History of Santa Cruz Mission

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(Holy Cross). The twelfth Franciscan mission established in California. The proposed site was personally examined by Fr. Lasuen, who found the natives friendly and ready to help. Supplies and native assistants were sent from the neighboring missions, especially Santa Clara, and the mission was formally founded Sept. 25, 1791, at the place where is now situated the town of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara County. At the end of the year there were 84 neophytes. In 1792 there were 224, and the highest number, 523, was reached in 1796. In 1800 there were 492. At this time the mission had 2,354 head of cattle and horses, and 2,083 of small stock, while the crop for the year amounted to 4,300 bushels. The church, 30 by 112 ft and 25 ft high, with stone front, was completed and dedicated in 1794.

In 1797 a number of colonists arrived from Mexico and settled just across the river Lorenzo from the mission. This settlement caused the missionaries much trouble, and seems to have demoralized the Indians. In 1798 the padre in charge was much discouraged with the outlook and reported that 138 neophytes had deserted. He protested against the settlement, but without effect. The number of neophytes remained about the same for the next 20 years, being 507 in 1810, and 461 in 1820. The livestock increased and the crops continued good. In 1812 one of the fathers was murdered by some of the neophytes, who plead in defense that he was excessively cruel, had flogged two of them to death, and was inventing further instruments of torture.

In 1818 and 1819 there was considerable friction between the mission fathers and the authorities at Brancifort, all but three of the neophytes leaving the mission at one time for fear of attack. After 1820 the mission continued prosperous, but the population decreased, there being 320 neophytes in 1830, and about 250 in 1834. The total number of natives baptized up to that time was 2,216, of whom 939 were children. Within 4 years after its secularization most of the property had disappeared.

In 1839 there were 70 Indians reported at the mission, with perhaps as many more scattered in the district. In 1840 a number of buildings were destroyed and the church was injured by an earthquake. After 1842 the mission was regarded as a part of Brancifort; the buildings had then entirely disappeared.

The Indians in the neighborhood of the mission belong to the Costanoan linguistic family. The mission had neophytes from the following villages, all in the present county of Santa Cruz1 : Achilla, Aestaca, Agtisrn, Apil, Aulintac, Chalumü, Chanech, Chicutae, Choromi, Coot, Hauzaurni, Hottrochtac, Huachi, Hualquilme, Huocom, Locobo, Luchasmi, Mallin, Nohioalli, Ochoyos, Onbi, Osacalis (Souquel ), Payanmin, Sachuen, Sagin, Shiuguermi, Shoremee, Sio Cotchmin, Tejey, Tomoy, Turami, Utalliam, Wallanmi, Yeunaba, Yeunata, Yeunator.


  1. Taylor, Cal. Farmer, Apr. 5, 1860. 

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. 20 January 2015. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/history-of-santa-cruz-mission.htm - Last updated on Jul 22nd, 2014

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