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             poster from Santa Barbara, California's annual Fiesta Days celebration              brief history

Junípero Serra
21 California missions
other missions

books & other media



          By the middle of the XVIIIth Century, the Kingdom of Spain still held only loose control of their colonies in New Spain, which consisted of modern-day Mexico, the peninsula of Baja California, and the Alta California coast. King Carlos III of Spain sought to create taxpayers from the indigenous population in New Spain by teaching them Spanish, converting them to Christianity, and working them as slaves in the fields and vineyards. In 1767, the Jesuits fell into disfavor with the King; they were pulled out of Baja California and replaced by Franciscan monks. Then in 1769, King Carlos ordered the occupation of Spain's territories northward to Monterey. The Dominicans replaced the Franciscans in Baja California, and the Franciscans were told to establish missions along the Camino de Real {The King's Highway} in Alta California; Father Junipero Serra was given authority to accomplish that task.

          Gaspar de Portolà i Rovira [1716-84] was made Governor of Baja & Alta California in 1767, and he led an expedition there in May 1769; the four parties of the expedition met in San Diego, where they established the Mission San Diego de Alcalá on 16 July 1769. The expedition, with Father Serra and Father Juan Crespi [1721-82] (who kept a diary), left San Diego Bay in July, passed thru Los Angeles and Santa Barbara in August, missed Monterey Bay (due to fog), visited Santa Cruz and San Francisco in October, and arrived back in San Diego in January 1770. Portola set out again by land for Monterey and Father Serra set out by ship; this time they found Monterey Bay, and on 3 June 1770 established the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo and the Presidio of Monterey.

          Father Serra then established seven more such missions. When Father Serra died on 28 August 1784, Father Fermín Francisco de Lasuén [1736-1803] took up Serra's work and established nine more mission sites, from 1786 through 1798; others established the last three compounds, along with at least five asistencias. The 21 missions generally defined as California's Franciscan Missions [1769-1823] were roughly a day's journey apart, along the Camino de Real, which is generally the route followed by U.S. Highway 101 today. A tradition exists that the Franciscan friars sprinkled common mustard seed along the route to mark the way for future travelers with yellow flowers; in any case, wild mustard plants abound throughout coastal and valley California.

          Mexico fought a war for independence against Spain from 1810 to 1821; the rebels won, and the Treaty of Córdoba made Mexico officially independent on 24 August 1821. Alta California Governor José María de Echeandía decreed the emancipation of the natives in 1826. The Mexican Congress secularized all missions in Alta & Baja California and in Arizona in August 1833. In August 1834, Governor José Figueroa confiscated the mission properties in Alta California by decree; when no one offered to purchase them, they were broken up into ranchos given to soldiers who fought in the War of Independence. Pío de Jesus Pico IV became the last Mexican Governor of Alta California in 1835; he took control of the remaining land of the missions, leaving only the churches and other core buildings under the control of the Franciscans, who consolidated their headquarters at Santa Barbara.
          President Polk declared war on Mexico in April 1846; encouraged by U.S. Army Major John C. Frémont [1813-90], Alta California broke away from Mexico in June 1846 (the 'Bear Flag Republic'); the United States won the Mexican-American War, and Alta California became a U.S. Territory with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 2 February 1848; California attained statehood on 9 September 1850. The population of California at that time was approximately 15,000 natives, and 8,000 'white people'; by 1875, the native population was down to an estimated 3,000 – the modern term for what happened is 'ethnic cleansing'. The missions in larger cities – San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Fernando, San Diego – were well-maintained by the Catholic Church as active churches, but the more remote missions fell into disrepair, and were often pulled apart for the tiles, adobe bricks, and lumber.

          American illustrator Henry Chapman Ford began a portfolio of oils, watercolors and etchings of the 21 California Missions; published in 1883, the book generated interest in the historic significance of the missions. Helen Hunt Jackson's romantic novel "Ramona" [1884] addressed several issues of Native Americans (racism, half-breeds, land rights); the book remains in print and the Ramona Pageant outdoor play in Hemet, California has been well-attended since 1923. In 1896, Charles F. Lummis [1859-1928] and William Randolph Hearst [1863-1951], and others founded the Landmarks Club of Southern California to begin restoration of the California missions; in 1901, Lummis founded the Sequoya League to protect America's native people. Many of the buildings of the northern missions suffered damage in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
          The only significant modern cultural expression of the Californio Era has been the 'Mark of Zorro' tales by Johnston McCulley [1883-1958], especially Walt Disney's 1957 "Zorro" TV series; Zorro's popularity continues with recent feature films and graphic novels – see the 'El Zorro' Page at 'Readers of The Purple Sage' Western Bookstore. (The similar "Cisco Kid" TV series [1950-56] takes place during the much-later Cowboy Era, after the Transcontinental Railroad was built.)

