|ON September 8, 1797,
the seventeenth of the California Missions was founded by Padre Lasuen,
in the Encino Valley where Francisco Reyes had a rancho in the Los Angeles
jurisdiction. The natives called Achois Comihavit. Reyes' house was appropriated
as temporary dwelling for the missionary. The Mission was dedicated to
Fernando III, King of Spain. Lasuen came Edown from San Miguel to Santa
Barbara, especially for the foundation, and from thence with Sergeant Olivera
and a military escort. These, with Padre Francisco Dumetz, the priest chosen
to have charge, and his assistant, Francisco Favier Uria, composed, with
the large concourse of Indians, the witnesses of the solemn ceremonial.
On the 4th of October Olivera reported the guard-house and storehouse finished, two houses begun, and preparations already being made for the church.
From the baptismal register it is seen that
ten children were baptized the first day, and thirteen adults were received
early in October. By the end of 1797 there were fifty-five neophytes.
In December, 1806, an adobe church, with a tile roof, was consecrated, which on the 21st of December, 1812, was severely injured by the earthquake that did damage to almost all the Missions of the chain. Thirty new beams were needed to support the injured walls. A new chapel was built, which was completed in 1818.
By the end of 1810 neophytes had increased to 955, and the healthfulness of the location was proven by the fact that baptisms were twice as numerous as deaths.
San Fernando from the start seemed to be cramped for want of lands. In 1804 there was a strong protest made against granting the Camulos Rancho, and in 1816 Pico ordered the sheep away from his land at the Sini Rancho, as did also the proprietors of Refugio in 1817. Padre lbarra, in 1821, had a hot correspondence with the Santa Barbara military authorities in reference to a proposed grant of the Piru Rancho, on which he was pasturing the Mission herds. The protest kept it from Guerra, the proposed grantee, but did not save it to San Fernando, a fact which caused considerable irritation on both sides. The padre began to complain of the Santa Barbara presidio, of which De la Guerra was captain, declaring that his soldiers sold liquor, lent horses to, and generally demoralized his neophytes, even sheltering them when they ran away.
Already the Mission property had begun to decline, though from 1822 to 1827 the records show that the Santa Barbara presidio received supplies to the amount of $21203. In 1826 Governor Echeandia declared San Fernando to be in the jurisdiction of Los Angeles instead of Santa Barbara.
In 1837 the Mission funds to the amount of $2000 were taken by the Los Angeles authorities into safe keeping, as Governor Alvarado was marching south to punish the southern people who had risen in rebellion against what they termed his unjust rule. At San Fernando, on January 16, a force about 270 men under Rocha were massed to arrest Alvarado's march upon Los Angeles, and Alcalde Sepulveda issued an address calling upon the citizens to defend the honor of their beloved country against the Monterey usurper. After some fruitless negotiations Alvarado sent an ultimatum to Sepulveda, that if San Fernando was not given up on the messenger's return he would take it by force. Though his force was much smaller, the order was obeyed at once. Rocha retired with his men to Los Angeles, and Alvarado occupied the Mission. Soon afterwards Alvarado entered Los Angeles, a council of the opposing forces was held, a compact made, and peace restored.
In 1831 Lieutenant Antonio del Valle was the
comisionado appointed to secularize the Mission, and the next year he became
majordomo and served until 1837. The inventory of 1837 gives credits, $14,293;
buildings, $56,785; house utensils, $601; goods in storehouse, $5214; liquors,
etc., $7175; live-stock, $53,854; San Francisco Rancho, $1925; grain, $618;
tannery, $54,1; carpenter shop, $127; blacksmith shop, $789; soap works,
$512; mills, $200; tools, $368; tallow works, $2540; church, $1500; ornaments,
etc., $4348; library of fifty works. The debts were $1689. When Visitador
Hartwell came in 1839 he found everything in excellent condition, with
large herds for distribution among the Indians; but the next year things
were far less satisfactory.
Micheltorena was destined again to appear at San Fernando, for when the Californians under Pio Pico anc' Castro rose to drive out the Mexicans, the Governor finally capitulated at the same place be had heard the bad news of the Americans' capture of Monterey. February 21, 1845, after a bloodless " battle " at Cahuenga, he " abdicated," and finally left the country and returned to Mexio.
In 1845 Juan Manso and Andres Pico leased the
Mission: at a rental of $1120, the affairs having been fairly well administered
by Padre Orday after its return to the control of the friars. A year later
it was sold by Pio Pico, under the order of the assembly, for $14,000,
to Eulogio Celis, whose title was afterwards confirmed by the court. Orday
remained as pastor until May, 1847, and was San Fernando's last minister.
