Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mission Santa Barbára

Mission Santa Barbára, also known as The Queen of the Missions, is the only one of the 21 in California to remain under Franciscan stewardship since its inception to present day.

The first mission buildings were made of logs, with thatch roofs. Later an adobe wing completed the quadrangle with a dormitory, kitchen and storeroom. There were also rows of over 200 houses for the mission natives built next to the mission.

Eventually, construction of a second quadrangle was begun adjacent to the first. Throughout all this construction, a succession of larger adobe churches were built. The largest one, completed in 1794, had six side chapels and was destroyed in the 1812 earthquakes. Work began on a new stone church 161 feet long, 42 feet high, and 27 feet wide. Initially only one tower was included, but in 1833 a second tower was added, making it the only mission with two towers.

The water system at this mission was so extraordinary that parts of it are still used today by the city of Santa Barbára. It was the most elaborate water system of all the missions. Water from a dammed creek in the hills two miles above the mission was carried by a stone aqueduct to a storage basin near the church. There was even a separate branch with a filtration system used for drinking water.

Very early in writing The Sailor and The Carpenter, Book One of Father Serra's Legacy, I encountered some gaps and questions I could not find answers for online. I contacted the Franciscan Friars there. I cannot express enough thanks for their help and information. They even went so far as to send me a hardback book, Hispanic California Revisited, which provided a goldmine of things I couldn't find anywhere else.

From its founding, there have been very many different buildings on the site. An earthquake in 1814 did serious damage to the fourth and the friars set out to erect a stone building finished in 1820. Finally, in 1827, Father Antonio Ripoli, with two hundred Indian volunteers working in a woolen mill, started on the last. But, with Mexico taking the lands and buildings away from the church, Father Ripoli sailed for Spain in an American brig. The Indians fell to their knees and sobbed loudly at the departure of the beloved “Father.”

An effort was undertaken by the Franciscan to turn the mission into a hospice and then a school for those who wished to take to the cloth. Rome didn't have the money and the church continued to languish. I know some of the friars remained in the area during the period of Mexican rule, harbored and cared for by the Indians they were so often accused of enslaving and torturing. 
Finally, in 1885 with the Americans coming into power, the mission became part of the St. Louis, Missouri, Province of the Friars Minor.

I love this picture as it's a perfect replica of what the friars in the 1700s were able to construct. Just look at the difference between the crude structure and the magnificent church in the background. How did they do it?

Efforts have also been undertaken to restore the Presidio. Many of the soldiers serving there received land grants from the Mexican governor as a bribe to keep them from rising up against the far away government in Mexico City.

I hope that if you ever visit California, you will take the time to stop by and sit on a bench in the beautiful gardens or enter the chapel to see replicas of what those friars did more than two centuries ago.

Friday, March 23, 2012

More About the History of California

Growing up in Southern California I took for granted the names of a lot of places. I knew, for example, that Los Angeles somehow stood for the City of the Queen of the Angels. I knew that Pico Boulevard was named for a Mexican governor. I also thought that Palos Verdes stood for Green Poles.

It wasn't until I got into deep research for my Father Serra's Legacy series that I began to learn much, more about the area of my birth and childhood. Following are some examples:

Olvera Street: Having started as a short lane, Wine Street, it was extended and renamed in honor of Agustín Olvera, a prominent local judge, in 1877. That man was a descendant of Francisco Olvera, a servant in the late 1700s. And, Wine Street was so named because of the profusion of wild grapes in the area – they were cross-bred with grapes brought from Spain.

Sepulveda Boulevard, a major travel artery in the area that ends at San Pedro, the vast ranch granted to the Sepulveda family via Juan Jose Dominguez by Governor Fages. Juan came to LA as a cowboy from Villa Sinaloa, Mexico. He was single and 53 years old. The Sepulveda family were descendants of three lancers – soldados de cuera – who came to California with the early expeditions. It is possible that one or more of their children married Dominguez or his forefathers.

