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california missions at san miguel, san antonio and soledad

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San Miguel Arcángel Mission Archangel at San MiguelSixteenth Mission Founded: July 25, 1797 by Father Fermin Lasuen Named for: Saint Michael the Archangel

Location: on old U.S. Highway 101, 8 miles north of the city of Paso Robles 

The third mission founded by Father Lasuen in the summer of 1797 was quickly filled with the many friendly Native Americans in the area. Fifteen native children were baptized on the same day the mission was founded. Accompanying the padres were many neophyte (Christianized Native Americans) families from other missions that helped to quickly win the confidence of the local natives.

For many years the padres kept the natives busy making and drying large amounts of adobe bricks to be used in a new large church. When the stockpile of adobe bricks was large enough construction began and was completed in just two years.

Although the exterior of the church was simple, the interior was elaborately adorned by an artist from Spain. Fortunately, this artwork has been preserved in its original form. Scenes show false balconies and pillars, archways, and imitation marble. Above the alter is the "all-seeing eye of God" with rays of light shining in all directions.

The neophytes were so content here that even when, in 1831, in anticipation of secularization, they were told that they were now free to leave the mission, none did. They all chose to stay with the padres. A few years later, in August 1834, the mission was secularized and all the property was given to the Native Americans. But without the guidance of the padres, the mission soon fell into disrepair. By 1844 most of the neophytes had left and all of the livestock was gone.

In 1846 all the mission property, except the church, was sold into private hands. One of the purchasers was William Reed, who along with his family and servants, lived in the mission until they were all murdered by a band of tramps looking for gold to steal. The tramps were all later caught and executed. When the church was finally put back into service, in 1878, some restoration was begun. In 1928 it was returned to the Franciscan's to be used as a monastery and a parish church.

San Antonio de Padua Mission San Antonio.
Third Mission
Founded: July 14, 1771 by Father Junipero Serra
Named for: Saint Anthony

Location: 5 miles northwest of the community of Jolon in Monterey County

He was not disappointed. Just a few days after their arrival, sensing the kindness and good intentions of the strangers, large numbers of natives arrived to meet them. They accepted the gifts of beads and cloth from the padres and in return provided their own gifts of seeds and acorns harvested in the area.

In 1773 the mission was moved to a site further north in the Los Robles Valley that offered a better water supply. The San Antonio River, about three miles above the mission, was dammed and long aqueducts brought the water to the mission where is was stored in reservoirs. The water was used to turn the first California gristmill, where wheat was ground into flour. Much of this early water system, along with the gristmill, are still there today.

Due to its remote location, the San Antonio Mission was badly plundered after its secularization in 1834. The mission was completely abandoned for almost 50 years, between 1882 and 1928. Restoration here was a formidable task, but seen as one of the largest and most picturesque of all the missions remaining in northern California, San Antonio was selected by the newly formed California Historic Landmarks League as one of their first projects in 1903.

A further restoration of all the mission buildings was funded by the Hearst Foundation and the Franciscans of California in 1948. The mission is now an accurate replica of the original mission as it stood in 1813. Parts of the compound are today used by the Franciscans, but most of the grounds are available to the public for viewing.

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad Soledad Mission Thirteenth Mission

Founded: October 9, 1791 by Father Fermin Lasuen Named for: Our Lady of Solitude

Location: in the Salinas River valley, 3 miles south of the town of Soledad and 1 mile west of U.S. Highway 101

The name of this mission tells a lot about it. Father Lasuen dedicated the site to "the Solitude of Most Holy Mary, Our Lady". It was a dry, windy plain that was very hot in the summer and freezing cold on winter nights. It was through the missionaries irrigation of the Salinas river that the area was transformed to allow the growth of crops and livestock herding by the missionaries.

Due to the inhospitable climate and land, there were very few Native Americans living in the area. Hence building and conversions were slow. It was six years before a large church was finally built. And since the desolate plain offered no protection against the floods of the Salinas river, the church was twice destroyed by the overflowing river banks. During a reconstruction in 1832 a third flood hit that was latter seen as the beginning of the end for the Mission Soledad.

It was also a very difficult assignment for the padres. Those sent there soon complained of rheumatism and poor health. After a year, many padres asked to be reassigned to a more pleasant site. In the short span of this mission's existence, almost thirty different padres were assigned here.

In spite of all the difficulties, the mission did prosper. Eventually the padres performed more than 2,000 baptisms and 700 marriages. The crops were bountiful and large herds of horses, cattle and sheep grazed the plains.

After secularization the mission site was soon abandoned and left to decay for over one hundred years. Finally, in 1954, the Native Daughters of the Golden West began restoring what little was left of the Mission Soledad. Today a small wing of seven rooms and a small chapel can be visited. Although the original quadrangle is gone, the lines of it can be traced in the mounds of the adobe ruins.