Wednesday, May 24, 2017
My less than successful relationship with my publisher is over and the rights to my three novels in Father Serra's Legacy have reverted to me. I will be devising completely new covers and blurbs so more people will find - and enjoy - the stories of the discovery of California.
Friday, May 19, 2017
This has been, by far, the most difficult novel I have ever written.
It's not the hours and hours of research and more research I've put into it. It's not the characters telling the story. In fact, I purposely moved from Timothy and Jaime as the main characters in the first three novels to James and Teresa Marta, Timothy's son and Jaime's daughter.
I think the difficulty lies in my hesitation to present the absolute disaster of taking the missions away from the friars.
By the tine Mexicans were fighting for independence, the missions in far away California had tens of thousands of Indians living and depending upon them. The thirty in Baja California were limited by the available of water for irrigation as the entire peninsula is desert. However, most of those that remained open in 1822 were self-sufficient and supported a reasonable population.
However, the twenty-one in Alta [or Upper] California had become self-sufficient, not only supporting themselves but the soldiers and civilians living in the area. Huge herds of cattle, horses and mules. Fields ripe with grains, gardens filled with vegetables, orchards growing an amazing variety of fruits from apples to bananas and figs, and vineyards covering hillsides. Flocks of sheep provided wool for looms that produced beautiful cloth for all sorts of purposes. Fields of cotton turned into thread for making clothes. Suet from slaughtered cattle providing tallow for immense numbers of candles and hides tanned into exceptional leather. The disciples made sun-dried bricks for construction, tiles for roofs, and hewed stones for construction. They cut down trees to produce excellent lumber.
And then comes the part of the story that hurt me to the quick – secularization.
Tens of thousands of los Indios fought in the Mexican war for independence under their white officers, being promised freedom and lands if they won. And the Mexican government held true to its promise. What was left over from granting lands to the officers was turned over to los Indios who were able to successfully turn mission industries and lands to their own use without needed guidance of a friar or priest.
That was because they had a proven agrarian society before the arrival of Europeans. They were Stone Age peoples, but with records of amazing construction and intellectual advancement.
But, Mexico tried to do the same for the Californian Indians. It just couldn't work – and it didn't.
California Indians lived in a somewhat paradise and never needed to travel more than one day from where they were born. They had little or no clothing, wearing mostly paint and tattoos. They lived off the wild, foraging for roots and eating what meat they could gather with their wooden spears and crude nets. Rats, mice, gophers, moles, snakes, rabbits, insects, an occasional antelope or deer or whatever carcass they might find. They lived in crude huts of brush and mud. When there came disease – many natural to California and North America – or drought, or floods, or earthquakes, they buried their dead and went on with their life.
The most advanced were the Coastal Chumash who built beautiful canoes and fished with crude spears and nets. They routinely sailed out to the Channel Islands.
Even then, never having needed it, they lacked the discipline necessary for a successful agrarian society, which the friars brought them.
I could write a dozen chapters about the variety of Mexican governors assigned to the Territory of California, each one either inept, corrupt, or egotistical. The soldiers who had retired and received land grants along with settlers who made special friends with particular governors were given land on which they established Ranchos. With little education, they concerned themselves only with their own life as lords of the lands and los Indios suffered under their tyranny. Petty spats became common as those Californios of the north feuded with those of the south.
“Los Angeles should be the capitol.”
“No! Monte Rey should.”
In any case, I had to make a decision. There had to be a place to stop. It had been eighty years from the date of the Portolá Expedition when James and Teresa Marta were born. Would they still be alive in 1840? We know of a few rare cases where un Indio was still alive from the time and even into the 1860s. But, would James and Teresa Marta survive that long?
I decided no and turned to Andrew – James’ daughter’s husband, and Santiago Mateo to tell the final chapter.
I have tried to personalize and bring to life events in the dust of history, hidden on bookshelves nobody visits. To bring to life the men in their gray robes who left all they knew behind to live a frugal life with one goal; to bring The Word of God to the Indians they looked upon as their children. And to erase the lies of men like Howard Howe Bancroft who painted them as cruel slave masters who cared little about the welfare of the Indians forced to live at the missions.
So, following are some of the milestones that Jorge and Santiago would have witnessed in the next decade:
The Bartleson-Bidwell party with mules and on foot groped their way across the continent using the untested California Trail in 1841. A sign of things to come as they were followed by another exploratory party of Americans coming down the Siskiyou Trail from Oregon.