Connected with the Mission of San Fernando
is the firs discovery of California gold. Eight years before the great
days of '49 Francisco Lopez, the mayordomo of the Mission, was in the canyon
of San Feliciano, which is about eight miles westerly from the present
town of Newhall, and according to Don Abel Stearns, " with a companion
while in search of some stray horses, about midday stopper under some trees
and tied their horses to feed. While resting in the shade, Lopez with his
sheath knife dug up some, wild onions, and in the dirt discovered a piece
of gold. Searching further he found more. On his return to town he showed
these pieces to his friends, who at once declared there must be a placer
of gold there."
Davis says that in the first two years after the discover, not less than from $80,000 to $100,000 was gathered Don Antonio Coronel, with three Indian laborers, in 1842 took out $600 worth of dust in two months.
Water being scarce the methods of washing the gravel were both crude and wasteful. And it is interesting to note that the first gold "pans" were bateas or bowl-shape, Indian baskets.
In March, 1902, a San Fernando Mission Indian died and was buried on the 22d by the side of his wife in the old cemetery back of the church. Rojerio Rocha by name, he was said to be one hundred and twelve years old at the time of his death. He was one of the noted blacksmiths and, silversmiths of the Mission, in the days when it was famed, for its excellent iron work. When the division of lands took place he was given about twelve acres, three miles east o the Mission; but later he was evicted, and thereafter felt nothing but scorn, contempt, and hatred for the American who dispossessed him. It was a cold, rainy night when he was carted away from his home, and his wife died from the exposure. He was quite familiar with the excitement a the time of the discovery of gold, and was one of the few neophytes who were allowed to visit the spot.
The church at San Fernando is in a completely
ruined condition. It stands southwest to northeast. The entrance is at
the southwest end and the altar at the northeast. There is also a side
entrance at the east, with a half-circular arch, sloping into a larger
arch inside, with a flat top an rounded upper corners. The thickness of
the walls allow the working out of various styles in these outer and inner
arches that is curious and interesting. They reveal the individuality of
the builder, and as they are all structural and pleasing they afford a
wonderful example of variety in adapting the arch to its necessary functions.
Four sets of pilasters on each side divide the walls into effective panels, in each of which is a sunk-in arch. Upon each pilaster rests a corbel. Additional corbels are, placed between the pilasters, and on these the roof-beam rest.
Nine square recesses, as if for windows, are to be seen on both sides, but a few only are pierced through and use as windows.
The church walls throughout are built of adobe.
The choir loft is at the southwest end, over the mail entrance, which is a rounded arch outside and a flat one inside.
The corridors of the inner court extended from this church to the monastery - the building recently restored by the Landmarks Club. Only one pillar now stands, all the rest having tumbled. They were built of large flat burned brick. Some of them were square, as at Purisima, others are ruins of rounded columns. These latter were made of square brick, and the rounding out was accomplished with cement.
The graveyard is on the northwest side of the church, and close by is the old olive orchard where a number of fine trees are still growing. There are also two large palms, pictures of which are generally taken with the Mission in the background, and the mountains beyond. It is an exquisite subject. The remains of adobe walls still surround the orchard.
The doorway leading to the graveyard is of a half- circle inside, and slopes outward, where the arch is square.
There is a buttress of burnt brick to the southeast of the church, which appears as if it might have been an addition after the earthquake.
The monastery the chief entrance is a simple but effective arched doorway, now plastered and whitewashed. The double door frame projects pilaster-like, with a four- membered cornice above, from which rises an elliptical arch, with an elliptical cornice about a foot above.
From this monastery one looks out upon a court or plaza which is literally dotted with ruins, though they are mainly of surrounding walls. Immediately in the foreground is a fountain, the reservoir of which is built of brick covered with cement. A double bowl rests on the centre standard.
Further away in the court are the remnants of what may have been another fountain, the reservoir of which is made of brick, built into a singular geometrical figure. This is composed of eight semicircles, with V's connecting them, the apex of each V being on the outside. It appears like an attempt at creating a conventionalized flower in brick.
Two hundred yards or so away from the monastery is a square structure, the outside of boulders. Curiosity prompting, you climb up, and on looking in you find that inside this framework of boulders are two circular cisterns of brick, fully six feet in diameter across the top, decreasing in size to the bottom, which is perhaps four feet in diameter.
In March, 1905, considerable excitement was
caused by the actions of the parish priest of San Fernando, a French man
named Le Bellegny, of venerable appearance and gentle manners. Not being
acquainted with the status quo of the old Mission, he exhumed the bodies
of the Franciscar friars who had been buried in the church and reburied
them. He removed the baptismal font to his church, and unroofed some of
the old buildings and took the tiles and timbers away. As soon as he understood
the matter hi ceased his operations, but, unfortunately, not before considerable
damage was done.
George Wharton James, In and Out of the Old Missions,
Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1924
Chapter XXII, San Fernando, Rey De Espagna
by Maria Hetenyi