Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Upper California's First Mission



A cross was raised by Father Junipero Serra at Mission San Diego de Alcala on July 16, 1769, the first mission in an eventual chain of 21 along the coast of California. From the get-go, the natives didn't look kindly on the effort. By 1770, there were no permanent buildings, zero conversions and food stocks were running alarmingly low. The settlement was saved purely by chance when a ship in need of a new anchor sailed into the harbor, carrying enough supplies to share.

Originally built on Presidio Hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the mission was moved up river 6 miles inland in 1774, where it remains today. By 1795, the first irrigation project in Upper California was bringing water through aqueducts to the fields and mission, which became self-sustaining with bountiful crops of barley, wheat, corn, beans, wine grapes, sheep, cattle and horses.

The hand tinted photograph above is a photomechanical print by the Detroit Photo Company, originally published in 1904, when the mission was already 135 years old. The photograph below was also made by the Detroit Photo Company in 1904 and shows San Diego Bay and Point Loma, much as they would have looked to Fr. Junipero Serra in the late 1700s.

3 comments:

Sweet Repose said...

And slowly it begins...the takeover of lands from indigenous populations, in the name of religion and of kings and queens...

High Desert Diva said...

Love the hand tinted photos (and the history lesson)

Thud said...

When visiting Ca I usualy get to spend my birthday in Sonoma...I love the mission there as my job in Britain is period building restoration.