In 1823 the president and vice-prefect Senan, who had served as padre at this Mission for twenty-five years, died August 24, and was buried by the side of Santa Maria. After his death San Buenaventura began rapidly to decline.
In 1822 a neophyte killed his wife for adultery. It is interesting to note that in presenting his case the fiscal said that as the culprit had been a Christian only seven years, and was yet ignorant in matters of domestic discipline, he asked for the penalty of five years in the chain gang and then banishment.
The baptisms for the whole period of the Mission’s history, viz., for 1782-1834, are 3876. There is still preserved at the Mission the first register, which was closed in 1809. At that time 2648 baptisms had been administered. The padre presidente, Serra, wrote the heading for the Index, and the contents themselves were written in a beautiful hand by Padre Senan. There are four signatures which occur throughout in the following order: Pedro Benito Cambon, Francisco Dumetz, Vicente de Sta Maria, and Jose Senan.
The largest population was 1330 in 1816. The largest number of cattle was 23,400 in the same year. In 1814, 4652 horses; in 1816, 13,144 sheep.
Micheltorena’s decree in 1843 restored the temporalities of the Mission to the padres. This was one of the two Missions, Santa Ines being the other, that was able to provide a moderate subsistence out of the wreck left by secularization. On the 5th of December, 1845, Pico rented San Buenaventura to Jose Arnaz and Marcisco Botello for $1630 a year. There are no statistics of the value of the property after 1842, though in April of 1843 Padre Jimeno reports 2382 cattle, 529 horses, 2299 sheep, 220 mules and 18 asses, 1032 fruit trees and 11,907 vines. In November of that same year the bishop appointed Presbyter, Resales, since which time the Mission has been the regular parish church of the city.
In 1893 the Mission church was renovated out of all its historic association and value by Father Rubio, who had a good-natured but fearfully destructive zeal for the “restoration” of the old Missions. Almost everything has been modernized. The fine old pulpit, one of the richest treasures of the Mission, was there several years ago; but when, in 1904, I inquired of the then pastor where it was, I was curtly informed that he neither knew nor cared. All the outbuildings have been demolished and removed in order to make way for the modern spirit of commercialism which in the last decade has struck the town. It is now an ordinary church, with little but its history to redeem it from the look of smug modernity which is the curse of the present age.
Before leaving San Buenaventura it may be interesting to note that a few years ago I was asked about two “wooden bells” which were said to have been hung in the tower at this Mission. I deemed the question absurd, but on one of my visits found one of these bells in a storeroom under the altar, and another still hanging in the belfry. By whom, or why, these dummy bells were made, I have not been able to discover.