Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Monday, March 6, 2017


1824 – The Indians at Misión Santa Inés Rebel

Neither Mateo nor Padre Suria came to dinner one evening. All had seen the arrival and departure of soldiers at the mission, followed by Father Prefect Sarria departing by mule to Monte Rey. Nobody knew what was happening, but it certainly had to be a crisis of some ilk.

Perhaps we should think of moving more of us and our things to Sea Lion Cove,” James suggested.

Do not be too hasty, my son. We need to ascertain what is occurring before we do anything.”

While not about to argue with his father, James could not stop thinking of what might need to be done to protect family. Who should he send? And what things and animals should they take? Would waiting be a mistake?

When he mentioned his concerns to Teresa Marta, she gently smiled, stroked his cheek and said, “If The Good Lord has something in store for us, we will learn His will in due time. Do not fret, my husband. Come, let us seek our bed.”

The reason for the furor was soon known to all. The Chumash disciples and neophytes at Misión Santa Inés had revolted against the soldiers. “Word has come that a disciple from Misión la Purisima visited Misión Santa Inés' He engaged in a very angry confrontation with Sergeant Valdez, who was desperate to provide more food and supplies to El Presidio del Santa Bárbara. The sergeant became very angry with the disciple, had him seized, and seriously flogged.

Soldiers have flogged the disciples before. However, the Padres always stepped in and stopped it from becoming too serious.”

Apparently Padre Uria was not at the mission,” Mateo responded to James' question. “He was at the visita to perform a baptism. He explained that the rebellion centered around the Chumash from Misión la Purisima. The whipping of one of theirs was too much of an insult for them to accept.” He told them disciples from Misión la Purisima made their way to Misión Santa Inés' and fired upon the soldiers with their bows and arrows.

Sergeant Valdez gathered his soldiers and they sallied forth, killing two of the attackers and wounding several more. He then had the soldiers torch the Chumash rancheria, during which sparks set the chapel aflame. The Chumash quickly halted their attack and retreated to Misión la Purisima.'”

Fearing the Chumash might return in bigger numbers, Sergeant Valdez gathered up the friars and prepared to set out for El Presidio del Santa Bárbara. An escolta arrived from the Presidio and escorted Padre Uria and his cats to Santa Bárbara. The Chumash returned and occupied the mission.”

Jaime chuckled, to everyone's surprise. He quickly explained. “Padre Uria would sooner give up his life than leave his cats behind.”

Will the rebellion spread?”

I do not believe so,” Padre Suria answered Jame's question. “The friars and soldiers at Misión San Luis Obispo have sufficient defense and the disciples far out-number the rebels. They will also not attack the Presidio del Santa Bárbara.” He paused to pick his words before continuing. “The reasons for the rebellion are many. Most of it comes from the inability to grow enough food as at the other missions. Misión Santa Inés has never had fertile land in sufficient quantities and they have always relied on sheep. Misión las Purisima is little better and has never fully recovered from the massive earthquake.”

Mateo readily agreed. “The governor is moving slowly on this. He does not wish to take soldiers from here or the other missions for fear of leaving those places vulnerable. He is relying on Captain Goycoechea to decide what military actions are acceptable.”

Don Felipe is a most capable commander. He has learned from the best and his men will follow him anywhere.”

They learned early the next morning that Felipe was leading ten soldiers south to assist the soldiers of Santa Bárbara.


Captain Goycoechea was most pleased to see us. He readily provided ten of his own men and we rode to Misión la Purisima.” Felipe looked around and then puffed on his pipe. “It is difficult for me to say this but the prospect of facing a determined band of hostiles was not something I wish to do again. I know we practice such things. But, the chance of a real battle is most unsettling.”

Nobody could look down upon the alférez for his feelings.

The actual battle took three hours although it seemed much longer. The Chumash could not stand against our muskets and the captain led a charge against one group dug in behind a brick wall. Lances and our short swords did what they were designed for. When the Chumash threw down their weapons and begged for mercy, sixteen were dead and many more wounded.”

And your soldados de cuera?”

