The Chapels of California and the Old Southwest

Outlying among the Missions, stations among the far-distant ones, or on the frontiers, were chapels, or asistencias, such as were not organized as Missions. The principal ones were as follows:

San Miguel Chapel, some six miles from Santa Barbara, was built in 1803. San Miguelito Chapel, built in 1809, was one of several asistencias appertaining to San Luis Obispo. Santa Isabel, forty miles from San Diego, was built in 1822. At the Indian village of Mesa Grande is a chapel dedicated to Santo Domingo.

Los Angeles Chapel was never a Mission, but a chapel designed for the veteran soldiers of the King as a place of worship. The first movement in their behalf was made in 1811, and in August, 1814, the corner-stone was laid and blessed. Years passed, nothing occurring but agitation from time to time. At last a chapel was built, and dedicated on the eighth of December 1822. Los Angeles was then a small village of less than one thousand inhabitants.

San Bernardino or Politana Chapel was established by the padres from San Gabriel Mission as a stopping-place and supply station for travelers overland across the desert. In 1810 the buildings and cultivated lands were destroyed and laid waste by fanatical Indians, incited to revolt by the medicine men of a mountain tribe Ten years later a new site, eight miles from the old, was chosen, and new buildings were erected. For eleven years this establishment prospered, when the fate which had befallen its predecessor swept it alike to ruin. It was rebuilt directly and in such a manner and with walls of such strength that it became the proud boast of its constructors that it would never again need to fear an attack, ever so fierce, from its Indian foes. But a force of unheard-of strength for that day and country came against it in 1834, and destroyed the buildings and put their defenders to flight. No further attempt has ever been made to rebuild or rehabilitate the old Chapel, and even the ruins are fast disappearing.

One more of these old Chapels was built, in the Santa Margarita Valley, in San Luis Obispo County. The Sierra Santa Lucia encircles the valley, which presents a rural landscape lovely beyond comparison. This chapel probably consisted of several buildings, erected solely for the Indians who lived far from the Mission of that region.

Return to: The Missions of California and the Old Southwest

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