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The Cross of Santa Fe
The kings highway which led up from Vera Cruz, the chief port of the eastern coast of Mexico, to the capital city of New Spain had in the eighteenth century more history connected with it than any other road in the new world. Over it had passed Montezuma with all the splendor of his pagan court. On it, too, had marched and counter marched his grim conqueror, the great Cortez. Through its white dust had traveled an almost endless procession of mules and slaves, carrying the treasures of the mines of Mexico and the rich imports of Manila and India on toward Spain.
Over this road there was journeying, one winter day in the year 1749, a traveler of more importance to the history of the state of California than any one who had gone before. He was no great soldier or king, only a priest in the brownish gray cloak of the order of St. Francis. He was slight in figure, and limped painfully from a sore on his leg, caused, it is supposed, by the bite of some poisonous reptile. The chance companions who traveled with him begged him to stop and rest beside a stream, but he would not. Then, as he grew more weary, they entreated him to seek shelter in a ranch house near by and give up his journey.
"Speak not to me thus. I am determined to continue. I seem to hear voices of unconverted thousands calling me," was all the answer he gave. So on foot, with no luggage but his prayer book, he limped out of sight - the humble Spanish priest, Junipero Serra.
While only a schoolboy, young Serra had been more interested in the Indian inhabitants of the new world than in boyish pleasure. As he grew older it became his greatest desire to go to them as a missionary. At eighteen he became a priest; but it was not until his thirty-sixth year that he gained the opportunity of which he had so long dreamed, when, in company with a body of missionaries, among whom were his boyhood friends, Francisco Palou and Juan Crespi, he landed at Vera Cruz.
He was too impatient to begin his new work, to wait for the government escort which was coming to meet them. So he started out on foot, with only such companions as he might pick up by the way, to make the long journey to the city of Mexico.
Sixteen years later, attended by a gay company of gentlemen and ladies, there traveled over this road one of Spain's wisest statesmen, Jose de Galvez, whom the king had sent out to look after affairs in the new world. Flourishing settlements were by this time scattered over a large portion of Mexico, and even in the peninsula of Lower California there were a number of missions. It was almost a hundred years before this time that two Catholic priests of the Society of Jesus had asked permission to found mission settlements among the Indians of this peninsula.
"You may found the missions if you like, but do not look to us for money to help you," was the answer returned by the officers of the government. So the two Jesuit priests set about collecting funds for the work.
They were eloquent men, and the people who heard them preach became so interested in the Indians that they were glad to give. And so, little by little, this fund grew. As the good work went on, greater gifts poured in. Whole fortunes were left them, and finally they had a very large sum carefully invested in the city of Mexico. This was known as the Pius Fund. From it was taken all the money needed for the founding of the missions of Lower California; and, many years later, the expenses of founding the twenty-one missions of Upper California came from the same source. This fund became the subject of a long dispute between Mexico and the United States, of which an account is given in Chapter XI.
In 1767 all the Jesuit priests in New Spain were called back to Europe, and a large portion of their wealth and missions on the peninsula were given over to the order of St. Francis, with Junipero Serra at their head. It was Galvez's duty to superintend this change, and while he was on his way to the peninsula for that purpose he was overtaken by an order from the king of Spain to occupy and fortify the ports of San Diego and Monterey. The Spanish government had the description of these ports furnished by Vizcaino in his account of his explorations in Upper and Lower California over one hundred and sixty years before.
The articles of the king's order were: first, to establish the Catholic faith; second, to extend Spanish dominion; third, to check the ambitious schemes of a foreign power; and lastly, to carry out a plan formed by Philip the Third, as long ago as 1603, for the establishment of a town on the California coast where there was a harbor suitable for ships of the Manila trade.
Galvez at once proceeded to organize four expeditions for the settlement of Upper California, two by land, two by sea. Captain Portola, governor of the peninsula, was put in command, with good leaders under him. Still, Galvez was not satisfied.
"This is all very well," he said; "these men will obey my orders, but they do not care much whether this land is settled or not, and if discouragements arise, back they will come, and I shall have the whole thing to do over again. I must find some one who is interested in the work, some one who will not find anything impossible. I think I shall send for that lame, pale-faced priest, with the beautiful eyes, who has taken up the work of these missions so eagerly."
