Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

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.

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