A few minor scrapes and bruises,” Felipe responded. “Many of our leather jackets held arrowheads but none got through.” Felipe paused once again to suck in a lungful of tobacco smoke, his face growing drawn at memories he would rather not retain. “The governor was most insistent that the rebels be severely punished as a warning to others. We bound all the survivors after having them dig the graves for the dead, and marched them to Misión Santa Inés. They spent the night huddled in the square with only water and we marched them to the Presidio del Santa Bárbara. There, the seven leaders were lined up against an adobe wall and shot to death. Eighteen were put into chains and sentenced to six months at hard labor. Any further problems will be punished severely.”

Do not sorrow, my son,” Father Suria said. “The decision was not yours to make. It came from the governor and even Father Prefect Sarria acceded to it. They were deeply concerned with the rebellion setting an example for the Kumeyaay in the hills east of Misión San Diego.”

The rebels are the same Chumash who often attacked Misión San Luis Obispo, are they not?”

Timothy smiled at David's question, the asking as rare as if it had come from Jaime. “It is most possible. We never knew for certain which rancherias they came from.”

Nerves were taut for the remainder of the year, the couriers most cautious, only stopping at the missions or, in the case of the site of Misión la Purisima, in a spot where they could defend themselves in the event of an attack.

Apparently, the punishments served their purpose as there was not another incident. Even the soldiers were most careful in that any punishment of disciples was left to the friars.


The winter of 1823 to 1824 was unusually cold, ice appearing in the Carmel river further up the valley where snow actually fell several times. It did not stick to the ground very long, but was enough to delight the children – and some adults. The hills further east on the other side of the Valley of the Elizario River, received more snow, some of it lasting for several days. Little damage was done to crops and most of the fruit trees came through unscathed. February was especially difficult to the east and north of Misión San José. At the same time, Misión San Francisco Solano experienced a mild time with no ice. Padre Altamira let everyone know what a good decision it had been to found that mission.

It is time to elect another president guardian of the missions.”

Why is that, reverend father. What caused the old way to change? Reverend fathers Serra, Lausén, and Tápis held the position until they died.”

Padre Suria sighed. “The decision came from the archbishop in the city of Mexico. It was coordinated with the guardian of the apostolic college. Henceforth, all mission president guardians will hold the position for two years upon election by the friars of all the missions.” He then added, “It was the same time the leaders of the church decided that California would become an apostolic prefecture.”

Will the padres come here, reverend father?”

No, my son,” he replied to James' question. “Each will place the name of his selection on a piece of paper and seal it. They will be brought here by couriers and Father Prefect Sarria will count them with the help of myself and Padre Gerardo.”

All knew Padre Gerardo was the senior friar at the Presidio chapel.

It did not take long until all the ballots were received and counted. Father Prefect Sarria, with an almost sigh of relief, made the announcement at Sunday's High Mass. “Padre Narcisco Durán has been elected to serve as the prefect guardian of the California missions for the next two years. A dispatch has been sent to him at Misión San José. Another dispatch has been sent to Mexico to advise the guardian of the apostolic college and the archbishop.”

Another American ship dropping anchor in Monte Rey brought more news from afar. The American schooner Nancy out of a place named Hingham, Massachusetts dropped anchor and Captain Elisha Cobb, along with his first mate came ashore. Having heard of the dire straits of the soldiers of California, he had purposely brought a dozen small kegs of gunpowder, two hundredweight of lead, and bolts of finely woven cloth. Governor Argüello welcomed him warmly and provided him with documents permitting him to obtain any needed supplies from any missions he might visit.

Like most captains sailing to the Pacific coast of America, Captain Cobb had a sailor aboard who spoke fluent Spanish. However, the governor always felt safer with a translator of his own and had Timothy come to the presidio to meet with the Americans. James accompanied his father to see what he could trade for to help the Queen and Carlita. In exchange for the promise of three barrels of fish, he received canvas, cordage, and finely forged steel.

The most important thing for those so isolated was news of the outside world.

Our President Monroe has declared that no European nations may attempt to recolonize anywhere on this land known as the Americas,” Captain Cobb said, his voice coming with a strange twang both Timothy and James found difficult to understand. “Any such attempt will be considered a hostile act towards the United States of America and would be met with a military response.”

