Father Junipero Serra

Father Junipero Serra
Father Serra

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Jesuit Domain of California

A California Soldier and his wife

After 393 pages of text, dozens of maps and even more illustrations, a glossary, pages of footnotes in small type, and a bibliography, I finally finished Antigua California. [And, as DavidK pointed out, it was published in 1994 – not 1926]

What a learning experience!

Although stubborn and quite possessive, the Jesuits who explored California showed a great deal of foresight. Sent to secure California for the crown and fend off claims from other nations, they found a desolate land, lacking fresh potable water and deep-water ports. Stone Age savages could be quite hostile, although their weapons were no match for those of the Spanish.

So, what did these Soldiers of Christ come up with?

An amazing organization with provisions for making the impossible happen with some interesting twists.

Where to start?

In order to conduct explorations, they needed money. Not money subject to being granted or withheld by non-Jesuit sources, but funds of their own. So, what did they do? They established a separate fondo piadoso, a Pious Fund made up of donations by wealthy benefactors in the Old and New Worlds. And, they needed assurance from the crown that it would not interfere with the fund. However, they also needed funding from the crown and had those monies put into their pious fund where the viceroy or his people couldn't get to it.

And then, they dreamed up – or modified – an organization to make things work.

If you notice, the king and the viceroy are nowhere in the chart!

A Visitador was a kind of Chief Inspector in charge of the operations of the ecclesiastical entity. So, the chief honcho in California, The Father Visitador, was only responsible to the chief honcho of the Jesuit Order who, in turn, was responsible to the Pope. And, the Father Provincial in Mexico City – sort of like an Archbishop – also wasn't in the chain – he reported to the viceroy. There was the Father Procurator for California. His job was to take orders from the Visitador in California and purchase the supplies from the special Pious Fund.

Neat. Right?

Supplies were ordered as needed, but the Procurator in Mexico City had to gather, store, and see that they were delivered. The Jesuits had a huge plot of land north of Mexico City called Rancho Arroyo. That's where herds were gathered and large warehouses held the goods meant for missions – not only in California but Texas and New Mexico. Once everything was ready – and paid for, the Father Procurator for California arranged to have it shipped to Compostela or Acapulco where it was to be loaded aboard ship to sail to Loreto.

Easy. Right?

[Knew there was a bit more, didn't you?]

Ships built on the west coast of New Spain weren't exactly reliable. You see, there were no trees tall enough to make wood planks the length needed for a substantial ship. So, they were pieced together and lacked the rigidity needed to keep them together in rough weather and seas. As a tidbit, the Jesuits owned or leased 22 ships in the 70 years they were in California and all but two of them were either sunk in storms or crashed against the rocks.

In time of drought and need, there was no guarantee that supplies would reach California.

So, the Father Visitador for California went a step further. He was responsible for the Jesuits founding missions on the mainland of Sonora and Sinaloa specifically for providing supplies to the California missions.

So, if supplies couldn't make it safely from Acapulco or the ports close to Compostela, the Jesuits established alternatives just across the Sea of Cortez. Those were established along large rivers flowing from the Sierra Occidental. The only problem was that some were on the Yaqui River and the Yaquis, along with their neighbors, the Mayos, were not exactly friendly. It would take several decades, but those Indians would raise up in a two-year war that killed over a thousand and injured countless more.

And, to get to those missions, the Jesuits established their own navy! Launches were built and manned in the shipyard at Loreto and made the hazardous journey to gather what they needed.

One thing that has bothered me was why they selected Loreto and not La Paz. The later is a large sheltered bay with deep water for big ships. Loreto had a shallow bay with little shelter from bad weather. If may probably be that La Paz did not have a direct supply of fresh water throughout the year.

And finally, once the supplies reached Loreto, the Father Procurator in Loreto and his assistant, sorted the supplies to ensure they were hauled to the various missions that had asked for them.

Soldiers and civilians alike could order supplies and, with a set up like the company stores of mines, had accounts to pa for what they received.

