Charles Frederick Holder.

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country, and for nineteen years la-
bored hard and earnestly; teaching
the Indians, improving the missions
and church property, preaching,
travelling, and seeing as well to the
temporal welfare of his charges as to
their spiritual salvation. His abili-
ties were pre-eminent, and when
upon the dissolution of the Order of
Jesuits it fell to the lot of the Fran-
ciscans to succeed to the field of la-
bors so long and faithfully worked
by those brave men, the authorities
at once, and without solicitation from
Father Junipero, selected him as
their leader to extend the work of
the Church among the Indians of
Upper California.

His executive ability was of high
order, and with the assistance of Jose
de Galvez, the visitador-general, ex-
peditions by sea and land were soon
under way to San Diego. The start
was made on January 7th, 1769,
and after disheartening sorrows and
suffering a reunion was effected in
San Diego, and on the 16th day
of July, 1769, the first mission in
California was founded there. The
condition of affairs was discour-
aging; the voyage by sea had been
fateful, one vessel was lost, the scurvy
had broken out, Father Junipero was
very sick, provisions were low, and
the overland party in but little better
condition after their months of wan-
dering in search of roads through the
valleys, mountains, and desert wastes.
The Indians proved thievish and
treacherous; they stole from the
scanty supplies of clothing and even
attempted to cut the sails from the
ships, so that while sick and needing
rest in body and mind all were called
upon for ceaseless vigilance.

An expedition had been dispatched
overland to search for Monterey, but
passed beyond, reached San Francisco
Bay, and returned in a starving and



826



FATHER JUNIPERO SERRA.



destitute condition to their waiting
friends. A vessel had been sent to
Mexico for help, and before its return
the Indians made an attack upon the
little settlement. Six able-bodied
men were all that were left to defend
the lives and property of their com-
panions; but the Indians, unaccus-
tomed to fire-arms, were repulsed by
these few..

Relief at last came from Mexico
and hope once more arose. Ener-
getic measures were instituted and
maintained by Father Junipero until
an expedition was under way for
Monterey. This time the bay was
seen and, with a heart filled with
gratitude, a landing was made and
Father Junipero raised the cross and
preached a sermon to the company
under Viscaino's oak. The primary
objects of the first expedition were
accomplished. San Diego and Mon-
terey were settled, and a messenger
was dispatched with the information
to Mexico, where bells were rung,
proclamations printed, and the news
at once sent to Spain.

No day or hour was lost to Father
Junipero. He labored with the la-
borers, taught with the priests, ad-
vised with the military commander,
organized expeditions in search of
fertile valleys, and rested only to
conduct the services of the Church.
He was unceasing in his efforts to
obtain new missionaries, and as fast
as help was received missions were
founded and the work of converting
the Indians commenced. He made
his journeys on foot in all kinds of
weather and with insufficient guards.
No danger could make him turn from
the path of duty while a soul re-
mained unsaved.

He was happy in his chosen work;
the soul was dominant and the ills of
the flesh were disregarded. In the
midst of his labors came news of dis-
tress at San Diego, and hunger was
even then causing much suffering at
Monterey. The Indians had helped
the colonists with seeds and nuts, but
the supply was insufficient. Junipero



was in bodily ailment at the time from
an ulcerated limb, but without a
murmur he made the journey over-
land to San Diego, explored the val-
leys, founding the Mission of San
Luis Obispo and making friends with
the Indians as he journeyed.

At San Diego the captain of the
ship San Antonio was found with sup-
plies, but refused to proceed to Mon-
terey on account of the lateness of the
season and the danger of the winter
winds. But no difficulties were in-
superable to Father Junipero, and
not until he saw the vessel leave the
harbor and a pack-train commence its
overland journey for Monterey, did he
feel that the destruction of his labors
was averted and his friends and com-
panions relieved from danger.

Hardly was one trouble settled
than a more serious one presented
itself in the fact of a change of ad-
ministration in Mexico and the efforts
of the Dominicans to be allowed to
share in the territorial and spiritual
conquests of the Franciscans.