Your president sounds a touch brazen,” Governor Argüello responded. “He feels he can stand against the major powers of Europe?”

My fine governor, I do not wish to boast, but we defeated a supposedly superior military from Britain and the others European powers are all either tied up in conflicts or still licking their wounds from recent wars. President Monroe has no doubt as to the power of our navy or the ability of ships like my Nancy. She may not seem so, but her twelve long guns out-man many who have come against us.”

The governor and his officers had been invited aboard the schooner and had no doubts the American captain was not boasting emptily.

Have you news of Mexico, my good captain?” the governor asked. “We are far from the City of Mexico and have had no word for several months.”

Well, your government has been through a bit of a stir. We anchored at a port called Acapulco and were told that your emperor has abdicated his throne and already left Mexico for Italy. A cabal of generals, including an Antonio López de Santa Anna, encouraged the congress to demand he step down and replaced him with another general named Guadalupe Victoria. Another general, Vincente Guerrero, supported Victoria and acts as his second.”

The first mate spoke up. “It is no longer the Empire of Mexico, but has been renamed The United Mexican States and the new congress members have written a constitution similar to ours.”

That did not mean a lot to those present. The governor simply grunted. Later, after the Nancy sailed, he called his officers together and had them swear an oath of allegiance to the new constitution and president. Couriers carried orders to the other presidios and missions, directing all soldiers to do the same.

The next change came when President Prefect Durán declared he had selected Misión San José to be his headquarters. “All current records are to remain here at Misión San Carlos,” Padre Suria told the gathering on the veranda. He also announced that Misión San Diego had grown to the point where eighteen hundred and twenty-nine disciples were registered there. “The padres are kept very busy and many of the disciples work for the presidio. Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of grazing land for livestock so they must make do with farming and orchards.”

And then Governor Argüello wrote and signed a degree that caused many to groan – and many more to become criminals – a one hundred percent tax on all imports and exports. There being no way to control this, the only money received was by patrols coming upon those engaged in smuggling and taking everything away from them. Of course, some were better smugglers than others, especially in areas far from Monte Rey.

I have received news that a large number of Gentiles have arrived at Misión San Juan Bautista from the Tulare Valley to the east.”

I too have heard that news, my friend,” Felipe said. “I was told that it came from an expedition there by the sergeant and two of his soldiers. I believe Padre Arroyo went with them.”

How did he get so many to return with him?”

Felipe shrugged. “I am certain some will say it was done by force.”

I sincerely doubt that, my son,” Father Suria said. “Padre Arroyo would never allow force. I am certain he took a few mission disciples with him and they pointed out how better than life was at the mission.”

A nicer piece of news arrived during the summer months. Padre Juan Cabot at Misión San Miguel had always been an innovative individual. He often came up with ways to do things easier and faster. So, it was no surprise that he had a shelter constructed at the hot sulfur springs nines miles to the east of the mission. It was to facilitate what the local Salinans had know from beyond memory, that soaking in the springs eased the pain of sore joints.

It appears the weather in the valley is warming. But, the building has become an attraction to travelers.” Mateo grinned. “I have heard that many soldiers have asked for transfers to San Luis Obispo, San Miguel, y San Antonio just so they can enjoy the soothing effects of the springs.”

And is it unusual how the governor frequently finds reasons to inspect those and other missions to the south?”

All joined in the laughter at Felipe's observation.


Your English friend, Arnel, is drinking very heavily.”

Timothy turned to Padre Suria. “I am most unhappily aware of that, reverend father. His partner became disheartened and left. Then, he received a letter from his sister telling him that his uncle had died. The uncle was the one who obtained for him a position in the trading company in Valparaiso. It greatly depressed him.”

Well, he turned to Padre Martinez for assistance. He tells me that Señor Arnel is doing very well. In fact, I am told he has become most smitten by Señorita Maria Teresa, the daughter of Don José of Santa Bárbara.

Timothy chuckled. “So I have heard. He makes extra journeys there, claiming they are for business purposes. As her father also drinks heavily, I do not think it deters her from being attracted to William.”

