It is well that the visitor should know that this old Mission, never so abandoned and abused as the others, has been kept up in late years entirely by the funds given to the Franciscan missionaries, who are now its custodians, and it has no other income.
The Mission Library contains a large number of valuable old books gathered from the other Missions at the time of secularization. There are also kept here a large number of the old records from which Bancroft gained much of his Mission intelligence, and which, recently, have been carefully restudied by Father Zephyrin, the California historian of the Franciscan Order. Father Zephyrin is a devoted student, and many results of his zeal and kindness are placed before my readers in this volume, owing to his generosity. His completed history of the Missions and Missionaries of California is a monumental work.
LA PURISIMA CONCEPCION
Although the date of the founding of this Mission is given as December 8, 1787,—for that was the day on which Presidente Lasuen raised the cross, blessed the site, celebrated mass, and preached a dedicatory sermon,—there was no work done for several months, owing to the coming of the rainy season. In the middle of March, 1788, Sergeant Cota of Santa Barbara, with a band of laborers and an escort, went up to prepare the necessary buildings; and early in April Lasuen, accompanied by Padres Vicente Fuster and Jose Arroita, followed. As early as August the roll showed an acquisition of seventy-nine neophytes. During the first decade nearly a thousand baptisms were recorded, and the Mission flourished in all departments. Large crops of wheat and grain were raised, and live-stock increased rapidly. In 1804 the population numbered 1522, the highest on record during its history, and in 1810 the number of live-stock reported was over 20,000; but the unusual prosperity that attended this Mission during its earlier years was interrupted by a series of exceptional misfortunes.
The first church erected was crude and unstable, and fell rapidly into decay. Scarcely a dozen years had passed, when it became necessary to build a new one. This was constructed of adobe and roofed with tile. It was completed in 1802, but although well built, it was totally destroyed by an earthquake, as we shall see later on.
The Indians of this section were remarkably intelligent as well as diligent, and during the first years of the Mission there were over fifty rancherias in the district. According to the report of Padre Payeras in 1810, they were docile and industrious. This indefatigable worker, with the assistance of interpreters, prepared a Catechism and Manual of Confession in the native language, which he found very useful in imparting religious instruction and in uprooting the prevailing idolatry. In a little over twenty years the entire population for many leagues had been baptized, and were numbered among the converts.