California Missions

by Christopher McClatchey

In the 1760's, Spain possessed a large empire, but many countries were attacking the empire. As a last resort, it set up settlements in other countries. In America, it sent a group of missionaries to start a mission chain in California. The missionaries agreed, but little did they know how hard it would be.

In the year 1769, a group of missionaries and soldiers arrived in California. Many were sick, and some had died along the way. The missionaries' main intent was to convert the Indians, but the Spanish government wanted money. As a result, arguments arose between the missionaries and the Government.

At the first mission, San Diego De Alcala, the missionaries began trying to convert the Indians. But all that the Indians wanted was the trinkets that they brought with them. The Indians ran through the mission, stealing what they could. When the Indians appeared to be ready to take the trinkets using violence, the soldiers fired on the Indians. Naturally, all conversions were slowed.

Because of tensions with the Indians, the mission was moved inland. But this change proved no better. At the new site, the Indians killed three men. For a while afterwards, the missionaries debated upon where to put the mission. In the end, they stayed at the inland site. The mission chain was started!

But the ambitious missionaries were not finished. They set up more missions. Father Serra, one of the missionaries, set up eight more missions before he died in 1784. Father Lasuen, Serra's successor, set up nine more. But their successors only founded three. By 1823, there were 21 total missions. Then the Spanish government said that the missions' land had to be turned into towns. By 1846, all the land had been sold to private owners.

Now, one may think that the missions' sole function was converting the Indians, but it wasn't. They helped the Indians in many ways. They helped many other people, too, but they helped the Indians the most.

When the missionaries arrived in California, the Indians weren't very advanced in architecture or in metal tool using. The missionaries showed the Indians how to create useful, permanent buildings and other items. They also taught them Spanish.

Some people had a bad opinion of the missions. They said that the missions made the Indians lead a regimental life. A few Indians thought so, too, but most did not.

The missions helped more than just the Indians. They helped the Spaniards spread their empire. And they helped California. They helped make accurate maps of California. They traded with the United States. They kept the Russians from settling California. Later, they helped make California a state. And even now they attract tourists. Many people have walked through them, gazing at the beautiful yet simple details.

Nine cities in California are named after the missions. A few of them are: San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles. If you go to these cities, you will be able to find the missions for which they were named. They are still beautiful spots to visit, and remember, they were built for God.

Timeline from 1769-1846

1769 - Missionaries arrive in California.                                     
     - San Diego De Alcala established.
1770 - San Carlos Borremo De Carmelo established near Carmel.
1771 - San Antonio De Padua established near King City.
     - San Gabriel Arcangel established near Los Angeles.
1772 - San Luis Obispo De Tolosa established.
1776 - San Fransisco De Asis established.
     - San Juan Capistrano established.
1777 - Santa Clara De Asis established near Santa Cruz.
1782 - San Buenaventura established near Ventura.
1784 - Father Serra died.
1786 - Santa Barbara established.
1787 - La Purisima Conception established near Buellton.
1791 - Santa Cruz established.
     - Nuestra Senora De La Soledad established.
1797 - San Jose established.
     - San Juan Bautistra established.
     - San Miguel Arcangel established.
     - San Ferdinando Rey De Espala established.
1798 - San Luis Rey De Francia established.
1804 - Santa Ines established in Solvang.
1817 - San Rafael Arcangel established. 
1823 - San Francisco De Solano established in Solano.
     - 21 total missions.
1830 - Land sold to private owners.
1846 - All land sold to owners.
1862 - 22 acres of land returned to Missions.               


  1. Californian History Collection
  2. California Mission History: San Diego De Alcala The California Missions site. Ed. The Civic group. 24 Sept. 1998.
  3. Hubert A. Lowman, All 21 California Missions in full color, Lawson Marsdon group. Hong Kong.
  4. Elizabeth L. Hogan, Editor, Californian Missions, Sunset publishing corporation,Menlo Park, 1979.
  5. World Book Encyclopedia Vol.C, Field Enterprises Educational Corp. Chicago, 1998. 48h
  6. World Book 1998 Multimedia Encyclopedia Deluxe Edition, 1998 Ibm Corp. San Diego 1998.

Valid HTML 3.2!