San Buenaventura Mission

In 1779 Serra after many political changes in the officials and plans for California, in which Governor Portola was displaced by Don Teodore de Croix as Governor-General, with residence in Sonora-and his good friend, Viceroy Bucarelidead, received orders to found three Missions on the Channel of Santa Barbara. Captain Rivera recruited eighty men for that purpose, and to help Serra in locating and building the Missions. San Buenaventura was so situated as to form a link in the original chain of Missions which Serra ardently desired along the two hundred leagues of coast from Mexico northward, so as to meet the necessities of all the Indians living there, who he learned were more readily reclaimed than inland tribes and mountain Indians. Governor Portola, on his return from Monterey, reported to Serra very favorably of the Channel Indians, as being peaceable, some of them advanced in stonework and quite skilful in woodwork, living in decent houses, and expert with canoes. They had informed him, by tracings in the sand, of Vizcaino’s visit nearly one hundred and seventy-five years before. Serra was greatly interested, but he did not finally get permission to build until Governor Neve informed him in February 1783, that he would help in founding the Missions of San Buenaventura and Santa Barbara. He proceeded to the former place, and on the twenty-ninth of March 1783, with imposing ceremony and a great attendance of soldiers and Indians, and Padre Cambon from the Philippine Islands, he dedicated San Buenaventura Mission to God and St. Joseph.

In 1802 this Mission had greater and finer herds, fields of grain, gardens, and orchards than any other. Fathers Dumertz and Vicente de Santa Maria were in control, and for many years they made the enterprise a success, and the Mission rapidly increased in wealth and importance. They were on the seacoast in the midst of a country most prolific in all the products of the soil. They controlled the great Santa Clara Valley; they likewise controlled other rich valleys between the Santa Inez Mountains and the ocean, and from Newhall to Monticello.

San Buenaventura Mission has suffered from fire and earthquake, the former during the life of Padre Senan, when the buildings were all but completely destroyed; and the latter during the general disturbance in 1812, when so many of the Missions experienced serious damage. For a time the padres dared not trust their lives beneath the shattered walls, and in the end the church and tower were razed and built anew. These walls were so massive that they resisted the cannon shots with hardly a scar, in the battle between Carrillo and Alvarado in the Spring of 1838. The beautiful altar in the chapel was the envy of all the Missions.

The buildings are now in a good state of preservation. The church is finely decorated and painted outside and in, but the decorations have so modernized it that the mediaeval character of the structure is lost except in the doorways, confessional, baptistery, and bell vaults in the tower. Services are held here regularly as of old. The place is a glorious relic, recalled from the past to bless with its memories the present and the future.

Return to: The Missions of California and the Old Southwest

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