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   Chapter 2 No.2

Picture and Text / 1893 By Henry James Characters: 5328

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The Founding of Pala.

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Many a time when I have been journeying between Pala and San Luis Rey, pictures have arisen in my mind of the energetic Peyri. I imagined him at his multifarious duties as architect, master builder, director, priest officiating at the mass, preacher, teacher of Indians, settler of disputes between them, administrator of justice, etc., etc. But no picture has been more persistent and pleasing than when I imagined him reaching out after more heathen souls to be garnered for God and Mother Church. I have pictured him inquiring of his faithful Indians as to the whereabouts and number of other and heathen Indians, in outlying districts. He soon learned of Pala, but his great organizing and building work at San Luis Rey prevented for some time his going to see for himself. Then I pictured him walking down the quiet valley of the San Luis Rey River, talking to himself of his plans, listening to the singing of the birds which ever cheerily caroled in that picturesque vale, sometimes questioning the Indian who accompanied him as guide and interpreter.

Then I saw him on his arrival at Pala. His meeting with the chiefs, his forceful, pleasing and dominating personality at once taking hold of the aboriginal mind. Then I heard-in imagination-the herald give notice of the meeting to be held next day, perhaps, and the rapid gathering of the interested Indians. Then I felt the urge of this devoted man's soul as he spoke, through his interpreter, to the dusky crowd of men, women, and children as he bade them sit upon the ground, while he unfolded his plan to them. He had come from the God of the white men, the God who loved all men and wished to save them from the inevitable consequences of their natural wickedness. With deep fervor he expounded the merciless theology of his Church and the time, tempered, however, with the redeeming love of the Christ, and the fact that through and by his ministrations they could be eternally saved.

Then, possibly, with the touch of the practical politician, he showed how, under the hands of the Spaniards, they would be trained in many ways and become superior to their hereditary enemies, the Cahuillas, and the Indians of the desert and of the far-away river that flowed from the heart of the Great Canyon down to the wonderful Great Sea (the Gulf of California). After this he expounded his plan of building a mission chapel and then-

And here I have often wondered. Did he ask for co-operation, gladly, willingly, freely accorded, or did he authoritatively announce that, on such a day work would begin in which they were expected, and would absolutely be required

, to take a part? Diplomacy, persuasion, zealous love that was so urgent and insistent as to be irresistible, or manifested power, command and rude control?

Testimonies differ, some saying one thing, some another. Personally I believe the former was the chief and prevailing spirit. I hope it was. I freely confess I desire to believe it was.

Anyhow, whichever way the influence or power was exercised, the end was gained, and in 1816, the Indians were set to work, bricks and tiles were made, lime burned, cement and plaster prepared, bands of stalwarts sent to the Palomar mountains to cut down logs for beams, which patient oxen slowly dragged down the mountain sides, through the canyons and valleys to the spot, and maidens and women, doubtless, were sent to pick up boulders out of the rocky stream bed for the covering of the base of the Campanile. In the meantime a ramada was erected (a shelter made of poles and boughs) in which morning mass was regularly held. Trained Christian Indians came over from San Luis Rey to assist in the work, and also to guide the Palas in the Christian life and the ceremonies of the Church.

What an active bustling little valley it suddenly became. Like magic the chapel was built, then the bell-tower sprang into existence, and finally, one bright morning, possibly with a thousand or more gathered from San Luis Rey to add to the thousand of Palas already assembled, the dedication of the chapel took place, named after Peyri's beloved Saint, Anthony, the miracle worker of Padua.

It was a populous valley, and the Indians were soon absorbed in the life taught them by the brown and long-gowned Franciscans. Mass every morning. Then, after breakfast, dispersion, each to his allotted toil. Year after year this continued until the Mexican diputacion, or house of legislature, passed the infamous decree of Secularization, which spelled speedy ruin to every Mission of California.

Some writers, with more imagination than desire for ascertaining the facts, have asserted that the name Pala, comes from pala, Spanish for shovel, owing to the shovel or spade-like shape of the valley. The explanation is purely fanciful. It has no foundation in fact. Pala is Indian of this region for water. These were the water Indians, to differentiate them from the Indians who lived on the other side of the mountains in the desert. The Indians of Warner's Ranch, speaking practically the same language, and, therefore, evidently the same people, called themselves Palatinguas,-the hot-water Indians,-from the fact that their home was closely contiguous to some of the most remarkable hot springs of Southern California.

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