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California Missions - Santa Cruz

( Originally Published Early 1922 )

Jasuen found matters far easier for him in the founding of Missions than did Serra in his later years. The Viceroy agreed to pay $1000 each for the expenses of the Missions of Santa Cruz and La Soledad, and $200 each for the travelling expenses of the four missionaries needed. April 1, 1790, the guardian sent provisions and tools for Santa Cruz to the value of $1021. Lasuen delayed the founding for awhile, however, as the needful church ornaments were not at hand; but as the Viceroy promised them and ordered him to go ahead by borrowing the needed articles from the other Missions, Lasuen proceeded to the founding, as I have already related.

At the end of the year 1791 the neophytes numbered 84. In 1796 the highest mark was reached with 523. In 1800 there were but 492. Up to the end of that year there had been 949 baptisms, 271 couples married, and 477 buried. There were 2354 head of large stock, and 2083 small. In 1792 the agricultural products were about 650 bushels, as against 4300 in 1800.

The corner-stone of the church was laid February 27, 1793, and was completed and formally dedicated May 10, 1794 by Padre Pena from Santa Clara, aided by five other priests. Ensign Sal was present as godfather, and duly received the keys. The neophytes, servants, and troops looked on at the ceremonies with unusual interest, and the next day filled the church at the saying of the first mass. The church was about thirty by one hundred and twelve feet and twenty-five feet high. The foundation walls to the height of three feet were of stone, the front was of masonry, and the rest of adobes. The other buildings were slowly erected, and in the autumn of 1796 a flouring-mill was built and running. It was sadly damaged, however, by the December rains. Artisans were sent to build the mill and instruct the natives, and later a smith and a miller were sent to start it.

In 1798 the padre wrote very discouragingly. The establishment of the villa or town of Brancifort, across the river, was not pleasing. A hundred and thirty-eight neophytes also had deserted, ninety of whom were afterwards brought in by Corporal Mesa. It had long been the intention of the government to found more pueblos or towns, as well as Missions in California, the former for the purpose of properly colonizing the country. Governor Borica made some personal explorations, and of three suggested sites finally chose that just across the river Lorenzo from Santa Cruz. May 12, 1797, certain settlers who had been recruited in Guadalajara arrived in a pitiable condition at Monterey; and soon thereafter they arrived at the new site under the direction of Comisionado Moraga, who was authorized to erect temporary shelters for them. August 12 the superintendent of the formal foundation, Cordoba, had all the surveying accomplished, part of an irrigating canal dug, and temporary houses partially erected. In August, after the Viceroy had seen the estimated cost of the establishment, further progress was arrested by want of funds. Before the end of the century everybody concerned had come to the conclusion that the villa of Brancifort was a great blunder, the " settlers are a scandal to the country by their immorality. They detest their exile, and render no service."

In the meantime the Mission authorities protested vigorously against the new settlement. It was located on the pasture grounds of the Indians ; the laws allowed the Missions a league in every direction, and trouble would surely result. But the Governor retorted, defending his choice of a site, and claiming that the neophytes were dying off, there were no more pagans to convert, and the neophytes already had more land and raised more grain than they could attend to.

In 1805 Captain Goycoechea recommended that as there were no more gentiles, the neophytes be divided between the Missions of Santa Clara and San Juan, and the missionaries sent to new fields. Of course nothing came of this.

On the 12th of October, 1812, Padre Quintana was found dead in his bed. On investigation it was decided that the friar, who for some time had been in poor health, unable to dress himself unaided, had died a natural death. Two years later, however, rumors led to a new investigation, and it was then learned that he had been called out of his bed to attend a dying man, set on, and brutally murdered and mutilated in an unnamable fashion, and then carefully placed in his bed and the door locked. The culprit neophytes were discovered, and five out of the nine arrested were sentenced to receive two hundred lashes each, and then to work in chains from two to ten years. Two others died in prison, and another died in 1817 in Santa Barbara. Only one survived the punishment. The plea of the murderers was that Quintana was excessively cruel, that he had beaten two neophytes almost to death, and was inventing a new instrument of torture, to prevent the use of which his death was determined upon. This charge was carefully investigated by the military authorities and denied with emphasis.