There was no money of any kind allowed in California.

The Jesuits believed money could only bring sin, especially in buying alcohol. [It isn't in the book, but I'm willing to bet there were more than a few enterprising individuals who found way to distill strong drink. Far more potent than the wine used in Mass.]

Well, back to studying and will post more the next time. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jesuit California

After hundreds of hours of research about the occupation of the Baja California missions by Father Serra and the Franciscans, I thought I knew quite a bit of its history.

But, thanks to David Kier, co-author of The Old Missions of Baja & Alta California, which is available @ http://oldmissions.com , I learned of a book written by Harry W. Crosby in 1926 titled Antigua California. As David is one of the most knowledgeable individuals I know about the missions of Baja California, I quickly delved into this tome and the results blew me away.

Where to start?

First of all, the Jesuits had blessings from the crown to run California without interference from the viceroy in Mexico City. They were directly responsible to the Father General of the order in Rome with a link to a Visitador General in Mexico City who did little about their situation but discuss it with the viceroy.

That meant everyone living in California came under their aegis. Everyone.

Second, unlike the rest of Spain, soldiers reported directly to the Jesuits and were even paid by them. The Jesuit Pious Fund received most of its monies from rich benefactors. But, the crown did pay part when the situation seemed to call for it.

But, nobody got paid in coinage! Not a single copper coin went to the people in California. It all went to a Father Provincial in Mexico City, He received the money and, based upon requests from the Father Rector, the senior Jesuit in California, bought the goods and material required. It was then shipped to California on boats owned or leased by the Jesuits. Even the sailors were paid by the Jesuits in materials and foods.

And, the Jesuits had their own set of rules and regulations for the soldiers and sailors who signed up to serve under them. Whenever a new recruit arrived, these rules and regulations were read to them. Horror of horrors for any soldier or sailor – no liquor was permitted anywhere in California.

And neither had regulation uniforms. They wore what was available and the only thing denoting them as soldiers were their weapons. They didn't even own their own horses and were limited to two – as opposed to their counterparts in New Spain who were authorized six – plus a mule.

There was also no regular compliment of sailors, soldiers, or those who plied trades at the town of Loreto or the transitory garrison in the far south at San José del Cabo. Finally, unlike the Franciscan friars, there was normally only one priest and one soldier at each mission. That's why they only accepted literate applicants and whites as the fathers wanted someone they could talk to.

The occupants of California in the 1600s and early 1700s lived under horrible conditions. Lack of water and severe weather such as droughts and cyclones often left them short of food. Weather and other factors also meant they might not receive the supplies they so desperately needed.

How truly blessed were the latter missions in the north!

But, the biggest change this book is going to cause me is a total rewrite of Leatherjacket Soldier, The Life and Times of Don Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncada. Everything! From where he was born, where he enlisted, his service as the senior soldier in Baja California, and on and on and on.

Do I mind?

Not really. Don Fernando is such an interesting character that telling his story so young and old can savor what he went through is going to be enjoyable.

So, it's back to scouring the book to find every scrap and tidbit I can about this epic time in the history of California.

I just wish I could discover what Rivera did from the time his father died when he was 9 and when he enlisted with the Jesuits when he was 18.

More when I get time.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Phew! It's Almost Done.

