Thomas D. Murphy.

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After this the pageantry begins—there is a church procession and the
fathers with approving interest inspect the examples of handiwork
proudly exhibited by the Indian pupils of San Carlos. The festivities
begin; the spectators and performers, some scores in all, are
artistically grouped on the stage. There are Indian and Spanish dances
and the dark, gaudily dressed senoritas who perform the latter never
fail of an encore—the rather high-stepping hilarity affording a pleasing
relief from the more serious and even somber parts of the play. The
young women have become adepts in these roles; in many cases they are
of Spanish descent and take with natural aptitude to the fandango and
castanets. The Indians, as well, have their dances and ceremonies—all
carefully studied—and I doubt not that the second act of the play
gives a fair idea of the peaceful, industrious, and yet joyous life
that prevailed at many of these missions in their halcyon days. The
entertainment wanes, the crowd breaks up and melts away, just as in
real life, and finally Father Junipero alone remains on the scene, his
features fairly beaming with satisfaction and devotion in the waning
light. Finally, overcome by the labors and excitement of the day, he
falls asleep at the foot of the cross in the mission court, after having
offered the following beautiful and touching prayer:

"Hear, oh Lord, Thy servant Junipero, whose days upon the earth are
about to close, even as the day has now closed upon this scene. Bring
to the foot of Thy cross these wild gentiles of the plains and hills.
Bless this dear and lovely land of California, its white peaks of glory
and its sunlit valleys, where the wild flowers are ever blooming. Bless
California now and in the centuries to come when newer peoples shall
crowd her golden shores. This is the prayer, O Lord, of Junipero, Thy
servant, who is old and worn and who soon must say farewell. Amen."

[Illustration: CLOISTERS, SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO
From Photograph by Father St. John O'Sullivan]

The third scene, as I have already intimated, was rewritten for the
second year and much improved, though the staging remained practically
unchanged. In the first draft the heroine falls a victim to the bullets
of American soldiers, who fire upon the helpless Indians coming to bury
their dead priest in the ruined cloisters of San Juan Capistrano. She
had spurned the love advances of the captain, who rushes into the ruin
only to find her breathing her last. All of which seemed incongruous
and left a painful recollection with the audience; but on our second
visit to San Gabriel playhouse we were delighted by a happy change in
the ending of the play.

The new version shows the ivy-covered ruins of Capistrano seventy
years later than the time of the second act. Confiscation by the
Mexican Government has ruined the property of the missions and American
occupation still further hastened their dissolution and decay. An old
Indian shepherd is telling his story to a youth and declares that he was
the first Indian child baptized by the sainted Serra. He is interrupted
by the entrance of Senora Yorba, a lovely, devout Spanish lady who
grieves over the destruction of the old regime and comes at times to
muse and pray at the deserted altar, and in a graceful monologue she
laments the downfall of the mission and the cessation of its beneficent
work. While she is at her devotions a small company of wretched Indians
enter the ruin, bearing the dead body of the padre, who ministered
to them in their retreats in the hills; they would bury him in the
consecrated ground of the old mission. Senora Yorba mourns with the
Indians and joins them in laying the body to rest. In the folds of the
dead priest's robe she discovers the golden chalice, richly bejeweled,
which he had rescued from the ruined church and which the loyal
natives—though they knew its value—would have interred with him. In
the closing scene of the play the Senora, with a look of rapt devotion,
raises the golden cup aloft and solemnly promises that she will lay it
on the altar of Santa Barbara, the nearest mission still unforsaken.

The curtain falls on the melancholy scene; we pass out into the May-day
sunlight and gaze reverently on the gray old mission across the way.
The play has given to it new meaning, just as Oberammergau on another
May day gave us a new conception of the old story that has never lost
its interest to humanity. I am very sure that there are few people who
witness either the famous and very ancient play of the Bavarian peasants
or the very recent and less pretentious production of the artists of
San Gabriel, who are not spiritually elevated and benefited thereby.

