San Antonio De Padua was the third Mission in the order of founding, and was located in the beautiful valley of Santa Margarita, now called Los Robles, in the heart of the Santa Lucia range, on the fourteenth of July, 1771. This range runs from the San Fernando Mountains, twenty miles north of Los Angeles, northwest, to the Bay of Monterey. It is a wild and rugged region, far away from the ocean, and east of San Luis Obispo. The face of nature in all California can nowhere entertain the mind and please the eye of the tourist with a greater variety of scenery, from the most beautiful to the grand and sublime, than in the vicinity of this old Mission. The padres well knew how to worship the God of Nature in his works. “Los Robles” means the oak trees. There are many valleys and tablelands in California covered with stately oaks from fifty to one hundred feet apart, giving vistas for miles in every direction. They are called glade lands, and would gladden the hearts of ancient Druids. Such was the valley of the Mission of St. Anthony, with a mountain river winding through it, not affected by the summer drought and famous for its hot medicinal springs. This Mission was on the regular line (though inland) from San Diego to Monterey, a deflection from the ocean route. Serra with his party left San Carlos and traveled south until he discovered the favored location, and then the ceremonies soon settled the question.
In all the cases of founding Missions, the padres were necessarily dependent on Spain for supplies, except in the use of heavy building material, which was in the country around them. These supplies were brought to the padres at the few coast ports, mainly San Diego and Monterey, but in later years San Pedro was opened to ships. The trained workmen were sent from Spain until the Indians had been made skilled mechanics, and it is a remarkable fact that they were very quick in imitation, and soon learned anything that was taught them. Many of them excelled in the finest art work, and in the course of time there was no limit to their usefulness. The soldier was necessary as a protection, but when the padres had gained influence and their converts became numerous, the occupation of the military was rendered useless. The “San Antonio” and the “San Carlos” were the chief reliance for supplies for the Missions in the incipiency of the scheme of civilization.
The Mission never became rich and great, but was fairly prosperous until the decree of secularization. Its inland location was a hindrance to its development. It is now in a reasonable state of preservation, being visited monthly by a priest from old San Miguel, and occasionally by priests from other Missions. If it never was a great Mission, it has compensation in the minds of the imaginative by a tinge of romance hanging about its history such as none of the old Missions can surpass.