The Old San Rafael Arcangel Mission

San Rafael, founded December 17, 1817, by Father Luis Taboada, was intended to be but a temporary abiding-place, on the north side of the bay, in a nook sheltered from the rough ocean winds by the mountains around it. At the time a great pestilence prevailed among the Indian converts at Yerba Buena, the old Spanish name for San Francisco, and the sick were removed to San Rafael to be refreshed by its balmy breezes. It was designed to be a part-an asistencia- of San Francisco Mission, or the Mission Dolores, across the bay. Although no written evidence remains that it ever was raised to the status of a Mission, it was so occupied for seventeen years, and then became a parish of the first class. General John C. Fremont spent a week here in 1846. The buildings were never pretentious, and have ill withstood neglect and the passage of years. Only a part of the pear orchard planted by the padres remains of the old Mission property. The former site of San Rafael is now a beautiful city, the home of many persons who are engaged in business across the bay.

San Antonio de Pala was an offshoot of San Luis Rey, built in 1816 by Father Peyri as a chapel for the Indians who lived in the mountains twenty miles away. Bells were hung in the tower to call them to worship. It had none of the buildings necessary to a Mission, nor ever made pretensions to the name. It remains there still, kept in habitable condition for service by a few families of natives living in a neighboring village. Old paintings are hanging on the walls, and there is an image of Antonio Pala, the soldier-priest, its patron saint; also a statue in olivewood, made in Spain, of St. Louis, the French king of pious fame and memory in earlier centuries. There are still left old copper, brass, iron, and wood mementos of the past, some of which do not indicate their use, but are precious to the Indian worshippers. The building is long, narrow, and dark within, but serves for the purpose of divine worship. Now, after the lapse of a hundred years, the few descendants of the old Mission converts gather there on Sundays and fete days to do reverence and to rehearse the joys and glories that are gone.

San Francisco Solano, dedicated to the patron saint of the Indies, April 4, 1824, was from its birth under the shadow of those events which doomed all the Missions. Its life was blameless, and not without beneficent results. Its ruins are scarcely traceable, and only dim memory holds record of its former existence.

Return to: The Missions of California and the Old Southwest

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