"So you think we can make the venture a success?" asked Galvez, after he had talked over his plans with Junipero.
"Surely," said Padre Serra, his eyes shining, his whole face glowing with enthusiasm. "It is God's work to carry the cross of the holy faith [Santa Fe] into the wilderness, and He will go with us; can you not hear the heathen calling us to bring them the blessed Gospel? I can see that I have lived all my life for this glorious day."
Then they went to work, the priest and the king's counselor - down on the wharf, even working with their own hands, packing away the cargo.
"Hurry! Hurry!" said Galvez. The word was passed along, and in a short time the four expeditions were ready.
Many were the trials and discouragements of the various parties. Scurvy was so severe among the sailors that one ship lost all its crew save two men, and there were a number of deaths on another ship; while a third vessel which started later was never heard from. Padre Junipero, who accompanied the second land party, under the charge of Governor Portola, became so ill from the wound on his leg that the commander urged him to return; but he would not. Calling a muleteer who was busy after the day's march, doctoring the sores on his animals, he said: -
"Come, my son, and cure my sores also."
"Padre," exclaimed the man, shocked at the idea, "I am no surgeon; I doctor only my beasts."
"Think then that I am a beast, my child," said the padre, "and treat me accordingly."
The man obeyed. Gathering some leaves of the malva, or cheese plant, he bruised them a little, heated them on the stones of the camp fire, and spreading them with warm tallow, applied them to the wound. The next morning the leg was so much better that the cure was thought to be a miracle. Still the padre was very weak; and there was great rejoicing in the party when at last they looked down from a height on San Diego Bay, with the two ships - the San Carlos and the San Antonio - riding at anchor, white tents on the beach, and soldiers grouped about. Salutes were fired by the newcomers and returned by the soldiers and ships, and very soon the four expeditions were reunited.
On the next day, Sunday, solemn thanksgiving services were held. Then for fourteen days all were busy attending to the sick, making ready for the departure of the ship San Antonio, which was to be sent back for supplies, and packing up food and other necessities for the journey to Monterey. The San Antonio sailed on the 9th of July, 1769, and five days later Governor Portola and two thirds of the well portion of the company started overland to Monterey.
Meantime Padre Junipero had been impatiently awaiting an opportunity to begin his great work - the conversion of the heathen. He had written back in his own peculiar way to his friend Padre Palou, whom he left in charge of the missions of Lower California.
"Long Live Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, This to Fray Francisco Palou.
"My dear friend and Sir: -
"I, thanks be to God, arrived day before yesterday at this, in truth, beautiful, and with reason famous, port of San Diego. We find Gentiles [the name given to the wild Indians] here in great numbers. They seem to lead temperate lives on various seeds and on fish which they catch from their rafts of tule which are formed like a canoe."
The second day after the departure of Portola and his party, Sunday, July 16, Padre Serra felt that the glorious moment for which he had so long prayed had at length arrived. The mission bells were unpacked and hung on a tree, and a neophyte, or converted Indian, whom he had brought with him from the peninsula, was appointed to ring them. As the sweet tones sounded on the clear air, all the party who were able gathered about the padre, who stood lifting the cross of Christ on high. All joined in solemnly chanting a hymn, and a sermon was preached. Then with more chanting, the tolling of, the bells, and the firing of muskets, was concluded the ceremony of the founding of the first of the California missions, that of San Diego.
Portola and his men, in spite of many discouragements, traveled steadily northward for nearly two months until at last, one October morning, they saw what they thought to be Point Pinos, the name given by Cabrillo to the pine-covered cape to the south of Monterey Bay. They were right in thinking this Point Pinos, but the sad part is that when they climbed a hill and looked down on the bay they had come so far to find, they failed to recognize it.
They tramped wearily over the sun-dried hills that bordered it, and walked on its sandy beach, but could not believe the wide, open roadstead, encircled by bare brown heights, could be the well-inclosed port lying at the foot of hills richly green, so warmly described by Vizcaino in his winter voyage. It was a great disappointment, for this was the latitude in which they had expected to find Monterey. After talking it over, they decided they must be still too far south, so they tramped on for many days.
