Monday, August 3, 2009

Mission San Gabriel

This is a continuation of my retracing George Q. Cannon's 1849 journey.

On Monday, January 14, 1850, the Hunt company, which had merged with the Rich company, and included George Q. Cannon, “struck tents” at their campsite near the San Gabriel River, about 9:00 a.m., on a “clear and frosty” morning. They traveled six miles until they arrived at the Mission San Gabriel. Charles Rich felt it was the “most beautiful location” in the area. Henry Bigler noted that the Mission, which had been partially deserted since the Mexican War, was “[b]uilt of adobes…[,] covered with tile” and had five bells. It had a “large vineyard and beautiful gardens.” Howard Egan noted that “some of the fields” were “fenced in with prickly p[ea]r” cactus “planted in rows” and growing from “5 to 25 feet high.” Olive trees were “bending with their fruit” and oranges and lemons were on the trees, although they were “not quite ripe.” Henry Bigler “g[a]thered a quantity of olive stones to take back to Salt Lake to plant.” After resting for two hours, they traveled another three miles to camp: a nice spot, but wood was “very scarce.”

The Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was the fourth California mission to be built, founded in 1771. It had the first orange grove in California, planted by the Franciscans from Valencia orange cuttings brought from Spain. It also had olive, Spanish fig, plum, peach and pomegranate trees and vineyards. The Mission produced food and hides and was a supply post. In 1834, the Mission was secularized and its assets, including 12,980 cattle and thousands of acres of land, were taken by the government headed by Pio Pico. In 1843, 7 years before George Q. Cannon visited, the Franciscans were again allowed to run the church, but everything of value had been removed. Later, in 1862, the Mission and some adjacent land was restored to the Catholic Church by an act of the U.S. Congress.

In August 1857, Henry Miller, making a tour of the California missions, said the following about Mission San Gabriel: “The Mission… forms… a little village… The Mission Church is well preserved,… a peculiar style different from the other churches. The other buildings, however, are dilapidated or totally in ruins. Near the buildings are very long hedges of prickly pears, now full of ripe fruit, which have been planted by the missionaries round their vineyards and orchards.”

Today, the Mission San Gabriel is located at 428 S. Mission Drive in San Gabriel, California, 1.5 miles west of the I-10 freeway off the New Ave exit. The Mission is distinguished by its beautiful wall of bells. The following picture is from Wikipedia.
Also from Wikipedia, this shows how Mission San Gabriel looked around 1900.

My pictures of the bells, from the outside.

The bells from the inside.

When I visited, I was intrigued by the room where grapes were crushed and eventually turned into wine. The sign in the room indicates that the grapes were crushed into a tank and left to ferment. When fermentation was complete, the juice was drawn off and put into sulphured barrels to age. The pulp was then pressed and either distilled into brandy or barreled as wine. The most popular wine was claret, a red wine from the Mission of Zinfandel variety of grape. White wine was made from the Muscat of Alexandria variety. Harvested grapes were brought into the winery and the Gabrieleno Indians stomped the grapes until the juice seeped through the four holes in the winery wall and into outer troughs. A cannon in the gardens which may have been there when Cannon visited.
Some of the information for this post came from: Crampton, C. Gregory, and Madsen, Steven K. In Search of the Spanish Trail: Santa Fe to Los Angeles, 1829-1848, Layton: Gibbs M. Smith. 1994, p. 123; and Miller, Henry, Account of a Tour of the California Missions & Towns 1856: The Journal & Drawings of Henry Miller (Bellerophon Books, Santa Barbara: 2000), pp. 48-49.

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