On February 3, 1777, the new governor of Alta California, Felipe de Neve, arrived at Monterey and superseded Rivera. He quickly established the pueblo of San Jose, and, a year or two later, Los Angeles, the latter under the long title of the pueblo of “Nuestra Senora, Reina de los Angeles,”—Our Lady, Queen of the Angels.
In the meantime, contrary to the advice and experience of the padres, the new Viceroy, Croix, determined to establish two Missions on the Colorado River, near the site of the present city of Yuma, and conduct them not as Missions with the Fathers exercising control over the Indians, but as towns in which the Indians would be under no temporal restraint. The attempt was unfortunate. The Indians fell upon the Spaniards and priests, settlers, soldiers, and Governor Rivera himself perished in the terrific attack. Forty-six men met an awful fate, and the women were left to a slavery more frightful than death. This was the last attempt made by the Spaniards to missionize the Yumas.
With these sad events in mind the Fathers founded San Buenaventura on March 31, 1782. Serra himself preached the dedicatory sermon. The Indians came from their picturesque conical huts of tule and straw, to watch the raising of the cross, and the gathering at this dedication was larger than at any previous ceremony in California; more than seventy Spaniards with their families, together with large numbers of Indians, being there assembled.
The next month, the presidio of Santa Barbara was established.
In the end of 1783, Serra visited all the southern Missions to administer confirmation to the neophytes, and in January, 1784, he returned to San Carlos at Monterey.
For some time his health had been failing, asthma and a running sore on his breast both causing him much trouble. Everywhere uneasiness was felt at his physical condition, but though he undoubtedly suffered keenly, he refused to take medicine. The padres were prepared at any time to hear of his death. But Serra calmly went on with his work. He confirmed the neophytes at San Luis Obispo and San Antonio, and went to help dedicate the new church recently built at Santa Clara, and also to San Francisco. Called back to Santa Clara by the sickness of Padre Murguia, he was saddened by the death of that noble and good man, and felt he ought to prepare himself for death. But he found strength to return to San Carlos at Monterey, and there, on Saturday, August 28, 1784, he passed to his eternal reward, at the ripe age of seventy years, nine months and four days. His last act was to walk to the door, in order that he might look out upon the beautiful face of Nature. The ocean, the sky, the trees, the valley with its wealth of verdure, the birds, the flowers—all gave joy to his weary eyes. Returning to his bed, he “fell asleep,” and his work on earth ended. He was buried by his friend Palou at his beloved Mission in the Carmelo Valley, and there his dust now rests.