Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Saturday, January 28, 2017


1817 – A Good Planting and Exploration

Planting went well. Heavy fogs provided extra moisture to make it easier to break the soil. The sun came out about ten of the clock to provide the sunshine the seeds and tubers needed to rise from the earth and sprout.

Many busily tended to the many young born once the cold passed. The fathers at every mission held special rites to bless the many young of every type.

Why is Padre Juncosa citing the prayer to San Antonio Abad? Is not San Francisco de Asís the patron saint of animals?”

Rubio and his family sat in the pew directly behind James and his family. “Because he was sanctified before San Francisco,” he whispered.

Later, when they asked the friar, he explained, “The feast day of Saint Anthony the Abbot is actually the seventeenth day of January. However, it seems more appropriate to bless the animals in his name as has been done in recent years in Italy.”

As for the family compound's gardens and fields, the young toiled to break the earth and carefully plant the seeds and roots as guided by George. They also spread fertilizer and straw to nourish the soil and hold back unwanted plants – and animals. The best guards again mice and moles and gophers and other small animals were the ravens, crows, hawks, and even eagles keeping a close eye out for prey.

The biggest concern was keeping the very young from the talons of those predators.

Domesticated cats and dogs did an exceptional job of pest control – as well as warning of larger animals like foxes, coyotes, wolves, the feared pumas, and the far more dangerous bears.

Teresa often commented, “They appear to be such expert hunters. But then, they leap onto one's lap and take up residence as if it is their due.”

James chuckled as a big, black and white tom always found him wherever he settled into a chair or on a bench.

The message from Captain Argüello came as no surprise. Teresa Marta already had prepared what she considered necessary for their journey, so it was but a matter of packing the mules and saddling their mounts. While she rarely rode, Teresa Marta was an expert horseman having ridden since her earliest years.

Felipe wanted to send an escort with James and Teresa Marta, but both told him it was not necessary. “James has his long rifle and pistols and I have my bow and arrows, along with two pistols. Our mounts are sturdy and can easily outrun any attackers.” She chuckled and added, “Beside, far too many Gentiles and disciples rely on the fish James brings them.”

As it happened, many Gentiles smiled and offered them gifts and food in the miles between the missions. They were also warmly welcomed by the friars, soldiers, and disciples at each stop.

Padre Duran welcomed them with open arms and blessings. “You have arrived at an opportune time. The melt in the rivers has raised them above sand bars as Gentiles from that area have told us. And the launch is ready for the voyage.”

James did not argue with the friar, simply making his way down to the estero where the launch sat out of the water on rollers. He spent more than two hours inspecting every seam, rope, and piece of canvas on the craft. Two workers hovered nearby and leaped into action whenever he pointed out a lack or fault.

You are very thorough, Señor. I wish I were able to spend even a short time as a member of your crew.”

James thanked the Mestizo, Rafael Santiago, who served as the Arráez, the person in charge of the launch. As it was such a small craft, he did not deserve the title of captain.

Instead of taking up a cell in the mission, James and Teresa Marta were taken into the Santiago home, an adobe structure meticulously cared for by his Miwok wife and two daughters.

Lieutenant Luis Antonio Argüello arrived the next morning with a corporal and four presidials. He became a bit upset when James explained there was insufficient room for that many and the crew needed to row the launch in case the wind failed. There followed a discussion in which James learned the four soldiers all frequently took a similar launch across the bay to carry sick soldiers to the Asistencia.

Rafael did not argue, telling four of his crew to stand down, selecting the two most experienced to go. As the tides were not that strong inside the bay, they quickly loaded and prepared to sail. Again, the lieutenant and Santiago were surprised when Teresa Marta took a seat on the thwart next to James. Her posture left no doubt of her determination to go along.

They crossed the bay and reached the Carquines Strait by early afternoon. All knew of the military excursion to capture and castigate Miwoks who had raided Misión Santa Clara. The invitation to sit around their evening fire by a Gentile family living on the shore surprised them. In fact, they had family members serving at both Misión Dolores and Misión San José. Padre Abella had become most fluent in the language and learned the Miwok stayed in their rancheria as they could not face moving elsewhere.

The wind came from the east so they had to row. Teresa Marta had no problem keeping up with the beat and seemed far less spent than the men when they decided to land for noon prayers and a meal at a sand bar.

A group of female Gentiles appeared in the brush and stared at the newcomers, neither threatening nor showing fear. Unlike coastal Gentiles, they wore furs that covered most of their bodies, although their genitals still showed.