Bouchard's advent caused a flurry at Santa Cruz in 1818. Padre Olbes was ordered to pack up and send every-thing for safety to Soledad. In October. he sarcastically wrote that all were astir both at the Mission and the villa of Brancifort, expecting the insurgents, " not to fight, but to join them, for such is the disposition of the inhabitants."

In November and December the irate padre reported that on the approach of the two vessels the people of Brancifort had deliberately sacked the Mission with the intention of charging it upon Bouchard. But, as the wind prevented a landing, they were left in the lurch. Olbes was excited and forceful in his charges. The scoundrels had stolen every movable article, had destroyed everything that could not be moved, and they had desecrated the church and the holy images. He declared he would abandon the establishment rather than longer submit to the outrages of such wretches.

Naturally such charges could not be neglected, and investigations were instituted, the Mission in the meantime being abandoned, and Olbes growing more violent as the "pretended investigation " proceeded. The upshot of it all was that the trouble grew out of Governor Sola's giving an order that Santa Cruz be abandoned, and then sending another order to Comisionado Buelna of Brancifort to the effect that he was to go to the Mission, and if it was abandoned he was to remove all the property. On the morning of the 2d of November Olbes with his neophytes set out for Santa Clara. On the 24th Buelna went as ordered, and found the buildings vacant, so he proceeded to carry out his orders, forcing some of the doors to do so. In the meantime the majordomo of the Mission and a few Indians, having doubtless heard that Bouchard had not landed, re-turned to the Mission to save some of the Mission goods. Imagine their amazement at finding Buelna already there, dismantling everything. When the Governor's order was understood, however, the two parties joined in the work; and as one or two casks of wine and aguardiente could not be carried away they were spilled. Possibly some of the liquor got into the throats of the workers. The result of this on the workers was not to promote care, and there is no doubt many reckless acts were performed. Some of the Mission goods were buried or otherwise concealed; others were taken by the majordomo in a cart to Santa Clara, and others listed by Buelna and removed to the villa. Among the latter things was a trunk of the padre's, which, unfortunately, was broken into ; and certain stockings given to a young lady led to the detection of the criminals, two of whom were duly punished. This investigation calmed the wrath of the clerical authorities, who soon saw that Olbes had been unduly excited, and the irate padre in a short time dutifully returned to his work.

In February, 1819, however, he was again in trouble. All but three of his neophytes fled because some one had told them that the villa soldiers were coming to take them prisoners. But later on they returned and all was calm again. The crops were good, and the cattle and sheep herds increasing.

In the decade 182030 population declined rapidly, though in live-stock the Mission about held its own, and in agriculture actually increased. In 1823, however, there was another attempt to suppress it, and this doubtless came from the conflicts between the villa of Brancifort and the Mission. The effort, like the former one, was unsuccessful.

In 183435 Ignacio del Valle acted as comisionado, and put in effect the order of secularization. His valuation of the property was $47,000, exclusive of land and church property, besides $10,000 distributed to the Indians. There were no subsequent distributions, yet the property disappeared, for, in 1839, when Visitador Hartwell went to Santa Cruz he found only about one sixth of the live-stock of the inventory of four years ago. The neophytes were organized into a pueblo, named Figueroa after the Governor; but it was a mere organization in name, and, the condition of the ex-Mission was no different from that of any of the others.

The statistics for the whole period of the Mission's existence, 17911834 are : baptisms, 2466 ; marriages, 847 ; deaths, 2035. The largest population was 644 in 1798.

The largest number of cattle was 33700 in 1828 ; horses, 900, in the same year ; mules, 92, in 1805; sheep, 8300, in 1826.

In January, 1840, an earthquake and tidal wave brought disaster. The tower fell, and a number of tiles were carried off, a kind of premonition of the final disaster of 1851, when the walls fell, and treasure seekers completed the work of demolition.

The community of the Mission was completely broken up in 1841-42, everything being regarded, henceforth, as part of Brancifort. In 1845 the lands, buildings, and fruit trees of the ex-Mission were valued at less than $1000, and only about forty Indians were known to remain. The Mission has now entirely disappeared.