Thomas D. Murphy.

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told us, was the ancient monastery. Or, more properly, the ancient
monastery stood here and the present building was reared on its

The church-tower fell in 1840 as the result of an earthquake and ten
years later a second shock demolished the walls of the building. Being
within the limits of the town, the debris was not allowed to remain, as
in lonely Soledad or La Purisima, and the site was cleared for other
purposes. And this reminds us that we owe the existence of many of
the mission ruins to their isolation; wherever they stood within the
limits of a town of any size they either have been restored or have
disappeared. Of the former we may cite Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo
and of the latter, Santa Cruz and San Rafael.

The mission at Santa Cruz was another of Padre Lasuen's projects—founded
under his direction in 1790. It never prospered greatly, its highest
population being five hundred and twenty-three in 1796. From that time
it declined rapidly and at the secularization in 1835 the Indians had
almost disappeared. The property at that time was valued at less than
fifty thousand dollars and, as we have seen, the church was destroyed
five years later. Santa Cruz would doubtless rejoice to have her
historic mission among her widely heralded attractions to-day, but it
is gone past any rehabilitation.

As a seaside resort, Santa Cruz is one of the most popular in
California; during the season no fewer than thirty thousand visitors
flock to its hotels and beaches. It is the nearest considerable resort
to San Francisco and a large proportion of its guests come from that
city. The climate, according to the literature issued by the Board of
Trade, compares favorably the year round with Santa Barbara or Long
Beach. It claims a great variety of "amusement features, including a
palatial casino and a three-hundred-room, fire-proof hotel." It seems
a pleasant place, more substantial and homelike than the average resort

Retracing our way for four or five miles over the road by which we
entered the town, we left it at the little wayside village of Soquel,
taking an abrupt turn northward and following a wooded canyon. The road
ascends the western slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains, winding through
a forest of stately redwoods intermingled with many other varieties of
trees. These crowd up to the road, overarching it in places—as beautiful
a scene of virgin wildwood as we had yet come upon; through occasional
openings we had far-reaching views down wooded canyons already haunted
by the thin blue shadows of the declining day. The grade is moderately
stiff, ranging up to twelve per cent, and the road was deep with dust,
making an exceedingly heavy pull, and more than once we paused to cool
the steaming motor. An almost continuous climb of a dozen miles brought
us to the summit of the range, and coming to a break in the forest a
glorious view greeted our vision—a vista of green hills sloping away
to the sunset waters of Monterey Bay, with dim outlines of mountain
ranges beyond. A faint blue haze hung over the nearer hills, changing to
lucent amethyst above the bay and deepening to violet upon the distant
mountains. An occasional fruit farm or ranch-house reminded us that
we were within the bounds of civilization; and the Summit School, near
by, that there must be youngsters to educate, even in this wild region,
though there was little to indicate where they came from.

The descent presented even more picturesque scenes than the climb.
The grade was steeper and the distance less; and the road followed
the mountain sides, which sloped away in places hundreds of feet to
wooded canyons now dim with mysterious shadows. Majestic redwoods,
oaks, birches, pines, sycamores, with here and there the red gleam of
the madrona, pressed up to the very roadside and their fragrance loaded
the air. At the foot of the grade, some nine miles from the summit,
we glided into the well-kept streets of Los Gatos, the "City of the
Foothills," one of the cleanest and most sightly towns that the wayfarer
will come across, even in California. It has few pretentious homes, but
the average cottage or bungalow is so happily situated and surrounded by
green lawns dotted with flower beds and palms, that the effect is more
pleasing than rows of costly houses could be. In the public buildings
such as the library and schools, the Spanish mission type is followed
with generally fortunate results. In the foothills near by are several
villas of San Francisco people which are steadily increasing in number,
for Los Gatos is only an hour by train from the metropolis and has hopes
of becoming a residence town of wealthy San Franciscans.

