Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Franciscan Missions of Upper [Alta] California

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the second Spaniard to reach the soil of California, landing in a bay he named for Saint Michael – now current San Diego. He died during the voyage and a later explorer found the larger bay now known as San Francisco. and later Monte Rey Bay, giving it glowing reports as an excellent anchorage.

Father Junipero Serra, having successfully founded five missions in the Sierra Gorda mountains of New Spain, is selected by Visitador General Gálvez to take over the Jesuits missions in California as the Jesuits were forced to leave the New World. He and Don Gaspar Portolá successfully completed the transfer and were then ordered by Gálvez to proceed north to find Upper California and establish a string of missions to ensure the territory remained in Spanish hands. Russian fur traders were reported on the north coast of the Pacific.

After founding Misión San Fernando Rey Velicatá, the party continued north to San Miguel Bay where Father Serra founded Misión San Diego de Alcalá. Governor Portolá assigned Captain Rivera to build a fortification known as the Royal Presidio of San Diego. Portolá then departed with a company of Leatherjacket Soldiers and Catalonian Volunteers to search for the harbor of Monte Rey where he was instructed to build another fortification to serve as the headquarters of Spanish presence in Upper California. Fray Juan Crespí, the expedition diarist, was also order to find and mark suitable locales for missions to provide for the soldiers and convert the natives to Catholicism. The idea was to place each mission one day's ride from the next.

It is difficult to image the unknown territory facing the expeditions. The California natives almost never traveled more than one day from their home territory so there was no one to guide them. They relied on the stalwart Sergeant Jose Ortega and his band of Leatherjacket Soldiers to find their way. They often encountered insurmountable terrain and had to turn back to search for another way. That is why, when one looks at a map of what is known as El. Camino Real, The King's Highway, it weaves back and forth between the shore and inland valleys.

The expedition failed to find the Bay of Monte Rey so glowingly reported by a previous exploration and continued on to what is now San Francisco Bay. On the return journey, they decided the first bay to be their original destination and marked it for the site of the Royal Presidio of Monte Rey.

Now, we think it would've made sense to found each mission in order from the first, San Diego, to the northernmost at San Francisco. However, things didn't work that way. The first goal was to establish the presidio at Monte Rey, along with the mission.

The expedition almost turned back to Loreto. They ran short of supplies – and were not about to sink to eating the foods the local natives did quite well on – and only stayed when a supply ship finally arrived.

As in Baja California, certain items were needed for each mission as their goal was to conduct religious rites. Those supplies often came from Spain. Bells played an important part in daily life and had to be hauled on the backs of mules. Only so many were available and limited the amount of missions to be established. It also depended upon the number of friars to man the missions. One friar conducted the ecclesiastical side while the second was responsible to building the structures and teaching the natives the various industries needed to make them self-sufficient and supply the various military outposts.

And then there were the soldiers available to provide security for the friars and the missions. Again, as in Baja, regulations called for a corporal and four privates at each mission. With the presidio in San Diego manned, the next was the presidio at Monte Rey. When these two sites were established, Father Serra and Governor Fages, who replaced Portolá, decided the Valley of Oaks would be the next mission to be founded. Thus, Misión San Antonio de Padua was founded.

While Father Serra was in Monte Rey, two friars from San Diego, with a military escort, traveled north to a site highly recommended by Fray Crespí to establish Misión San Gabriel.

As hard as he tried, Father Serra was only able to found nine missions before his death in 1784. There simply were not enough supplies and soldiers coming from Mexico. Supply ships were often long overdue and it took time to establish herds of livestock and gardens. At one time, Governor Fages sent troops south to The Valley of Bears to kills as many of the grizzled bears as possible to provide meat for the missions and two presidios. [That is why Fages became known as Governor Bear.] The natives greatly appreciated the removal of the creatures who found them easy prey and were more than willing to put their hands to the building of Misión San Luis Obispo.

After Father Serra's death, later president guardians of the missions encountered similar difficulties, thus creating the varied dates and locations of the other missions. And, weather and floods often showed that the original sites were unsuitable and had to be moved.

