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The Romance of the Missions:


IN 1832, RECORDS INDICATE that Mission San Miguel had 2472 baptisms, 764 marriages, 1868 deaths and 658 “neophytes.” With them were 8282 sheep, forty-two goats, fifty pigs, 700 hundred horses and 186 mules.
  Founded in 1797 by Padre Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, taking over the mission system upon the death of Junipero Serra, Mission San Miguel was the last of the California missions to be secularized in 1834.
  Lasuén’s tenure doubled the number of missions and the number of converts, introducing “mission architecture,” with its red tile roofs and white walls. Under Serra’s tenure, the missions had been mere holes-in-the-ground with thatched roofs. Lasuén’s move was an important stroke. Today it would be difficult to imagine Taco Bell, or any of California’s mission-style shopping malls, as the thatched roof, hole-in-the-ground establishments that Serra established at the beginning of his reign. Junipero Serra may have founded the California mission system, but Padre Fermín Francisco de Lasuén engineered the Bell Beefer.
  Although San Miguel was sold in 1845 and returned to the church in 1859, its location away from what would end up being the larger metropolitan areas of the state caused it to fall into neglect. Not that it didn’t have its culturally significant artifacts—there is, for instance, a cannon from the Spanish, forged in 1697, and used against John C. Fremont and his troops in 1846—still, Mission San Miguel remained an outpost even after the outpost status of places like San Diego, Santa Barbara, El Fornio, Carmel and San Francisco changed from colonial fort to vacation spot. No one wanted to live in San Miguel it seemed, and because of that the old mission grounds went begging.
  In 1846, General Pio Pico, the governer of California—about three days from losing the state to the Americans (hear the cannon sound?)—sold off all of San Miguel, excepting the priest’s lodgings and the church itself. One William Reed, the purchaser, moved his wife and two children into a wing which they occupied for a number of months.
  The area saw people come and go as they passed through the countryside—disenfranchised Indians, Spanish Leathercoats, newly arrived Chinese laborers, late wandering Chinese mariners, Yankees, soldiers and gold seekers. In 1849, gold rush tramps—and they were all tramps in the Gold Rush, make no doubt about it—came to water their horses at the old mission. According to records, Reed entertained them with stories, one of which involved a bit of braggadocio about his personal store of hidden treasure. The visitors thanked him for his hospitality and moved on. But as night fell, they doubled back, returned to the old mission and slaughtered Reed, his family and six servants in search of the treasure.
  There was no treasure—at least none that any of them could find. The next day, a posse caught up with the group, killing one in the ensuing gun battle. Then, as they made their way to the coast, one jumped into the ocean trying to escape and drowned (YMCA swim classes were still decades away). The other three were taken as prisoners and sent down to Santa Barbara where they were executed.
  That, folks, is the romance of the missions.

More on Mission San Miguel, with a reference
to Bill Reed and his family at Wikipedia



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