Padre Martinez tells me he is considering converting to Catholicism. Perhaps, as you so did, you could talk to him about it?”

Of course, Reverend Father. I would be most pleased to do so.”

Timothy had found time to frequently go to Monte Rey to find time to speak with Hartnell and did so the next day after Padre Suria's news.

A few days later, they all sat rocking on the veranda. “I am convinced that William is most sincere in his desire to convert, reverend father. He understands what it means and, as he told me, he believes the Anglican church only exists because of King Henry, not a real difference in doctrine.”

Therefore, a few days later, William H. P. Hartnell stood in the San Carlos chapel with Timothy standing as his sponsor to be baptized by Padre Martinez as a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

Nobody was surprised when he boarded the next ship south with the idea of asking for the hand of Don José's daughter.

Some missions reported excellent harvests while others suffered. Some had large numbers of livestock while others did not. In all instances, it was the duty of the governor and the president guardian to allocate supplies in accordance with the request of the presidio commandants and the senior friar of each mission.

It is not as easy as one would think,” Padre Suria said. “There is a constant refrain from each site that they cannot spare a single bushel of wheat or head of cattle. And the military commandants constantly complain they are not receiving enough to keep their soldiers in condition to perform their duties.”

I understand the problem,” Timothy said. “It is not always easy to decide who gets what and were it comes from. Our family has grown quite large and we constantly struggle to ensure fairness of the allocation of what we have.”

At least we have no problem with that in the fishing fleet. I do not ever remember a time when we could not fill our nets to provide for here, Monte Rey, Willow Place, and Misión Santa Cruz.”

That may not always be the case, my son. Do not become overconfident.”

James looked down, recognizing the truth of his father's words.`

Another family had moved from Carmel to Sea Lion Cove, one of Jaime's grandsons, his wife, and four children. Pablo had learned the craft of working with wood from his grandfather and easily helped George construct sturdier buildings. Each now had well-built homes with earthen sod roofs to fend off the frequent fogs. A large structure had been erected for the livestock, although the animals roamed freely throughout the canyon. Only the goats could climb out, but had learned to stay close to humans.

Several hectares had been tilled and planted with grains and alfalfa. Two large gardens provided plenty of fresh vegetables and several fruit trees put sweets on the tables. Most important, the two women got along as well as did George and Pablo.

We carefully surveyed the area, father, and have determined it should hold five families without overcrowding or straining the water resources.”

Thank you, James. Your uncle and I will consider who should go in the event it becomes necessary. All of our sons and daughters will have their say so in the matter.”

How much longer do you think we can keep it a secret from the others?”

Timothy chuckled at Mateo's question. “It is not a secret now. Many suspect we have a secret place but not where. Both Padres Suria and Sarria suspect the two families now live in another place. They are just too polite to ask.”

And the governor is too busy with other affairs,” Felipe added. When asked what they were, he said, “Word has arrived from Mexico. As I told you before, we are now part of the Mexican United States and congress called for an election. Seventeen states voted for General Guadalupe Victoria and he is now the president.”

What do we know of this Guadalupe Victoria?”

He is a true hero of the revolution,” Mateo responded. “It is a long story, but the summary is that he was, at first, quite victorious over Spanish forces, until mid-eighteen hundred and when he lost all the towns under his command. His men abandoned him and he fled into the jungles around Veracruz. He was offered a pardon but refused. He survived on eating herbs, fruits, and animals. He developed The Fits but occasionally entered towns where the people eagerly greeted and cared for him.”

Mateo went on to explain how Victoria left the jungles in 1820 and a garrison stepped forth to follow him. “From that point, his army grew and he soon controlled Veracruz, the heart of the way in and out of Mexico. The emperor declared him a criminal and even put him in prison. No one knows how, but he managed to escape to return to the jungles of Veracruz where the people helped him.”

Father Suria spoke up. “In August of this past year, the congress called for a presidential election. Each state legislature appointed two candidates and the two who received the most votes were to be elected as president and vice president.”

And we have a state legislature? And voted for two candidates?”

