La Purisima Concepcion Mission

La Purisima Concepcion Mission was designed by Serra as one of the Channel series, but was not founded until December 8, 1787, three years after his death; and it was built not upon the coast but upon the Santa Inez River, north and beyond the mountains. The river is about one hundred miles long, rising in the mountains to the eastward,-a sort of nucleus, or hub of mountains at Newhall, into which run the Tehatchipe Range from the Sierra Nevada, the San Gabriel Range from the eastward, the San Fernando Range from the south, the Cuyhengo Range from the southeast, the Santa Inez Range from the west, and the Santa Lucia Range from the northwest, near Monterey. This mountain center is the wildest and most pugged portion of the State outside of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It seems to be the breeding-place of all the lesser ranges. The Santa Inez. Valley, through which runs the river, is like an immensely wide and most hideously savage canon until it approaches ‘Las Berros, on the river, the site of the Mission, a much wider part of the valley and a more open country. Many canons and smaller valleys enter the Santa Inez along its route from the eastern end to its mouth, where the valley and river reach the ocean. Along the western half of the Santa Inez Valley a wide stretch of open country unfolds to view, embracing many thousands of acres, consisting of valley, flat, rolling, and hill lands, exceedingly fertile, adapted to cultivation and pasturage, and extending to San Luis Obispo and beyond.

Such, approximately, is the southwestern part of California available to the Missions for resources and Indian converts; but it is impossible to define clearly and accurately the trend of the ranges and localities of the intervening lands without the aid of the contour map. In this region near the Santa Inez, are the Lompoc Colony and lands, one of the finest and most productive portions of the State.

The first buildings erected were both crude and’ small, but in 1802 more extensive ones of adobe, tile-roofed, were completed and dedicated. The earthquake of 1812 rent and tore the Mission and Indian houses to pieces, and to this were added the destructive forces of a great flood from the river, which completed the ruin. Padre Mariano Payeras was the supervising priest and a man of great energy; with the abiding faith of his Order in the results of indomitable labor, he entered on the work of reconstruction. He soon had provided warehouses for grain, which was in the process of harvesting when the disaster occurred, enclosures for several thousand head of cattle and sheep and horses, and dwellings for his Indians, numbering fifteen hundred or more. He also finished a stone structure, which was dedicated five years later, in 1817, and used as a chapel, as a padres’ house, and for other Mission purposes. It was in style, dimensions, and decoration the most modest of the Mission chapels in California. La Purisima prospered in amassing wealth and in making converts, and its location made it indispensable to the line of Missions, as they were projected and afterwards established. Doubtless its misfortunes from natural causes had much to do in subordinating its fortunes to those of the other Missions, while in time it became, like the others, a victim to the act of confiscation. In 1844 Governor Pio Pico was ordered by the home Government to restore the lands to the Indians, whose number was at that time reduced to about one hundred. But, without faith or hope in the future, the Indians declined the benefit of this belated act of conscience, and the lands were sold and rented. The United States Commissioners in 1856 restored the Mission buildings to the Church. They are now partially reconstructed and used for Mission purposes.

The old Mission is reached from the south by the San Marco and the Goleta Passes through the Santa Inez Mountains, the one being ten and the other forty miles west of Santa Barbara.

Return to: The Missions of California and the Old Southwest

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