Manuel Crespo was the comisionado for secularization in 1835, and he and Padre Mercado had no happy times together. Mercado made it so unpleasant that six other administrators were appointed in order to please him, but it was a vain attempt. As a consequence, the Indians felt the disturbances and discord, and became discontented and unmanageable.
In 1843, according to Governor Micheltorena’s order of March 29, the temporal control of the Mission was restored to the padre. But, though the order was a kindly one, and relieved the padre from the interference of officious, meddling, inefficient, and dishonest “administrators,” it was too late to effect any real service.
As far as I can learn, Pico’s plan did not affect San Antonio, and it was not one of those sold by him in 1845-1846. In 1848 Padre Doroteo Ambris was in charge as curate. For thirty years he remained here, true to his calling, an entirely different kind of man from the quarrelsome, arrogant, drinking, and gambling Mercado. He finally died at San Antonio, and was buried in the Mission he guarded so well.
In 1904 the California Historic Landmarks League (Inc.) undertook the preservation of San Antonio, but little has yet been accomplished. Much more should speedily be done, if the walls are to be kept from falling.
SAN GABRIEL, ARCANGEL
We have already seen that San Gabriel, the fourth Mission, was founded September 8, 1771. The natives gave cheerful assistance in bringing timber, erecting the wooden buildings, covering them with tules, and constructing the stockade enclosure which surrounded them. They also brought offerings of acorns and pine-nuts. In a few days so many of them crowded into camp that Padre Somero went to San Diego for an addition to the guard, and returned with two extra men. It was not long before the soldiers got into trouble, owing to their treatment of the Indian women, and an Indian attack, as before related, took place. A few days later, Fages appeared on the scene from San Diego with sixteen soldiers and two missionaries, who were destined as guard and priests for the new Mission of San Buenaventura. But the difficulty with the Indians led Fages to postpone the founding of the new Mission. The offending soldier was hurried off to Monterey to get him out of the way of further trouble. The padres did their best to correct the evil impression the soldiers had created, and, strange to say, the first child brought for baptism was the son of the chief who had been killed in the dispute with the soldiers.
But the San Gabriel soldiers were not to be controlled. They were insolent to the aged priests, who were in ill-health; they abused the Indians so far as to pursue them to their rancherias “for the fun of the thing;” and there they had additional “sport” by lassoing the women and killing such men as interfered with their lusts. No wonder Serra’s heart was heavy when he heard the news, and that he attributed the small number of baptisms—only seventy-three in two years—to the wickedness of the men who should have aided instead of hindering the work.