San Fernando was founded September 8 1797. President Lasuen was in harmony with the plans of Serra to establish a series of Missions from the Mexican border to Monterey, and he dedicated this Mission to the King of Spain. The ruins of the adobe building now seen date back to 1806, when the erection thereof was completed. They stand in a valley as fertile and sunny as any in the State, a valley that is very great in extent and susceptible to cultivation throughout. Enclosed mainly by the San Fernando and Cuyhengo Ranges, it opens eastward through La Canada Pass to Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, and southward through Glendale Valley to Los Angeles. As a grain and fruit region it compares favorably with the other great valleys in the State. Thus it may be seen that the old Mission had exhaustless natural resources in soil, climate, and expansive lands to draw on in the development of its object, and for raising supplies for the padres and the native converts.
The buildings, like many others, were badly shaken or destroyed by the earthquake of 1812. The Mission was restored; and, as in some others of the first class, a magnificent corridor was attached like a wing to the principal building, which enclosed the chapel. The corridor was arched, and under its shade the padres were protected from the sun; here, too, they spent the cool evening hours in repose. The courtyard was refreshed by running water and a fine stone fountain. Shade trees of every description, indigenous to the soil and climate, and such as could be transplanted, or raised from imported seed, everywhere surrounded and interspersed the Mission grounds. Flowers indescribable in variety and perfume allured the vision and gave exquisite pleasure to the senses. Fruits of every kind were plentiful as the native grasses. Indeed, this was one of the great Missions in all that nature and art could contribute to its growth and maturity.
Founded in honor of a king who had been canonized by the pope, it could not be permitted to degenerate into inferiority and obscurity. It flourished and gathered property in flocks, herds, grain, wine, money, and other effects, until, in 1825, it was estimated to rank almost without a rival in wealth among its sister Missions. Its treasury held from one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand dollars in cash and assets. The site of the Mission commands a view of nearly the entire valley, and to the ocean, and the islands from forty to eighty miles away.
In 1846 the Mission was sold by Governor Pio Pico to Don Eulogio Celis for about twenty thousand dollars, and the sale was confirmed ultimately by the United States Commissioners, closing out the Mission forever. Its lands are now owned by many different people, and the entire valley is modernized by all the improvements of a higher civilization. Its location is about fifteen miles north of Los Angeles, and near the mountains. There is an old tradition that the padres found gold in these mountains; their mines are sometimes pointed out, but no one cares to work them. Yet it is no doubt true that, the Mexicans discovered gold here in considerable quantities before it was revealed in Sutter’s Creek in 1848. However authentic the traditions may be, the pursuit of gold in these localities has long since been abandoned.