On the last day of October, those of the party who were well enough, climbed a high hill - (Point San Pedro on the west coast of the peninsula) - and were rewarded by a glorious view. On their left the great ocean stretched away to the horizon line, its waves breaking in high-tossed foam on the rocky shore beneath them. Before them they saw an open bay, or roadstead, lying between the point on which they stood, and one extending into the sea far to the northwest. Upon looking at their map of Vizcaino's voyage, they rightly decided that this farther projection was Point Reyes; the little bay sheltered by the curve of its arm was the one named on the map St. Francis, and now known as Drakes Bay. Well out to sea they discovered a group of rocky islands which they called Farallones; but not a man who stood on the height dreamed that only a short distance to the right up the rocky coast there lay a bay so immense and so perfectly inclosed that it would ever be one of the wonders of the land they were exploring.
On account of the sick of the party, among whom were the commander and his lieutenant, it was decided to travel no further, but to camp here while Sergeant Ortega was dispatched to follow the coast line to Point Reyes and explore the little bay it inclosed.
With a few men and three days' provisions consisting of small cakes made of bran and water, which was the only food they had left, this brave Spanish officer marched away, little imagining the honor which was soon to be his. Leading this expedition, he was the first white man to explore the peninsula where now stands the guardian city of the western coast, and we must wonder what were his thoughts when, pushing his way up some brush-covered heights, he came out suddenly upon the great bay we call San Francisco.
What a mighty surprise was that sixty miles of peaceful water that had so long remained hidden from European explorers, baffling the anxious gaze of Cabrillo, the faithful explorations of Ferrelo, the eagle eyes of Drake, and the earnest search of Vizcaino!
Pushing steadily on toward Point Reyes, Ortega encountered a second surprise, when from the Presidio hills he looked down on beautiful Golden Gate, whose rumpled waters seemed to say: -
"No farther can you come. We keep guard here."
Seeing that it was quite impossible for him to reach Point Reyes, Ortega decided to return to Portola. He found the commander and his party so weakened by sickness and the lack of food that it had been decided to explore no farther, but to return at once to the southern mission. After a painful march of sixty days the party reached San Diego.
Bitter was the disappointment of Padre Junipero Serra at the failure to found the mission of Monterey. he did not believe, as many of the party reported, that the bay was filled up with sand. Keener still was his grief when Portola, after looking over the supply of food, announced that unless the ship San Antonio or the sloop San Jose arrived by a certain date with provisions, they would have to abandon Upper California and return to the peninsula.
The padre at once called the people together for a nine days' session of prayer and other church services at which to pray for the coming of the relief boat. Portola, though he attended the services, went steadily on with his preparations for departure. On the morning of the day before the one set for the beginning of the march toward Lower California, the padres went to the heights overlooking the bay, where they remained watching and praying. At sea a heavy fog hung over the water. Hour after hour passed as they gazed out on the lovely bay. Noon came, but they would not return to the mission to rest or eat. The afternoon wore away, the sun sank in the clouds above the horizon, then, as all hope seemed gone, the fog was lifted by a sunset breeze, and there, far out at sea, they saw a white sail. The good men fell on their knees in thanksgiving, while their Indian servants ran to carry the news to camp.
This vessel, the San Antonio, brought not only abundant provisions but fresh orders from Galvez to hurry the work at Monterey. The settlement of Upper California was now made certain.
An expedition by land and the San Antonio by sea immediately started northward. A few weeks later Padre Junipero wrote to Padre Palou: "By the favor of God, after a month and a half of painful navigation, the San Antonio found anchor in this port of Monterey, which we find unvarying in circumstances and substance as described by Don Sebastian Vizcaino."
They even found Vizcaino's oak. Indeed, it is said on good authority, that the oak remained standing until 1838, when the high tides washed the earth from its roots so that it fell.
Soon the land expedition arrived, and one June morning in 1770 the members of the two parties, all in their best attire, were gathered on the beach for the purpose of founding the second mission. It must have been a pretty scene, - the stanch little vessel San Antonio, gay with bunting, swinging at anchor a short distance out, while on shore were grouped the sailors in the bright dress of seamen of those times, the soldiers in leather uniform, the governor and his staff in the handsome costumes of Spanish officials, and the padres in their gray robes. Close beside the oak a brush house had been built, bells hung, and an altar erected. While the bells tolled, the solemn service of dedication was held by Padre Junipero, and so was founded the Mission San Carlos de Borromeo at Monterey.