          The mission buildings and property today are in varied condition; San Miguel is closed due to recent earthquake damage; the missions at La Purisima and Solano are operated by the State Parks Department, and since they are not in use as active churches, have been restored toward their original configurations. The California Mission Preservation Act of 2004 provided $10 million in federal funds over five years to the volunteer, tax-exempt California Missions Foundation for physical preser-vation of the structures.

          From at least the 1950s, and still to this day, the California public school systems teach the Mission & Rancho Era as the theme for the year in fourth grade. Controversy erupts now and then about how little or how much should be included of the romantic Californio legends versus the reality of the mistreatment of the Indians; such controversy is likely to continue.

Spanish Missions in California entry at Wikipedia

browse books about History / U.S.A. / California at Amazon

Junípero Serra [1713-84]

Father Junipero Serra biography by Ivy May Bolton  "Father Junipero Serra" [1952]
by Ivy May Bolton, Illustrated by Robert Burns

Kindle Edition has Introduction by Elisabeth Waters
Kindle Edition from Sisterhood of St. Mary [12/2010] for $2.99
Julian Messner hardcover [1966] out of print/used
Julian Messner hardcover [1952] out of print/used
The Life of Blessed Junipero Serra book by M.N.L. Couve de Murville  "The Man Who Founded California: The Life of Blessed Junipero Serra" [2000]
by Archbishop M.N.L. Couve de Murville

Ignatius Press 10¼x7¼ hardcover [3/2000] out of print/used
Junipero Serra, California's Founding Father book by Steven W. Hackel  "Junípero Serra: California's Founding Father" [2013]
by Steven W. Hackel

Kindle Edition from Hill & Wang/Macmillan [9/2013] for $11.04
Hill & Wang 9¼x6½ hardcover [9/2013] for $19.57
Junipero Serra's Dream & the Founding of California book by Gregory Orfalea  "Journey To The Sun: Junipero Serra's Dream and The Founding of California" [2014]
by Gregory Orfalea

Kindle Edition from Simon & Schuster Digital Sales [1/2014] for $12.29
Scribner 9¼x5¼ hardcover [1/2014] for $22.23

21 California Missions

Mission San Francisco Solano, in Sonoma

Mission San Rafael Arcángel, in San Rafael

Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores), in San Francisco

Mission San José, in Fremont

Mission Santa Clara de Asís, in Santa Clara

Mission Santa Cruz, in Santa Cruz

Mission San Juan Bautista, in San Juan Bautista

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, south of Carmel [est. 3 June 1770]

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, south of Soledad

Mission San Antonio de Padua, northwest of Jolon

Mission San Miguel Arcángel, in San Miguel
closed to the public in 2003 due to severe damage from the San Simeon Earthquake

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, in San Luis Obispo

Mission La Purísima Concepción, northeast of Lompoc

Mission Santa Inés, in Solvang

Mission Santa Barbara, in Santa Barbara

Mission San Buenaventura, in Ventura

Mission San Fernando Rey de España, in Mission Hills (Los Angeles)

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, in San Gabriel

Mission San Juan Capistrano [est. 1776], in San Juan Capistrano
"Mission San Juan Capistrano: A Pocket History" [1993] by H. Kelsey
Mission San Juan Capistrano website

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, in Oceanside

Mission San Diego de Alcalá, in San Diego [est. 16 July 1769]

Other California Mission Locations

San Pedro y San Pablo Asistencia, founded in 1786 in Pacifica

Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia, founded in 1787 in Santa Margarita

Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles Asistencia, founded in 1784 at Los Angeles Plaza

San Bernardino de Sena Estancia, founded in 1819 in Redlands

Santa Ana Estancia, founded in 1817 in Costa Mesa

Las Flores Estancia (Las Flores Asistencia), founded in 1823 is within Camp Pendleton

San Antonio de Pala Asistencia (Pala Mission), founded in 1816 in eastern San Diego County

Santa Ysabel Asistencia, founded in 1818 in Santa Ysabel

Two short-lived settlements, Mission Puerto de Purísima Concepción and Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuñer, though located
on the California side of the Colorado River, were founded under the authority of the Arizona mission hierarchy.