Out of Los Gatos we pursued a level, well-improved road to San Jose,
running through the great prune and cherry orchards for which the Santa
Clara Valley is famous and which gave promise of a bounteous yield.
A little after sunset we came into the city of San Jose, closing an
unusually strenuous run over steep and dusty mountain roads. We found
the new Montgomery Hotel a comfortable haven and its modern bathrooms
an unspeakable boon. Our first move was to segregate ourselves from
the California real estate which we had accumulated during the day
and to don fresh raiment, after which we did full justice to a late
dinner, despite very slack service and not altogether unexceptionable
cuisine—excusable, perhaps, by the lateness of the hour.

San Jose is a modern city of forty or fifty thousand people, the
commercial capital of the Santa Clara Valley. There is not much within
the town itself to detain one on such a pilgrimage as our own. The
mission first occurred to us and we learned that it was at Mission San
Jose, twelve miles from the city to which it gives its name; our next
inquiry was concerning the Lick Observatory, which they told us might
be reached by a twenty-five mile jog up the slopes of Mount Hamilton,
overlooking the town from the east. It was clear that we should have to
take a day for these excursions and early the next morning we were off
for the Mount Hamilton climb.

Out of the city we ran straight away on Santa Clara Street for a
distance of five or six miles to Junction House, where the mountain
road begins. It was built nearly forty years ago by Santa Clara County
at a cost of eighty thousand dollars, the work being authorized to
secure the location of the Lick Observatory on the mountain. It is a
smooth, well-engineered road, with grades not exceeding ten per cent
excepting a few steep pitches near the summit. It swings upwards in wide
arcs or narrow loops as the topography of the mountain demands. It is
broad enough for vehicles to pass easily, presenting no difficulty to
a moderate-powered motor, though in places a sheer precipice falls away
from its side and there are abrupt turns around blind corners which call
for extreme care.

The winding course of the road up the mountainside affords vantage
for endless panoramas of the surrounding country. Indeed, were there
no observatory on Mount Hamilton the views alone would well repay the
ascent and we paused frequently to contemplate the scene that spread out
beneath us. The day was not perfectly clear, yet through the shimmering
air we could see the hazy waters of San Francisco Bay some twenty miles
to the northwest, and beyond the valley to the southwest, the blue
Santa Cruz Range which we crossed the previous day. Just beneath us
lay the wide vale of the Santa Clara—surely one of the most beautiful
and prosperous of the famous valleys of the Golden State—diversified
by orchards and endless wheatfields, with here and there an isolated
ranch-house or village. The foothills nearer at hand were studded with
oaks and sycamores, with an occasional small farm or fruit orchard set
down among them. It was a beautiful day—the partial cloudiness being
atoned for by many striking cloud effects and the play of light and
color over the landscape.

Midway of the ascent is a little settlement in a pleasant grassy dell,
where a plain though comfortable-looking hotel—the Halfway House—offers
the wayfarer an opportunity for refreshments, which can not be obtained
at the summit. Here we arranged for a lunch on our return, but we had no
idea of eating it in the hotel with the delightful nooks we had passed
still fresh in mind. The last three or four miles of the climb are by
far the most difficult, reminding us not a little of the Mount Wilson
ascent; but we experienced no trouble and soon came to the open summit
with the vast dome of the observatory crowning it. Around this clusters
a village of about fifty people who live here permanently—the families
and assistants of the men who devote their lives to the study of the
stars. One of the ladies whom we met in the observatory office said,
when we asked her of life on the mountain,

"We get used to it, though it is cold and lonely at times and we feel a
kind of desperation to get back to the world. But we do not complain;
the views from the mountain under varying conditions of night and day
are enough to atone for our isolation. You can not even imagine the
glories of the sunrise and sunset; the weird effects of the sea of
clouds that lie beneath us at times, glowing in the sun or ghostly
white in the moonlight; the vast wilderness of mountain peaks losing
themselves in the haze of distance or mantled in the glaring whiteness
of the winter snows. All these and many other strange moods of the
weather bring infinite variety, even to this lonely spot." And yet, for
all this, she confessed to an intense longing to make a trip to "the
earth" whenever occasion presented itself.