Near each of the earlier coast missions there was also founded a military station called a presidio, a name borrowed from the Roman presidium. The word meant a fort or fortified town. These presidios were intended to guard the safety of the missions from the wild Indians, and to defend the coast from ships of other countries.
After the religious services Governor Portola proceeded to found the presidio and take formal possession in the name of the king of Spain by hoisting and saluting the royal banner, pulling up bunches of grass, and casting stones, which was an ancient manner of taking possession of a piece of land or country. The presidio of Monterey was for a long time the site of the capital of Upper California and therefore most important in the history of the state.
For the sake of better land and water the mission site was soon removed about six miles, to the Carmelo River. Although not so wealthy as some of the missions, it was the home of Padre Junipero Serra, president of all the missions, and so its history is especially interesting.
The news of the settlement of San Diego and Monterey was received in Mexico with great joy, and it was resolved to found five more missions above San Diego. Four of these were San Gabriel, near the present site of Los Angeles; San Luis Obispo, farther north; San Antonio; and San Francisco. Before leaving the peninsula, Padre Serra had asked Galvez, "And for Father Francisco, head of our order, is there to be no mission for him?" To which Galvez had replied, "If Saint Francis wants a mission, let him cause his port to be found and it will be placed there." When the beautiful bay was discovered by Sergeant Ortega, it was thought that this might be the harbor Saint Francis intended for himself, but before naming it for the head of the order it was necessary that it should be explored. Although two land expeditions were sent up for this purpose, they were unsuccessful; and it was not until August, 1775, about four months after the eventful battle of Lexington had taken place on the Atlantic coast, that white men first entered the Bay of San Francisco in a ship.
Lieutenant Ayala of the Spanish navy, with the San Carlos, had the honor of conducting this expedition. He reached the entrance to the bay just as night was coming on. Not liking to trust his vessel in a strange harbor, he sent forward a boat to make explorations, and then, as it was a little slow in returning, he daringly pushed on in the darkness into the unknown water. His small craft bobbed and plunged in the rough water of the bar, darted through Golden Gate, and came safely to anchor near North Beach. Soon after this exploration it was settled that here Saint Francis should have his mission.
Padre Junipero Serra appointed his friend Francisco Palou, who had now joined him in his work in Upper California, to make this settlement, and on the 9th of October, 1776, there was founded in that portion of San Francisco known as the Mission District, at the corner of Sixteenth and Dolores streets, the mission of San Francisco. This is often called Mission Dolores from the name of a small lake and stream beside which it was built. To-day the name San Francisco rests not only on the old mission building, with its white pillars, but on the beautiful city which is the metropolis of our western coast.
As fast as possible Padre Junipero hastened the establishment of missions, choosing those places where there were the largest native settlements. In the vicinity of Monterey Bay there were, besides the San Carlos mission, Santa Cruz on the northern curve of the bay, and in the fertile valley back of the Santa Cruz Mountains the missions of Santa Clara, San Jose, and San Juan Bautista. Farther south on a lonely height stood Soledad, and much farther south, San Miguel.
The Indians along the Santa Barbara Channel, of whom there were a great many, were more intelligent and industrious than in other portions of the country settled by the missionaries, and here were the missions of Santa Barbara, San Buenaventura, La Purisima, and Santa Inez.
In the south, in the fertile valley where are now the great grain fields of Los Angeles county, San Fernando was founded. Between San Gabriel and San Diego were placed San Juan Capistrano, San Luis Rey, and the chapel of Pala. San Rafael and Solano, to the north of San Francisco Bay, complete the list of twenty-one missions of Upper California.
It is impossible to give more than the names of most of these missions, although about each many true and beautiful stories might be told. It would be well if those who live near one of these noble ruins would seek out its particular history and the stories connected with it. This would be interesting and helpful work for the students in the schools of the state.
The story of the missions seems like a fairy tale, wonderful and unreal. Into a wilderness inhabited only by savage men and wild animals, hundreds of miles from any civilized settlement, there came these men trained as simple priests.
