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California Missions - San Luis, Obispo De Tolosa

( Originally Published Early 1922 )

FOUNDED, as we have seen, by Serra himself, September 1, 1772, by the end of 1773 it could report only twelve converts. Serra left the day after the founding, leaving Padre Cavalier in charge, with two Indians from Lower California, four soldiers and their corporal. Their only provisions were a few hundred pounds of flour and wheat, and a barrel of brown sugar. But the Indians were kind, in remembrance of Fages's goodness in shooting the bears, and brought them venison and seeds frequently, so they " managed to subsist " until provisions came.

Padre Cavalier built a neat chapel of logs and apartments for the missionaries, and the soldiers soon erected their own barracks. While the Indians were friendly they did not seem to be particularly attracted to the Mission, as they had more and better food than the padre, and the only thing he had that they particularly desired was cloth. There was no rancheria in the vicinity, but they were much interested in the growth of the corn and beans sown by the padre, and which, being on good and well-watered land, yielded abundantly.

In 1776 certain gentiles, who were hostile to some Indians who were sheltered by the padres, attacked the Mission by discharging burning arrows upon the tule roof of the buildings, and everything was destroyed, save the church and the granary. Rivera came at once, captured two of the ringleaders, and sent them for punishment to the Monterey presidio. The success of the gentiles on this occasion led them to repeat it by setting fire to the Mission twice during the next ten years, and it was these calamities that led one of the San Luis padres to attempt the making of roof tiles. Being successful, it was not long before all the Missions were so roofed.

In 1794 certain of the neophytes of San Luis and La Purisima conspired with some gentiles to incite the Indians at San Luis to revolt, but the arrest and deportation of fifteen or twenty of the ringleaders to Monterey, to hard labor at the presidio, put a stop to the revolt.

Padres Lasuen and Tapis both served here as missionaries, and in 1798 Luis Antonio Martinez, one of the best known of the padres, began his long term of service at San Luis. In 1794 the Mission reached its highest population of 946 souls. It had 6500 head of cattle and horses, 6150 sheep. In 1798 it raised 4100 bushels of wheat, and in this same year a water-power mill was erected and set in motion. San Luis was also favored by the presence of a smith, a miller, and a carpenter of the artisan instructors, sent by the King in 1794. Looms were erected, and cotton brought up from San Blas was woven. A new church of adobes, with a tile roof, was completed in 1793, and that same year a portico was added to its front.

In 1818, when Bouchard, the South. American revolutionist, came North to harass the California coast, he stopped at Refugio, a sea-coast rancho about opposite to San Luis. A force was at once raised to go and drive off the " pirates," and Padre Martinez rose from a sick bed to lead thirty-five of his neophytes to the scene of action. After the destruction of the ranch house Bouchard sailed for Santa Barbara, leaving three of his men, however, prisoners in the hands of the Spaniards.

A little prior to this time, Martinez visited the Indians of the great valley of the Tulares, and found them willing to have a Mission established; and had not controversy arisen on the question of the presence of soldiers, it is possible the San Joaquin Valley would have had several Missions established in the course of a few years.

To the sailors and traders along the coast early in the century, few figures were better known and better liked than that of the picturesque Padre Luis Martinez. "Portly of figure and gruff of speech" he was jolly, hail-fellowwell-met, hospitable, and, if reports and suspicions count for anything, always ready to trade for his own advantage. Anyhow, in the spring of 1830, on the charge of smuggling, he was banished, and, with many tears and much regret, he was compelled to say farewell to the Mission he so much loved, and the Indians he had sought to benefit, to return in disgrace to old Madrid, where he spent the remainder of his days.

" H. H.," in Ramona, in describing the wedding tour and festivities of General and Senora Moreno, tells a good story which perfectly illustrates the jolly character of Padre Martinez. She says :

" On the morning of their departure, the good padre, having exhausted all his resources for entertaining his distinguished guests, caused to be driven past the corridors for their inspection, all the poultry belonging to the Mission. The procession took an hour to pass. For music there was squeaking, cackling, hissing, gobbling, crowing, and quacking of the fowls, combined with the screaming, scolding, and whip-cracking of the excited Indian marshals of the lines. First came the turkeys, then the roosters, then the white hens, then the black, and then the yellow ; next the ducks, and at the tail of the spectacle long files of geese, some struggling, some half flying and hissing in resentment and terror at the unwonted coercion to which they were subjected. The Indians had been hard at work all night capturing, sorting, assorting, and guarding the rank and file of their novel pageant. It would be safe to say that a droller sight never was seen, and never will be, on the Pacific coast or any other. Before it was done with, the General and his bride had nearly died with laughter; and the General could never allude to it without laughing almost as heartily again."