The obliging janitor shows visitors about the observatory, telling of
its work and explaining the instruments with an intelligence and detail
that might lead you to think him one of the astronomers—if he had not
confessed at the outset to being an Englishman in the humble position of
caretaker. And we might have known that he was an Englishman, even if
he had not told us so, by his thoroughness and pride in his job. Among
the instruments which interested us most was the seismograph, which
records earthquakes from the faintest tremor hundreds of miles away to
the most violent shock—or perhaps this is not strictly correct, for the
great quake of 1906 threw the needle from the recording disk and left
the record incomplete.

"There is seldom a day," said our guide, "that a quake is not registered
and so long as they occur regularly we have little to fear, but an
entire absence of tremors for several days is likely to precede a
violent shock."

The great refracting telescope is the prime "object of interest" to
the visitor and we were shown in minute detail how this is operated.
It stands on a granite pedestal—underneath which rests the body of
the donor, James Lick—in the center of the great dome which one sees
for many miles from the valley and which revolves bodily on a huge
platform to bring the opening to the proper point. This, at the time
of its construction, was the largest telescope in the world, the great
lens, the masterpiece of Alvan Clark & Sons, being thirty-six inches in
diameter. It is equipped with the latest apparatus for photographing
the heavens and some of the most remarkable astronomical photographs
in existence have been taken by the observatory. The telescope and
dome are operated by electric motors and our guide gave exhibitions
of the perfect control by the operator. Besides this there is a large
reflecting telescope housed in a separate building and several smaller
instruments. Visitors are allowed to look through the great telescope
on Saturday night only, but are shown about the observatory on any
afternoon of the week. No other great observatory is so accommodating
to the public in this regard; and the annual number of visitors exceeds
five thousand. The official handbook states that "while the observatory
has no financial gain in the coming of visitors, no pains are spared to
make the time spent here interesting and profitable to them." The same
book gives a list of the important achievements of the Lick Observatory,
with other information concerning the institution and may be had upon
application to the managing director.

James Lick, who devoted three quarters of a million dollars to found
the observatory, was a California pioneer who left his whole fortune
of more than three millions to public benefactions. He was born in
Fredericksburg, Pa., in 1796 and died in San Francisco in 1876. He
came to California in 1847 and engaged in his trade of piano-making,
but his great wealth came from real estate investment. He was a silent
and somewhat eccentric man—a pronounced freethinker in religious
matters. The observatory is now under the control of the University
of California, which supplies the greater part of the finances for its

Returning to the city, we found there was still time to visit the
mission, about fifteen miles due north on the Oakland road. This is
a macadam boulevard through a level and prosperous-looking country
skirting San Francisco Bay and the run was a delightful one. Mission
San Jose is a tiny village of a dozen houses and a few shops, bearing
little resemblance to its bustling namesake to the southward. The
dilapidated monastery is all that is left of the old-time buildings
and the rude timber arcade stands directly by the roadside. We found a
young fellow working on the place who gladly undertook to act as guide.
He proved an ardent Catholic and an enthusiast for the restoration of
the mission. This work, he said, had been undertaken by the Native Sons
of California and they were organizing a carnival to raise funds. The
building through which he led us is a series of dungeonlike adobe cells,
with earthen floors and cracked and crumbling walls; it is roofed with
willows tied to the roughly hewn rafters with rawhide. The tiles from
the ruined church are carefully piled away to be used in the restoration
and our guide declared that a wealthy Spanish family of the vicinity
had a quantity of these which they would gladly return when needed. The
church was destroyed by the earthquake of 1868 and has been replaced
by a modern structure. This suffered but little in the great quake
of 1906, but we were shown the curious spectacle in the cemetery of
several marble shafts broken squarely in two by the shock. To the rear
of the church and leading up to the orphanage conducted by the Dominican
sisters, is a beautiful avenue bordered by olive trees planted by the
padres in mission days. This is crossed by a second avenue running at
right angles and no doubt these served as a passageway for many a solemn
procession in days of old.