Padre Abella raised a hand in the universal sign of peace and walked towards them, calling out in Miwok. They chattered amongst themselves, but Padre Abella could not understand them.

The lack of communication surprised nobody. Gentiles living two days' travel from one another often had quite different dialects – even languages.

As always, the friar easily made himself known and handed out baubles to the women, simple things made in the missions such as blankets or pretty baubles. Seeing their women pleased, six males stepped from the brush and held out their hands for similar gifts. They too were pleased with shiny baubles. In return, small game was produced and the Maidu, as they called themselves, gazed in curiosity as a few were tossed into a small iron kettle set atop of fire. The remainder were quickly stripped of fur and feathers, supported over the flames on iron spits. The Maidu women also brought a flour that, upon being tasted, turned out to be from the acorns of los encinos y robles, the oak trees that profusely grew everywhere.

When the visitors handed them tortillas de maize, showing them how to use them to scoop up frijoles, the Maidu chattered among themselves, exceedingly pleased with the new food.

In late afternoon, at the conjunction of several rivers, they turned north into the largest, aided by a strong breeze at their backs to speed their progress.

Lieutenant Moraga named this el Rio de los Sacramentos,” Lieutenant Argüello told them, referring to a map he carried. “He did not enter it, being blocked by another river flowing in from the south he named for San Joaquin.”

They found a good campsite late in the day and James easily brought down an elk with his long rifle. The sound of the discharge exploded huge flocks of waterfowl into the air, several brought down by soldiers with their muskets.

Not surprisingly, more Gentiles gathered and were soon befriended with trinkets and some of the food. The kettle especially interested in them as they had never seen something atop flames cooking food.

How can such simple people understand some things so quickly?” one of the soldiers asked when several young girls brought herbs and wild vegetables to be included in the stew.

They live a very difficult life,” Padre Duran responded. “While they lack much knowledge of things in our world, they know very much about living in theirs.”

They traveled up the river for five days. Seeing towering mountains to the east with white upon their tops, they determined they could not travel that way. Steep hills to the west covered with towering trees indicated that direction was not an option. After a lengthy discussion, it was decided to travel back downriver and following the large river coming from the south.

We are uncertain if this is the river named for Saint Joachim but he so indicated on his map.”

James looked, seeing how the river was crudely outlined with the name San Joaquin in Moraga's hand. “Did he indicate how far upriver he followed it?”

Lieutenant Argüello shook his head. “He indicated it flowed directly east of Misión San José when he saw it while chasing the Miwok who had attacked the mission.”

The new river flowed stronger and they toiled each day rowing against it. They also passed places with other rivers entering from the east. Neither the lieutenant nor the friars did more than make notes, not naming any of them. “We will leave that to an official expedition if the governor so desires,” the lieutenant explained.

While washing his face in the icy water of a river flowing from the snow-capped mountains to the east, James looked down and choked back his surprise. Several shiny pebbles lay there and he carefully picked them up. Gold! Gold nuggets of surprising size. Teresa Marta saw his reaction and came close, gazing at the stones in the palm of his hand. She said nothing, just raised her eyebrows. When James nodded, she placed her fingers to her lips and held out her hand. When he passed them over, she hid them someplace in her dress. They found others in the next few days, careful not to tell anyone of their discovery.

Gold only came to the attention of the party when they encountered several native families wearing ornaments of the pretty yellow stones. Padres Duran and Abella did their best to keep the soldiers from seeing them and it was only the lieutenant's strict orders that kept the subject out of discussions.

However, two days later in camp, James approached Padre Duran to discuss the precious metal.

Reverend father, I know this is a sensitive subject, but Teresa Marta has found many gold nuggets in the various rivers where we have camped. She has a leather pouch filled with them and both of us seek your council.”

What would you have me say, my son? You know that gold has brought about much grief. If we let it be known there is gold in this land, the results could be most dire.”

James understood the friar was not just talking of adventurers from Mexico, but from other places as well. They would come and they would gather up all the Gentiles they could find to slave for them in gathering up the metal.

Should I give some of this to you for the church?”

Padre Duran thought for several moments before responding. “What would I do with the metal? If I report it, it will only draw questions from whence it came. And, even if it did not draw unwanted curiosity, what could it be used for?”

James and Teresa Marta had discussed it, so he told the friar, “Perhaps we can melt it down and turn some of it over to use for sacred objects in the chapel. It would be a form of the tithe the Holy Bibles teaches of.”

The friar liked that idea.