Completing the 19 original missions was not done overnight or easily. From Misión San Diego de Alcalá in 1769, it took until 1804 to complete Misión Santa Inés. Misiones San Rafael y San Francisco Solano came later and were never part of the original purpose. In fact, San Francisco Solano was built due to a demand from a Mexican governor.

I hope you've enjoyed this and it will direct your attention to the Father Serra's Legacy series.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Sale Now!

The Sailor and The Carpenter now available @
 E-book http://bluewoodpublishing.com/Blueshop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=34_35_42&products_id=216

Paperback http://bluewoodpublishing.com/Blueshop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_2_8&products_id=217

ISBN: 978-1-927220-06-1 (paperback) and 978-1-927220-07-8 (e-book)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why Were the Missions Founded in the Order They Were

Did you ever wonder why the missions were built where and when they were? San Diego makes sense as it was the furthest south in Upper California. But, why was Carmel the second? And then San Gabriel? Why not just build them in order as they were discovered and marked out by Fray Juan Crespí?

There are a number of answers to this question. The first place to start is the missions in Baja California.

Early after the conquest of the Aztecs. Spanish explorers visited the western shores of New Spain, as they called it. Due to the sailing qualities of their vessels, they encountered great difficulties sailing north against prevailing winds and currents. Most of the exploration took part in the Sea of Cortez but several brave captains took the ships as far north to the Colombia River between Oregon and Washington.

In 1596, Captain Vizcaino used the Bay of La Paz as a center point for his exploration of the Sea of Cortez. While there, he noticed the natives diving for oysters, quickly learning they contained pearls. He took advantage of this by found in the first fishing colony in 1670. Admiral Otondo and Jesuit Father Kino build a crescent shaped fort and church on the site. However, the Spaniards angered the local Guaycuras who attacked the fort in 1683. The Spanish soldiers repelled the attackers but La Paz was finally abandoned in 1685.

A note is worthwhile here.

Soon after the end of Cortez' conquest, a unique group of soldiers were founded to man fortified outposts north of Mexico City to contain raids by the Chichimeca Indians. By 1729, they were codified as Soldados de Cuera, or Leatherjacket Soldiers named for the heavy leather armor, a sleeveless, knee-length coat strong enough to resist stone-tipped arrows and spears. I've talked about them in my posts about Don Fernando Rivera. It is not know if they were present in Las Paz but certainly manned the fortification in Loreto.

In 1697, the Jesuits settled Lower or Baja California. Father Provincial, the Reverend Juan de Palacios [SJ] was given a contract that included provisions for the use of Jesuit paid troops. Under the terms of the contract, the Jesuit rector of Loreto was effective commander in chief of soldiers of Province - he had the right to hire and fire anyone. This continued to 1768.

Presidio de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó was founded with a 25 man garrison. This was the fortification near the river. A mission of the same name was founded around a spring the local Indians felt to have magical powers. Father Provincial, Rev. Juan de Palacios (SJ) received a license on February 6, that included provisions for the use of Jesuit paid troops. Jesuits also enlist forces and create officers, they are also given the right to fire officers. Indians raided Loreto - Indians stole horses 2 soldiers and an unknown number of Indian allies pursued, the Indians were captured, allies ate horse meat/presidio noted to be protected by a stockade. Circa 300/500 local Indians besieged settlement for five hours, Father Salvatierra ordered the soldiers not to shoot. Defenders included 4 soldiers and 3 Mexican Indians. Cannon burst when fired. A force of 12 men arrived by sea as reinforcements - they begin construction on more elaborate defense work of logs and thorns. Commander of the Fort was Captain Luis Torres y Tortello. Pay of each soldier was 300 pesos, each captain $500, $6,000 total spent each year, soldiers did not receive pay in cash, but instead, goods in kind purchased in Mexico or provided by the mission.

The point being made here is that Spain did not provide sufficient military protection for the Jesuits to found their central position at the better port of La Paz. While Loreto had a sheltered harbor, it was not equal to the larger, deeper water port further south. Even at its height under Captain Fernando Rivera, it only had a company of Leatherjacket Soldiers, about 120 men and their officers. When it is considered that each mission had a corporal and four private soldiers, that only left 35 men at the presidio to perform guard duties and courier services.

My next post will deal with the placement and founding of the Upper [Alta} California missions and the reasons for their order of their establishment.