During that same year, Francisco Lopez, the mayordomo of the Mission San Fernando, was in the canyon of San Feliciano, which is about eight miles westerly from the present town of Newhall, and according to Don Abel Stearns, "with a companion, while in search of some stray horses, about midday stopped under some trees and tied their horses to feed. While resting in the shade, Lopez with his sheath knife dug up some wild onions, and in the dirt discovered a piece of gold. Searching further, he found more. On his return to town he showed these pieces to his friends, who at once declared there must be a placer of gold there."
Then the rush began. As soon as the people in Los Angeles and Santa Bárbara heard of it, they flocked to the new "gold fields" in hundreds. And the first California gold dust ever coined at the government mint at Philadelphia came from these mines. It was taken around Cape Horn in a sailing-vessel by Alfred Robinson, the translator of Boscana's Indians of California, and consisted of 18.34 ounces, and made $344.75, or over $19 to the ounce.
Davis says that in the first two years after the discovery not less than from $80,000 to $100,000 was gathered. Don Antonio Coronel, with three Indian laborers, in 1842, took out $600 worth of dust in two months.
Water being scarce, the methods of washing the gravel were both crude and wasteful. And it is interesting to note that the first gold "pans" were bateas, or bowl-shaped Indian baskets.
In 1842, The first Bishop of Alta California Francisco Garcia Diego, OFM, directed Frays José Jimeno and Juan Moreno to contact Governor Micheltorena for permission to build a seminary in the remains of the quadrangle of Mission Santa Inés. Micheltorena not only gave permission, he also donated 35,000 acres and established an annual annuity of $500 for its maintenance.
In the Seminary's constitution, there is a provision for the education of the young men of the landowners. The wealthy landowners would pay tuition and enough money was set aside for the less fortunate. One wonders at that point why the landowners would even consider educating their sons. There had been no need before, so why then?
Governor Micheltorena, on orders from Mexico, tried to return control of some missions to the friars but, by then, it was too late. Most had fallen into total ruin and there was little else to save them. Misión Santa Bárbara, the seat of the new Bishop, continued in church control but without the compound and land that had once made it so successful.
It was also in 1842 that the biggest land speculator and outright crook to become governor of California was appointed – Pio Pico. It was left to him to finalize the destruction of the missions, selling off everything he could think of to try to fill the territory's coffers. Most of his actions were later declared to be illegal, although he continued to be a powerful figure, even after the Americans turned it into one of their territories.
And then came the American-Mexican War of 1846. Governor Pico tried to prepare to fight off the invaders but had little chance to do so. After decades of neglect, the California military barely existed. Rag tag uniforms, outdated weapons, and little practice in the art of war. While still outstanding horsemen, they simply stood no chance against the well-equipped and highly trained Americans. An American fleet landed at San Diego and quickly won the day both there and at Los Angeles. Pico fled to Baja and begged Mexico to send troops, meeting with complete silence.
The next move came in January 1846, the American House of Representatives voted to stop sharing Oregon with the British. The move of Manifest Destiny came westward. The European population of California numbered no more than 10,000 with about 1,300 Americans and 500 varied Europeans ranging from Monte Rey to Sacramento.
We then come to the famous Bear Flag Revolution in June of that year. Thirty non-Mexican settlers, mostly Americans, staged a revolt and seized their under-manned presidio at Sonoma, taking General Mariano Vallejo into custody. It lasted all of one week until Captain John C. Fremont led American troops to take over the revolt. Shortly thereafter, in July, an American flotilla sailed into the Bay of Monterey and took over the town without a fight. Within a few days, the U.S. Sloop Portsmouth landed and a small body of troops took over the unmanned and ruined Presidio del San Francisco. A few holdouts in the south continued to fight into 1847 but with little chance of winning. To make matters worse, 320 soldiers with women of the Mormon Battalion arrived in San Diego.
The nail in the coffin of Mexican chances in California came in January of 1848 when gold was discovered in large amounts at John Sutter's Mill in Sacramento. Remember, this was not the first discovery as the friars knew about the presence of the precious metal for at least thirty years. The Mexican-American war was concluded in February but, by then, thousands of gold-hungry men from all over the world were descending upon California, turning the sleeping village of San Francisco into a major seaport.
