In 1819 the Indians of the Guachama rancho, called San Bernardino, petitioned for the introduction of agriculture and stock raising, and this was practically the beginning of that asistencia, as will be recorded in the chapter on the various chapels. A chapel was also much needed at Puente, where Zalvidea had six hundred Indians at work in 1816.
In 1822 San Gabriel was fearfully alarmed at the rumor that one hundred and fifty Indians were bearing down upon that Mission from the Colorado River region. It transpired that it was an Opata with despatches, and that the company had no hostile intent. But Captain Portilla met them and sent them back, not a little disconcerted by their inhospitable reception.
Of the wild, political chaos that occurred in California after Mexico became independent of Spain, San Gabriel felt occasional waves. When the people of San Diego and the southern part of the State rebelled against Governor Victoria, and the latter confident chief came to arrange matters, a battle took place near Los Angeles, in which he was severely wounded. His friends bore him to San Gabriel, and, though he had entirely defeated his foes, so cleverly did some one work upon his fears that he made a formal surrender, December 6, 1831. On the ninth the leader of the rebels, the former Governor Echeandia, had a conference with him at San Gabriel, where he pledged himself to return to Mexico without giving further trouble; and on the twentieth he left, stopping for awhile at San Luis Rey with Padre Peyri. It was at this time the venerable and worthy Peyri decided to leave California, and he therefore accompanied the deposed governor to San Diego, from which port they sailed January 17, 1832.
After secularization San Gabriel was one of the Missions that slaughtered a large number of her cattle for the hides and tallow. Pio Pico states that he had the contract at San Gabriel, employing ten vaqueros and thirty Indians, and that he thus killed over five thousand head. Robinson says that the rascally contractors secretly appropriated two hides for every one they turned over to the Mission.
In 1843, March 29, Micheltorena’s order, restoring San Gabriel to the padres, was carried out, and in 1844 the official church report states that nothing is left but its vineyards in a sad condition, and three hundred neophytes. The final inventory made by the comisionados under Pio Pico is missing, so that we do not know at what the Mission was valued; but June 8, 1846, he sold the whole property to Reid and Workman in payment for past services to the government. When attacked for his participation in what evidently seemed the fraudulent transfer of the Mission, Pico replies that the sale “did not go through.” The United States officers, in August of the same year, dispossessed the “purchasers,” and the courts finally decreed the sale invalid.
There are a few portions of the old cactus hedge still remaining, planted by Padre Zalvidea. Several hundreds of acres of vineyard and garden were thus enclosed for purposes of protection from Indians and roaming bands of horses and cattle. The fruit of the prickly pear was a prized article of diet by the Indians, so that the hedge was of benefit in two ways,—protection and food.