To negotiate or properly represent
the cause of the missions without an
agent in Mexico was manifestly im-
possible. No one save Junipero was
deemed equal to the task, and after
consultation with his missionaries
and a decision made, he, with his
usual energy and promptness, started
upon the long trip to Mexico. Only
an Indian boy accompanied him on
this tedious, dangerous journey, dur-
ing which they were both ill of a
fever and once given up for death.
They met with friends, and upon
arrival in the capital so well did he
argue his case, and so impressed were
all with his honesty, sincerity, and
ability, and so able a diplomat did
he prove himself that he was success-
ful beyond his hopes. The Domini-
cans received as their territory that
known as Lower California; San
Bias was saved as a shipping port;
the finances of the missions placed
in better order, and expeditions
planned, equipped, and started for
further surveys and explorations.



FATHER JUNIPERO SERRA.



827



The authority of the priests extended
to the matter of preserving discipline
and morals in the settlements, a bet-
ter system of supplies arranged, dis-
turbing elements among the military,
noticeably Fedro Fages, the com-
mandante, removed, and, most im-
portant of all, the full winning over
to the cause of Bucareli, the viceroy
of Mexico; and so skilfully did Juni-
pero plan that the best human fore-
sight with the means at hand could
hardly have accomplished more.
Laden with provisions, encouraged
by the friendship of those in au-
thority, at the end of two long, busy,
laborious, and eventful years, he said
a tearful adieu to all and bade a last
final farewell to the homes of his
friends, the comforts of life, and the
security of civilization.

Two years had passed since his de-
parture from San Diego, and learn-
ing of hardships and privations at
the missions, he left the vessel, and
with a train of pack-mules laden with
supplies went to all the missions
from San Diego to Monterey, a ver-
itable good shepherd who carefully
watched and tended his flock.

In the midst of his unremitting
labors and journeyings came the news
of an Indian outbreak at San Diego
in which several of his friends were
killed and wounded ; also that a most
unfortunate quarrel had arisen be-
tween Commandante Rivera y Mon-
cada and the missionaries as to the
punishment of some neophytes whom
it was alleged had been concerned in
the outbreak and jointly responsible
for the murders. The missionaries
were for pardoning them, but the
commandante, in defiance of the
priest's orders, broke open the ware-
house on the beach, where the neo-
phytes had taken refuge and claimed
the privilege of the sanctuary. The
quarrel assumed grave aspects, for
the commandante dragged forth his
prisoners and was excommunicated
therefor by Father Fustu, who was
an eye-witness of what was to him a
scandalous and sacrilegious act. In



those times and under the circum-
stances such an anathema was a seri-
ous matter, and Moncada in order to
obtain absolution went to Junipero,
then at Monterey. Not obtaining it,
he appealed to the authorities in
Mexico, and was soon afterward
transferred to Loretto, in Lower Cal-
ifornia. Nothing could have struck
deeper into Junipero's heart than to
lose a mission or see the work into
which he was throwing his whole
soul retarded for a moment, and as
soon as possible he started for San
Diego. Arriving there, sailors, neo-
phytes, soldiers, and people of all
classes were soon engaged in the
rebuilding of the mission.

Junipero labored with the rest,
quarrying stone, making adobes, and
pushing the work forward with fever-
ish haste. A short time would have
sufficed to have completed it, but
again Moncada hindered him by
issuing orders calling off the soldiers,
pretending to believe another attack
was planned by the Indians.

Father Junipero was firm, but
pending the time before orders could
be received from Bucareli he suffered
martyrdom in spirit. When the de-
cision was rendered that the Indians
be pardoned, that twenty-five addi-
tional soldiers had been ordered, and
that the building be not further de-
layed, Junipero's joy was so great that
the bells were rung and a thanksgiv-
ing mass said. Moncada submitted,
soldiers were appointed as guards for
the different missions, and the build-
ing at San Diego was finished as
planned.

Zealous as ever, Junipero pushed
on to the site of the intended mission
at San Juan Capistrano and dug up the
bells that had been previously buried
there when tidings of the trouble at
San Diego had caused a cessation
from work.

To further secure the peace and
prosperity of the new missions, with-
out intrusting the task to others, aged
in years as he was and stricken with
a painful disease, he undertook a



828



FATHER JUNIPERO SERRA.



journey to San Gabriel in search of
food. Though the Indians were hos-
tile and the way laborious, yet rather
than take one man from the work on
the buildings, he chose as only com-
panions one soldier and an Indian
boy.

