History of Dolores Mission

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A Spanish Franciscan mission established in California within the site of the city of San Francisco on Oct. 9, 1776. When Gov. Portola, in searching for Monterey, came to the bay of San Francisco, that had remained hidden to all previous explorers, Father Junipero Serra regarded it as a miraculous discovery, for the visitador-general in naming the missions to be established at the havens of the coast had said to the mission president, who was disappointed because the name of the founder of the order was omitted, that if St Francis de sired a mission he must show his port. The missionaries impatiently brooked the obstacles that delayed planting a mission at the port that their patron saint had revealed. The site was beside the lagoon of Nuestra Senora de los Dolores, hence the mission of San Francisco de Assisi came to be known as Dolores mission. There were no natives present when the mission was opened. The inhabitants, the Romonan, had been driven from the peninsula by a hostile tribe who burned their rancherias and killed all who did not escape on rafts. When the fugitives returned to find their home occupied by the Spaniards they were disposed to contend for its possession. In the first fight the soldiers fired in the air, in the next they shot a native, upon which the savages begged for peace, but fled when the Spaniards released after a whipping those that they had captured, and were not seen again until spring. The missionaries gradually won their confidence after they returned and in October baptized 17 adults. At the end of 5 years there were 215 converts, and in 1 796 they numbered 720. The neophytes when harshly treated could escape easily by water, and after 280 had run away and the soldiers were unable to stay the exodus the head missionary sent out a party of 15 Christian Indians, of whom 7 were slain by the Cuchillones. A priest, Father Fernandez, brought charges against the missionary fathers, and Gov. Borica demanded that they reform their treatment long tasks, scant rations, and cruel punishments, evidenced by 200 escapes and as many deaths within a year. Although Father Lasuen, the mission president, promised and endeavored to remedy the alleged evils, the Indians continued to run away, and the missionaries, in 1797, sent out another party of neophytes to gather in the lost flock, but the former barely escaped the fate of the preceding party. The Saclan harbored the fugitives and threatened to kill the mission Indians if they continued to work and the soldiers if they interfered. The governor sent a detachment of troops to punish them, and in the fight 2 soldiers were wounded and 7 natives killed. The Cuchian were also attacked and the soldiers returned with 83 of the fugitive Christians. During the decade 1,213 natives were baptized and 1,031 buried, and at the end of the 18th century the neophyte population was 644. The cattle increased to 8,200 head, and the crop in 1800 was 4,100 bushels, half of it wheat. The land about the mission was sterile, and fields 12 in. distant were planted. The neophytes first dwelt in rude huts of willow poles and tule, but between 1793 and 1798 adobe houses were built for every family and the thatched roofs of the church and mission buildings were replaced with tiles. On looms made by the Indians woolen cloth was produced in quantities sufficient to clothe the converts and blankets were woven for the presidio. In 1796 the manufacture of coarse pottery was begun. In 1820 the neophyte population was 622, but the mortality continued to be greater than in any other mission. In 1830 the population was 219. The sheep fell off to one-fifth of the former number and only a third as much grain was produced as in 1810. The decline was due to the division of the mission when San Rafael was founded in a healthier location in 1817 and San Francisco Solano in 1823. While the baptisms were exceeded only at San Jose, there were 2,100 deaths at San Francisco Dolores and San Rafael, whither half the neophytes were removed, in the 10 years ending with 1820. Solano, founded with the intention of transferring the entire mission, received half the neophytes of the parent mission, but returned a part when it was constituted an independent establishment. The buildings fell into ruin, except the church, which is still standing as part of the Dolores mission church of San Francisco. The number of neophytes fell to 204 in 1832, and in 1840 there were 89 at San Mateo and about 50 scattered about the district. The civilian administrator found little property in 1834 and soon none was left. The neophytes received nothing; they were never organized in a pueblo, but were apportioned among the settlers and held in servitude against their will. In 1843 the last remnant, 8 aged starvelings, appealed to the Government for help.

The tribes that came first under the influence of the Dolores mission were the Ahwaste, Altahmo, Olhon, Romonan, and Tulomo, all speaking the same language, the Costanoan, as did some other tribes, not so numerous, that lived on or near the thickly peopled shores of San Francisco bay. They subsisted by hunting and fishing. Both sexes often wore their hair short, having the custom of cut ting it when afflicted by sorrow or misfortune. Those of the s. allowed their hair to grow and wore the long carefully dressed braids adorned with beads and trinkets wound about the head like a turban. The medicine-men, through their incantations, pretended to be able to bring fish as well as to cure the sick. Of the blubber of stranded whales and of seals they were extremely fond, and they ate nuts, berries, and camas bulbs, and made bread of seeds and acorns. The people who came to the mission from the opposite shore of the bay and the estuary were of lighter hue and more corpulent than the coast Indians. The men went naked, coating themselves with mud on cold mornings; the women wore an apron of sedge or rushes reaching before and behind to the knees and a cloak of the same material over their shoulders. People are said to have married and parted without ceremony, mothers taking their children with them, and men often took whole families of sisters for their wives. These Indians burned their dead.

The following list of rancherias and tribes from which the mission drew its neophytes is adapted from those recorded in the parish books (Taylor in Cal. Farmer, Oct. 18, 1861):

Abmoctac, Acnagis, Acyum, Aleta, Altahmo, Aluenchi, Amutaja, Anamas, Anamon, Anchin, Aramay, Assunta, Atarpe, Cachanegtac, Caprup, Carascan, Cazopo, Chagunte, Chanigtac, Chapugtac, Chayen, Chipisclin, Chipletac, Chiputca, Chuchictac, Chupcan, Churmutce, Chutchin, Chynau, Conop, Elarroyde, Flunmuda, Gamchines, Genau, Guanlen, Guloismistac, Halchis, Horocroc, Huimen, Hunctu, Itaes, Joquizara, Josquigard, Juniamuc, Juris, Lamsim, Libantone, Livangebra, Livangelva, Luianeglua, Luidneg, Macsinum, Malvaitac, Mitline, Muingpe, Naig, Naique, Napa, Olestura, Ompivromo, Otoacte, Oturbe, Ousint, Patnetac, Petaluma, Proqueu, Pructaca, Pruristac, Puichon, Purutea, Puycone, Quet, Sadaues, Sagunte, Saraise, Saruntac, Satumuo, Saturaumo, Sicca, Sipanum, Siplichiquin, Siscastac, Sitintajea, Sitlintaj, Sittintac, Ssalayme, Ssichitca, Ssipudca, Ssiti, Ssogereate, Ssupichum, Subchiam, Suchui, Sunchaque, Talcan, Tamalo, Tatquinte, Timigtac, Timsin, Titivu, Torose, Totola, Tubisuste, Tuca, Tupuic, Tupuinte, Tuzsint, Uchium, Urebure, Ussete, Vagerpe, Vectaca, Yacmui, Yacomui, Zomiomi, Zucigin.

The names of the tribes which furnished the early converts were Ahwaste, Bolbone, Chiguau, Cuchillones, Chuscan, Cotejen, Junatca, Karkin, Khulpuni, Olemos, Olhon, Olmolococ, Olpen, Quemelentus, Quirogles, Saclan, Salzon (Suisun), Sanchines, Saucou, Sichican, Uchium, Uquitinac.

See Hittell, History of California, 1885-97; Bancroft, History of California, 1886-90; Palou, Life of Serra, 102, 1884.



MLA Source Citation:

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 25 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/history-of-dolores-mission.htm - Last updated on Aug 16th, 2011


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