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The Old Franciscan Missions Of California By George Wharton James Characters: 4027

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Fifty-four years after the founding of the first Franciscan Mission in California, the site was chosen for the twenty-first and last, San Francisco Solano. This Mission was established at Sonoma under conditions already narrated. The first ceremonies took place July 4, 1823, and nine months later the Mission church was dedicated. This structure was built of boards, but by the end of 1824 a large building had been completed, made of adobe with tiled roof and corridor, also a granary and eight houses for the use of the padres and soldiers. Thus in a year and a half from the time the location was selected the necessary Mission buildings had been erected, and a large number of fruit trees and vines were already growing. The neophytes numbered 693, but many of these were sent from San Francisco, San José and San Rafael. The Indians at this Mission represented thirty-five different tribes, according to the record, yet they worked together harmoniously, and in 1830 their possessions included more than 8000 cattle, sheep, and horses. Their crops averaged nearly 2000 bushels of grain per year.

The number of baptisms recorded during the twelve years before secularization was over 1300. Ten years later only about 200 Indians were left in that vicinity.

In 1834 the Mission was secularized by M.G. Vallejo, who appointed Ortega as majordomo. Vallejo quarreled with Padre Quijas, who at once left and went to reside at San Rafael. The movable property was distributed to the Indians, and they were allowed to live on their old rancherías, though there is no record that they were formally allotted to them. By and by the gentile Indians so harassed the Mission Indians that the latter placed all their stock under the charge of General Vallejo, asking him to care for it on their behalf. The herds increased under his control, the Indians had implicit confidence in him, and he seems to have acted fairly and honestly by them.

The pueblo of Sonoma was organized as a part of the secularization of S

an Francisco Solano, and also to afford homes for the colonists brought to the country by Hijar and Padrés. In this same year the soldiers of the presidio of San Francisco de Asis were transferred to Sonoma, to act as a protection of the frontier, to overawe the Russians, and check the incoming of Americans. This meant the virtual abandonment of the post by the shores of the bay. Vallejo supported the presidial company, mainly at his own expense, and made friends with the native chief, Solano, who aided him materially in keeping the Indians peaceful.

The general statistics of the Mission for the eleven years of its existence, 1823-34, are as follows: baptisms 1315, marriages 278, deaths 651. The largest population was 996 in 1832. The largest number of cattle was 4849 in 1833, 1148 horses and 7114 sheep in the same year.

In 1845, when Pico's plan for selling and renting the Missions was formulated, Solano was declared without value, the secularization having been completely carried out, although there is an imperfect inventory of buildings, utensils, and church property. It was ignored in the final order. Of the capture of Sonoma by the Bear Flag revolutionists and the operations of Frémont, it is impossible here to treat. They are to be found in every good history of California.

In 1880 Bishop Alemany sold the Mission and grounds of San Francisco Solano to a German named Schocken for $3000. With that money a modern church was erected for the parish, which is still being used. For six months after the sale divine services were still held in the old Mission, and then Schocken used it as a place for storing wine and hay. In September, 1903, it was sold to the Hon. W.R. Hearst for $5000. The ground plot was 166 by 150 feet. It is said that the tower was built by General Vallejo in 1835 or thereabouts. The deeds have been transferred to the State of California and accepted by the Legislature. The intention is to preserve the Mission as a valuable historic landmark.

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