The Missions Wither, Book Four of Father Serra's Legacy has been, by far, the most difficult novel I have ever written. It's not the hours and hours of research and more research I've put into it. It's not the characters telling the story. In fact, I purposely moved from Timothy and Jaime as the main characters in the first three novels to James and Teresa Marta, Timothy's son and Jaime's daughter. I think the difficulty lies in my hesitation to present the absolute disaster of taking the missions away from the friars. From this to this By the tine Mexicans were fighting for independence, the missions in far away California had tens of thousands of Indians living and depending upon them. The 30 in Baja California were limited by the available of water for irrigation as the entire peninsula is desert. However, most of those that remained open in 1822 were self-sufficient and supported a reasonable population. However, the 21 in Alta [or Upper] California had become self-sufficient, not only supporting themselves but the soldiers and civilians living in the area. Huge herds of cattle, horses and mules. Fields ripe with grains, gardens filled with vegetables, orchards growing an amazing variety of fruits from apples to bananas and figs, and vineyards covering hillsides. Flocks of sheep provided wool for looms that produced beautiful cloth for all sorts of purposes. Fields of cotton turned into thread for making clothes. Suet from slaughtered cattle providing tallow for immense number of candles and hides tanned into exceptional leather. The disciples made sun-dried bricks for construction, tiles for roofs, and hewed stones for construction. They cut down trees to produce excellent lumber. And then comes the part of the story that hurt me to the quick – secularization. Tens of thousands of los Indios fought in the war for independence under their white officers, being promised freedom and lands if they won. And the Mexican government held true to its promise. What was left over from granting lands to the officers was turned over to los Indios who were able to successfully turn mission industries and lands to their own use without needed guidance of a friar or priest. That was because they had a proven agrarian society before the arrival of Europeans. They were Stone Age peoples, but with records of amazing construction and intellectual advancement. But, Mexico tried to do the same for the Californian Indians. It just couldn't work – and it didn't. California Indians lived in a somewhat paradise and never needed to travel more than one day from where they were born. They had little or no clothing, wearing mostly paint and tattoos. They lived off the wild, foraging for roots and eating what meat they could gather with their wooden spears and crude nets. Rats, mice, gophers, moles, snakes, rabbits, insects, an occasional antelope or deer or whatever carcass they might find. They lived in crude huts of brush and mud. When there came disease – many natural to California and North America – or drought, or floods, or earthquakes, they buried their dead and went on with their life. The most advanced were the Coastal Chumash who built beautiful canoes and fished with crude spears and nets. They routinely sailed out to the Channel Islands. Even then, never having needed it, they lacked the discipline necessary for a successful agrarian society, which the friars had brought them. With the fathers no longer in charge, this is what they reverted to. I could write a dozen chapters about the variety of Mexican governors assigned to the Territory of California, each one either inept, corrupt, or egotistical. The soldiers who had retired and received land grants along with settlers who made special friends with particular governors were given land on which they established Ranchos. With little education, they concerned themselves only with their own life as lords of the lands and los Indios suffered under their tyranny. Petty spats became common as those Californios of the north feuded with those of the south. “Los Angeles should be the capitol.” “No! Monterey should.” In any case, I had to make a decision. Having reached about 130,000 words, there had to be a place to stop. It had reached 80 years from the date of the Portolá Expedition when James and Teresa Marta were born. Would they still be alive in 1840? We know of a few rare cases where uno Indio was still alive from the time and even into the 1860s. But, would James and Teresa Marta survive that long? I decided no and turned to George – or Jorge – Timothy's son and Santiago Mateo to tell the final chapter. An Afterword such as this is what I have yet to write and will certainly use some of this post to do so. With pictures like this in my mind, I will struggle to finish the tale. I hope it does what I have desired from the very beginning – personalize and bring to life events in the dust of history, hidden on bookshelves nobody visits. To bring to life the men in their gray robes who left all they knew behind to live a frugal life with one goal; to bring The Word of God to the Indians they looked upon as their children. And to erase the lies of men like Howard Howe Bancroft who painted them as cruel slave masters who cared little about the welfare of the Indians forced to live at the missions. This is the picture I want to engrave in my mind. Keep you posted when it's edited, reviewed, edited, revised, and edited to be sent off to the publisher. :) [And will then happily start working again on El Soldado de Cuera, The Life and Times of Don Fernando Rivera.]

Sunday, February 9, 2014

California Ranchos

[I've been so busy doing other things that I've sadly let my posting here get way behind where it should be. I'm especially involved with finishing Book Four of Father Serra's Legacy, The Missions Whither.]