[A word about this photo – it was taken about 1870, more than 60 years after the founding of the rancho. But, it shows the lush grasses that allowed for herds as big as 200 or 300 hundred that roamed all throughout Southern California – the vaqueros being California Indians who had never even dreamed of the existence of horses or cattle less than a hundred years earlier.]

And then there is the town of La Habra. In the ranchos days when vast herds of Mexican cattle and horses grazed over the hills and valleys of Southern California, Mariano Reyes Roldan was granted 6,698 acres (27 km2) and named his land Rancho Cañada de La Habra. The year was 1839, and the name referred to the “Pass Through the Hills,” the natural pass to the north first discovered by Spanish explorers in 1769. In the 1860s Abel Stearns purchased Rancho La Habra. Soon thereafter, heavy flooding followed by a severe drought brought bankruptcy to many cattle ranchers.

I certainly knew that any of the places named San or Santa had something to do with Catholic saints. I just didn't know how that came to be. I learned that, when a location of than a mission was named, it was for the saint whose feast day it was on the Catholic calendar.

I certainly didn't know the history of the famous Beverly Hills. It seems that a Luis Manuel Quintero, who came to California from Guadalajara, Mexico, was a Pobladore who signed up with Captain/Governor Rivera. He was also a tailor who was there for the founding of Royal Presidio of Santa Barbára and Mission San Buenaventura. Three of his daughters married soldiers. A granddaughter married Vincent Villa who became the owner of Rancho Rodeo de las Augas on what it now known as Beverly Hills. I only wonder if that was the source of the famous – and very exclusive – Rodeo Drive. Perhaps the rancho's driveway?

I also grew up with earthquakes being far more common than thunderstorms. So, it was interesting to learn that, when Don Gaspar's initial expedition came across a river they named after Santa Ana, they encountered an earthquake and name the river as el Rio de los Temblores or River of Tremors.

Redondo Beach = after an original settler, Candelaria Redondo, widow of Francisco Xavier Sepulveda. Probably one of her five children had a rancho there.

El Segundo? The second what? Aha! Here it is courtesy of Wikipedia: The city earned its name ("the second" in Spanish) as it was the site of the second Standard Oil refinery on the West Coast (the first was at Richmond in northern California), when Standard Oil of California purchased the 840 acres (3.4 km2) of farm land in 1911

How about Azusa? I always got a kick out of this from the song, Route 66. Azusa originally referred to the San Gabriel Valley and river, and likely derives from the Tongva place name Asuksagna. And then, there's Cucamonga. The Mission Gabriel established the Rancho Cucamonga as a site for grazing their cattle. In 1839, the rancho was granted by the Mexican governor of California to Tiburcio Tapia, a wealthy Los Angeles merchant. Tapia transferred his cattle to Cucamonga and built a fort-like adobe house on Red Hill. The Rancho was inherited by Tapia's daughter, Maria Merced Tapia de Prudhomme, and her husband Leon Victor Prudhomme. The name “Cucamonga” is probably derived from a Tongva word for “sandy place.”

Want more?

Check back when I get the time from writing book three to share more with you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More of the California Missions

Part of learning so much about California history is having the bubbles burst on some of the cherished stories I learned and loved about my home state.

One of them, of course, is Zorro, The Masked Avenger. A landed Spanish Don, he rode forth to wrong the rights against the poor and unprotected populace of Mexican California.

Oh yeah?

It turns out that Zorro, The Fox, is a fictional character from the mind of a New York-based dime-book writer of the early 1900's, Johnston McCulley.

What a bummer. But, my research teaches me there were no Spanish Dons [those holding Spanish royal titles] who owned the massive Rancheros in early California. The huge landgrants were handed out to private soldiers who had completed their enlistments in lieu of a lot of pay they had not received from the Royal Treasury. There were a couple of officers who received grants but they were Criollos, Spanish/Indians born in the New World. These soldiers often “hired” local Indians to work for them, their pay being in the form of food, clothing, housing, and animals.