They were stopped by a band of
painted Indians and would undoubt-
edly have been murdered had not his
Indian boy cried out that a large
body of soldiers were following them.
The ruse was successful, and Juni-
pero made his journey in safety, driv-
ing the cattle before him that he had
obtained for the new mission. Mean-
time his work in the north had been
neglected. Missions at San Fran-
cisco and Santa Clara had been
planned before his departure, settlers
were expected, explorations and sur-
veys intended, and )^et no news had
reached him of any description for
months. Once more the weary but
unconquered man set his face toward
Monterey, and reached there in Janu-
ary, 1777. He had blessed an expe-
dition destined for San Francisco be-
fore called to quell the troubles at
San Diego, and returned to find that
the flag was flying at the Golden
Gate. He had labored with all his
soul since he assumed command in
1769, and for the few years yet re-
maining to him he found no rest.
What he had accomplished, his many
journeys, and his watchful care, all
seemed as nothing to his ambitious
mind. He was ceaseless in his efforts
to obtain more missionaries, that he
might realize the noble plans he had
formed for further spiritual con-
quests. His watchful eye was ever
on the alert for advantageous sites
for missions, and the judgment that
he and his followers exercised upon
these occasions has never been ques-
tioned, and to-day still challenges
the admiration of men who from long
acquaintanceship with the entire
country are familiar with all its
favored sites for wealth and beauty.

He had met with great success in
making converts. In all his plans



the ultimate end sought to be attained
was the conversion of the Indians,
the salvation of their souls, and final-
ly fitting them to be loyal subjects
of the Spanish crown ; and to accom-
plish this end he labored among them
with an unflagging zeal and a- pa-
tience truly saint-like at times. He
had long mourned his inability to
confirm. As a priest he had authority
only to baptize; he studiously re-
frained from all efforts to be raised
to the dignity of a bishop, which
would have carried this power with
it; but a bull was issued by the
Pope on July 16th, 1774, which gave
him authority to confirm for a pe-
riod of ten years. Formalities and
delays retarded its transmission, and
the patent founded on this bull and
under which Junipero acted did not
reach him in California until June,
1778.

In 1779 he received news of a great
political change. The territory of
California, among others, had been
ordered withdrawn from the vice-
royalty and erected into a separate
jurisdiction under the government
of a comandante-general. It gave
him serious alarm. He had become
an old man by this time, was nearly
seventy years of age, and still much
afflicted in body from the severe
hardships and perils he had under-
gone. His friend Bucareli no longer
in charge, the impossibility of another
journey to Mexico was manifest, and
he had a new government to deal
with, which might at any moment
give the death-blow to his life-work.
Upon receiving permission to con-
firm, he had undertaken without de-
lay the arduous task of administering
the rite of confirmation to all in the
State, and had commenced at San
Carlos. After finishing there he
proceeded to San Diego, and went
northward from mission to mission
until he reached Monterey, worn and
exhausted by the journey and the
spiritual excitement under which he
labored while administering the rites.

His recent efforts, and again the



FATHER JUNIPERO SERRA.



829



old trouble from the ulcerated limb
had rendered him very feeble, but in
a short time he was on his way to
San Francisco. At Santa Clara he
was met by the officers of the gov-
ernment exploring expedition and
found barely able to stand. With
unflagging enthusiasm he pursued
his work even here, and from thence
to San Francisco, remaining there
three weeks at labor; then hastened
back to San Carlos, arriving Novem-
ber 9th, 1779. He had confirmed all
those ready to receive the ceremony,
and the consciousness of having per-
formed his whole duty gave him
strength to meet the troubles now
fast approaching.

Upon Bucareli's death he had
charged the new governor, Felipe

|)e Neve, to cherish the missions,
ut De Neve's first act, almost, was to
uestion Junipero's power to confirm
n account of the change of governors.
The question raised was largely
technical and was referred to the col-
lege at San Fernando. Decision was
given in Junipero's favor, with orders
that he was not to be interfered with,
and when going from mission to
mission an escort of soldiers should
be furnished him. In 1781 he was
able to renew his duties, and at once
made another journey to the northern
missions, administering the rites as
•before.