Mateo chuckled. He then grew serious. “We have not been given the status of a state, but were declared a territory. We are the el Territorio de Alta California and the south is still Baja California. As such we have no legislature, but do have two delegates to the congress with no voting powers.” He quickly added that there was a state diputación with delegates elected by the various pueblos. They all knew who the delegates were, the same who had been members of the previous junta, or governing council.

The gathering learned that Victoria was part of the Triumvirate selected after the departure of Iturbide and was thus elected by the majority of the seventeen states. Guadalupe was inaugurated October first as the first president.

Well, we know that President Victoria never gave up the fight against the Spaniards, but do we know his policies?”

He was part of those who wrote the constitution. Until we see and read a copy of it, it will be most difficult to determine those policies.”

The months passed with little word from Mexico. Couriers from Loreto had little or no news and the most they learned was from passing ships. All the ships told them they would not drop anchor in Mexican ports as the taxes were excessive.

Then why do they stop here in California?”

Felipe chuckled. “Because the governor would rather have the trade than not.”

Another passing American whaler had news of great interest. Isaac Mallow of Boston in the brig Angelina told them, “Your ex-emperor tried to return to Mexico with his wife, two children, and an aide. The commandant of the garrison immediately arrested him and, without delay, put him in front of a firing squad on the nineteenth of this past July. His wife, children, and aide were put back aboard the ship and returned to Italy.”


It is said that a new governor has arrived in the territory.”

That caught everyone's attention. However, they waited until they sat down to eat the Sunday afternoon meal. The adults sat at one large table while the children sat at three smaller ones. Las Señoras sat with their husbands, a rare event, while las Señoritas served the meal.

Felipe held their attention. “His name is José María de Echeandía and he was a lieutenant colonel at the college of engineers in the City of Mexico. He is also said to have been a strong supporter of General Vicente Guerrero. President Victoria saw fit to appoint him as the governor of the Territory of California.”

He went on to explain how the governor and his party arrived from the south in San Diego on a day in the month of October. “He came with two lieutenants, Romualdo Pacheco and Agustin Zamorano, along with an escort of soldiers and several administrators, including women and children. He is unmarried.”

After taking a sip of wine, Felipe added, “It is said he rode up the hill to the presidio at a gallop, flags flying from the lances of the soldiers. A cloud of dust rose behind them. They say he is an older man, but fine looking and dressed in a very fancy uniform. Quite fair of visage with black hair and a clean-shaven face.”

The men understood that Felipe provided those details for the ladies, who always wanted to know such things.

In spite of his time on the road, his clothing was neat and well-kept.”

Mateo could not remain quiet. “What is this rumor I heard that Lieutenant Zamoranos brought a printing press?”

That caught all by surprise. To their knowledge, there was no such mechanism in all of California, although they had heard of them from passing ships.

It has to do with the governor's whim of printing up little cards, not just to remind him of things or social purposes, but upon which to announce laws he plans to enact. “It is also said he used it to print up invitations to a formal party he held at the presidio shortly after his arrival. Only Mexicans were invited, no Gentiles or disciples.”

What more do we know about the governor?” James asked. “Any word on when he is coming to Monte Rey?”

Felipe shrugged. “He is the governor. He sent word to Captain Argüello that he is relieved of his duties and offered to send him to Guadalajara to represent the territory. While the captain's wife is not happy about it, she had no choice and he sent a message back that he would be going there at the first opportunity.”

Couriers have gone to Mission San José to notify Father Prefect Durán of the change and to be prepared to attend the governor when summoned,” Padre Suria reported.

Yet another sad item of news arrived from Misión San Juan Bautista. “Reverend Father Tápis has passed. The disciples are heart-broken and sing his praises day and night in the choral manner he taught them. He was buried in the church sanctuary.”

All bowed their heads in memory of the little friar who had carried his burdens well, always thinking first of his beloved neophytes and disciples. His journeys from north to south to visit the missions were always undertaken without escort, when able, and only his trusted assistant following on a mule while the friar rode his donkey.

The mission will remain short of one friar until Father Prefect Durán can find one to replace him.”

Everyone knew that would be difficult as almost every mission had the minimum of friars necessary to operate – even after the abandonment of Misión la Purisima.

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