Another myth was of the famous/infamous bandit Juan Murietta. I went to high school in Redlands, not far from a place called Murietta Hot Springs. I always thought that was perhaps one of his hideouts from the terrible American posses sent out to hunt this brave defender of Mexican rights. I learned not a lot true is known about this historical figure. Some say he was part Cherokee and part Spanish peon run away from sugar cane plantations in the American southeast. I also discovered there was little heroic or patriotic about him. He was an out and out cutthroat thief and murderer of the lowest order.

Another is how land grants were measured. Somewhere, I heard the story of how a rider would start out when the sun's rim rose in the east and ride until it fully set in the west. Anything inside this circle was considered part of the grant.

Alas, another fairytale. During Spain's rule, the governor's simply marked out an area the perspective soldier grantee felt he could work and drew it up on a hand-sketched map. The grants increased radically during Mexican rule as the Mexican government and governors used them to pay back political favors. They were supposed to be landed estates of the Mexican gentry but often lacked substance and certainly did not have the massive, adobe structures we modern people think of.

The entire system of large ranchos fell apart with the rise in power of Americans who created first, the Republic of California or The Bear Flag Revolt, but quickly lost out when General John Fremont showed up and claimed it for the United States

And yes, American Destiny carried forth in the claiming of California, resulting in massive deaths of Indians who, up until the secularization of the missions, had been protected by the friars. It is something I find saddening in the history of my native land.

One final myth was how American pirates had raided the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. It was actually _French_- pirates!

Ah well, more later.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The California Missions – Continued

When one considers what the Franciscan friars accomplished in the 18th Century, one has to wonder how on earth they did it.

These men came from modest families in the outer areas of Imperial Spain. Even if their families were blooded and members of the aristocracy, they certainly had little or no background in the crafts needed to create self-supporting communities. What education they did received was ecclesiastical. They studied the bible and the teachings of the Catholic church. They spent more time kneeling in prayer than in actual physical activities.

Like Father Serra, most felt called upon to set forth to the New World, a place of danger in which they saw the opportunity to bring heathens to the Word of God. They endured dangerous journeys in leaky ships on which they had little in the way of decent food. They landed on the east coast of New Spain to be faced with a trek of several hundreds of miles to a place where they continued their education in things felt necessary to their calling.

I must admit that this is a place where my research into this era falls short. I have been unable to gather little information on the Franciscan mission to the College of San Fernando. I am certain it is contained in the archives somewhere but have yet found a source to provide me with more than the bare essentials of a school for priests.

Fathers Serra, Palóu and Crespí were but three of many who passed through the college to go on to places in Mexico [Majica as known to the inhabitants of that land]. These three first went into the rugged Sierra Gorda mountains. Eventually Fr. Serra was made President of five Sierra Gorda missions. He built the Church of Santiago de Jalpan, which is still in use, and supervised the founding of the four other churches. After being appointed as a professor at the college, he once again was given the chance to conduct a mission in Mexico. Fr. Serra's missionary activity during these years was mostly in south and central Mexico, in what is modem Oaxaca, Morelia, Puebla, and Guadalajara; the region east of Sierra Gorda; and in the province of Mesquital, part of Mazatlan [eastern Mexico]. The work was very exhausting, and the only rest he had was during the time required to go from one town to another or the return to the college after a mission. One time he was poisoned, someone putting rattlesnake venom in the chalice. He refused an antidote but recovered just the same.

But, to continue about what the friars had to do besides teaching new disciples and conducting holy rites. They were called upon to construct European style buildings in a land where permanent structures were unknown. The Indians lived in crude shelters made of twigs, limbs and brush, open to the breezes. The friars had to find the materials and shape them to be used for building not only places of worship but places to live and conduct the various trades.

Then, as if that were not enough, in order to put it all together, they had to be carpenters, masons, potters, farmers, herders, veterinarians, doctors, linguists, and teachers. Where on earth did they learn all of this.