Within easy reach of the city, either by trolley or motor, is San
Fernando, the next link in the mission chain to the north of San
Gabriel. We made our first journey thither on a showery April day,
following a steady downpour for nearly twenty-four hours. The country
was at its best, as it always is in California after a spring rain. We
edged our way out of the city, along the wide sweep of Sunset Boulevard
to Los Feliz Avenue, which soon brought us into the San Fernando
road at Glendale. From here a straight-away dash of twenty miles to
the northwest takes one to the mission—one of the easiest and most
delightful runs in the vicinity of Los Angeles.

[Illustration: CORRIDOR, SAN FERNANDO MISSION
From Photograph by Pillsbury]

It was a brilliant day, despite a dark cloud-curtain whose fringes
hovered over the peaks of the rugged mountains in the north toward
which we were rapidly coursing. We swept along the narrow valley—then
a desert, cactus-studded plain—reaching on our left to low, green hills
which stood in sharp outline against the deep azure of the sky. On the
right, closer at hand, were low foothills, dominated by the distant
mountains—their summits white with snow and touched in places by clouds
of dazzling brilliance. Directly in front of us we saw the glistening
phalanx of a summer shower, which rapidly advanced to meet us, giving
us barely time to raise our cape top before it was upon us. Such a rain
in our home state would have meant liquid roads and constant danger,
but on this perfect highway it only heightened our enjoyment as our
steadily purring engine carried us along the smooth wet surface. The
green hills to the left and the cloudless sky above them seemed doubly
glorious through the crystal curtain of the falling raindrops.

By the time we reached the village of San Fernando, the rain had ceased
and we paused to inquire the whereabouts of the mission. We saw about
us at the time a straggling, unsubstantial-looking hamlet which bore
little resemblance to the smart, well-improved town that greeted us a
year later—but so it often is in California. Then a new double boulevard
with a parked center stretched away to the southeast—the work of an
enterprising land company—with the inviting sign, "Speed limit one
hundred miles per hour," but we were content with a fraction of this
generous figure. The mission is about a mile out of the town and is
best approached by the new boulevard, since this gives the advantage of
a little distance for the front view, which the public road, directly
passing, does not allow. Before you see the building itself you will
note the two giant palms, over a century old, and perhaps a hundred feet
high—all that remain of the many planted by the monks.

The structure is long, low, solid-looking—utterly devoid of artistic
touches save the graceful, rounded arches of the long "portello" and
the simple grille-work of wrought iron that still covers a few of the
windows—work of the rude artisans of a hundred years ago. The old tile
roof is the glory of San Fernando; the huge, semicircular tiles are
time-stained to a color combination to delight the eye of an artist.
Moss greens, silver grays, dull reds, and soft browns predominate,
blending together in a most pleasing manner. Back from the mission
extends a row of old-time living apartments, now little more than
shapeless heaps of adobe, while the huge church, a little farther to the
rear, seems approaching the final stages of dissolution. It was once a
massive structure, built as well as loving care and endless industry
could do—walls five or six feet in thickness, bound together at the
top by heavy beams perhaps fifteen inches square. Traces of the ancient
decorations appear, though they are nearly effaced by the weather, to
which they have been long exposed. Apparently the earthquake began the
work of ruin and long neglect has done the rest.

One enters the church with some trepidation, for it seems as if the
cracked and crazy structure may stagger to shapeless ruin at any moment.
What a pity that the material of California's missions was not enduring
stone, like the English abbeys, rather than the quickly disintegrating
adobe! Back of the church is a pathetic little burying ground
where wooden crosses and simple memorials indicate that the present
parishioners of San Fernando are the poorest of the poor,—probably a
few wretched Mexican families such as the one we found in charge of the
mission.