In 1847–49, California was run by the U.S. military; local government continued to be run by alcaldes (mayors) in most places; but now some were Americans. Bennett C. Riley, the last military governor, called a constitutional convention to meet in Monterey in September 1849. Its 48 delegates were mostly pre-1846 American settlers; 8 were Califorños. They unanimously outlawed slavery and set up a state government that operated for 10 months before California was given official statehood by Congress on September 9, 1850 as part of the Compromise of 1850. After Monterey, the state capital was variously San José (1850 – 1851), Vallejo (1852–1853) and Benicia (1853–1854) until Sacramento was finally selected in 1854.
Californios (dissatisfied with inequitable taxes and land laws) and pro slavery Southerners in lightly populated, rural Southern California attempted three times in the 1850s to achieve a separate statehood or territorial status separate from Northern California. The last attempt, the Pico Act of 1859, was passed by the California State Legislature, signed by the State governor, approved overwhelmingly by voters in the proposed Territory of Colorado and sent to Washington D. C. with a strong advocate in Senator Milton Latham. However the secession crisis in 1860 led to the proposal never coming to a vote.
At last, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act declaring that all of the 21 missions in the California mission chain would become the property of the Catholic Church. However, it would not be until many years later than efforts would be made to restore the chapels to their original beauty, almost every one of them shrift of their once vast estates.
Now, what we find in our school systems are a series of misrepresentations of what life was truly like during the period of Spanish Occupation. Most of it comes from a series of books written about California History by Hubert Howe Bancroft, an editor and compiler of documents in San Francisco after the boom of the Gold Rush had faded. He had employees gather documents and letters and journals from a wide variety of sources and employed others to translate them. While his books are filled with footnotes and references often outnumbering the exact text of the missives, there is still no doubt as to his bias again the friars and Mexicans in general.
Bancroft was a slightly educated Midwesterner of Protestant background who showed a clear bias against the Catholic church and its priests in general. In spite of many, many visitors lauding the friars for their devotion to and caring for the Indian disciples, he still managed to taint their efforts with wild stories of slavery and brutal punishment—almost every bit of it unfounded. True, as related in this novel, some friars were cruel and uncaring, but it has to be noted all were later arrivals, many of them of Mexican birth.
In summary, while I did not include footnotes and references in these novels, the various works available in the public domain show a widely different view of the friars than espoused by Bancroft.
My sincerest hope is that readers of this series takes away several things:
In spite of immense hardships, the pioneers who explored and settled a small portion of California were honest, hard-working men who lived up to their oats of loyalty to their king and church.
Devout men of the cloth gave up everything they had known to cross an ocean in difficult times to then go to the furthest edges of the New World to preach the Word of God to those who had no inkling of such a thing. They did so by showing love and caring instead of the cruelty of the whip or lash. They gave everything, suffering untold self-punishment and denial in order to set an example for their disciples.
It was only when the strengthening influence of the friars was dissipated that California fell into chaos, leaving it open to invasion from afar. As some Americans were reported to have said, “California is too beautiful and rich to leave in the hands of worthless Mexicans who have no idea how to make it productive.”
God bless all who read these novels and I sincerely hope you continue to read more on your own.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
1850 – A New Flag Flies Over California
“You do not look like the rest of the Mex who live around here.”
Andrew Lopez did his best to fight back an angry retort. Over the past few months, he had grown accustomed to the crude, even rude, comments by the new lords of the American territory of California. “That is because my grandfather came to this land from England.”
“Oh. A Limey.”
Andrew quickly sipped his warm beer and glanced at his companion, Santiago Mateo. The two had left the compound to walk down to the waterfront to sit in the shade and watch the fishing fleet unload its catch. The Queen and Carlita had long been dismantled, three new keels laid to replace them, all with the swift lines of American craft.
“Those brown-skins sure seem to be working hard.”
“Yes, not the least like their ignorant cousins lazing on those ridiculous ranches of theirs. Wonder how much longer until the governor and the territorial legislature make them give up the land.”
How the two American sailors had made their way to Carmel from Monte Rey was unknown. The harbor there was filled with their craft and the waterfront bars and saloons filled with them – and the horde of local girls eager to earn the coins they freely spent on food, drink, and debauchery.
“Hey! Do either of you know where we can get some action around here? You know, those hot cen-yor-eenas we hear about?”