The location is charming indeed; one can stand in the rude portico of
the dilapidated building and look over as pleasant a rural scene as can
be found in California. The green meadows slope toward the bay, which
gleams like molten silver in the late afternoon sun. Beyond it is a dark
line of forest trees, the rounded contour of the green foothills, and,
last of all, the rugged outlines of the Santa Cruz Mountains shrouded
in the amethyst haze of evening. To the rear, rolling hills rise above
the little hamlet and southward stands the sturdy bulk of Mission Peak.

No wonder, with such beautiful, fertile surroundings, San Jose Mission
prospered in its palmy days. Founded in 1797—the fruitful year of
Padre Lasuen's activity—it reached its zenith in 1820, when its Indian
population numbered seventeen hundred and fifty-four. Its property at
secularization exceeded one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in value
and it even seemed to prosper for a while under the Mexican regime.
Its decline began in 1840 and five years later less than two hundred
and fifty natives were to be found in its precincts. Of the wreck and
rebuilding of the church we have already told; in the new structure may
be seen two of the original bells, nearly a century old. The baptismal
font of hammered copper is still in use. It is about three feet in
diameter and is surmounted by a small iron cross.

A few miles out of San Jose on the San Francisco road, at the pretty
town of Santa Clara, was formerly the mission of that name. It has
totally disappeared and on its site stands the new church and the
buildings of Santa Clara College, the principal Catholic university of
California. We drove into the large plaza in front of the church and
walked in at the open door. The interior is that of a modern Catholic
church, with an unusual number of paintings and images, among the
latter a gorgeously painted Santa Clara with her bare foot on a writhing
snake. The paintings are of little artistic merit and the effect of the
interior is rather tawdry. The slightly unfavorable impression speedily
fades from mind when through an open side door one gets a glimpse into
the garden around which run the college cloisters. It is a beautiful
green spot, with olives planted in mission days, palms, and masses of
flowers. About it are slight remains of the old cloisters; hewn beams
still form the roof, and portions of the walls some three feet thick
still stand.

Santa Clara College, the oldest on the coast, was founded in 1855, and
is now the largest Catholic school west of the Rockies. The buildings
are quite extensive and the mission style of architecture appropriately
prevails. In its museum is a good collection of relics once belonging
to the ancient mission; furniture, candlesticks in silver and brass,
vessels in gold and silver, crucifixes, bells, the mighty key to the
oaken door, embroidered vestments, and a very remarkable book. This is
an old choral on heavy vellum, hand-written in brilliant red and black;
the covers are heavy leather over solid wood, and the corners and back
are protected with ornamental bronze. It originally came from Spain and
is supposed to be five hundred years old.

Santa Clara Mission, the tenth in order, was founded in 1777, twenty
years earlier than its neighbor, San Jose, and the close proximity
caused heart-burnings among the padres of Santa Clara when its rival
was first projected. They declared that there was no necessity for it;
that it was not on the beaten route of El Camino Real, and that it
encroached on Santa Clara's lands and revenues. The dispute assumed
such proportions that a special survey was made in 1801 to prevent
further controversy. Despite the contention of Santa Clara that there
was no room for its rival, it did not lack for prosperity, since in
1827 its population numbered fourteen hundred and twenty-four—about the
same as San Jose, so there seems to have been ample room for both. At
secularization, in 1835, there were less than half as many and after
that the decline was rapid. This is only another instance showing that
the regime of the padres had begun to decay before the interference of
the Mexican Government. The mission fell into ruin after the American
conquest and the debris was gradually removed to make way for the
college buildings.

Santa Clara is a quiet, beautiful town of about five thousand—really a
suburb of San Jose, since they are separated by only a mile or two. Its
streets are broad and bordered with trees and its residences have the
trim neatness and beautiful semi-tropical surroundings so characteristic
of the better California towns.

Northward out of Santa Clara a fine macadam road follows the shore
of the bay at a distance of a mile or two. In the days of the padres
this country was a vast swamp, but it is now a prosperous fruit and
gardening section which supplies the San Francisco markets. At Palo Alto
we turned aside into the grounds of Leland Stanford Jr. University,
which sprang into existence like Minerva of old—full armed and ready
for business—with nearly thirty millions of endowment behind it. It
immediately took high rank among American universities, but as its
attendance is limited by its charter to about two thousand, it can not
equal its rivals in this regard.