I have anticipated, perhaps, in describing the church before the
mission itself, but, after all, the church is a part of the exterior
with which I have been dealing. On our first visit we found a Mexican
family living in two or three of the damp, cavernous rooms of the old
building. They could speak but little English, but it was easy to see
that visitors were welcome, and gratuities no doubt afforded their
means of livelihood. When we returned a year later, another family
was in possession and had reduced sightseeing to a business basis. We
were required to pay "two bits" entrance fee and an extra charge was
assessed for a peep into the ruinous church, all doors and rents in the
wall having been religiously boarded up. Each member of our party was
given a lighted lantern—a wise precaution, it proved, for there were
dilapidated and broken stairways and unsound floors in the dimly lighted
building. There was little enough to see; only a series of prison-like
cells with tiny windows piercing the massive walls, with earthen floors,
and rude beamed ceilings—surely life at best was hard and comfortless
at San Fernando, and the fathers had little advantage over their Indian
charges. There was one large room, apparently for assembly purposes, on
the second floor. Our Mexican guide grinned gleefully as he pointed out
a little conduit in the wall through which wine flowed from the presses
to vats in the ample cellars; evidently the fathers made a plentiful
supply of the genial liquor to counteract the hardships they must have
endured.

One need explore but a corner of the mission; he will find it typical of
the whole huge structure, perhaps two hundred feet in length. There is
a pathetic little chapel—the altar covered with tinsel and gewgaws—where
services are held at long intervals. As a whole, the building is in fair
condition and a little intelligent repair and restoration would insure
its preservation for many years to come. It is, in some respects, one
of the most typical of the missions; except for decay, which has not
impaired the structure or interior arrangement to any great extent,
it stands to-day much as it did one hundred years ago and gives an
excellent idea of the domestic life of the padres and their converts.
A narrow stairway led to a platform on the roof and coming out of
the dimly lighted interior into the broad sunlight—for the rain had
ceased—we were struck with the remarkable beauty of the situation.

The mission stands in the center of the wide plain at the head of the
valley, around which sweeps a circle of green hills and mountains,
their rounded tops and rugged peaks lending infinite variety to the
skyline. On one hand blue vapors softened the snowy summits; on the
other, the sky bent down, crystal clear, to the gently undulating
contour of the hills. The fertile plain was being rapidly brought under
cultivation—dotted with fruit-tree groves and ranch-houses, with here
and there a village—and this was before the coming of the waters of
the great Owens River Aqueduct. It would take a bold flight of the
imagination to picture the future of the San Fernando Valley—anything
I might write would be ancient history before my book could get to the
press. The whole plain will become a garden of wondrous beauty; only
the mountains and hills will abide unchanged.

The history of the old mission which has been engaging our attention was
not important as compared with many of its contemporaries. And, speaking
of history, I have been wondering whether I should burden my pages with
dates and incidents concerning these ancient memorials, but perhaps a
short sketch, given in as few words as may tell the bare outlines of
each mission as we visit it, will be of service to pilgrims who follow
us.

San Fernando was seventeenth of the California missions in order of
founding, and was considered a necessity by the padres to fill in the
gap between San Gabriel and Ventura, being about thirty miles from
either. Padre Lasuen performed the dedicatory ceremonies on September
8, 1797, and by the end of the year, fifty-five neophytes had been
enlisted. These, in three years, had increased to three hundred, and the
record reads that they possessed five hundred horses and about as many
sheep, and harvested a crop of one thousand bushels of grain. The first
church, built in 1802, was almost destroyed by the great quake of 1812,
which left its impress on nearly every mission of the entire chain. The
church was repaired and its shattered remnants are what we see to-day.

San Fernando never prospered greatly, though at one time there were
nearly a thousand Indians on its rolls. It was cramped for want of
productive land and its decline began many years before the act of
confiscation by the Mexicans. This occurred in 1834, when the Government
agent computed the wealth of the mission at around one hundred and fifty
thousand dollars, of which the "liquors" represented more than seven
thousand. In January, 1847, General John C. Fremont took possession
of the scanty remains of the property and the active history of San
Fernando was ended. Mr. George Wharton James, to whose interesting
book, "The Old Missions of California," I am indebted for much of the
foregoing information, tells of an important incident in San Fernando's
history as follows:

"Connected with the mission of San Fernando is the first discovery of
California gold. Eight years before the great days of '49, Francisco
Lopez, the major-domo of the mission, was in the canyon of San
Feliciano, which is about eight miles westerly from the present town of
Newhall, and, according to Don Abul Stearns, 'with a companion while
in search of some stray horses about midday stopped under some trees
and tied their horses to feed. While visiting in the shade, Lopez with
a sheath knife dug up some wild onions, and in the dirt discovered a
piece of gold. Searching further he found more. On his return to town
he showed these pieces to his friends, who at once declared there must
be a placer of gold there.'

