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History of San Luis Rey de Francia Mission

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(Saint Louis, King of France, commonly contracted to San Luis Rey). A Franciscan mission founded June 13, 1798, in San Diego County, California. It was the last mission established in California south of Santa Barbara, and the last one by Fr. Lasuen, who was aided by Frs. Santiago and Peyri. The native name of the site was Tacayne. Occupying an intermediate position between San Juan Capistrano and San Diego, it seems to have been chosen chiefly because of the great number of docile natives in the neighborhood. On the day of the founding, 54 children were baptized, and the number of baptisms by the end of the year reached 214.

Fr. Peyri, the head of the new mission, was most zealous and energetic, the natives were willing to work, and by July 1, 6,000 adobes were made for the new church, which was completed in 1802. Other buildings also were constructed, and neophytes rapidly gathered in, so that by 1810 the number reached 1,519, a more rapid growth than in any other mission, while the death rate was the lowest. The mission also prospered materially, having in 1810, 10,576 large stock, 9,710 small stock, and an average crop for the preceding decade of 5,250 bushels. During the next decade the mission continued to prosper, the population reaching 2,603 in 1820, while the large stock numbered 11,852, the small stock 13,641, and the average crop was 12,470 bushels. In 1816 Fr. Peyri founded the branch establishment, or asistencia, of San Antonio de Pala, about 20 miles up the river. Here a chapel was built, a padre stationed, and within a year or two more than a thousand converts gathered.

The mission attained its greatest prosperity about 1826, when it had 2,869 neophytes, but from this time it gradually declined. The mission lands were extensive, including ranches at Santa Margarita, Las Flores, Temecula, San Jacinto, and Agna Caliente, all of which were tended by the neophytes. At the time of secularization in 1834 San Luis Rey had the greatest number of neophytes of all the missions, namely 2,844, and also the greatest number of livestock. After secularization the decline was rapid, both in population and wealth. The Indians managed to retain partial control of some of the mission ranches for a few years longer, but soon had to give them up.

The total number of natives baptized up to 1834 was 5,401, of whom 1,862 were children. In 1846 Gov. Pico sold what was left of the mission buildings and ground for $2,437. Their agent was dispossessed by Fremont, and during most of 1847 the place was garrisoned by United States troops. It was also held as a sub-Indian agency for some time afterward. As with the other missions, the title to the buildings and the immediate grounds was finally confirmed to the Catholic Church.

In 1892 the church was repaired, and the next year rededicated. Other buildings also have been repaired or rebuilt, and San Luis Rey is now a college for the training of missionaries. The chapel at Pala has likewise been restored, and while the original inhabitants have entirely disappeared, Pala has recently become the home of the Hot Springs Indians from Warner’s ranch, having 252 inhabitants in 1908. The Indians in the neighborhood of the San Luis Rey mission belong to the Shoshonean linguistic stock, and have been given the collective name of LuiseƱos.


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