 Within a short time of establishing two garrisons at San Diego and Monterey, along with the first four mission, Don Pedro Fages, the governor of California, awards grants of land to several leatherjacket soldiers who wished to retire. The grants were given for their outstanding and loyal service to the crown. The first three were granted in 1784.

Rancho San Pedro was granted to Juan José Dominguez, a soldier in the Portolá Expedition, 48,000 acres where the river joined the sea. Fages then granted 167,000 acres to Manuel Nieto, another member of the Portolá Expedition which was names Rancho Los Nietos that included what is now Long Beach, Downey, Whittier, and part of Los Angeles. The third grant of 36,400 acres went to José María Verdugo who was a leatherjacket soldier in the expedition led by Don Fernando Rivera – who had been the military commandant of California for 15 years before the arrival of Portolá. He named his grant Rancho San Rafael that includes current Glendale and part of Los Angeles.

The next grant did not occur until 1794 and during the Spanish period, only 22 grants were made. They were:

Nuestra Señora del Refugio 1794 Diego de Borica José Francisco Ortega [Portolá Expedition] 26,529 acres (107 km2) 154 SD Refugio State Beach Santa Barbara Rancho_

Los_Feliz 1795 Diego de Borica Jose Vicente Feliz 6,647 acres (27 km2) 133 SD Los Feliz Los Angeles

Simi 1795 Diego de Borica Patricio, Miguel, and Francisco Javier Pico 113,009 acres (457 km2) 103 SD Simi Valley, Moorpark Ventura

 Buena Vista 1795 Diego de Borica José Maria Soberanes and Joaquin Castro 8,446 acres (34 km2) 204 SD Monterey Monterey

Las Pulgas [The Fleas] 1795 Diego de Borica José Dario Argüello and Luis Antonio Argüello [Rivera Expedition] 35,240 acres (143 km2) 54 ND San Mateo, Belmont, San Carlos, Menlo Park San Mateo

Las Virgenes 1802 José Joaquín de Arrillaga Miguel Ortega 17,760 acres (72 km2) 265 SD Agoura Hills Los Angeles

 El Conejo 1802 José Joaquín de Arrillaga Ygnacio Rodriguez and Jose Polanco 48,672 acres (197 km2) 107 SD Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks, Lake Sherwood, Westlake Village, Oak Park Ventura

 Las Animas 1803 José Joaquín de Arrillaga Feliz Berenguer José Mariano Castro 24,066 acres (97 km2) 136 ND Gilroy Santa Clara

Topanga Malibu Sequit 1804 José Joaquín de Arrillaga José Bartolomé Tapia [son of Felipe Santiago] 13,300 acres (54 km2) 147 SD Malibu Los Angeles

Los Palos Verdes 1809 José Joaquín de Arrillaga José Dolores Sepúlveda [son of Juan José] 31,629 acres (128 km2) 273 SD Palos Verdes Los Angeles

San Ysidro 1809 José Joaquín de Arrillaga Ygnacio Ortega 13,066 acres (53 km2) [note 10] Gilroy Santa Clara

 San Antonio 1810 José Joaquín de Arrillaga Antonio María Lugo [son of Francisco Salvador, escort of Los Angeles Pobladores] 29,513 acres (119 km2) 9 SD Bell, South Gate Los Angeles

Santiago de Santa Ana 1810 José Joaquín de Arrillaga José Antonio Yorba [Fages' Catalonian Volunteer] and Juan Pablo Peralta [son of soldado de cuera] 63,414 acres (257 km2) 346 SD Santa Ana, Irvine Orange

San Antonio 1820 Pablo Vicente de Solá Luís María Peralta [de Anza party who enlisted] 44,800 acres (181 km2) 98 ND, 99 ND, 100 ND Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro Alameda

Rincon de los Bueyes 1821 Pablo Vicente de Solá Bernardo Higuera and Cornelio Lopez 3,127 acres (13 km2) 131 SD Culver City, Baldwin Hills Los Angeles