"Then the rush began. As soon as the people in Los Angeles and Santa
Barbara heard of it they flocked to the new 'gold fields' in hundreds.
And the first California gold dust ever coined at the government at
Philadelphia came from these mines. It was taken around Cape Horn on a
sailing vessel by Alfred Robinson, the translator of Boscana's 'Indians
of California,' and consisted of 18.34 ounces, and made $344.75, or over
nineteen dollars to the ounce.

"Davis says that in the first two years after the discovery not less
than from $80,000 to $100,000 was gathered. Don Antonio Coronel, with
three Indian laborers, in 1842 took out $600 worth of dust in two
months."

No doubt this discovery and others which followed had a far-reaching
effect on the destinies of California. The influx of Americans who were
attracted by the love of gold was beyond question a strong factor in
bringing about the annexation of the state to the American Union by the
treaty of 1849.




V

THE INLAND ROUTE TO SAN DIEGO


There may be a more delightful drive in the world than the sixty
miles between Los Angeles and the Riverside country following Foothill
Boulevard on an ideal California April day, but it would take an ocular
demonstration to make us believe it! On such a day we made our first
run over this road and perhaps the peculiarly favorable conditions for
first impressions may have unduly prejudiced us, though many subsequent
trips never dispelled the charm.

Leaving the city by the Broadway Tunnel and pursuing the broad curves
of Pasadena Avenue to Orange Grove—which we could never traverse too
often—we turned into the long stretch of Colorado Street, which leads
directly into the broad oak-bordered Foothill Boulevard. Here we came
into the first open country, some dozen miles from the center of Los
Angeles, and until we reached the outposts of Monrovia, we ran between
the sylvan glades of the Baldwin Oaks. To the left rose the rugged
bulk of Mount Wilson, and peak after peak stretched away before us
to the white summit of Old Baldy—as Mount San Antonio is popularly
known—which rises to an altitude of more than ten thousand feet. It
was a mottled spring day, rich in gorgeous cloud effects such as are
not common in California; blue-gray cumulus clouds rolled above the
mountains, occasionally obscuring Old Baldy's white pate and showing
many entrancing phases of light and color. Beneath, a blue haze stole
softly down the slopes to the tender green of the foothills. The sky
above was peculiarly beautiful—pearl gray, deep blue and snowy white,
all shading into each other, with lucent patches of pale blue breaking
through here and there.

We paused at the Seven Oaks Inn in Monrovia and were delighted with its
artistic "atmosphere" and cleanly, appetizing service. It is modeled
on the higher-class English country inn—just a hint of the Lygon Arms
at Broadway or the Red Horse at Stratford. Its main room had an immense
fireplace with many cozy chairs, a most inviting place to spend a dull
evening, and its windows looked out on pleasant gardens whose shady
nooks had an equally strong lure for the daytime. We only regretted that
our plans did not admit of a longer acquaintance with the attractive
Seven Oaks.

We glided slowly through the broad, shady streets of the trim little
town and just as we left it we turned a corner at an ivy-covered stone
church that awakened recollections of England. Then we were away again
on the long stretches of the boulevard, which here for a few miles runs
through desert country—desert indeed, but no doubt quite the same as
that now covered by the orange groves about Azusa must have been a few
years ago. Out of Azusa for miles and miles the orange and lemon groves
crowded up to the roadside, their golden globes glowing through the
green sheen of the leaves. The air was heavy with the perfume of the
blossoms, which lent an added charm to the sensuous beauty of the day
and scene.

At Claremont we left Los Angeles County and at the time of our first
trip the road was rough and inferior from that point, though plans for
its improvement were already made and may be completed by this time. But
the orange groves continued, alternating with huge vineyards which were
just beginning to send forth green shoots. Near Upland we passed one of
more than four thousand acres, said to be the largest single vineyard in
the world, and near it was a huge concrete winery. A vineyard in this
country in springtime presents a strange sight to a newcomer—a stretch
of sand studded with rows of scraggly stumps two or three feet high—for
the vines are cut back to the stump after the bearing season. Few of
the vineyards are irrigated and one marvels that nature can produce the
luscious clusters from the arid sands.

