The desire for fame, power and wealth is one of the strongest ambitions of individual and nation. And in the last half of the fifteenth century we find the four most powerful kingdoms -- Spain, Russia, France and England -- either through conquest or discovery, seeking new lands.
Spain had come into the possession of the entire Pacific coast, because of the discoveries of Balboa (1513) and Cabrillo (1519). the navigator last named sailed as far north as Cape Mendocino. All nations acknowledged the Spanish claim and her title was undisturbed until 1580. Then the famous English navigator, Sir Francis Drake, claimed all of the land north of San Francisco bay for Elizabeth, his Queen, on account of his explorations. Two years previous Drake sailed into the north Pacific, in his ship, the Golden Hind. He captured many Spanish galleons, as they sailed from Manila to panama, laden with valuable treasure. Having filled his ship with vast wealth, he sailed northward and expected to reach England through the reported northwest passage. The strait of Annan was a myth. Turning southward, he sailed along the California coast, where he discovered and anchored in the bay now known as Drake's bay. He landed and took possession of the soil in the name of England's Queen. While on shore Fletcher, the chaplain, on June 24th, 1579, held divine service. This was the first religious service on the Pacific coast.
The British Queen paid no attention to the new land and Alta (upper) California remained unexplored, almost forgotten, for near tow hundred years.
In the meantime Baja (lower) California had been settled and explored by the Jesuits. They had occupied the peninsula since 1697, but in 1767 they were driven from the soil by the government. The Franciscans were put in full possession of all the missions and Jesuits' property. In the following year (1768) King Phillip learned that the Russians had crossed Behring's straits and were encroaching upon Spanish soil, for Spain claimed all the territory south of the strait of Juan de Fuca.
Immediately the King got busy. He commanded Jose Galvez, the Inspector General of Mexico, to colonize upper California. According to national law, all claimants to land ust occupy the soil. The government could not compel citizens to immigrate to the new land and Galvez sought the assistance of Father Junipero Serra, then president of the California missions. the good padre quickly assented, as he was anxious to carry the gospel banner to the Indians.
In the colonization work it was agreed that the Franciscans were to found the missions, attend to the religious work, and have full control of the Indian converts. The government was to found pueblos (towns), presidios (barracks) and have full charge of the military and the civil power. They were to guard all mission property and, when required, provide a military escort to the friars.
In carrying out so large a work Galvez planned four expeditions to San Diego bay, two overland and two by water. The vessels were to be loaded with agricultural implements, seeds of various kinds, food supplies, and sufficient church furniture to found two missions. The land parties were to take with them cattle and pack animals.
After much preliminary work, the ship San Carlos was fitted out, Father Serra blessed the vessel, the crew and the flag. Leaving La Paz January 9th, 1769, she arrived at her destination April 14th. It was a voyage of suffering and death. The companion ship of the San Carlos, the San Antonio, sailed from Cape St. Lucas February 15th, making a quick trip and arriving April 14th at San Diego. The first land party, that in command of Captain Rivera y Moncada, reached their new home May 14th. March 24th they left Velecata. In command of Gaspar de Portola, then Governor of California, the second land party on March 9th left Loreto. President Serra accompanied this party. After four months of travel they arrived July 1st, and were greeted with salutes and cheers, a party going out to escort the Governor into camp.
There had been much suffering and loss of life. In the four expeditions 219 soldiers, Indians and sailors started for San Diego; 126 only survived. On the morrow, however, July 2nd, this little pilgrim band celebrated a solemn high mass. The "Te Deum Laudamus" was sung, accompanied by salvos of musketry.
Mouring not for their dead nor delaying any longer than necessary the work of the church, the zealous padres immediately began preparation for the founding of the two missions, one at San Diego, the other at Monterey. The ship San Jose, loaded with supplies, was despatched to Monterey harbor. Unfortunately, however, she was lost on the voyage.
The mission of San Diego de Alcala, July 14th, 1769, was founded by Father Serra. Governor Portola was then on his march northward, accompanied by Fathers Crespi and Gomez and 64 soldiers, muleteers and Indians, he having left the harbor July 12th. In this famous march, now twice celebrated by San Francisco, his destination was Monterey bay. Portola had neither guide nor map, but he believed he could locate the harbor by the description of it as given by the navigator Viscaino. This famous navigator discovered the bay in 1602 (a).
But when the Governor reached Monterey he found no vessel at anchor. Thinking the harbor was farther north, he continued his journey. Three months later the party was in great distress. Their supply of food was fast diminishing. Starvation seemed not far distant. While traveling in what is now San Mateo county, November 2nd, a few soldiers climbing a hill to look for deer discovered on the east a big body of water, San Francisco bay. Immediately they rejoiced, for they believed that they had found Monterey bay, and soon would have a supply of food. They hastened back and reported. The next day the entire party traveled along the shore looking for the ship San Jose. The Indians by signs communicated with the party. They understood the savates to say a vessel lay near the ocean. Traveling to what is now the Cliff house, they saw and recognized in the north Point Reyes and San Francisco (Drakes's) bay (b). They now returned to San Diego (January, 1770), and announced their arrival by the firing of guns.