A new source of trouble soon arose
in the shape of a conflict with the
Colorado Indians. Under the new
rigime a mission had been founded
upon a new principle; *".•*., the mis-
sionaries were now simply religious
teachers; no government was placed
over the Indians; no food distributed
to them brought in that close rela-
tionship with the Church that Juni-
pero had so striven for, believing
that the temporal and spiritual go
well together, and both to be impor-
tant factors for each other.

Provisions ran short, the supplies
obtained were inadequate, the set-
tlers encroached upon the good lands
of the Indians; a train of soldiers



with their animals in an exhausted
condition arrived; the stock injured
the Indians' fields and a massacre
took place ; the buildings were burned
and the settlers, priests, and soldiers
killed after a brave resistance.

De Neve was called south to assist
in the pursuit and punishment of the
Indians, but was far from successful.
This unfortunate trouble retarded
further progress of the proposed three
new missions on the Santa Barbara
Channel. It was necessary to have
a colony near San Gabriel in case of
further trouble in the south, and
Governor De Neve, taking recruits
that had been sent from Lower Cali-
fornia for that express purpose,
founded the city of Los Angeles.
He wrote Junipero, as soon as the
danger at San Gabriel from the Colo-
rado Indians had passed, to come
with missionaries, and the long-de-
layed settlements on the Santa Bar-
bara Channel could then be made.
Junipero arrived in San Gabriel in
March, 1782. Not being able to
supply the needed missionaries, Juni-
pero felt called upon to serve as one
himself, rather than lose a moment,
and so a mission at San Buenaventura
was founded. Later, on April 12th,
1782, Junipero had the joy of bless-
ing an altar and performing the usual
ceremonies of consecration at Santa
Barbara; but notwithstanding all his
efforts and urgent appeals, Junipero
could not procure the six new mis-
sionaries for these two new missions
and a third one he had also projected.
The governor refused to proceed
without them, and Junipero, almost
in despair, hurried on to Monterey
in search of help and of his expected
supply-ship. A courier met him on
the road with dispatches that proved
to be a death-blow to Junipero. The
ship had arrived, but no missionaries.
Affairs were badly mixed in Mexico.
The government refused to grant any
of the usual governmental supplies
for the missions, as the new viceroy
said the governor of California had
informed him they were unnecessary.



8 3 o



FATHER JUNIPERO SERRA.



The college at San Fernando, there-
fore, refused to send the missionaries,
and wrote Junipero to suspend the
foundation of new missions until the
government took a more liberal view
and allowed them their supplies, as
in the former times, until they could
be made self-sustaining. Had his
worst enemy planned the blow, it
could not have afflicted Junipero
more. However, he retained the
mission at San Buenaventura, though
being short of missionaries, and two
being necessary to each mission, he
was obliged to devote his time and
energies to his church at San Carlos,
and forego his essential visitations to
the other missions.

The good fight was almost ended.
While able to proceed with his work,
no floods or storms of nature nor
bodily ills of the flesh were ever able
to check his career or his usefulness.
That his life had been prolonged to
his present age was a wonder to
all. His limb was ulcerated and his
chest much weakened, and caused
him great suffering, for in his later
years, as he saw the end approaching,
so intensely did he feel the need of
improving the hour and so enthusi-
astic was he that when preaching of
purgatory he would tear aside his
gown and hold a lighted four-wicked
taper to his breast until the sight
was almost sickening. He would lift
a huge stone and strike himself so
hard when excited by his over-fervid
oratory that his friends often looked
for his death. He wore the coarsest
clothing and scourged himself with
an iron chain. Few people were so
dull as not to understand these tor-
tures, and Junipero would endure
anything to save the soul of the low-
est Indian in his congregation.

Such things could not always be.
The shattering of his hopes and
bodily ills brought on a serious sick-
ness. He rallied from this, and two
new missionaries having arrived, he
felt he could now leave San Carlos
for a final visitation to his loved mis-
sions. He was seventy-one years



old. Yet he proceeded at once to
San Diego, and though he expected
every moment to sink by the way, he
went from mission to mission, care-
fully examining into its administra-
tion and confirming all those ready
for the ceremony.