“You have come to the wrong place. This is but a simple fishing village and all of the women are either married or given to others.”
Both sailors tossed back their drinks and rose, leaving an obscene number of coins on the table as if to show off their wealth – and importance. They swaggered off, following the well-beaten road across the hills, still lined with numerous crosses placed there during the height of Catholic influence in the area.
To add insult to injury, a Protestant cleric had arrived in Monte Rey, establishing a small church in a vacant warehouse once belonging to the Mexican harbor master.
“Do you think the church will ever regain control of the missions?”
Santiago shrugged. “The bishop is trying very hard to have that come to pass. I have heard that the seminary in Santa Inés has a reasonable number of students and, although almost all of the property is gone, Misión Santa Bárbara is still in the hands of the church.”
Certain that the loads of fish had been withdrawn from the holds of the fleet and disposed of to the various shops and establishments waiting for them, the two rose and walked back to the Beadle Compound, as it was now called. Barbara smiled at them and turned to one of the children to tell them to go to the kitchen to gather drinks to take to the two men.
They entered the room which had recently been expanded thanks to some workers from the shipyard and gazed at the leather-bound tomes lining the shelves.
“Do you believe anyone will ever care what these books contain, mi amigo.” That Santiago used Spanish startled Andrew as, since the signs of Mexican control slipping away had appeared, all the members of the household did their best to speak English.
“Granpa. Do you wish milk with your coffee? Mama did not tell me.”
Andrew tousled the little girl's sandy hair and chuckled. “No, little one. I will just add a bit of sugar to it.”
Satisfied the two respected elders had what they wished, Elanita skipped from the room to return to help other adults in the kitchen.
Andrew sighed. “I really do not know, my friend. However, there is one thing I have meant to bring up to you. What think you of wrapping all the old ones in canvas, placing them in trunks, and taking them to Sea Lion's Cove. So far, the Americans have not found it and none of our fellow Califorños know it exists. They should be safe there for many years to come.”
Santiago readily agreed and, after finishing the latest entries in ledgers and journals, set about making preparations to do just that.
“There is a cave in the cliff face where we can store these, father.”
The twenty-five women and children living in the hidden cove several leagues south of Carmel, always welcomed the arrival of one of the boats. Not just for the few supplies, but news of the outside world. They lived well in substantial homes with flourishing gardens, an orchard with a variety of fruit trees, and even some grape vines. There was a sufficient number of livestock to serve their needs, most happily grazing in lush pastures. The stream tumbling down out of the mountains covered with towering redwood trees provided irrigation and water for the sparkling fountains. Human and animal waste was stored in mulch and fertilizer sites to keep the plants growing to unusual heights, corn stalks always towering over the heads of those working the Three Sisters. All of the industries once located in the missions were available to them, making the tiny village self-sustaining.
The most welcome addition was a young man who shyly helped unload the crates containing the books. Germano Rodriguez was the grandson of the herders who had come to California with the first expedition and was one of the very few outside the direct family who knew of its existence. His presence was plain when a young girl approached and took one end of a crate to help carry it to the cave.
“How will we arrange their nuptials, father? Is there a priest we can trust to perform the marriage ceremony?”
“I approached Father Anzar and he said he would gladly perform the nuptials in the chapel in Carmel. I am going to ask them if they feel they are ready and, if so, take them back with us.”
“Maria and I will then return with you father. She will not miss the marriage of our daughter.”
Andrew chuckled. All the women of The Family were strong-willed and could not be denied in matters of family.
All had dark faces during the wedding procession. Not because of anything other than their destination. The mission chapel was in such disrepair that almost nothing was left. Even the wooden pews and kneelers were gone. Fortunately, all the holy items and icons had been safely stored away in a storehouse belonging to The Family.
They rode across the hills to Monte Rey and the chapel of stone. Padre Anzar, a Zacatecan who seemed still devoted to his duties, greeted them at the door wearing his purple alb. Two young disciples, children of retired soldiers who lived in the village and struggled to eke out a living, joined the friar in conducting the rights. One of the older boys acted as a deacon, studying diligently to take up the cloth when he could go to the seminary in Mexico.
Several members of the growing colony of foreigners attended as they had close business ties with Andrew and other members of Carmel.