In the meantime events were very discouraging in the mission. There had been no progress. The Indians had attacked the Spaniards, badly wounding the blacksmith and killing a boy. The food supply was fast disappearing. Governor Portola commanded that March 20th the entire party should return to La Paz unless relief came. Fathers Serra and Crespi declared that they would not leave San Diego, but would take their chances of life with the Indians. All of the padres began a novena, or nine days of prayer. The novena ended on the evening of March 19th. Strange to say, the following morning a ship was seen upon the ocean and a few hours later the San Antonio entered port laden with food supplies.
The ship's captain brought goods news to Father Serra; Galvez commanded that a mission be founded at Monterey immediately. The San Antonio was sent on with food and church furniture. The party (April 17th, 1770) again began their march for the historic spot, and, arriving May 24th, they camped on Carmelo bay. Fresh water was plentiful there. The bay was so named in honor of the three barefooted Carmelite padres who accompanied the Viscaino expedition.
As soon as the vessel arrived the entire party moved down to the beach at Monterey. "Beneath an oak tree near the water's edge," wrote Father Crespi, "a brush wood shelter was erected. An altar was arranged and the bells suspended. The celebration began with the loud ringing of bells. The President Serra, vested with alb and stole, the entire company knelt and sung the hymn of the day, 'Venite Creator Spiritus' (Come, Holy Spirit). The President then blessed the water and the great cross which had been erected. He then sprinkled the shore and all of the surroundings with holy water 'in order to drive away all infernal enemies.' Thereupon High Mass was celebrated at the altar of Our Lady. At the close of the mass 'Salve Regina' (Hail to Our Queen) was sung, and the whole ceremony closed with the 'Te Deum Laudamus' (Thee, O God, We Praise)."
In this manner (June 3rd, 1769) was the mission San Carlos founded. It is now in use as the Catholic church of Monterey. Father Serra was not pleased with the mission location. There was no fertise soil in that locality, and it was too near the soldiers' barracks either for the best interests of the Indian converts or the young women. Permission was given by the Kind, and in November 1770, the mission proper was removed to the beautiful Carmelo valley. A temporary building erected upon a high knoll was used as a mission until 1791. The cornerstone of the present mission was laid in 1793. Four years later the church was dedicated (c).
Father Serra was a great admirer of Francis de Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, and he was anxious to have a mission founded in his honor.
When Glavez named the mission to be founded, Father Serra exclaimed: "Is there to be no mission to our Father Saint Francis?"
"If St. Francis desires a mission, let him show us his port and we will build one there."
Serra, learning of the discovery of the bay, believed that God had guided the Portola party to that point, and he declared: "Our Father St. Francis has made known to us his port, and we will build a mission there."
Serra knew not that the port was on the north side of the Golden Gate (d), a point inaccessible to them; so they transferred the name to the present San Francisco bay.
Fathers Cambon and Palou, the latter a very intimate friend of Serra's, were sent to San Francisco in June, 1776, to find a mission site. They selected the spot then known as the Dolores lagoon (a spring of water) having there been found in 1773. As the day set apart for the founding of the mission drew near, padres, soldiers and Indians assembled at the presidio. It had been several months established. When all things were ready the company marched along the winding horse path from presidio to mission. The distance was about five miles. An Indian led the procession, bearing a banner of the cross. Behind him marched a second convert carrying an image of St. Francis, raised high upon a pole. On arrival, Father Palou planted and blessed a large cross. He then celebrated high mass, assisted by three other padres, who had come north from Monterey. The ceremony closed with a discourse upon the life of St. Francis.
A temporary church was erected and thus used until 1787. In 1795 the present mission building was completed. Until 1888 the old landmark was a place of worship. In that year the present modern edifice was built. Remarkable as it may appear, the great fire of 1906 destroyed not this venerable mission. Upon reaching the edifice the flames suddenly changed their course.
An event very unusual took place in this state November 24, 1913, for the Governor, Hiram W. Johnson, declared it a legal holiday in honor of the 200th anniversary of Father Junipero Serra. It was a commendable honor, for Junipero Serra was California's first and most remarkable benefactor.
Born on the Isle of Majolica, Spain, November 24th, 1713, he at the age of 17 joined the Franciscans. Serra studied for the priesthood, and in 1749 he sailed for Mexico, there to labor with the friars of the San Fernando college. He was assigned to missionary work among the Indians of Serra Gorda. In 1768 the Franciscans were placed in possession of the peninsula missions, and Father Serra was appointed president.
He arrived at Loreto April 1st, 1769, and remained in full charge of the Alta California missions until 1784. Then 71 years of age, he was rapidly failing in health. The death of his intimate friend, Father Crespi; the news that the college was unable to send him more padres for the founding of new missions, and the fact that his authority to confirm converts ended in July hastened his death. He died August 28th, 1784, and was buried in the "sanctuary fronting the altar of Our Lady Dolores." It was thus recorded in the church record (e).
