A couple of weeks ago, while double-checking something on my second novel of Father Serra's Legacy, I chanced upon a reference to a book written by somebody named Hubert H. Bancroft. It turned out that History of the Pacific states of North America (volume 13) was available for download but, when I tried, it came out with all sorts of weird stuff on it. So, I copied and pasted all 84 pages, then spent forever trying to work out the weird stuff and sorting out pages upon pages of footnotes. I'll say one thing, back in 1884, when he wrote it, he spent one heck of a lot of time going through documents all over California, Baja California and Mexico.
He even went so far as to give the names of all Spaniards living in California as of 1800! 1,400 of them – all males!
Unlike what I was taught in school and have read since, the Franciscan friars were acknowledged by everyone he cites as being dedicated men who cared for the California Indians as if they were their children. And, even their biggest foe, Governor Pedro Fages, could never say anything against their piety, devotion and zeal to make the lives of their charges better. I did, however, learn that for most of the time from 1767 to 1800, there were constant instances of difficulties between the friars and the civilian/military authorities.
But, the biggest problem reading this book has created is a need to make changes and revisions to many of the characters in my book. In order to be accurate and authentic, I have to put real characters where they actually were. For the first time, I now have the names of the soldiers and civilian officials who worked at the various town and forts in California. I've even learned things that other sources didn't provide – such as the fact that Don Gaspar Portolá, who was always referred to elsewhere as “governor” was actually the lieutenant governor with his supervisor sitting in Loreto in Baja, the capitol of the Californias.
Bancroft gives an amazing amount of insight into who did what, when, where and how.
But, I have to admit that he was far more interested in the civilian goings on than how the missions operated and how hard the friars worked at them. He often refers to the fathers “punishing neophytes who failed to obey the rules” but, he did not indicate that the “floggings” were actually no more than spanking as done by parents of the 18th Century. In fact, the fathers actually “punished” themselves far worse, using flails with metal spikes on their bare backs during Mass, to atone for what they saw as their own weaknesses and sins.
I could go on forever here but just want to impart that, for the first time since I undertook what I thought to be a minor project, I fully realize the enormity of what the Spaniards tried to do in this time period – with little or no support from those in Mexico or far-away Spain.
So, time to sit back, mull things over, then get to work in turning this work of historical fiction interesting and educational at the same time.