California missions are religious outposts that were created by the Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order. The missions were established as a way for the Spanish to colonize the Pacific Coast. However, the missionaries were met with resistance by many of the Native American tribes and the tribes were not converted to Christianity and 'civilized' as the missionaries had hoped.
The missions were built between 1769 and 1823 and are among California’s oldest structures. In addition, missions that remain standing are a popular stop for California tourists.
The 21 California missions in their order of establishment are:
Mission San Diego was dedicated on July 1, 1769, by Father Junipero Serra. The local tribe was the Kumeyaay.
Mission San Carlos was dedicated on August 24, 1771, by Father Junipero Serra. The local tribe was the Esselen.
Mission San Antonio was dedicated on July 14, 1771, by Father Junipero Serra. The main tribe was one that the Spanish called the Salinan, although their real name is unknown.
Mission San Gabriel was dedicated on September 8, 1771, by Fathers Angel Fernandez de Somera and Pedro Benito Cambon, who were sent by Father Juniero Serra to set up a new mission. The local tribes were the Chumash and Tongva.
Mission San Luis Obispo was dedicated in 1772 by Father Junipero Serra. The mission is nicknamed the Prince of the Missions. The local tribe was the Chumash.
Mission San Francisco de Asis was dedicated on October 9, 1776, by Father Francisco Palou. The mission is sometimes referred to as Mission Dolores because it was built near the Nuestra Senora de los Dolores lagoon. The local tribe was the Ohlone.
Mission San Juan Capistrano was dedicated first on October 30, 1775, but that mission had to be abandoned when the natives attacked and burned much of the mission down. The mission was re-established on November 1, 1776, by Father Junipero Serra. The local tribe was the Acagchemem, renamed the Juaneno by the Spanish. San Juan is famous for the swallows that nest there each year.
Mission Santa Clara was dedicated on January 12, 1777, by Fathers Jose Murguia and Tomas de la Pena. The local tribe was the Ohlone. The site of the mission was changed five times between 1779 and 1825 due to floods and earthquakes.
Mission San Buenaventura was dedicated on March 31, 1782, by Father Junipero Serra. It was the last mission to be founded by Father Serra before his death. The local tribe was the Chumash.
Mission Santa Barbara was dedicated on December 4, 1786, by Father Fermin Lasuen. It is nicknamed the Queen of the Missions. The local tribe was the Chumash.
Mission La Purísima was dedicated on December 8, 1787, by Father Fermin Lasuen. Earthquakes destroyed the original mission in 1812, but it was rebuilt. The local tribe was the Chumash.
Mission Santa Cruz was dedicated on August 28, 1791, by Father Fermin Lasuen. The local tribes were the Ohlone and Yokut.
Mission Soledad was dedicated on October 9, 1971, by Father Fermin Lasuen. The name of the local tribe is unknown as many of the native population were killed by an epidemic in 1802.
Mission San Jose was dedicated on June 11, 1797, by Father Fermin Lasuen. The local tribe was the Ohlone.
Mission San Juan Bautista was dedicated on June 24, 1797, by Father Fermin Lasuen. The mission was meant to be a stop for those traveling between the San Carlos and Santa Clara missions. The local tribes were the Mutsun and Yokut.
Mission San Miguel was dedicated on July 25, 1797, by Father Fermin Lasuen. The mission was requested by the governor of California to fill the gap between the San Luis Obispo and San Francisco de Asis missions. The local tribe was the Salinan.
Mission San Fernando was dedicated on September 8, 1797, by Father Fermin Lasuen. The local tribes were the Chumash and the Tongva.
Mission San Luis Rey was dedicated on June 13, 1798, by Father Fermin Lasuen, even though the site was chosen in 1769 by Father Juan Crespi. The local tribe was the Chumash. The mission is nicknamed the King of the Missions.
Mission Santa Inés was dedicated on September 17, 1804, by Father Esteban Tapis. The local tribe was the Chumash.
Mission San Rafael was founded on December 14, 1817, by Fray Sarria and was originally a sub-mission. It became a full mission on October 19, 1823. The local tribe was the Coast Miwoks.
Mission San Francisco de Solano was dedicated in July of 1823 by Father Jose Altimira and is the northern most missionary.
The California missions are all listed as California Historical Landmarks, with seven being listed as National Historic Landmarks and fourteen being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
While the missionaries may have meant well, their presence in the Pacific Coast brought many diseases for which the Native Americans had no immunity. Thousands died due to epidemics and the Native American population, once listed at 300,000 dwindled to 17,000 by 1910.
However, the missions affected California’s architecture, location names, agriculture, economy, and fine arts. They also helped to preserve the culture of the very tribes that they may have helped eliminate.