Much happier, the wedding party rode back across the hills to an open plot of land in front of the Beadle compound. There were two towering oak trees and several pines now named for the town of Monte Rey. A full beef carcass turned on a large spit with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and large iron pots filled with beans, corn, squash, and onions, along with an assortment of savory herbs.
A band played gay music, made up of those who had been taught music by the departed Padre Suria. They were quite good and a newly introduced accordion brought grins to young faces as they danced on the hard-packed earth.
“Where did the ladies find the wine?” David asked. “I thought the cache had been stripped and carried away when they took the mission away from the friars.”
“Do not ask me, my friend. You know how our ladies do some truly amazing things. At least I can tell you the fine beer comes from David Littlejohn's shop. I do not know who brews it for him but I find it quite tasty.”
Nobody was surprised when the newly married couple boarded a boat and departed. It would be their la luna miel.
“We are growing old, my wife.”
Barbara snuggled closer in the bed Andrew's father and mother had slept in for so many years. “I find it difficult to comprehend that mother and father are no longer with us.”
“It has been some time since we received letters from them. But they wrote that things are going well for them in far away England once they overcame initial difficulties.”
“They seemed to be the only constant in this unstable land of ours. One governor after another, some more venal than others. Conflicts between those of the north and south. Claims of Los Angeles being the rightful capitol of the territory. It is most difficult to keep up with.”
“The important point is the wisdom of your grandfather and father. Due to them, we have deeds to our land and our fleet. Along with that, we know that a large sum of money awaits us in a London bank. Our family will never want and even with the encroachment of Americans and others, we will retain our freedom in this place.”
Andrew wished he could share his wife's optimism. They had already seen American warships along the coast and British were being told to depart from the territories of Oregon and Washington. War was coming and Andrew knew the Mexican military could not defend the land. As powerful in name as Captain Vallejo had become in the north, his forces were still armed with flintlock muskets and lances. The few small field pieces lacked shot and powder and those who could successfully man them.
He fell asleep reflecting on what had been lost and what uncertainty faced them all.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Mission San Carlos Borromeo, Carmel, California
1840 – A Most Disturbing Decade
Today is Tuesday, the eighth day of December in the Year of the Lord eighteen hundred and forty at the village of Carmel in the Mexican territory of California. I find it difficult to realize I was born nearby in the towering tule reeds on the bank of the Carmel River.
James set the quill pen in its holder and carefully blotted the wet ink on the thick piece of paper.
“How can you sit here in this dim candle light when the sun shines brightly outside?” Without giving him a chance to respond, Teresa Marta swung open the wooden shutters on the room's windows, filling it with bright sunlight.
The opened windows also showed the sad ruins of what had once been the beautiful Misión San Carlos Borromeo. That view was the main reason James kept the shutters closed. The sight clutched at his heart and increased his frustration at not having been able to stop it.
Aware of his distress, his wife of more than half of a century, laid a hand upon his shoulder and said, “Why do you not let Jorge or Santiago make the entries?”
“Because this is our personal journal that I have failed to keep current. It is my duty.”
“It is also your duty to keep yourself in good shape, mi marido.”
A young girl entered the room carrying a tray with two cups and a pitcher in the beautiful blue and white once produced by the mission. She either did not notice or had seen the many memorabilia lining the walls so many times that she did not think of them.
“Here, hija, place it on this table.”
“May I pour and serve you both, bisabuela?”
Teresa smiled at her great granddaughter and gave her permission to do so.”
Lips puckered in concentration, the little girl of ten years carefully set the tray down on the table and lifted the pitcher to pour steaming hot coffee into both ceramic mugs. She then carefully added one teaspoonful of brown sugar into each cup, along with a dash of thick cream. Once carefully stirred, she placed one cup at James' right hand and the other on the desk in front of the chair Teresa had settled into. When the adults thanked her, she curtsied and skipped from the room.
“How well I remember the days when we thought hot, bitter chocolate was the most delicious drink in the world.” James mused as he sipped from the cup. “Reverend Father Serra cared very much for his chocolate caliente.”
“And he always punished himself twice as severely after savoring it,” Teresa responded.
After sipping from her cup, she said, “So, my dear husband, what brings you to this room and desk? What is so important that others cannot do it?”
“My father instructed me to keep close records of the events in my lifetime as he did in his. I fill my small journal and then transcribe the contents to these large ones.”
“So those who follow will understand who we were and what we did.”
