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The Old Franciscan Missions Of California By George Wharton James Characters: 10287

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

There was a period of rest after the founding of Santa Cruz and La Soledad. Padre Presidente Lasuen was making ready for a new and great effort. Hitherto the Mission establishments had been isolated units of civilization, each one alone in its work save for the occasional visits of governor, inspector, or presidente. Now they were to be linked together, by the founding of intermediate Missions, into one great chain, near enough for mutual help and encouragement, the boundary of one practically the boundary of the next one, both north and south. The two new foundations of Santa Cruz and Soledad were a step in this direction, but now the plan was to be completed. With the viceroy's approval, Governor Borica authorized Lasuen to have the regions between the old Missions carefully explored for new sites. Accordingly the padres and their guards were sent out, and simultaneously such a work of investigation began as was never before known. Reports were sent in, and finally, after a careful study of the whole situation, it was concluded that five new Missions could be established and a great annual saving thereby made in future yearly expenses. Governor Borica's idea was that the new Missions would convert all the gentile Indians west of the Coast Range. This done, the guards could be reduced at an annual saving of $15,000. This showing pleased the viceroy, and he agreed to provide the $1000 needed for each new establishment on the condition that no added military force be called for. The guardian of San Fernando College was so notified August 19, 1796; and on September 29 he in turn announced to the viceroy that the required ten missionaries were ready, but begged that no reduction be made in the guards at the Missions already established. Lasuen felt that it would create large demands upon the old Missions to found so many new ones all at once, as they must help with cattle, horses, sheep, neophyte laborers, etc.; yet, to obtain the Missions, he was willing to do his very best, and felt sure his brave associates would further his efforts in every possible way. Thus it was that San José was founded, as before related, on June 11, 1797. The same day all returned to Santa Clara, and five days elapsed ere the guards and laborers were sent to begin work. Timbers were cut and water brought to the location, and soon the temporary buildings were ready for occupancy. By the end of the year there were 33 converts, and in 1800, 286. A wooden structure with a grass roof served as a church.

In 1809, April 23, the new church was completed, and Presidente Tapis came and blessed it. The following day he preached, and Padre Arroyo de la Cuesta said mass before a large congregation, including other priests, several of the military, and people from the pueblo and Santa Clara, and various neophytes. The following July the cemetery was blessed with the usual solemnities.

In 1811 Padre Fortuni accompanied Padre Abella on a journey of exploration to the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. They were gone fifteen days, found the Indians very timid, and thought the shores of the Sacramento offered a favorable site for a new Mission.

In 1817 Sergeant Soto, with one hundred San José neophytes, met twelve soldiers from San Francisco, and proceeded, by boat, to pursue some fugitives. They went up a river, possibly the San Joaquin, to a marshy island where, according to Soto's report, a thousand hostiles were assembled, who immediately fell upon their pursuers and fought them for three hours. So desperately did they fight, relying upon their superior numbers, that Soto was doubtful as to the result; but eventually they broke and fled, swimming to places of safety, leaving many dead and wounded but no captives. Only one neophyte warrior was killed.

In 1820 San José reported a population of 1754, with 6859 large stock, 859 horses, etc., and 12,000 sheep.

For twenty-seven years Padre Duran, who from 1825 to 1827 was also the padre presidente, served Mission San José. In 1824 it reached its maximum of population in 1806 souls. In everything it was prosperous, standing fourth on the list both as to crops and herds.

Owing to its situation, being the first Mission reached by trappers, etc., from the east, and also being the nearest to the valleys of the Sacramento and San Joaquin, which afforded good retreats for fugitives, San José had an exciting history. In 1826 there was an expedition against the Cosumnes, in which forty Indians were killed, a ranchería destroyed, and forty captives taken. In 1829 the famous campaign against Estanislas, who has given his name to both a river and county, took place. This Indian was a neophyte of San José, and being of more than usual ability and smartness, was made alcalde. In 1827 or early in 1828 he ran away, and with a companion, Cipriano, and a large following, soon made himself the terror of the rancheros of the neighborhood. One expedition sent against him resulted disastrously, owing to insufficient equipment, so a determined effort under M.G. Vallejo, who was now the commander-in-chief of the whole California army, was made. May

