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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about The Old Franciscan Missions Of California.

Strange to say, however, when they reached Monterey, in the words of Scripture, “their eyes were holden,” and they did not recognize it.  They found a bay which they fully described, and while we to-day clearly see that it was the bay they were looking for, they themselves thought it was another one.  Believing that Vizcaino had made an error in his chart, they pushed on further north.  The result of this disappointment was of vast consequence to the later development of California, for, following the coast line inland, they were bound to strike the peninsula and ultimately reach the shores of what is now San Francisco Bay.  This was exactly what was done, and on November 2, 1769, one of Portola’s men, ascending ahead of the others to the crest of a hill, caught sight of this hitherto unknown and hidden body of water.  How he would have shouted had he understood!  How thankful and joyous it would have made Portola and Crespi and the others.  For now was the discovery of that very harbor that Padre Serra had so fervently hoped and prayed for, the harbor that was to secure for California a Mission “for our father Saint Francis.”  Yet not one of them either knew or seemed to comprehend the importance of that which their eyes had seen.  Instead, they were disheartened and disappointed by a new and unforeseen obstacle to their further progress.  The narrow channel (later called the Golden Gate by Fremont), barred their way, and as their provisions were getting low, and they certainly were much further north than they ought to have been to find the Bay of Monterey, Portola gave the order for the return, and sadly, despondently, they went back to San Diego.

On the march south, Portola’s mind was made up.  This whole enterprise was foolish and chimerical.  He had had enough of it.  He was going back home, and as the “San Antonio” with its promised supplies had not yet arrived, and the camp was almost entirely out of food, he announced the abandonment of the expedition and an immediate return to Lower California.

Now came Serra’s faith to the fore, and that resolute determination and courage that so marked his life.  The decision of Portola had gone to his heart like an arrow.  What!  Abandon the Missions before they were fairly begun?  Where was their trust in God?  It was one hundred and sixty-six years since Vizcaino had been in this port, and if they left it now, when would another expedition be sent?  In those years that had elapsed since Vizcaino, how many precious Indian souls had been lost because they had not received the message of salvation?  He pleaded and begged Portola to reconsider.  For awhile the governor stood firm.  Serra also had a strong will.  From a letter written to Padre Palou, who was left behind in charge of the Lower California Missions, we see his intention:  “If we see that along with the provisions hope vanishes, I shall remain alone with Father Juan Crespi and hold out to the last breath.”

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