And here I may pause to remark upon the peculiar and unexpected result
of national prohibition upon the California grape growers. For years the
threat of state prohibition had been their bugbear and it was uniformly
defeated in their interests whenever the issue came before the people
of the state. When they were finally overwhelmed in the tide of National
Prohibition originating in the war, they resigned themselves as lost and
a few vineyards were pulled up to replant the ground in fruit trees.
But, strange to say, while the wails of distress were still sounding,
there came a sudden and unexpected demand for dried grapes of any kind
or quality—even those which, before the war, would have been thrown
away as spoiled sold for more than the top quality did in old times.
Unprecedented prosperity settled down upon the vineyard men and I am
told that at this time (1921) grapes are selling for from two to three
times as much per ton as they brought from the wineries in pre-war days.
New vineyards are now being planted in many sections of the state.

Just before we came to San Bernardino we passed the Fontana Orchards, a
tract of seventeen thousand acres of young citrus trees recently planted
by an improvement company. Rows of newly planted rose bushes and palm
trees on either hand will, in a few years, add still further to the
charm of the boulevard—another instance of the determination everywhere
present in California to beautify as well as improve.

On our first trip to San Bernardino we stopped, for personal reasons,
at the comfortable Stuart Hotel, though the majority of motorists will
probably wend their way to Riverside's Mission Inn. San Bernardino
is a lively town of nearly twenty thousand people and has gained fame
as a prosperous railroad and jobbing center. Its name is pretty much
of a mouthful and the traveling fraternity generally has abbreviated
it to San Berdoo—a liberty which gives offense to every loyal San
Bernardinian, and I saw a card posted in public places with the legend,
"Please call it San Bernardino; it won't hurt you and it pleases us."

No matter what you call it, San Bernardino is a lively place and has a
good deal to interest the wayfarer if he can find some kindly disposed
native to point it out. The town is well-built, with numerous handsome
public buildings. It has a remarkable number of hotels for its size—but
I might add here that one never knows the size of a California town;
before the census figures can be compiled they are often ancient
history. The water supply of the town comes from artesian wells and
is practically unlimited. There are many fine drives in the vicinity,
though the county had as yet done little in the way of permanent
roads. Since our first visit, however, a bond issue of two million
dollars has made possible an excellent county road system. I recall
my record "coast" over the fine stretch leading down from Mill Creek
Canyon towards Redlands, where, with engine dead, our odometer showed
a distance of seven and one-half miles before we came to a standstill.

One of our drives took us to the oldest orange grove in the section.
The trees are fifty years old and a foot in diameter; they are hale and
strong, bearing profusely. No one, as yet, can say how long a California
orange tree may live. Near this grove a few shapeless heaps of adobe may
be seen, remains of the branch founded here by padres from San Gabriel
shortly after the establishment of that mission. The country about
the town is beautiful and productive—a wide, level plain encircled by
mountains, some of which are usually snow-capped except in midsummer.
Near the town is Arrowhead Mountain—so called because of the strange
outline of a great arrowhead upon the side next the valley. Formerly it
was quite plain, though a recent forest fire to some extent obliterated
the sharp definition of the outlines. Just beneath the point of the
arrow is the famous spring, the hottest known, with a temperature of one
hundred and ninety-six degrees, and a large, well-appointed resort hotel
formerly offered comfortable quarters to visitors throughout the year.
Since the war, however, the Government has leased the Arrowhead Hotel as
a sanitarium for disabled war veterans, especially those who suffer from
nervous disorders, and from our knowledge gained by a month's sojourn
at this pleasant inn, we would declare it ideal for this worthy purpose.

Arrowhead Mountain is about four thousand feet high and it is said
that the temperature at the summit averages twenty degrees cooler than



Online LibraryThomas D. MurphyOn Sunset Highways → online text (page 6 of 25)