Teresa's comment was more a statement than a question.
A young man knocked on the sill and asked permission to enter. George Stanley Beadle had both his mother's and father's features. The startling blue eyes and sandy colored hair of his father and the dusky skin hue free of the freckles that covered his father's body announced his heritage. He also possessed the broad face and hooked nose of his mother.
“Why do you not permit me to do that, father? Is it not part of my responsibilities?”
“I cannot ask you to do what is my duty to perform, my son.”
“Well then, why do you not speak the words and I will write them down? That way you will not tire yourself.”
“And the writing will be legible for others to read and not all squiggly from an old man's hand,” James responded with a smile and sparkle in his eyes.
Teresa Marta gave James little chance to further complain, helping him to his feet and seating him in the chair she had just risen from. In turn, she pulled up a chair next to him so she could continue sipping her cup of coffee.
“I was preparing to summarize the events since your mother and I returned from the journey from one end of the territory at the behest of the father prefect.”
“Ah yes, father. I have read your notes and journal entries from that event. It appears the various worries and negatives expressed by the friars came to pass and nobody could or seemed to want to stop them.”
George, or Jorge as everyone called him, took a second to sharpen the point of the pen before dipping it into the ink.
Seeing his son ready, James, with Teresa interjecting points here and there, began to talk about the events starting in 1831.
“We learned of the new governor sent to replace Echeandía via a letter arriving at the presidio from Don Carlos Carrillo, our diputado to the Mexican congress. Governor Victoria had been at Loreto for some time as the comandante principal of Baja California. Although appointed in March of that year, he did not reach San Diego until October or November when Don José Maria was here in Monte Rey trying to clean up the Solis Revolt.”
“Ah yes. The rising of the convicts with their leader they called a general.”
“Solis was a general, my son. He led many troops in the battles for independence from Spain. The reason he was stripped of his rank and made a prisoner was due to the many atrocities he personally committed and allowed his troops to commit.”
“At least they did little harm here.”
“That was due to vigilance upon the part of your father and other members of The Family that let it be known they would not hesitate to defend themselves and theirs with weapons far better than those possessed by the rabble,” Teresa Marta forcefully commented. It was clear she had little patience with the unprincipled men who had been foisted upon the territory by those in far away Mexico City.
Jorge then asked about the Battle of Cahuenga Pass.
James explained how Governor Victoria's demeanor and brusque manner immediate made him unpopular with the Californios who demand respect for their standing in the community. The starting point came when the rancheros called upon José Carrillo and Abel Stearns to petition the governor for democratic reforms in the selection of local and territorial governments.
“We heard that Governor Victoria flew into a rage, throwing things about and demanding the immediate execution of the men he called traitors. He later changed his mind and stayed the execution order, demanding they be exiled forever from California.”
James explained how the landowners in the southern area, probably led by Pio Pico or another member of his family, sought out ex-Governor Echeandía, who had not yet left California, to take military action to overrule the current governor's insulting orders.
“The families Carrillo, de la Guerra, and Pico, along with others, gathered in a rag tag army, ill-armed and totally unprepared to fight, and rode into Puebla los Angeles, as they claimed, 'capturing it.' The five soldiers at Misión San Gabriel, stayed in the mission compound so the so-called army had no opposition.”
Taking the soldiers he had at San Diego and the mission escoltas, Victoria led his cavalry north, prepared to engage the traitors. The two forces met on December fifth at Cahuenga Pass.
“As they were all brothers, sons, uncles, nephews and friends of one another,” James said, “they were not, by any stretch of the imagination going to harm, let alone kill, one another.”
George listened as his father related what he had learned from those who had been there. They had fired at one another, aiming high above each other's heads.
“What came next shocked everyone,” James continued. “When Victoria gave the order to shoot again, Captain Pacheco took offense and charged the other side. Alone. With his lanza in one hand and his espada ancha in the other, Pacheco rode his black horse between the two forces, halting and no doubt feeling foolish as he was alone.”
“Captain Avila of the rebel army took offense at Captain Pacheco’s apparent fierce bravery, so Avila went out to meet Pacheco. He carried a lance, for single combat.
“The two fighters were excellent horsemen, and neither had an advantage over the other. Both armies relaxed to enjoy the show; some climbed nearby trees to get a better view of the fight. Pacheco's horse was black, and Avila's horse was white.