At San Gabriel he nearly died, but
recovered when he heard of the good
progress made at San Buenaventura.
In five months he travelled, thus
constantly employed, over a hundred
and seventy leagues, still very weak,
and safely reached his home at San
Carlos. His power to confirm would
expire in a short time, and without
delay, as soon as the winter streams
were fordable, he proceeded to San
Francisco. No rest for him here.
His old friend, Father Murguia, had
died; so as soon as he could finish his
labors at the Mission Dolores he at
once proceeded to Santa Clara, and
in the dead priest's church said a
mass for his soul, then preached most
eloquently, and afterward confirmed
his people. This loss was a cruel
blow to the now suffering priest, and
before parting from San Carlos he
made final arrangements for his own
death and then bravely resumed his
travels and his works.

On July 16th, 1784, the day his
power to confirm expired, he had
confirmed five thousand three hun-
dred and seven persons. He honestly
believed that each soul had been'
saved from a burning hell, and, so
far as he knew, he had not been un-
faithful to his trust by omitting a
single soul in all the vast territory
he ruled over as President of the
California Missions.

The same day a ship arrived and
he learned that the missions on the
Santa Barbara Channel must be
abandoned. It was his last hope,
and with a broken heart he dispatched
couriers to his friends to visit him
and say the eternal farewells. Father
Palon alone reached him as he lay
weak and suffering in a narrow cell.
A surgeon newly arrived from a ves-
sel suggested the application of the



FATHER JUNIPERO SERRA.



831



cautery and Junipero submitted to
the excruciating torment without a
murmur. He passed a bad night,
prayed during the day, and upon
another day he was assisted to the
church, where he knelt at the altar
during the ceremony, while sobs re-
sounded through the edifice from the
mourners who had already assembled
to say farewell. He could not sleep
that night from pain, so he spent it
in the arms of his neophytes. In the
morning he received the captain of
a vessel then in port. He made it as
the request of a dying man that in
death he be laid by his old friend
and co-worker, Father Crispi. He
asked to be allowed to rest, and when
Father Palon returned after a short
absence he found him exactly as he
had left him ; the body was motion-
less, but the suffering was over, and
Father Junipero Serra, the greatest
of them all, was gone.

He was seventy-one years of age
at his death, and for nineteen years
in Mexico and thirteen long, weary
years in California he had labored as
no man before him or since has la-
bored in the line of his work. The
funeral was solemn and imposing.
He left absolutely no earthly posses-
sions; his robe and sandals were
divided among the sorrowing survi-
vors. The tapers were lighted round
the simple coffin; Indians adorned
the bier with flowers, and long pro-
cessions of Spaniards and natives
reverently passed beside the wasted
form, touching it with rosaries and
medals, that they might be blessed
by mere contact with one now re-
garded as a saint. At the burial the
soldiers, sailors, and civilians united
in the solemn ceremonies, and as
the dead man was laid to rest beside
his friend, the tolling bells were an-
swered by the cannon from the ships.

Such, in brief, is a bare outline
sketch of this Franciscan priest. The
.amount of work performed and the
results accomplished still challenge
the admiration of the world, though
its tangible part, owing to the ra-



pacity of the Mexican and Spanish
officials and the spoliations of the
American settlers, aided by vexatious
lawsuits, have reduced the once
powerful and flourishing missions to
the condition of ruin in which the
tourist now sees them. During Juni-
pero's life he held the missions to-
gether with great executive ability,
and so wise were his acts and so far-
seeing his plans that it excited the
avarice and cupidity of the govern-
ment officials. As soon as the wise
care and reverent feelings toward
the priests and the missions vanished
and greed took its place, their doom
was sealed. If Junipero did wrong,
it was in planning so well that he
placed his missions upon the high
road to prosperity and so invited the
world to a rich treasure-house where
there was no power to repel the in-
vader.

Junipero was loved by his subordi-
nates and obeyed generally with that
disinterested devotion to the great
cause that so marked the early mis-
sionaries in those new fields of work,
though the same zeal that made his
friends love him often sorely tried
the patience of the military authori-
ties when a question of priority of
authority arose between them. He
was a formidable adversary when the
rights of the Church were intrusted
to him, absolutely fearless so far as
physical danger was concerned, and
unflinching and untiring in his efforts
when moral suasion was necessary.

His character was a strange com-
pound of courage, enthusiasm, pa-
tience, zeal, love, and superstition.



Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 111 of 120)