The Famous Missions of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 49 pages of information about The Famous Missions of California.
of agricultural work . . .  For the sake of order and morals, whites are employed only where strictly necessary, for the fathers know their influence to be altogether harmful, and that they lead the Indians to gambling and drunkenness, to which vices they are already too prone.  To encourage the natives in their tasks, the fathers themselves often lend a hand, and everywhere furnish an example of industry.  Necessity has made them industrious.  One is struck with astonishment on observing that, with such meagre resources, often without European workmen or any skilled help, but with the assistance only of savages, always unintelligent and often hostile, they have yet succeeded in executing such works of architecture and engineering as mills, machinery, bridges, roads, and canals for irrigation.  For the erection of nearly all the mission buildings it was necessary to bring to the sites chosen, beams cut on mountains eight or ten leagues away, and to teach the Indians to burn lime, cut stone, and make bricks.

“Around the mission,” De Mofras continues, “are the huts of the neophytes, and the dwellings of some white colonists.  Besides the central establishment, there exists, for a space of thirty or forty leagues, accessory farms to the number of fifteen or twenty, and branch chapels (chapelles succursales).  Opposite the mission is a guard-house for an escort, composed of four cavalry soldiers and a sergeant.  These act as messengers, carrying orders from one mission to another, and in the earlier days of conquest repelled the savages who would sometimes attack the settlement.”

Of the daily life and routine of a mission, accounts of travelers enable us to form a pretty vivid picture; and though doubtless changes of detail might be marked in passing from place to place, the larger and more essential features would be found common to all the establishments.

At sunrise the little community was already astir, and then the Angelus summoned all to the church, where mass was said, and a short time given to the religious instruction of the neophytes.  Breakfast followed, composed mainly of the staple dish atole, or pottage of roasted barley.  This finished, the Indians repaired in squads, each under the supervision of its alcalde, to their various tasks in workshop and field.  Between eleven and twelve o’clock, a wholesome and sufficiently generous midday meal was served out.  At two, work was resumed.  An hour or so before sunset, the bell again tolled for the Angelus; evening mass was performed; and after supper had been eaten, the day closed with dance, or music, or some simple games of chance.  Thus week by week, and month by month, with monotonous regularity, life ran its unbroken course; and what with the labours directly connected with the management of the mission itself, the tending of sheep and cattle in the neighboring ranches, and the care of the gardens and orchards upon which the population was largely dependent for subsistence, there was plenty to occupy

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The Famous Missions of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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