Mission Santa Barbara
1830 – Return to The Sea
The eight leagues from Misión San Buenaventura to el Presidio del Santa Bárbara passed quickly. Wide beaches in many places provided respite from the dust of the highway and they found many spots to water their mounts from streams winding their way down from the gentle hills. Chumash often made their homes along those streams and always offered what little they had to the travelers. In each, at least one large Tomol was either being worked on or laid upside down on the sand.
Unlike the other presidios, el Presidio del Santa Bárbara was set well back from the shore line. Even from a distance, they could see the lack of maintenance, except for small building outside the walls clearly belonging to families of the soldiers. Two artillery emplacements sat between the shore and the main fortress, but they also showed a distinct lack of care. No one manned the guns and they saw one solitary artilleryman lolling under the shade of a jacalón with open sides. The sentry at the main gate barely recognized their presence and both wondered if he even possessed powder and ball for his aged musket. The patches at his elbows and knees spoke of has lack of clothing – and probably other supplies.
“And with these, Mexico plans to defend this territory from the Russians – and Americans,” James muttered.
A listless flag hung atop a pole in front of a building appearing to be the headquarters of the company. The lack of a sentry did not surprise them. After looping the reins of their mounts over the hitching post, they entered to find a clerk sleeping in a chair leaned against the wall.
“Where is your commandant?” James growled after kicking the chair to rouse the soldier. “Is this a military post or the local saloon?”
Fear in his eyes, the soldier leapt to his feet and stammered, “The lieutenant is not here, Señor. He is, uh, occupied with military affairs.”
“More like sleeping,” Teresa muttered loud enough for the fearful soldier to hear. His face reddened and they both guessed she had come close to the mark.
“And who asks for the commandant?” The gruff-voiced question came from an older soldier entering the office. From the insignia, both knew him to be a sergeant.
James introduced themselves and explained they were on a journey of the territory. “We wish to inform the commandant of a warning on bandits preying upon travelers on the highway from Misión San Buenaventura.”
“We well know of those rumors, Señor and have learned to pay them no heed.” He told them he was Sergeant Salazar, further explaining that Captain de la Guerra y Noriega was nominally the commandant. “As there are few duties to perform, he utilizes his time seeing to various endeavors here and at his rancho. Lieutenant Domingo Carrillo is acting in his place.”
“Lieutenant? I thought Don Domingo was an alférez. As well as his brother, Anastasio.”
“You know the lieutenant, Señor?” He then intently listened as they told him of their presence at the wedding of Don José Raimundo those many years ago at Misión San Carlos. His jaw then dropped when he heard them tell of being but babies during the daring trek in which the elder Carrillo had been a part.
“Jaime! Teresa Marta! It is so good to see you again.” Lieutenant Carrillo bustled through the main door, still making adjustments to his hand-tailored uniform. “We had no idea you were coming.” He then turned to Salazar and ordered him to have someone see to the animals of their distinguished guests.
“Oh no, Domingo, that is not necessary. We but stopped to pay our respects before continuing on to the mission. The animals are quite well where they are.”
“You will at least come to my humble home, will you not?”
They agreed and walked with Domingo through a small gate in the garrison wall to an adobe building somewhat larger than the others. A woman came to the door and was introduced as Conception, the sister of Pio Pico. Several children played in the yard and Domingo explained they were but a few of his. His daughters, ranging from a near toddler to a girl of about 12 years, worked around the house and they learned their names to be Maria, Angela, and Antonia.
They could not refuse the refreshments, a Sumac tea with sweet rolls covered with vanilla fresh from the oven in the corner of the kitchen. Conception took Teresa off somewhere so she could refresh herself.
Domingo listened intently as James explained their trip – and mission. “Ah yes, the demand for secularization of the missions. A most serious folly.”
Those words surprised James. “You consider it to be a folly, Domingo?”
“Of course. Los Indios are in no way prepared to take over the responsibilities for mission industries by themselves. The land will go to ruin and they will sell themselves into peonage.”
The ladies soon rejoined them and Conception tried her best to have them remain with them. She was not pleased at their insistence of going on to the mission.
“We have also been given a task by the father prefect and that means we must visit the mission.”
“Well then, you will meet our presidio chaplain, Father Mendez of the Order of Preachers.”
Both had heard that a Dominican was serving at the presidio, mainly due to the lack of Franciscan friars to perform the function.
The mission dominated the hillside, its single tower seeming to touch the low clouds. Unlike the presidio, the mission shone bright with a coat of white stucco and red roof tiles. Gardens grew profusely and they saw several orchards, some vineyards on the hillsides, and what had to be the famous irrigation system constructed by Reverend Father Paterna. Disciples were everywhere in their clean white clothes and it was clear to anyone that passed by they were happily going about their various tasks. As it was nearing time for Vespers, James and Teresa knew them to be caring for their own personal lives.
A man wearing the sash designating him as mayordomo hurried up and offered to have their animals taken to the stables. He just grunted when they told him they would care for them but did send two young disciples to ensure they had fodder and fresh straw.
The Vesper bells rang and they followed the gathering moving into the chapel. The interior was equally as beautiful as all the others they had seen. Shrugging off the request that they take a place in the front pews, they stayed at the back of the chapel underneath a balcony where disciples sang the appropriate verses during the rite. Padre Jimeno led the prayers with the Dominican priest kneeling in an alcove dedicated to Saint Barbara.
They did go forward to enter the sacristy after prayers at the invitation of the friar. He knew them both and greeted them with blessings and hugs. He then showed them to the communal dining area where they had a filling meal.
“The father prefect wishes to know our feelings on secularization?” When James showed him the scroll, Padre Jimeno shook his head. “I cannot be clearer to Reverend Father Sarria. It is a very bad idea and our children are not ready to assume the duties required to keep this land bountiful.”
During the evening's musical interlude, they also talked to several representatives of the mission village, to include several elders, all of whom repeated what Padre Jimeno had told them.
“Is there any way the governor can be dissuaded from this course of action?”
“I do not believe so, husband. As Don Domingo told us, those in Mexico are determined to take the mission lands from the friars. I also believe they well know the disciples are unready and cannot do what is necessary.” Seeing Teresa's questioning eyes, he added, “It is but a ploy to turn mission lands over to those who support the new government and strengthen Mexico's hold upon the territory.”