Both dropped the subject.

We have travel seven days south on this river of San Joaquin,” Lieutenant Argüello announced over the evening meal. “It clearly stretches much further to the south and may well be the valley Governor Fages encountered so many years ago.”

The friar agreed, adding that their his records suggested the same.

And the Snowy Mountains there to the east may well be the same Governor de Anza crossed on his way from Sonora with the settlers.”

Again, the friar agreed about the Sierra Nevada which seemed to wall them off from the east.

And the hills to the west may be separating us from el Valle del Rio Elizario,” James added. “The people on that side of this river appear to be related to those in that valley.”

After much discussion, it was decided the time had come to turn back. “We have discovered what is needed,” the lieutenant declared.

As they had all along the river, the Gentiles came to the camp to accept small trinkets from the strangers and share what little food they had. The friar was taken aback when three or four of them spoke halting Spanish, indicating they had visited one or more of the missions on the other side of the hills, confirming that they indeed divided them from el Rio Elizario.

The return voyage took far less time as the current carried them along at a most rapid rate. Their only problem came with sandbars now exposed by the lowering water levels. They guessed it was due to less runoff from the mountain snows.

James and Teresa Marta spent two days at Misión Dolores, mainly to help the friars complete their records and reports. As on the journey there from Carmel, they returned accompanied by two Mestizos from the mission going back to Misión Santa Clara. From that mission, they continued south alone, meeting friendly Gentiles along the way or being hospitably welcomed at Misión Soledad. The friars were most interested in their stories of the journey.

The Family celebrated their return, many hugs and kisses showing how much they were cared for.

We never really feared for you, my son,” Timothy said.

David agreed, hugging his best friend in a very un-Esselen show of affection.

At their first opportunity, they gathered their parents in a secluded place and showed them the two leather pouches of gold they had gathered.

Jaime and Butterfly just shrugged, indicating they would make pretty baubles.

Timothy well knew their value and urgently hissed, “Does anyone else know of your finding this?” He listened as Teresa Marta told of their discussion with Padre Duran and his comments. He then turned to Apolonia and asked her to bring him one of the gold coins they had received from a trading vessel.

It took a moment for him to figure out how to compare values, but managed to make a device where he balanced a plate on the hilt of his hunting knife. He placed the coin on one side of the plate and added a nugget to the other. It was one of the good sized ones and it almost weighed the same. Adding a couple of smaller ones leveled the plate. They continued measuring out other amounts, keeping a total on a piece of parchment from Timothy's desk.

He finished and stared at the pile of nuggets on the table. After double-checking his sums, he softly said, “The nuggets equal seventy-five Doubloons or three hundred Spanish dollars.” Seeing that really meant nothing to any of them, he sighed and scribbled some more, finally indicating it also equaled seventy-five English pounds.

While this is not a great sum of money, it is worth a great deal in Spain and the remainder of Europe.” In an effort to explain the value in their terms he pointed out that it was equal to what each mission was supposed to receive from the Pious Fund for one year. “We must carefully hide this away and never, ever speak of it.”

All agreed.

James made it a point to take every possible opportunity to search for more of the precious metal for emergencies.


Rubio kept them apprised of events throughout the colony.

Padres Uria and Olbés worked very hard with their disciples to build a stronger and better church of adobe and stone at Misión Santa Inés. The heavily buttressed walls of five feet thickness supported heave roof beams from the far away San Rafael mountains. The roof was of red, curved tiles. They also rebuilt the friar's quarters and added a new campana.

You all know of the Americano who deserted his ship and fled to Misión San Juan Bautista?” When all nodded, Rubio told them of Padres Arroyo and Martinez finishing the interior of the chapel with a tile floor, a new main altar, new reredos or altar pieces holding six statues completed by Thomas Doak. “He did so in return for a place to live and food to eat. It is said he is considering becoming a Spanish citizen, accepting baptism, and marrying the daughter of Corporal José Castro.”

Rocking silently, they watched the sun lower into the sea.

James was the first to speak. “We have a good life here. The friars have brought prosperity to this land and all benefit from the various things they have taught the disciples. We should all give thanks to Our Most Holy Mother Mary for all of these blessings.”

Timothy, now feeling the years upon his shoulders, softly responded, “I have learned never to take anything for granted. We have a good life now. But, what lays in store for us? We must always be prepared.”

Jaime, gray now coloring the hair at his temples, just nodded. As was the way of his people, one did not look far into the future – except with the certain knowledge that, one day, The Creator would call.

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