At the time of Martinez's banishment the buildings at San Luis were already falling into decay, as the padre, with far-seeing eye, was assured that the politicians had nothing but evil in store for them. Consequently, he did not keep up things as he otherwise would have done. He was an outspoken, frank, fearless man, and this undoubtedly led to his being chosen as the example necessary to restrain the other padres from too great freedom of speech and manner.

In 1834 San Luis had 264 neophytes, though after secularization the number was gradually reduced until, in 1840, there were but 170 left. The order of secularization was put into effect in 1835 by Manuel Jimeno Casarin. The inventory of the property in 1836 showed $70,000. In 1839 it was $60,000. In 1840 all the horses were stolen by " New Mexican traders," one report alone telling of the driving away of 1200 head. The officers at Los Angeles went in pursuit of the thieves and one party reported that it came in full sight of the foe retiring deliberately with the stolen animals, but, as there were as many Americans as Indians in the band they deemed it imprudent to risk a conflict.

In 1842 a distribution of land to the most worthy neophytes took place; one, named Odon, receiving 75 varas of land, the house occupied by him, a copper pot and two troughs. The fruit of the trees on his land, how-ever, was to remain community property.

Two years later the report of the padre presidente Duran states that at San Luis there are neither lands, nor cattle, and its neophytes are scattered for want of a minister. It had been completely secularized by Micheltorena's decree in 1843, converted into a pueblo, the neophytes freed, the Mission house turned into a parsonage, and the other buildings dedicated to public uses.

June 5, 1845, saw Pio Pico's decree issued offering San Luis for sale, and December 4 it was sold to Scott, Wilson, and McKinley for $510, and this ended its history as a Mission.

In December of 1846, when Fremont was marching south to co-operate with Stockton against the Southern Californians, San Luis was thought to harbor an armed force of hostiles. Accordingly Fremont surrounded it one dark, rainy night, and took it by sudden assault. The fears were unfounded, for only women, children, and non-combatants were found.

In the baptismal register at San Luis Obispo, the first date of which is in 1772, the original names are given of many of the rancherias of that Mission, some of which are still retained in local names to this day. We find Tchena, Tgmaps, De Qmchechs, De Imipu, Chiminer, Lteguie, Chofuate, Sespala, Sesjala, Chapule, etc. Baptism 2087 is of an adult about 30 years of age, a native of Santa Margarita. His name was Csfoczo, and he was given the Christian name of Juan.

Six miles from San Luis is the Rancho Camado, where are some hot springs. Opposite these are to be found remnants of walls. These are ruins of the church of a vista or asistencia of San Luis, and a padre went regularly from the Mission to say mass for the Indians there.

The Book of Confirmations at San Luis has its introductory pages written by Serra. There is also a " Nota " opposite page 3, and a full page note in the back in his clear, vigorous and distinctive hand.

There are three bells at San Luis Obispo. The thickest is to the right, the smallest in the centre. On the largest bell is the following inscription : " Me fecit ano di 1818 Manvel Vargas, Lima. Mision de Sn Luis Obispo De La Nueba California," this latter in a circumferential panel about midway between the top and bottom of the bell. On the middle bell we read the same inscription, while there is none on the third. This latter was cast in San Francisco, from two old bells which were broken.

From a painting the old San Luis Obispo church is shown to have been raised up on a stone and cement foundation. The corridor was without the arches that are elsewhere one of the distinctive features, but plain round columns, with a square base and topped with a plain square moulding gave support to the roof beams on which the usual red-tiled roof was placed.

The fachada of the church retreats some 15 or 20 feet from the front line of the corridors. The monastery has been " restored," even as has the church, out of all resemblance to its own honest original self. The adobe walls are covered with painted wood, and the tiles have given way to shingles, just like any other modern and common-place house. The building faces the southeast. The altar end is at the northwest. To the southwest are the remains of a building of boulders, brick, and cement, exactly of the same style as the asistencia building of Santa Margarita. It seems as if it might have been built by the same hands.