Though the establishment of San Juan Capistrano is naturally mentioned in this place, partly because of the abortive start made there a year before, and partly because its actual foundation constituted the next noteworthy incident in Junipero’s career, this mission is, in strict chronological order, not the sixth, but the seventh on our list. For some three weeks before its dedication, and without the knowledge of the president himself, though in full accordance with his designs, the cross had been planted at a point many leagues northward beyond San Carlos, and destined presently to be the most important on the coast. It will be remembered that when Portolà’s party made their first futile search for the harbour of Monterey, they had by accident found their way as far as the Bay of San Francisco. The significance of their discovery was not appreciated at the time, either by themselves or by those at headquarters to whom it was reported; but later explorations so clearly established the value of the spot for settlement and fortification, that it was determined to build a presidio there. Some years previous to this, as we have seen, a mission on the northern bay had been part of Junipero’s ambitious scheme; and though at the time he was forced by circumstances to hold his hand, the idea was constantly uppermost in his thoughts. At length, when, in the summer of 1776, an expedition was despatched from Monterey for the founding of the proposed presidio, two missionaries were included in the party — one of these being none other than that Father Palou, whose records have been our chief guides in the course of this story. The buildings of the presidio — store house, commandant’s dwelling, and huts for the soldiers and their families — were completed by the middle of September; and on the 17th of that month - the day of St. Francis, patron of the station and harbour — imposing ceremonies of foundation were performed. A wooden church was then built; and on the 9th of October, in the presence of many witnesses, Father Palou said mass, the image of St. Francis was borne about in procession, and the mission solemnly dedicated to his name.
It was at San Luis Obispo on his way back from San Diego to Monterey, that Father Junipero learned of the foundation of the mission at San Francisco, and though he may doubtless have felt some little regret at not having himself been present on such an occasion, his heart overflowed with joy. For there was a special reason why the long delay in carrying out this portion of his plan had weighed heavily upon him. Years before, when the visitador general had told him that the first three missions in Alta California were to be named after San Diego, San Carlos and San Buenaventura (for such, we recollect, had been the original programme), he had exclaimed: — “Then is our father, St. Francis, to have no mission?” And Galvez had made reply: — “If St. Francis desires a mission, let him show us his port, and he shall have one there.” To Junipero it had seemed that Portolà had providentially been led beyond Monterey to the Bay of San Francisco, and the founder of his order had thus given emphatic answer to the visitador’s words. It may well be imagined that he was ill at rest until the saint’s wishes had been carried into effect.