Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Mission San Carlos Boromeo del Carmel

1830 – A Dark Time

It does not appear that fortune smiles down upon Misión Soledad, mi marido.”

James need not answer.

A small temporary chapel stood at a place where temporary walls of brush outlined what had once been the quadrangle. Like the other structures, it was made of wattle. An area several hundred paces downhill clearly was for making clay to turn into sun-dried bricks, but only a paltry pile of bricks showed signs of any rebuilding efforts.

The second gathering of jacals housed the families of disciples drawn to the mission. They knew from listening to Father Prefect Sarria that drawing Gentiles had always been a problem. The original family that had greeted the first expedition still lived in the area, at least the grandchildren of them.

Padre Gonzalez met them at the small area housing the sacristy at the rear of the chapel and sadly smiled at them. “The river floods and we find ourselves rebuilding, my children.” He knew them from the time he had served at Misión San Carlos. When asked, he told them Father Prefect Sarria had gone to Misión San Carlos in response to an urgent call. “I do not know why, my children, as I was attending to disciples at a rancho where we keep a large flock of sheep.”

The stables were at the far back corner of the quadrangle and the friar had one of the disciples take them there, instructing him to give them all the assistance they needed.

In spite of the flood damage, the mission bustled with activity, producing many of the goods needed, not only to sustain itself but to supply items to the Presidio del Monte Rey. A huge stack of hay beneath the rafters provided fodder to the horses and another hay stack gave them a thick cushion for their sleeping roll.

Lacking the fancy murals and friezes of other missions, the chapel had a small crucifix but provided room for the disciples who crowded inside to join in for Vespers. The evening meal was primarily mutton and the mayordomo explained that was due to the flocks kept at to ranchos to the west. “We have four thousand head of cattle to the west on the other side of the river along with eight hundred horses.”

Do you even have Gentiles from the big valley to the east stealing your livestock?”

The corporal of the escolta told them it had been a problem until a foray was made into that area by a squad of leatherjackets from el Presidio del Monte Rey “They found the culprits and burned their village to the ground, taking back the stolen livestock.”

When Teresa asked it that raid had affected the local disciples, Padre Gonzalez replied. “If anything, it strengthened our congregation's belief in our power and determination to care for them.”

James could not help himself. “How will they react if the plan to secularize the missions is completed?”

Both the friar and mayordomo showed their distress about the pending process, clearly stating they saw it to be the end of the mission. Not only were the disciples opposed to it but they knew of nobody qualified to take up the administrative duties performed by the friars.

I do not understand, Padre. The river does not flow rapidly or deeply here. Where do you get your water?”

Padre Gonzales told them that the zanjas carried water from an arroyo four leagues south and east of the mission. “And, as you know, it does not take a great deal of rain to the south to cause el Rio Elizario to overflow its banks. We cannot move the mission much further away without rebuilding the irrigation system.”


The aroma of freshly harvested onions wafted on the breeze out of the northwest, the direction of the small pueblo known as Salinas.

Their first goal was Rancho Llano de Buena Vista, on the north side of the now-dry el Rio Elizario. They were quite familiar with Lieutenant José Mariano Estrada from his time as the commandant of the artillery emplacement in Monte Rey.

One of the fieldworkers noted the pair riding towards the main hacienda and ran to alert someone in the compound, a square surrounded by brush walls. The main structure was of adobe with the rest built of wood with thatch roofs.

A woman came out onto the porch in response to the hand's shouts, shading her eyes to better view the visitors. As they drew up to the hitching rail, she gave out a shout of happiness. Teresa Marta! James! What brings you to our humble home?”

Teresa leapt from her horse and skipped up the steps, entering the outstretched arms of her friend. She quickly explained their journey while the foreman led James to where he could water and feed the horses. She and Maria Isabel Estrada nee Argüello had been friends when the family had been assigned to el Presidio del Monte Rey.

By the time James joined the ladies, they busily exchanged gossip and he was seated in a chair with a big goblet of sugar sumac tea in front of him.

Don José has gone into Monte Rey to take care of some business, Don Jaime. I do not expect him to return until tomorrow.”

Not a turn of their hour glass after their arrival, two riders galloped up to the house. One was David Spencer, an ex-employee of William Hartnell, and his wife, Maria Adelaida Altagracia Estrada, Doña Maria's daughter.

James knew Spencer was now operating Rancho Buena Vista on the other side of the river. So, while the ladies chattered, James and David took a walk. As he was part of the reason for James and Teresa taking the trip in the first place, he listened intently as James told him what they'd learned to that part of their trip.

It appears that nobody other than the government in Mexico and los Rancheros want the secularization.”

James agreed. “It appears many more land grants will be given in the years to come. The poor disciples will be left with nothing. Nothing but the poorest of living as slaves.”

They stayed for the midday meal and soon were on their way home. It had been a long time and they looked forward to being with their loved ones.

Instead of following the main highway to Monte Rey, they turned off onto a trail leading into the hills they knew would lead them across to Carmel Valley.

Something is wrong.”

Teresa did not need to be told as she too could hear the tolling of a bell from the mission announcing the death of someone of stature. That it pertained to The Family was confirmed by the hasting crossings of the people they passed. Before he could do so, Teresa kicked her horse into a gallop, hanging tight to the reins of the pack horses. James quickly caught up and they slid to a stop in the plaza in front of the chapel.

Padre Suria scurried out of the chapel and ran up to James. “My son, I am so terribly sorry. They say he died quickly.”

The question “Who?” came out of both mouths simultaneously.

You do not know?”

Who?” James demanded again.

Your father, my son. He is now with the saints.”

