has been modernized. The fine old pulpit, one of the richest treasures of the Mission, was there several years ago; but when, in 1904, I inquired of the then pastor where it was, I was curtly informed that he neither knew nor cared. All the outbuildings have been demolished and removed in order to make way for the modern spirit of commercialism which in the last decade has struck the town. It is now an ordinary church, with little but its history to redeem it from the look of smug modernity which is the curse of the present age.

Before leaving San Buenaventura it may be interesting to note that a few years ago I was asked about two "wooden bells" which were said to have been hung in the tower at this Mission. I deemed the question absurd, but on one of my visits found one of these bells in a storeroom under the altar, and another still hanging in the belfry. By whom, or why, these dummy bells were made, I have not been able to discover.

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