Two by two they came, bringing with them, for the starting of each mission, a few soldiers, seven to ten, a few converted Indians from the missions of Lower California, a little live stock, some church furniture, and always the bells; yet in a little over forty years they had succeeded in founding a chain of missions whose sweet-toned bells chimed the hours and called to prayer from San Diego to the Bay of San Francisco.
Churches were built larger and often of a purer type of architecture than those in the civilized well-settled portions of the land, - buildings that have lasted for a hundred years and may last many years longer if care is taken to preserve them. Canals of stone and cement and dams of masonry were constructed that would do credit to our best workmen of to-day.
The little packages of wheat and other grains, seeds from Spanish oranges and olives, little dried bundles of grapevines from Mexico, developed, under their care, into the great fields of grain, groves of oranges and olives, and the wide-spreading vineyards of the mission ranches. All these wonders were performed with Indian workmen trained by the padres.
But what the missionaries cared for more than their success in building and planting were the thousands of baptized Indians at each mission. These they instructed daily for the good of their souls in the truths of the Christian religion, while for their bodily needs they were taught to plow the earth, to plant seed, to raise and care for domestic animals. They learned also many useful trades; and music, frescoing, and art were taught those who seemed to have an especial taste for such things.
At the head of this great work was gentle Padre Junipero Serra, the most interesting character in the history of the missions. He was frail and slender and much worn by constant labor of head and hands, but his every thought and action seemed to be for others. Back and forth from Monterey to San Diego, from mission to mission, he traveled almost constantly, teaching, baptizing, confirming thousands of his dusky charges. He was president of all the missions, and besides this was bishop, doctor, judge, and architect, as well as steward of the mission products and money.
Associated with him in his work were a group of noble men whose lives were spent in caring for the native people with whom they worked and among whom they finally died. The inhabitants of California may well honor the mission padres for their earnest, unselfish lives, and in no way can this be done so fully as in the preservation of the grand old buildings they left behind, which are indeed fitting monuments to their devotion, energy, and skill.
Beginning with San Diego, let us, in fancy, visit the missions in the early part of the nineteenth century.
It is a winter day in the year 1813 when we ride up the broad, wind-swept road which leads to the newly dedicated mission building of San Diego. The wide plain that surrounds it is green with native grass and the blades of young wheat. Of the two hundred cattle, one hundred sheep, one hundred horses, and twenty asses brought up by Padre Junipero in 1769 to be divided among the earlier missions, San Diego had only its due share; yet under the wise management of the padres, they have now at this mission, feeding on the green plains, thousands of cattle, horses, and sheep, which are tended by comfortably clothed Indian herders. Near the mission are the green and gold of orange orchards, the gray of the olive, and the bare branches of extensive vineyards. At one side we see a large kitchen garden where young Indians are at work planting and hoeing.
As we draw up in front of the church, Indian servants come out to take our horses. We dismount, and a padre who is superintending work in the orchard comes and welcomes us with gentle courtesy. He sends us a servant to show us to our room, a small square apartment with a hard earthen floor and bare, whitewashed walls with no ornament but a cross. The beds are of rawhide stretched over a frame. The covering consists of sheets of coarse cotton grown and woven at the southern missions, and blankets, coarse but warm, made by the Indians from the wool of the mission sheep.
Dinner at the padre's table we find most enjoyable. There is beef and chicken, the frijole, or red bean of Spain, and other vegetables prepared in a tasty manner peculiar to Spanish cooking, so we do not doubt that the cook has been taught his trade by the padre himself. The Indian boys who wait on the table also show careful training, performing their duties quickly and quietly. Here we can find for bread the tortilla, - still the food of the Indian and Mexican people of California. It is a thin cake made of meal or flour and water, and baked without grease on a hot stone or griddle. Wines made at the mission, the favorite chocolate, thick and sweet, and some fruit from the padre's garden complete the meal.
Dinner over, we visit the church and admire the striking contrast between the red tiles of the roof and the creamy white of the walls. All the buildings are made of bricks molded from a clay called adobe and dried slowly in the sun. Each brick is twelve inches square by four inches thick, and the walls are laid two or three bricks deep, those of the church itself being nearly four feet in thickness. It seems almost impossible that so large and well made a building could have been constructed by untrained workmen. Next to the church are the rooms of the padres, then the dining room and the quarters of the mission guard, which consists apparently of but two men, the rest being at the presidio, several miles away. Adjoining these are the storehouses and shops of the Indian workmen, all of which open on the great courtyard.