“They charged each other three times, and each time they managed to evade each other's lances. On the forth charge, Pacheco struck Avila's lance from hands and it fell to the ground. The loss of his lance infuriated Avila, so he drew his pistol and shot Pacheco out of the saddle. Pacheco died. Avila was shocked at his own behavior and sat his horse in a kind of horrified stupor.”
Pausing to sip his coffee, James realized relating the tale was beginning to tire him, But, for his son’s sake, he gathered himself to continue. “What happened next will go down in California history as a most black point. Victoria, in a burst of rage, drew his pistol and shot Pacheco out of the saddle, killing him. Captain Portilla, a descendant of that brave explorer and governor of California, charged across the field with his lance at the ready, putting it through Victoria's face, ripping off a chunk of flesh and throwing Victoria to the ground where he writhed in agony.”
Having come to an impasse, the two sides drew apart, Victoria's men taking him away and returning to San Diego. Feeling deep shame for what had transpired, Victoria resigned his position as governor, Echeandía immediately taking up the baton of office. Victoria, with his personal escort returned to Loreto and then onward, returning to his home in Mexico.
James also related how Echeandía held the office of governor—his greatest contribution being doing little but making noises—until January 14, 1833, when José Figueroa came from Mexico to assume the position.
“Echeandía had tried very hard to woo the daughter of one of the local ranchers with no success. So, with the arrival of Figueroa, he slipped away on the American ship Pocahontas, along with Padre Peyri from Misión San Luis Rey who took two disciples with him to attend the apostolic college of San Fernando.”
“Reverend Father Peyri had served at the mission for thirty-three years,” Teresa added, “always faithful and giving his all to the disciples he felt were his children. They wept heartily for days after his departure.”
“But, you know all of this, do you not, my son?”
“Yes, father,” Jorge responded. “But only from your writings and what little I learned when the ships brought us supplies at Sea Lion Cove. I am eager to put down every word you and mother have to say. So, please continue.”
“I am afraid not, my son. Your father is tiring and it is time for his to take a brief siesta before we go to the chapel for noon prayers.”
Jorge sighed. He loved his parents deeply but could not understand their daily treks to the hulk of what had once been an important place in the territory to hear the words of a priest tired and despondent. He too strongly believed in the Holy Mother Church and did not understand why The Lord had turned His face away from it. But, he did not see where any prayers would be answered.
Padre José Maria del Refugio Sagrado Suarez del Real, had come to Misión San Carlos in 1833 from the apostolic college in Zacatecas. Like his brother, the friar at Misión Santa Cruz, he had always struggled against the encroachment of foreigners and the tearing apart of the mission lands. Unlike previous friars at the mission, he lacked missionary zeal and love for what few disciples remained nearby. And, with so little to do, the friar had reverted to what so many of his fellow Zacatecans had, spend too much time in his cups—the polite way of calling him besotted.
Those in la Puebla Carmelo not otherwise occupied, followed the lead of members of The Family by attending prayers and mass. Even then, only about half of the pews were occupied and there were, of course, no mission guards. The friar was assisted by two deacons, young disciples who were dedicating their lives to someday become friars like the Franciscaños they had loved so much.
After Mass, James and Teresa walked down to the beach to gaze out at the ocean and the boats riding at anchor.
The Carlita, The Queen, and The San Carlos appeared no different than from the days of their launching so many years before. James sat down on an overturned barrel, his grandson beside him. The boy listened in awe as his grandfather pointed out each feature of the boats, reciting them as directed. There was no doubt that he would follow his grandfather as a sailor aboard one of them.
The sun kissed the horizon, setting the waves aglow.
“The years become so blurred. It is difficult to remember what happened in what order.”
Santiago Mateo nodded. With his father retired and operating a bookshop in Monte Rey, Santi, as he was called, worked for The Family as well as conducting classes for the youth of the village and family. It was the third day of James and Teresa reciting their memories of events and he had happily taken over from Jorge who was on his way to visit Sea Lion Cove.
“The governors changed so often, it is difficult to remember who they were.” Teresa giggled and held her husband's hands. “I think it was Echeandia, then Victoria, then our esteemed Pio Pico, who did everything they could to force secularization upon us.”
“He did not last very long in the position, did he, Señora?”
