This period of peace and prosperity was followed by sudden disaster. The earthquake of 1812, already noted as the most severe ever known on the Pacific Coast, brought devastation to Purisima. The morning of December 21 found padres and Indians rejoicing in the possession of the fruits of their labor of years,—a fine church, many Mission buildings, and a hundred houses built of adobe and occupied by the natives. A few hours afterward little was left that was fit for even temporary use. The first vibration, lasting four minutes, damaged the walls of the church. The second shock, a half-hour later, caused the total collapse of nearly all the buildings. Padre Payeras reported that “the earth opened in several places, emitting water and black sand.” This calamity was quickly followed by torrents of rain, and the ensuing floods added to the distress of the homeless inhabitants. The remains of this old Mission of 1802 are still to be seen near Lompoc, and on the hillside above is a deep scar made by the earthquake, this doubtless being the crack described by Padre Payeras. But nothing could daunt the courage or quench the zeal of the missionaries. Rude huts were erected for immediate needs, and, having selected a new and more advantageous site—five or six miles away—across the river, they obtained the necessary permission from the presidente, and at once commenced the construction of a new church, and all the buildings needed for carrying on the Mission. Water for irrigation and domestic purposes was brought in cement pipes, made and laid under the direction of the padres, from Salsperde Creek, three miles away. But other misfortunes were in store for these unlucky people. During a drought in the winter of 1816-1817, hundreds of sheep perished for lack of feed, and in 1818 nearly all the neophytes’ houses were destroyed by fire.
In 1823 the Mission lost one of its best friends in the death of Padre Payeras. Had he lived another year it is quite possible his skill in adjusting difficulties might have warded off the outbreak that occurred among the Indians,—the famous revolt of 1824.
This revolt, which also affected Santa Ines and Santa Barbara (see their respective chapters), had serious consequences at Purisima. After the attack at Santa Ines the rebels fled to Purisima. In the meantime the neophytes at this latter Mission, hearing of the uprising, had seized the buildings. The guard consisted of Corporal Tapia with four or five men. He bravely defended the padres and the soldiers’ families through the night, but surrendered when his powder gave out. One woman was wounded. The rebels then sent Padres Ordaz and Tapia to Santa Ines to warn Sergeant Carrillo not to come or the families would be killed. Before an answer was received, the soldiers and their families were permitted to retire to Santa Ines, while Padre Rodriguez remained, the Indians being kindly disposed towards him. Four white men were killed in the fight, and seven Indians.