In the courtyard is a busy scene. Blacksmiths with hammer and anvil make sounding blows as they work up old iron into needed farm utensils. The soap maker's caldron sends up a cloud of ill-smelling steam. At one side carpenters are at work trimming and cutting square holes in logs for the beams of new buildings which the padres wish to put up. Saddle makers, squatted on the ground, are busy fashioning saddletrees, carving, and sewing leather. The shoemaker is hard at work with needle and awl. These and many other trades are all going on at once. These courts, which are called patios, were generally several acres in extent and at the most flourishing period of the missions each settlement often gave shelter to over a thousand people.
Behind the central court is the home of the unmarried women. This, and the rooms for their work, open on a separate square where there is shade from orange and fig trees and a bathing pond supplied by the zanja, or water ditch. Here square-figured, heavy-featured Indian girls are busy spinning and weaving thread into cloth. Others are cutting out and sewing garments. Some, squatted on the ground, are grinding corn into a coarse meal for the atole, or mush. At the zanja several are engaged in washing clothes. Here these girls live under the care of an old Indian woman, and unless she accompanies them they may not, until they are married, go outside these walls. Near the mission we visit a long row of small adobe buildings, the homes of the families of the Christian Indians; a neat, busy settlement where the little ones, comfortably clothed, play about attended by the older children, while the mothers work for the padres four or five hours daily.
Leaving San Diego and traveling northward along "El Camino Real," the highway which leads from mission to mission, we reach San Luis Rey, "King of the Missions," as it is sometimes called. Its church is the largest of all those erected by the padres, being one hundred and sixty feet long, fifty-eight feet wide, and sixty feet high. Its one square, two-story tower has a chime of bells, the sweet clear tones of which reached our ears while we were yet miles from the mission. Counting the arches of the long corridor, we find there are two hundred and fifty-six. This mission became very wealthy. At one time it had a baptized Indian population of several thousand, owned twenty-four thousand cattle, ten thousand horses, and one hundred thousand sheep, and harvested fourteen thousand bushels of grain a year.
Its prosperity was due in a great measure to good Padre Peyri, who had charge of it from its beginning. Many years afterwards, as we shall see, the padres were ordered by the Mexican government to leave their missions, the wealth they had gathered, and the Indians they had taught and cared for. Father Peyri, knowing how hard it would be for him to get away from his Indian children, as he called them, slipped off by night to San Diego. In the morning the Indians missed him. Learning what had happened, five hundred of them mounted their ponies in hot haste and galloped all the way to San Diego, forty-five miles, to bring him back by force. They arrived just as the ship, with Padre Peyri on board, was weighing anchor. Standing on deck with outstretched arms, the padre blessed them amid their tears and loud cries. Some flung themselves into the water and swam after the ship. Four reached it, and, climbing up its sides, so implored to be taken on board that the padre consented and carried them with him to Rome, where one afterwards became a priest.
The next link in our chain, the most beautiful of all the missions, is that of San Juan Capistrano. It was founded in 1776, the year of our Declaration of Independence, but in 1812 it was destroyed by an earthquake, the massive towers and noble arch falling in on the Indians, who were assembled in the church for morning prayers. Many of them were killed. The church has never been rebuilt.
It is Christmas Day when we reach San Gabriel, the next station on El Camino Real. Inside the great cactus fence which incloses the square about the mission we see a strangely mixed company, - Indians in their best clothes, their faces shining from a liberal use of mission soap and water; soldiers in their leather suits freshened up for the holiday; a few ranchmen in the gay dress of the times, riding beautiful horses; women and girls each brilliant in a bright-colored skirt with shawl or scarf gracefully draped over head and shoulders.
The Christmas Day morning service, held at four o'clock and known by the common people as the Rooster Mass, is long since over. The crowd is now gathered for the Pastorel, which, like the miracle plays of the Middle Ages, is a drama with characters taken from the Bible.