29 he and his forces crossed the San Joaquin River on rafts, and arrived the next day at the scene of the former battle. With taunts, yells of defiance, and a shower of arrows, Estanislas met the coming army, he and his forces hidden in the fancied security of an impenetrable forest. Vallejo at once set men to work in different directions to fire the wood, which brought some of the Indians to the edge, where they were slain. As evening came on, twenty-five men and an officer entered the wood and fought until dusk, retiring with three men wounded. Next morning Vallejo, with thirty-seven soldiers, entered the wood, where he found pits, ditches, and barricades arranged with considerable skill. Nothing but fire could have dislodged the enemy. They had fled under cover of night. Vallejo set off in pursuit, and when, two days later, he surrounded them, they declared they would die rather than surrender. A road was cut through chaparral with axes, along which the field-piece and muskets were pressed forward and discharged. The Indians retreated slowly, wounding eight soldiers. When the cannon was close to the enemies' intrenchments the ammunition gave out, and this fact and the heat of the burning thicket compelled retreat. During the night the Indians endeavored to escape, one by one, but most of them were killed by the watchful guards. The next day nothing but the dead and three living women were found. There were some accusations, later, that Vallejo summarily executed some captives; but he denied it, and claimed that the only justification for any such charge arose from the fact that one man and one woman had been killed, the latter wrongfully by a soldier, whom he advised be punished.

Up to the time of secularization, the Mission continued to be one of the most prosperous. Jesus Vallejo was the administrator for secularization, and in 1837 he and Padre Gonzalez Rubio made an inventory which gave a total of over $155,000, when all debts were paid. Even now for awhile it seemed to prosper, and not until 1840 did the decline set in.

In accordance with Micheltorena's decree of March 29, 1843, San José was restored to the temporal control of the padres, who entered with good-will and zest into the labor of saving what they could out of the wreck. Under Pico's decree of 1845 the Mission was inventoried, but the document cannot now be found, nor a copy of it. The population was reported as 400 in 1842, and it is supposed that possibly 250 still lived at the Mission in 1845. On May 5, 1846, Pico sold all the property to Andrés Pico and J.B. Alvarado for $12,000, but the sale never went into effect.

Mission San José de Guadalupe and the pueblo of the same name are not, as so many people, even residents of California, think, one and the same. The pueblo of San José is now the modern city of that name, the home of the State Normal School, and the starting-point for Mount Hamilton. But Mission San José is a small settlement, nearly twenty miles east and north, in the foothills overlooking the southeast end of San Francisco Bay. The Mission church has entirely disappeared, an earthquake in 1868 having completed the ruin begun by the spoliation at the time of secularization. A modern parish church has since been built upon the site. Nothing of the original Mission now remains except a portion of the monastery. The corridor is without arches, and is plain and unpretentious, the roof being composed of willows tied to the roughly hewn log rafters with rawhide. Behind this is a beautiful old alameda of olives, at the upper end of which a modern orphanage, conducted by the Dominican Sisters, has been erected. This avenue of olives is crossed by another one at right angles, and both were planted by the padres in the early days, as is evidenced by the age of the trees. Doubtless many a procession of Indian neophytes has walked up and down here, even as I saw a procession of the orphans and their white-garbed guardians a short time ago. The surrounding garden is kept up in as good style under the care of the sisters as it was in early days by the padres.

The orphanage was erected in 1884 by Archbishop Alemany as a seminary for young men who wished to study for the priesthood, but it was never very successful in this work. For awhile it remained empty, then was offered to the Dominican Sisters as a boarding-school. But as this undertaking did not pay, in 1891 Archbishop Riordan offered such terms as led the Mother General of the Dominican Sisters to purchase it as an orphanage, and as such it is now most successfully conducted. There are at the present time about eighty children cared for by these sweet and gentle sisters of our Lord.

Two of the old Mission bells are hung in the new church. On one of these is the inscription: "S.S. José. Ano de 1826." And on the upper bell, "S.S. Joseph 1815, Ave María Purísima."

The old Mission baptismal font is also still in use. It is of hammered copper, about three feet in diameter, surmounted by an iron cross about eight inches high. The font stands upon a wooden base, painted, and is about four feet high.

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