Missions of California (1769-1834)

The Franciscans came to California to convert native tribes to Christianity and prepare them for life in a Spanish society. The natives were taught religion and the Spanish language. They were also taught skills such as brickmaking and construction, how to raise cattle and horses, and weaving.

The natives would live in the missions until their education was complete. They would then establish homes outside of the missions. Once the native in one region were educated and converted to Christianity, the missionaries would move on to new locations. The old missions would be left as parish churches. In the new location, the missionaries would begin the conversion process once again with a new group of natives.

The missions prospered. By 1804, the occupation of the sea-coast line from San Francisco to San Diego was complete. There were nineteen missions within a day's journey of each other. Construction started on a second row of missions more inland. The missions created a considerable wealth and economy with agriculture and large numbers of livestock.

While many people benefited from the missions, many more wanted that prosperity for themselves. Traders, settlers and explorers saw the wealth and began to exploit the missions. There was constant pressure for the mission economy to be taken over by the Californians. In 1813, regulations from Mexico and California were issued to disbanded the missions. They were to be turned over to civilian authorities. This process of "secularization" became the end of the missions.

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California Missions

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There were nine of missions, founded by Serra, before his death in 1784. These missions were: San Diego, July 16, 1769; San Carlos de Monterey (Carmel), June 3, 1770; San Antonio de Padua, July 14, 1771; San Gabriel, Sept. 8, 1771; San Luis Obispo, Sept. 1, 1772; San Francisco (Dolores), Oct. 9, 1776; San Juan Capistrano, Nov. 1, 1776; Santa Clara, Jan. 18, 1777; San Buena Ventura, March 31, 1782.

Following Serra's death, an additional twelve new missions were founded in the following order: Santa Barbara, Dec. 4, 1786; La Purisima, Dec. 8, 1787; Santa Cruz, Sept. 25, 1791; Soledad, Oct. 9, 1791; San Jose, June 11, 1797; San Juan Bautista, June 24, 1797; San Miguel, July 25, 1797; San Fernando Rey, Sept. 8, 1797; San Luis Rey de Francia, June 18, 1798; Santa Ines, Sept. 7, 1804; San Rafael Arcangel, 1817; and, San Francisco de Solano, 1823.

 

Books about the California Missions

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Links to other sites on the California Missions

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  Library of Congress California History Collection - The Missions
 

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