Other Missions

Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá (the only Franciscan mission in all of Baja California)

Books & Other Media

"Ramona" romantic novel [1884] by Helen Hunt Jackson

"Ramona" [Biograph 1910 silent short] by D.W. Griffith
watch Griffith's "Ramona" [1910 short] on YouTube

"Ramona" [Clune Film April 1916 silent short] /tt0007248/
Directed by Donald Crisp; starring Adda Gleason & Monroe Salisbury
Ramona Pageant outdoor play [est. 1923] in Hemet, California
"Ramona" feature film [United Artists 1928] /tt0019305/
starring Dolores del Rio, Warner Baxter & Roland Drew
"Ramona" color feature film [Fox Sept 1936] /tt0028158/
Directed by Henry King; starring Loretta Young & Don Amche
"Ramona" feature film [Mexico July 1946] /tt0222314/

Beginning in 1919, Johnston McCulley [1883-1958] wrote a series of stories that invented the heroic swordsman character El Zorro,
which became feature films (silent and sound) and several TV series. Action centered in San Juan Capistrano or
the Pueblo of Los Angeles, and took place during the California Missions Era.

"Etchings of The Franciscan Missions of California" [1883]
by Henry Chapman Ford [1828–1894]

"The Missions and Missionaries of California" [1908] by Zephyrin Engelhardt, OFM

Old Franciscan Missions Of California book by George Wharton James   "The Old Franciscan Missions of California" [Little, Brown 1912]
by George Wharton James [1858-1923]

also known as "In and Out of The Old Missions of California"
Kindle Edition from historicalbookshop.com [1/2009] for $7.99
Dodo Press 8¾x6 illustrated pb [3/2007] for $21.99
BiblioLife 8x5 pb [4/2009] for $18.99
BiblioLife 9¾x7½ pb [4/2009] for $23.99
BiblioLife 9¼x6 hardcover [4/2009] for $24.99
BiblioLife 10x7 hardcover [4/2009] for $28.99
IndyPublish 9x6 hardcover [10/2007] for $52.99
California Padres and Their Missions book by Charles F. Saunders & Joseph S. Chase  
"The California Padres and Their Missions" [Houghton Mifflin, 1915]
by Charles F. Saunders & Joseph S. Chase

Kessinger Publng 9x6½ pb [6/2007] for $28.08
Kessinger Publng 9x6 hardcover [6/2007] for $37.92
Franciscan Mission Architecture book by Rexford Newcomb   "The Franciscan Mission Architecture of Alta California" [1916]
by Rexford Newcomb

Dover Publns pb [8/73] out of print/used
Golden Road / California's Spanish Mission Trail book by Felix Riesenberg, Jr.  "The Golden Road: The Story of California's Spanish Mission Trail"
[1962] by Felix Riesenberg, Jr.

McGraw-Hill 9x6 hardcover [1962] out of print/many used
Missions of California book edited by Phyllis Raybin Emert  "The Missions of California (Perspectives on History Series)" [1970]
Edited by Phyllis Raybin Emert

History Compass 7½x5 pb [1970] for $7.95
California Missions Pictorial History & Visitor's Guide book from Sunset magazine   "The California Missions: A Complete Pictorial History & Visitor's Guide" [1979]
by the Editors of Sunset Magazine

Oxmoor House 10¾x8¼ pb [12/96] for $11.96
Decoration of The California Missions YA book by Norman Neuerberg   "The Decoration of The California Missions" [ages 9-12; 1987]
by Norman Neuerberg

Bellerophon Books 11x8½ pb [12/87] out of print/used
Spanish-Colonial Architecture in the U.S.  "Spanish-Colonial Architecture In The United States" [1990]
by Rexford Newcomb

Dover 11x8¾ pb [4/90] for $11.53

"Romance of The Bells: The California Missions In Art" [Irvine Museum, 1995]
by Jean Stern & Gerald J. Miller ISBN 0-9635468-5-6

"Romance of the Mission: Decorating In The Mission Style" [1996] by Elmo Baca

"The Missions of California" [Advantage Publrs Group, 2004] by Bill Yenne

"California Missions and Presidios: The History & Beauty of The Spanish Missions"
[Voyageur Press 2005] by Randy Leffingwell

The Missions of California video documentary by R.J. Adams  "The Missions of California" [indep video release 2007]
58-minute video documentary co-produced & co-written by Diane C. Adams; co-produced, co-written, directed & music by R.J. Adams
Shannon & Co. color DVD [4/2007] for $19.95
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipediaofficial movie site

http://www.amazon.com/California-Missions-Preservation-Conservation-Cultural/dp/0892369833/ [Getty 2009]

L i n k s

Southwest Museum [est. 1907] official website
Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition [est. 1/2003]
Southwest Museum entry at Wikipedia
BLACK STAR: closed to the public by The Autry Museum  Casa de Adobe [built 1918], 4603 No. Figueroa Street {below the Southwest Museum}

G.E. Nordell's California Missions Travel Links Page

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