First to appear on the scene is an orchestra composed of young Indians playing violins, bass viols, reeds, flutes, and guitars. Closely following come the actors, representing San Gabriel and attendant angels, Satan, Blind Bartimeus, and a company of shepherds. The entertainment is very simple. There is the announcement of the birth of the Savior, the adoration of the babe, and the offering of gifts. The play concludes with a protracted struggle between San Gabriel and Satan for the possession of Blind Bartimeus, in which the saint finally comes off victor while the orchestra plays lively music. After the Pastorel there are games, dancing, and feasting. Every one seems happy, and it is with regret that we leave the gay scene.
Through the hills to the north, across the Arroyo Seco, not dry now, but a swift stream turbulent from the winter rains, we journey on. We pass Eagle Rock, a great bowlder high upon the green hillside, one of the landmarks of the region, and enter the valley of the Los Angeles River. After traveling for several hours, we come to a large plantation of trees, vines, and grainfields, in the midst of which lies the mission of San Fernando. Its land extends for miles on every side and is exceedingly fertile. In front of the beautiful cloisters, under tall and stately palm trees, a fountain sends high its sparkling water, which falls back with pleasant tinkle into a basin of carved stone.
When we reach San Buenaventura, the next mission on our route, we find priests and Indians exceedingly busy, for word has come from Monterey that a Yankee trading vessel will soon sail for the south, and cattle must be killed and the fat rendered into tallow for the market. As hides and tallow are about the only commodities the padres have for sale, this is an important event. Indians tend the caldrons of bubbling grease, and keep up the fires under the kettles. When the tallow is slightly cooled, they pour it into sacks made from the skins of animals. These, when filled with the hardened tallow, look as though each again held a plump beast.
Traveling up the coast we come one afternoon to
A golden bay 'neath soft blue skies
Where on a hillside creamy rise
The mission towers whose patron saint
Is Barbara - with legend quaint.
Here spring is merging into summer, and we are in time to see the ceremony which closes the wheat harvest. The workmen gather the last four sheaves from the field, and, fastening them in the form of a cross, carry them, followed by a long procession of dusky reapers, up the ascent to the church. As they approach, the bells burst out in a joyous peal, and from the mission doors the padres come forth, one bearing a cross, another the banner of the Virgin. A choir of Indian boys follows, chanting a hymn. All advance slowly down the avenue to meet the sheaf bearers, then counter march to the church, where the harvest festival is celebrated.
Passing by other missions, we must close our journey with a visit to San Carlos, the Monterey mission, most prominent of all in the history of the church and state. It was from the first the special charge of Padre Junipero Serra, and, at the time we see it, his monument as well; for in it at last his weary body was laid to rest beside his friend Padre Juan Crespi, to whose writings, next to those of Padre Francisco Palou, we are most indebted for our knowledge of Junipero Serra and his great work. In 1813, with its graceful arched front and two towers, San Carlos was a noble-looking building, but since that time one tower has fallen.
We are reminded, as we look, of the scene when Junipero lay dying. Ever since morning the grief-stricken people had been waiting, listening for the news from the sick room. When the tolling of the bell announced that the beautiful life was ended, crowds came weeping and lamenting, anxious to see again the beloved face.
It was with great difficulty that the Indians could be kept from tearing the padre's robe from his body, so earnestly did they desire to possess some relic of the father they had loved so long.
Here we notice the daily life of the Indian, which (in 1813) is the same at all the missions. At sunrise comes the sound of the bells calling to the morning prayers, and we see the natives hurrying to the church. After service they gather for breakfast of mush and tortillas. As the flocks and herds have increased, meat forms part of the daily food, sometimes from the freshly killed beeves, but generally in a dried state called carne seco. After breakfast the workers go in groups to their various employments. Dinner is served at eleven, and they have a resting period until two. Then work is again taken up and continued until an hour before sunset, when the bells call to evening prayer. Supper follows the evening service, after which the Indians can do as they like until bedtime. We see some engaged in a game of ball. Many are squatted on the ground playing other games, - gambling, we suspect. In one group there is dancing to the music of violin and guitar. There is laughter and chattering on all sides, and to us they seem happy, at least for the time.