Everyone knows its pathetic story—how Senator Stanford, the man of many
millions, lost his only son, a boy of sixteen, and determined to leave
the fortune to "the boys and girls of California" as a memorial to the
idolized youth. A little strain of selfishness in the project, one may
think, since if Leland Stanford Jr. had lived it is unlikely that his
father would have remembered the boys and girls of his state, but you
forget all about this when you enter the precincts of this magnificent
institution. It is free from the antiquated buildings and equipment
of the schools of slow growth, and full scope was given to architects
to produce a group of buildings harmonious in design and perfectly
adapted to the purposes which they serve. The mission design properly
prevails, carried out in brown stone and red tiles. The main buildings
are ranged round a quadrangle 586 x 246 feet, upon which the arches of
the cloisters open and in the center of this was a bronze group of the
donor, his wife, and son, since removed to the University Museum.

The earthquake of 1906 dealt severely with Stanford University,
destroying the library building, the great memorial arch, and wrecking
the memorial chapel, said to be the finest in America. The latter
was being restored at the time of our visit, a timber roof replacing
the former stone-vaulted ceiling. The structure both inside and out
bears many richly colored mosaics representing historic and scriptural
subjects; in this particular it is more like St. Mark's of Venice than
any other church that I know of. It is said that a large part of the
destruction done by the earthquake was due to flimsy work on the part
of the builders. Fortunately, the low, solid structures around the
quadrangle were practically unharmed, and the damage done is being
repaired as rapidly as possible. The grounds occupied by the University
were formerly Senator Stanford's Palo Alto estate and comprised about
nine thousand acres. From the campus there are views of the bay, of the
Coast Range, including Mount Hamilton with the Lick Observatory, and
of the rolling foothills and magnificent redwood forests toward Santa
Cruz. The university is open to students from everywhere and owing to
its vast endowment, instruction is absolutely free.

Palo Alto is a handsome town of about six thousand people. Its climate
is said to be much pleasanter the year round than that of San Francisco.
A local advertising prospectus gives this pleasing description of the
climatic conditions:

"There is no extreme cold, and there are no severe storms. Even the
rainy season, between December and March, averages about fifteen bright
warm days in each month; and flowers blossoming on every hand make the
winter season a delightful part of the year. The acacia trees begin
blooming in January, the almonds in February, and the prunes, peaches,
and cherries are all in bloom by the last of March or the first of
April, when the blossom festival for the whole valley is held in the
foothills at Saratoga, a few miles by electric line from Palo Alto."

From Palo Alto we followed the main highway—El Camino Real—to San
Francisco. It is a broad macadam road, but at the time in sad disrepair,
unmercifully rough and full of chuck-holes. It was being rebuilt in
places, compelling us to take a roundabout route, which, with much
tire trouble, delayed our arrival in San Francisco until late in the
afternoon, though the distance is but fifty-two miles from San Jose.

It looked as if our troubles were going to have a still more painful
climax when, as we entered the city, a policeman dashed at us, bawling,

"What on earth do you mean by driving at that crazy rate? Do you want
to kill all these children?"

As we were not exceeding twenty miles and were quite free from any
homicidal designs against the children—of whom not a single one was
in sight on the street—we mildly disclaimed any such cruel intention
as the guardian of the law imputed to us. We had learned the futility
of any altercation with a policeman and by exceeding humility we
gained permission to proceed. A little back-talk in self-defense would
doubtless have resulted in a trip to the station house, where we should
have been at every disadvantage. I attribute in some degree our lucky
escape from arrest to the fact that we always adopted an exceedingly
conciliatory attitude towards any policeman who approached us, even if
we sometimes thought him over-officious or even impudent. A soft answer
we found more efficient in turning away his wrath and gaining our point

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Online LibraryThomas D. MurphyOn Sunset Highways → online text (page 18 of 25)