“I seem to remember it was but twenty days until Echeandía took over in the south and Zamorano here in the north.” James clicked his tongue in disgust. “A governor's secretary acting as governor. What did our territory come to?”
“Remember, husband, Zamorano came into power because of Don Luis' son, Mariano.”
“And then there arrived our beloved General Figueroa.”
Santi could not miss the disgust in James' voice. “He was the one who forced the expulsion of many padres?”
“Yes, and he brought the Zacatecans with him.”
Santi shook his head, sadness darkening his face. “In spite of being stripped of everything, the Franciscan friars loved us with all their hearts and I saw the terrible sorrow in their faces when the disciples were reduced to mere beggars and peones.”
“Well, Figueroa lasted but two years to be replaced by Don José Antonio Castro of the well-connected Castro family.”
“And the Pico clan was most displeased by that,” Teresa muttered.
“Well, Don José became quite powerful when Don Mariano was elevated to the rank of general and comandante of the northern region.”
“I think I learned that Don José is currently transporting foreigners to San Blas as part of the government's efforts to reduce their presence in the territory,” Santi opined.
“He will have an important role in California politics, as we have already seen,” James said.
“The biggest tragedy of the removal of the friars from control of the missions was that men who could neither read nor write nor do sums were in charge of it. I do not understand how that was permitted to happen.” Teresa, a person of normal sunny disposition, surprised them by the cloud of anger covering her features.
James sighed. “The hardest was watching what happened to the disciples. Some took to the woods while others had no choice but to seek shelter at the ranches.”
Teresa stamped her foot. “Not shelter. Slavery! They work for nothing. Are not fed or clothed properly. And are not even taught the prayers or have access to holy rights and the Eucharist. It is criminal and all who are responsible for it should be in prison.”
“Please be calm, mi carida. There is nothing that can be done now. All are well-to-do ranchers with great influence with Governor Alvarado. One cannot turn back time.”
“I pray every day that they will suffer in the fires of Hades,” Teresa said, grit in her voice.
“We need to return to the journal,” James said to ease the tension in the room. “A milestone came in 1836 when Generalisimo Santa Ana sought to punish the Americans in Texas for not abiding by his laws. It had no direct effect here in California other than to make the foreigners most nervous. Especially whether or not Governor Alvarado would impost similar sanctions upon them.”
Santiago had to pause briefly to blot the page, whittle a new tip on the pen, and dip it into the inkwell.
“The members of the cabal had, by then, determined their fate in California hinged upon supporting whichever side was in power at that time. I feel, however, that the most important foreigner of all is going to be that Swiss man, Sutter, in that compound he calls New Helvetia over on the river Sacramento.”
“Has he not recently arrived in the area?”
Teresa spoke, “Don Mariano's wife, Francisca Benicia, says that he feels the man will play an important part in the future of California.”
When Santi looked askance, James grinned. “Do not ask me how she knows such things, my young friend. If you have not yet learned, you will come to realize that women have a far better news spreading service than was ever formed by either the government of Spain or Mexico.”
“I think the event that made me feel saddest was having Father Prefect Durán leave this area to go south to Misión Santa Barbára as administrator of that place. I do not sense that Father Prefect Diego has the same fervor and devotion to the disciples.”
“None of the Zacatecans do,” Teresa grumbled. “Especially that sot upon the hill.” She pointed to the near ruins of Misión San Carlos.
Both she and James stared out the window, near tears at the sight of fallow fields, neglected orchards, overgrown vineyards, and the ruins of the mission. The few men and women in the fields moved sluggishly, despondent over what they had lost. They did not have to turn to look out the other windows to note the shops along the waterfront and the smaller fishing fleet tied up there. The Queen, the Carlita, and San Carlos were now moored at the larger wharf in Monte Rey, now inhabited by more foreigners.
“They will not retain control of this land much longer.”
Teresa knew exactly what James referred to, the increasing presence of men from Europe and their aggressive Americans to the east and north. Almost no support came from Mexico and supply ships from San Blas had long ago stopped arriving in the territory. The presidios were in near ruin, the once proud soldiers in rags, struggling to find the least morsels to feed their families.
“Perhaps the Americans are correct.”
“In what way, honored sir?”
“In that we Californios are wasting a most productive and rich land in ignorance and laziness. Many deign education that does not deal directly with their ranches.”
Santiago could not argue, carefully writing the words of those who had been there from the beginning.