Numb with disbelief, James dropped the reins of his horse and followed the friar into the mission cemetery. A large wooden cross, lovingly engraved by hands taught by Uncle Jaime, indicated where Timothy Beadle had been buried. The grave was covered by flowers and Alberto stood watch as a sign of respect.

Father! We did not know where to send news of grandfather's death.” He embraced his father tightly, tears in his eyes.

What happened, Beto?”

Grandfather became bored with staying in the house working on his journals. Over everyone's objection, he went out with the Carlita within a month of your departure. He sometimes steered the boat, always letting Nutrio be the captain. His favorite things was to climb to the top of the mast to seek out shoals of fish.”

Teresa knelt next to the grave reciting the Rosary while working her prayer beads.

There were many squalls in the area the day they went out and Grandfather would not listen when Nutrio begged him to stay on deck. The squall came out of nowhere and Grandfather lost his grip on the shrouds.”

Alberto sobbed and stammered the rest. “He fell atop a coil of lines in such a way that it broke his neck. We were told he was gone before any of the crew could reach him.”

Father Prefect Sarria joined them. “He is with his beloved Carla, your mother, my son. I believe they will someday sit at the feet of Our Lord Jesus and His Holy Father. Do not grieve. He lived a full and wonderful life.”

When it is time, my son, we should go gladly into the Hands of the Lord,” Timothy had often told his son. “I grieved far too long over your mother's death and I do not wish you or any of our family to do the same. Promise me?”

Those words came to James as he dropped to his knees next to Teresa, reciting the prayers with her.

The gate to the family compound was open, two of Guadalupe's sons waiting the arrival of their uncle and aunt. They crossed themselves before leading the horses to the stables. Apolonia stood on the porch waiting to comfort her step-son and daughter-in-law.

James was startled to see Uncle Jaime in his rocking chair. He was not moving, just sitting there staring out at something through eyes growing dim with the eight decades they had looked upon the world. And, when Aunt Yellow Butterfly came onto the veranda, she walked with the aid of a walking stick and the shoulder of one of her great grandchildren. In a very un-Indian like gesture, she opened her arms to bid James to enter her embrace.

Your father, my brother, went as he would wish to go. He loved the sea and could not accept that he no longer contributed as he had for so long.”

How are you and Uncle Jaime doing, Tia?”

Do not worry about us, nephew. We are doing as The Lord wills us.”

Seeing that his uncle had not moved since their arrival, James went and knelt next to him, taking his hand. The years of working wood have taken their toll. These hands are no longer supple and strong. “Uncle. It is James. Are you well?”

Slowly, as if awaking from a dream, Jaimenacho the Carpenter, slowly turned his head to look at the younger man kneeling next to him. “Timoteo, my brother. Is that you?”

No, uncle. It is I, James.”

I have not seen your father for some time, Little Jimmy. Do you know where he is?”

Our brother has gone on a long voyage, my husband. He may not return for some time.”

James appreciated Aunt Butterfly answering the question as he could not find the words to explain his father's death.

There was no time for grieving. As the eldest literate member of The Family, James had the responsibility of going through his father's papers to ensure everything was in order. As his father had shared everything with him for many years, there were no surprises. The one thing James had forgotten, was the account in a bank in England. He made a note that a letter to the banker and solicitor was in order.

An unusual event occurred within two days of their return to Carmel. A group of soldiers rode into the valley and directly to The Family's compound. It was led by Governor Echeandia who had finally come to Monte Rey for a Diputacíon he had called to deal with important territorial business.

I did not have the opportunity to become acquainted with your esteemed father, James. But, I have read many of the reports of the Portolá Expedition and am aware of what an important part he played.”

James listened to the words, somehow sounding hollow to him. He was well aware that Echeandia was a snob and had little desire to deal with half-breeds and Indians. The lack of a title of respect when addressing him was not unexpected.

I appreciate the honor you show my father, governor. I do have a question of you.” When the governor indicated he would listen, James brought up the grants. “Will there be any problems due to the death of my father?”

Of course not, James,” the governor heartily said. “It was legally done and there are no questions as to the authenticity.” He then surprised James with the question, “Would you care to share with me what you will report to the Father Prefect about your journey?”

And what report might that be, governor? My wife and I but decided it was time to explore the land we were born in. It is everything we have been told. A most rich and wondrous land.”

Echeandia realized he was not going to get anything more out of James and simply excused himself, almost ignoring the ladies as he left.

Insufferable snob,” James grunted as the governor rode back to Monte Rey. “How a man like that could be governor of this land is beyond my ken.”

Teresa squeezed his hand in agreement. As she was as literate as James, she helped him go through the various journals and papers Timothy had stored in the large chest made of red wood. Certain they had discovered all there was to know, they decided it was time to continue their journey.

Are you certain you wish to do this?”

Both responded positively to Padre Suria's question. “It is very important to our family to get an idea of what lies in store for us. And, we set out to perform a duty for the father prefect. As my father taught me, one must always carry out a promise.”

A gathering was called for the following Sabbath after Mass. Everyone living in the area attended. Even Uncle Jaime and Aunt Butterfly were there, although Jaime sat in his favorite rocker, this time slowly moving back and forth, a smile on his face as the little children played around him.

The adults listened intently as James and Teresa Marta explained what they had seen and heard, keeping it brief but doing their best to give a clear picture.

So, what does this mean for us, father?” Lupe Felix asked.

I do not yet know. Our hold upon the land and the boats seems to be clear and without dispute. We have a safety to fall back upon if necessary. Our main goal will be to remain clear of any problems now and in the future.”

We must align ourselves with nobody at this time,” Teresa added. “We will, of course, continue our allegiance to the church and the friars. But, we will also not seek to hinder in any way the government's aims and goals.”

All knew that would not be easy to do.

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