Reviewing genealogy records for the period shows that most of the soldiers who served with the friars at the missions were poorly-educated men who had few skills beyond their military duties. Some were farmers and all knew horsemanship and how to care for their animals. I guess this is where the Indians learned to becomes such outstanding vaqueros in such a short time.

More about these amazing men in my next post.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thanks for the Award

And the Award Goes to...

In accordance with the Versatile Blogger Award, I previously revealed seven random, never before mentioned facts about myself.  

Again in accordance with the rules, it's now time for me to detail those bloggers whom I think also deserve the title... 

So here goes:

Margaret James

Now we can all look forward to reading the seven random things these guys all come up with about themselves, as well as seeing who they'd like to give the award to, too x

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What Should I Write About?

First off, an apology to those who follow this blog and expect me to post interesting stuff.

It ain't as easy as it looks. There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day to do all the things I need to get done.

So, what's it gonna be?

I think one of the things I can do is post some excerpts from my Father Serra's Legacy. It seems for every five or six thousand words I write, I end up spending at least an hour doing research. Or scanning through all the reference material I have saved on my hard drive to ensure I've got the right information. As much as I enjoy the writing, I enjoy even more learning about the brave and pious friars who gave their all to carry out what they saw as their sacred duty. And, dispelling some of the lies and accusations I heard while growing up in Southern California.

Here's a small tidbit from the second novel in the series, "The King's Highway."

Mission San Luis Obispo was quite successful from the start. Part of it was due to the excellent and mild weather. But, most of all it came from the intelligent and diligent Chumash Indians who lived in the area. When the Spanish first arrived in the area, they encountered a multitude a huge and ferocious creatures - Grizzly Bears. They feared nothing. The poor Indians only had crude spears and weak bows. The bears were at the top of the food chain and had no enemies. The second most dangerous animal was the Mountain Lion or Puma. But, it would only attack an unattended bear cub or an adult male that was disabled or very ill.

And the bears decided to attack the Spanish, strange creatures riding on the back of even stranger deer or antelopes. Much to their surprise, the strange creatures had very sharp fangs. Long, steel-tipped lances, razor sharp swords and, even more powerful, muskets.

The bears didn't go down easy and several soldados de cuera fell before slashing claws and ferocious fangs. But, in the end, the Spaniards carried the day and the bears learned to find other prey.

This was an astonishing blessing to the Chumash who showed their appreciation by coming to the mission, listening to the friars, and lending a hand in making the strange structures so unlike their own wattle and dried mud huts.

In fact, when foodstuffs ran low among the first three mission, the governor led a detachments of these soldiers back to the Valley of Bears to slaughter dozens. They shared some of the meat with the Chumash and took lots of bear hides and carcasses back to Mission San Antonio and Monte Rey.

 A side note: Not all the Chumash were that pleased with the arrival of the Spanish in their area. Most unhappy were the tribal elders and "shamans" or medicine men. [In my research, I learned Shaman is not really the correct word for those leading tribal religious rites. The proper one seems to be Healer.]

They roused their people and groups from the south and east of The Valley of the Bears came and attacked the mission, using fire arrows to set the thatch and tule reed roofs afire. Padre José Cavalier, who founded the mission with Father Serra, remembered the tile roofs in his home of Majorca. He remembered out how to make clay and an oven/kiln to harden it. He then formed strong beams and covered the chapel roof with the tiles we have become so used to calling Spanish Tiles. Bit by bit, he made enough to roof, not only the chapel but the warehouses and living quarters for the soldiers and acolytes. Seeing how well they worked, it soon became a matter of common practice to use similar roofs in all the missions.

Oh yeah, to begin with, most mission structures were not very substantial, made of willow rods with smaller twigs and brush interlaces, all covered in dried mud. It was only a few years later when the hard work of making adobe bricks, that more substantial structures were erected.

And yes, the Chumash worked at the side of the friar's to do all this - without enslavement! They did so in return for better food, not having to face starvation or suffering from drought, and freedom from the predation of the bears.


[Hope you enjoyed this.]