Vega del Rio del Pajaro 1821 Pablo Vicente de Solá Antonio Maria Castro 4,310 acres (17 km2) 245 SD Monterey, Watsonville Monterey

 Los Tularcitos 1821 Pablo Vicente de Solá José Loreto Higuera 4,394 acres (18 km2) 228 ND Milpitas Santa Clara

 Sausal Redondo 1821 Pablo Vicente de Solá Antonio Ygnacio Avila [ son of Cornelio escort of Los Angeles pobladores] 22,458 acres (91 km2) 354 SD Manhattan Beach, Lawndale Los Angeles

Cañada de los Pinos 1821 Pablo Vicente de Solá Seminary of Santa Inés 35,499 acres (144 km2) 388 SD Santa Inés Santa Barbara.
None of these grants infringed upon mission lands and the owners often traded with the missions for the things made by mission industries they could not make themselves. And, all one has to do is view the names of the ranchos to see where present day names came from.

Simi Valley

Los Feliz Blvd.

Topanga Canyon


Palos Verdes

Santa Ana

Redondo Beach

and so on.

And, going through the hundreds of land grants during the Mexican years, more familiar names appear. Sadly, those grants were often given in return for political favors and money. And they all infringed upon missions lands, leaving them poorer and less productive. When the Mexican government forced secularization – against the wishes of the natives – many of the grants forced the Indians to flee to the hills or enter into a form of slavery to the ranch owners. By 1846, when the Americans came and took possession of California, the missions were in ruins and the majority of ranchers were illiterate and had no life beyond raising horses and cattle. And many of the land grants given by Governor Pio Pico were challenged as being illegal.

And this is what was left

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who Were The California Indians

As I've researched information about the founding of the California missions, I've paid some attention to the natives of the area but have written very little. In Book Four, I've included an Esselen Indian as the friend of my Main Character, James Beadle. But, I've never truly gone deeply into their cultures or beliefs.

I think it's time to correct that. First, here is a list of the California Indian Tribes and Organizations from http://500nations.com/California_Tribes.asp with a number of links to those tribes who have websites.

In visiting the various sites, I've come across a common theme – according to them, the natives lived an ideal life until the coming of the Spaniards and their soldiers. From then on, they lost their sparkling cultures and wonderful way of life.

I don't mean to be cruel or belittling, but these themes appear to be to gain more concerns and sympathy than to deal with reality.

[The above depiction is false in that male Indians wore nothing but body pain and tattoos.]

Indeed, the weather of coastal California was such that the natives seldom needed clothing or even substantial structures. They protected themselves, when necessary, with structures woven together from branches and sticks. And, if the weather became cold, they donned furs or capes made from seal hides. As for food, their weak stone-tipped arrows managed to bring down small animals so they spent their entire lives foraging for food. Anything went into the small woven family pot, the liquid heated with stones from the cooking fire dropped into it, to include, mice, moles, gophers, rabbits, birds caught in rude nets, and an occasional other animal found wounded or dead. During periods of bad weather such as droughts, they starved and many of their children died. And they had plenty of illnesses that caused death long before the arrival of the Spaniards. For instance, many suffered from syphilis due to their lifestyle of seeking sexual partners whenever and wherever possible – they did not have formal marriages in the European sense.

An aside. Like most Native Americans, the women were those who selected their mates. Californians saw the animals around them and understood the Laws of Natural Selection, the females seeking the best males to provide for them and their offspring.

An ideal lifestyle?


The Chumash were seafarers. They built some truly beautiful boats using tar found on the beaches to make them seaworthy. They regularly rowed to the California Channel Islands to hunt for eggs and trap seabirds living there. But, they had no knowledge of sails and had no defense against bad weather. Their nets were made of kelp, very heavy and quite difficult to use to gather in fish.

Very few natives traveled more than one day's distance from where they were born. That is why members of the same tribe but different clans had difficulty speaking with one another.

