History of Santa Barbara Mission

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The tenth Franciscan mission founded in California. The presidio of Santa Barbara was established in 1782, soon after the founding of San Buenaventura mission, and it was the intention to found a mission at Santa Barbara also, but owing to lack of agreement between the civil authorities and the padres as to the method of organization of the proposed seat, it was not founded till several years later. Finally, on Dec. 4, 1786, the cross was raised and blessed by Fr. Lasuen at a place called Taynayan by the natives, a mile or so from the presidio. Owing to it being the rainy season, buildings were not begun until later.

By 1790 there were 438 neophytes. A church 18×90 ft, and numerous other buildings, all roofed with tiles, had been completed. In the next 10 years the number of neophytes increased to only 864, though 1,237 were baptized and only 624 had died. Probably some of the others had been allowed to live in their own villages away from the mission. A new church was finished in 1794, and by 1800 quite a number of new buildings had been erected. At that time there were 60 neophytes engaged in making and weaving cloth, while a carpenter and a tanner were regularly employed to teach the natives those trade. Within the next few years 234 adobe houses were erected for the neophytes.

In 1803 a mission chapel was built at San Miguel. In 1801 an epidemic carried off a great number of the natives and caused the neophytes, through a pretended revelation of their old deities, temporarily to renounce Christianity, though the Fathers knew nothing of this until later. The greatest number of neophytes, 1,792, was reached in 1803; in 1810 there were 1,355. The crops were good, averaging 6,216 bushels for the preceding decade; the large stock numbered 5,670, and small stock 8,190. During the following decade the crops increased somewhat, but the stock declined. The earthquake of 1812 injured rather seriously the church, and a new one, 40×165 ft, was begun in 1815, and completed and dedicated in 1820. This is still standing. The walls are 6 ft thick, of irregular sandstone blocks laid in cement, while the towers, 20 ft square, are, with the exception of a narrow passageway in one of them, solid masses of stone and cement to a height of 30 ft.

In 1820 there were 1,132 neophytes, in 1830 only 711. In 1824 there was considerable trouble with the neophytes; a revolt had arisen at Santa Inés, and the Indians from Santa Barbara demanded that the soldiers at the mission leave their arms and withdraw to the presidio. This demand finally led to a conflict, and the natives fled to the hills and later to San Joaquin valley. After the revolt at Santa Inés and Purísima had been quelled, the Indians were finally induced to return by the granting of a general pardon. The padres and the church property were at no time interfered with.

In 1834 there were 556 neophytes. The total number of natives baptized up to that time was 4,658, of whom 2,168 were children. In 1840 there were still probably 250 ex-neophytes at the mission. The mission continued prosperous even after its secularization, and the buildings were kept in better condition than at other places. In 1843 it was returned to the control of the padres, who, in 1844, reported that they had the greatest difficulty in supporting the 285 souls dependent on them.

In 1846 the mission was sold for $7,500, though the principal buildings, as elsewhere, remained in the possession of the Church, and have been better preserved than at any other California mission. The Indians connected with Santa Barbara belonged chiefly to the Chumashan linguistic family, though Yokuts were also probably represented, as many neophytes are reported as coming from the “Tulares.”



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. 21 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/history-of-santa-barbara-mission.htm - Last updated on Nov 13th, 2013


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