The life led by the Indians at the missions was not generally a hard one. No doubt when they first came, or were brought, into the settlements, from their free wild life, they found it harder to keep the regular hours of the missions than to perform the work, which was seldom very heavy. When disobedient or lazy, they were punished severely, judging by the standards of to-day, but really no harder than was at that time the custom in schools and in navies the world over. When the soldiers came in contact with the natives, there was generally cruel treatment for the latter. But as far as possible the padres stood between their charges and the soldiers, always placing the mission as far from the presidio as the safety of the former would allow.
At San Diego, about five years after its settlement, wild Indians surprised the mission guard, and killed the padre and several of the converted Indians in a most cruel manner. The Spanish government gave orders that the murderers should be taken and executed and this mission abandoned; but Padre Junipero begged so hard for the culprits, who, he said, knew no better, having no knowledge of God, that he was finally allowed to have his way. Gentleness and patience won the day; not only the Indians who made the attack were converted, but many more of their tribe, and the mission became a flourishing settlement. There was once a rebellion among the Santa Clara and San Jose Indians, led by a young convert from Santa Clara, which required soldiers from Monterey to put down. Generally, however, the mission life was peaceful, the Indians being fond of their padres.
When Mexico became free from Spain, no more money was sent up to pay the soldiers or run the government in Upper California, and for a long time the missions advanced the money for the expenses of the government.
After a time the new priests who came up from Mexico were not generally men of such education and noble character as the early mission padres. They cared less for missionary work, and were not so energetic. Their influence was not always good for the Indians, who quickly saw the difference between them and their old padres. They had little confidence in the newcomers, so at the few missions where such as these were in charge the Indians were disobedient, and received harsh punishments from the padres; and trouble followed.
In 1833 the Mexican government decided to confirm the mandate issued by Spain several years before in regard to the breaking up of the mission settlements. By this law each Indian was to have his own piece of land to own and care for. He was to be no longer under the control of the church, but to be his own master like any other citizen. As for the padres, they were to give up their wealth and lands, and leave for other missionary fields. That this would create a great change in California all realized; still it was no new idea, but the plan Spain had in mind when the missions were first founded. The mistake was in supposing that it was possible for a people to rise in so short a time from the wild life of the California Indian to the position of self-supporting citizens in a civilized country.
When the Indians understood this order, some were pleased and, like children when freed from restraint, ceased to work and became troublesome. Many, however, when they found that the padres were to leave them, became very unhappy; some, it is said, even died from homesickness for the mission and the padre. One committed suicide.
It was soon seen that they were not fitted to look after themselves. Only a few years had passed since they were savages, knowing nothing of civilized life, and they still needed some one to guide them. They not only began to drink and gamble, but were cheated and ill-treated on all sides, until many of them became afraid of living in towns and went back to wild life. For this they were no longer fitted, and they suffered so much from hunger and cold that great numbers of them died.
Because the Indians were not capable of caring for themselves at the time of the secularization of the missions, the padres are often severely blamed. It is said that they tried to keep the natives without knowledge, in fact something like slaves. But the truth is that the padres taught them by thousands, not only to cultivate the soil, to irrigate wisely, to raise domestic cattle, but to work at every trade that could be of use in a new country. They were encouraged to choose from among themselves alcaldes, or under officers of the mission. In this way every inducement was given to the Indian showing himself capable of self-control, to rise to a prominent position in his little world, where he generally ruled his fellow-workmen wisely and kindly.
Added to this, the Indians acquired, through the teaching and example of the padres, a religion that has lasted through generations. The breaking up of the mission settlements scattered the Indians through the country, many of them going back to the wild life in the forest and mountains, where they no longer had any religious instructions. Yet to-day, after all the years that have passed, there are few Indians from San Diego to San Francisco who do not speak the language of the padres and follow, though it may be but feebly, the teaching of the Catholic faith, the "Santa Fe" of the padres.
Some of the mission buildings, many of the flocks, and much of the land fell into the hands of men who had no possible right to them. Orchards and vineyards were cut down, cattle killed and stolen, and there was only ruin where a short time before there had been thousands of busy people leading comfortable lives. Soon the churches were neglected and began to crumble away, bats flew in and out of the broken arches, squirrels chattered fearlessly in the padre's dining room, and the only human visitor was some sad-hearted Indian worshiper, slipping timidly into the desolate building to kneel alone before the altar where once
Sweet strains from dusky neophytes
Rose up to God in praise,
When life centered 'round the missions
In the happy golden days.