And all lived in fear! Unlike other American Indians, they had no adequate defense against the most fearsome predator in California – the Grizzly Bear. These creatures roamed at will and readily hunted and took young children for a meal. Adults could do little about it as their poorly made bows could not send stone-tipped arrows with enough force to do anything but annoy the bears.

And, they had absolutely no knowledge of farming the fertile soil so their diets lacked many of the nutrients proved by vegetables and fruits. And, while the land abounded with healthful herbs, the local medicine men or healers had little knowledge of how to use them.

California, being a geographical area of instability, had lots of natural hot springs with healing properties. The natives had some knowledge of their benefits but did not use them to the fullest. Many tribes however did use sweat lodges for healing ceremonies.


I'll discuss more about California Indians in my next post.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Readers don't give a hoot about the travails of writing. They read the final product and either like or dislike it. Hopefully, in my case, they like it.

But, in order for them to read it, I have to get it written!

And, you certainly don't need to hear the woes causing this “writer's block” - a convenient name of just plain facing a blank wall.

Ir all started when, out of the clear [actually smog free] sky, I was informed we were going to rent our daughter's home. Not that I minded, it's far better than where we've lived for the last seven plus years. It was just a short notice affair and I still don't know if I got everything done concerning moving from one place to another. At least the bills seem to be getting to us.

And then, we took an overnight trip to San Diego to pick up my sister-in-law so she could stay with our daughter for a few weeks after she delivered our granddaughter.

But, the real crux of the problem is that this fourth book in Father Serra's Legacy is turning out to be, by far, the most difficult to write.

The characters are there. As Timothy and Jaime have reached their fifties, I've written The Missions Wither from the viewpoint of Timothy's son James and his best friend, David, an Esselen Indian from the Carmel/Monterey area.

The events and other characters are also there. Mexico gains its independence from Spain and takes over California. Foreigners are moving in. The missions are being threatened by something called secularization – taking them away from the friars and turning them over to the Indians. A total disaster as, unlike their Mexican counterparts, the California Indians were simply not prepared to deal with the discipline required to operate the mission industries.

So, what's the problem?

Up until now, I've been able to envision the scenes I wish to present to the reader. Where are the characters. What they are doing? How they react to the news of far away activities and even how to bring those actions closer to them. That simply isn't happening. The thought starts – and ends with a blooming wilt.

Will it end? Of course it will! You see, once this Book Four of Father Serra's Legacy is on the market, I've got another to rewrite that I am very excited about. I've posted some tidbits about Don Fernando Rivera and his story, Leatherjacket Soldier, is what I am truly looking forward to preparing for readers – and I know there's a huge market out there of Mexicans and Hispanics here and abroad, to read about a true hero of his time and place.


[And, guess what, I'm back to writing!}

Friday, September 27, 2013


It's almost impossible to describe.

Extensive reviews of grammar and sentence structure.

Plot structures.

Creating believable characters the reader empathizes with.



Revising and reviewing.

Going through comments and changed from an editor you don't know.

Going through it all again with another editor you don't know.

Finally getting a proof copy to go over word-by-word and sentence-by-sentence. Putting it all down on an errata list.

Receiving the proof copy of the book, ensuring that each change has been made, to discover it's ready for publication.

The sun rises a bit brighter. The birds chirp sweeter. Food has a sharper taste. A deep sigh of relief and a determination that the next is going to be even better!

So, here comes this:

Book Two of Father Serra's Legacy to be released October 8, 2013 by Bluewood Publishing

Timothy and Jaime follow Father Serra in his efforts to found nine missions in California between San Diego and San Francisco. The determined friar struggles to overcome interference by the Spanish governor and lack of support from the viceroy. The California natives flock to the missions, not only by the better life they provide but due to the loving care they receive from the friars. The two join the hundreds of mourners when, at last, the frail priest succumbs. But, all know that Father Serra's quest will continue.

The novel will be available at Bluewoodpublishing.com, Amazon.com, and other online publishers in both paperback and e-book format.