Two days previous to his death, although very feeble, he insisted on taking communion before the altar. There he knelt during the entire service, and he made confession to Father Palou. At his death the bells were tolled. Weeping Indians came and placed flowers upon his body and half-hour guns were fired at the presidio, Monterey.
Father Serra was a religious fanatic. His entire thought and talk was of a religious nature. Extremely austere in habit, he always slept upon a board. He would wear neither shoes nor stockings, sandals only keeping his feet from the earth. He would drink no wine, and ate only the plainest kinds of food. He was also extremely penitent. Often he would inflict self-punishment after the manner of St. Francis. And Father Palou, his biographer, wrote that Serra at times would beat himself with a stone or chain upon the breast, while in the pulpit, until, bleeding and bruised, he sank to the floor unconscious. Sometimes he blistered his flesh with a burning torch.
The missions of Alta California were all planned by the padres, the Indians performing the manual work. They were located in the most fertile spots along the coast, the padres being good judges of soil. Some of the missions had a crude system of irrigation. They were about a day's journey apart, and the well known pathway over which the friars trod is now known as "el camino real," the king's highway.
In regard to the mission inhabitants, they were all Indians, and in charge of priests, two padres to each mission. In number they varied, according to the zeal of the fathers in charge. For instance, La Soledad at one time had 493, San Antonio 1,046 and La Purissima 1,500 men, women and children.
To obtain converts the soldiers were sent out into the surrounding country to capture and drive in the wild Indians. On one occasion they were unsuccessful. General M. G. Vallejo was sent out with a company of soldiers to bring in a band of Indians. The savages, however, were commanded by a chief named Stanislaou, who was a runaway mission neophyte, and, making a severe fight on the Stanislaus river, Vallejo was compelled to retreat.
Life in the mission was somewhat similar to that of the slave in the south. The padre was master and overseer and the Indian was obliged to go or come as he commanded. He was awakened at daylight and compelled to attend mass. Then breakfast was eaten. From sunrise until eleven o'clock the males labored in the ields, sowing or reaping grain; in the orchards, cultivating vines and fruit trees; on the pasture lands guarding stock, and in the mission buildings manufacturing clothing, blankets and various other goods. The women also labored, engaged in housework, making blankets, sheets, tablecloths and towels. After they labored until five o'clock the angelus bell rang out at sunset. For a moment the padres and Indians stood with heads bowed, then to church they hastened for evening prayers.
The women of the mission were confined in a "mojerio," nunnery, and they were closely guarded by an old female Indian. The padres encouraged the marriage of the young girls to the soldiers. Hence it was that many of the dusky maidens married at a young age, twelve years, just to obtain their freedom. Every person, Indian or Mexican, upon conversion was baptized. Each new born child was also baptized into the church and the name of every baptized person was placed upon the church register.
In their splendid work for California the mission fathers were prosperous and content. The missions were not only self-supporting, but they exported hides, tallow and foodstuffs. Wine and brandy they also exported in considerable quantity, and in 1830 San Fernando mission alone manufactured 2,000 gallons each of brandy and wine. Their property was principally stock. But in 1826 the four missions, Soledad, San Juan Baptista, Carmelo and San Antonio, all now is Monterey county, had $136,000 worth of foodstuffs, 220,000 cattle, 18,000 horses, 45,000 hogs and 240,000 sheep.
The independence of Mexico in 1821 sounded their death knell. The Mexican constitution declared the freedom of all citizens, but the political power of the church succeeded in keeping the missions intact until 1834. First the church and then the anti-church party ruled the government. In 1833, however, the anti-churchists, in power, passed a law secularizing the mission. They appointed as Governor of California Jose Figueroa, himself a half-Indian. Following his instructions in 1834, the mission Indians were given their freedom.
With astonishing rapidity the missions crumbled. The buildings began their decay. The stock was stolen or wandered astray, and in a few years nothing was left save the fast falling walls, rotten timbers and broken tiles. This sudden destruction of California's first civilization may be shown by a single example, that of San Diego de Alcala. In 1831 the mission register recorded the names of 1,506 Indians. At that time the fathers had 1,196 horses, 8,822 head of cattle and 16,681 sheep. Twelve years later, 1843, there was left not an Indian and 48 horses and 100 head of cattle.
In that year the Mexican government sold the missions and the remaining mission property to private individuals at ridiculously low prices. The United States boundary commission of 1854, of which Edward M. Stanton, Secretary of State under President Lincoln, was a member, restored the mission churches and surrounding land to the Archbishop of the Catholic church, Joseph Alemany.
A small wooden cross bearing upon its arms the date June 3, 1770, together with the small oak tree, stood there fore many years. I saw it in 1884. Later the tree and cross were cut down and a full-sized marble statue of Father Serra was erected. There is a similar statue in Golden Gate park. Mrs. Jane L. Stanford also erected at Monterey, upon the summit of the hill, a very handsome and costly marble memorial. It represents Father Serra stepping from a boat to the beach, bearing in his arms a large cross.