A recent visitor thus describes it:
“The church was built like that of Santa Isabel, of green boughs, and the chancel was decorated with muslin draperies and ornaments of paper and ribbon, in whose preparation a faithful Indian woman had spent the greater part of five days. The altar was furnished with drawn-work cloths, and in a niche above it was a plaster image of Santo Domingo, one hand holding a book, the other outstretched in benediction. Upon the outstretched hand a rosary had been hung with appropriate effect. Some mystic letters appeared in the muslin that draped the ceiling, which, being interpreted, proved to be the initials of the solitary member of the altar guild, and of such of her family as she was pleased to commemorate.”
One of the ranches of San Luis Obispo was that of Santa Margarita on the north side of the Sierra Santa Lucia. As far as I know there is no record of the date when the chapel was built, yet it was a most interesting and important structure.
In May, 1904, its identity was completely destroyed, its interior walls being dynamited and removed and the whole structure roofed over to be used as a barn.
It originally consisted of a chapel about 40 feet long and 30 feet wide, and eight rooms. The chapel was at the southwest end. The whole building was 120 feet long and 20 feet wide. The walls were about three feet thick, and built of large pieces of rough sandstone and red bricks, all cemented strongly together with a white cement that is still hard and tenacious. It is possible there was no fachada to the chapel at the southwest end, for a well-built elliptical arched doorway, on the southeast side, most probably was the main entrance.
It has long been believed that this was not the only Mission building at Santa Margarita. Near by are three old adobe houses, all recently renovated out of all resemblance to their original condition, and all roofed with red Mission tiles. These were built in the early days. The oldest Mexican inhabitants of the present-day Santa Margarita remember them as a part of the Mission building.
Here, then, is explanation enough for the assumption of a large Indian population on this ranch, which led the neighboring padres to establish a chapel for their Christianization and civilization. Undoubtedly in its aboriginal days there was a large Indian population, for there were all the essentials in abundance. Game of every kind—deer, antelope, rabbits, squirrels, bear, ducks, geese, doves, and quail—yet abound; also roots of every edible kind, and more acorns than in any other equal area in the State. There is a never failing flow of mountain water and innumerable springs, as well as a climate at once warm and yet bracing, for here on the northern slopes of the Santa Lucia, frost is not uncommon.