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Navigation for San Francisco Solano:

Mission San Francisco Solano

In Brief

Founded: 4 July 1823 by Padre Jose Altimira
Named for: St. Francis Solano, missionary to the Peruvian Indians
Number in Series: 21st
Indian Name: Thought to be Sonoma
Brand: Sonoma Brand

Detail

August 1819: One of the last Franciscans educated in Spain, Padre José Altimira arrived in Monterey. He was assigned to Mission San Francisco de Asís. He quickly became disenchanted with the conditions and developed an ambitious plan for a new mission...

1822/1823: ...but Padre Altimira bypassed his church hierarchy and, instead, discussed it with the new Governor, Don Luis Argüello. Governor Argüello was the military commander at the San Francisco Presidio before becoming Governor so he was aware of conditions there. Additionally, he saw political positives in Padre Altimira's plan which was to close both Mission San Francisco de Asís and Mission San Rafael Arcángel and open a replacement north of San Rafael. The Russians were seen as pushing south (they really were not) and the Governor saw the new mission as a way to keep them from advancing and even to push them out of the province.

4 July 1823: The Governor presented the plan to the Territorial Assembly in Monterey. They approved it and Padre Altimira made plans to implement it; going so far as to actually travel to the north, pick a spot and erect a cross and altar for Mass. Padre Altimira, with his plan to replace the two northernmost missions with this new one even gave the site the same name as the San Francisco Mission: Mission San Francisco de Asís. The cross was raised on 4 July 1823. [See the California Missions Museum pages for information about this site.]

However, everyone had bypassed the only people with authority to create the new mission; the ecclesiastical authorities, headed by the President-General of the Missions: Padre José Francisco de Paula Señán, who was dying. Padre Señán was against the plan and directed his successor, Padre Vincente Francisco de Sarría, to rebuke Padre Altimira. The rebuke reached Padre Altimira at Sonoma where he had already started the Mission. Work stopped and negotiations between the parties started. A compromise was worked out...

The new mission was moved a bit north to what is now Sonoma and renamed to Mission San Francisco Solano to avoid confusion. Padre Altimira was allowed to stay in charge of construction and the other two missions stayed in operation. [Side note: This was the only mission started under the rule of the Mexican Governors of California.]

4 April 1824: The Mission church, a building of poles plastered with mud and whitewashed, was dedicated. Mission San Francisco de Asís donated materials necessary to get the new Mission started. And, the Russians even donated bells and useful items. The Mission was well established by the end of the year. It was basically an adobe wing with a corridor 40 varas long. The chapel was temporary and built of planks.

1825: The first vineyard in Sonoma Valley was planted by the padres this year. It was used for sacramental wine. Also, this year, the Convent, a long adobe wing, was completed along with a granary and temporary homes for some Indians.

1826: An angry group of Indians stormed the Mission. While Padre Altimira was good at building, he was poor at working with the Indians. Most padres treated their charges with the kindness and discipline one would use with a child. Padre Altimira, instead, relied on the more drastic measures of flogging and imprisonment. The revolt against these techniques forced Padre Altimira to flee to the San Rafael mission. From there his reputation spread rapidly and he was no longer welcome at any mission. Unable to work in California, he eventually returned to Spain.

1826: Padre Fortuni, an assistant to Padre Durán at Mission San José, arrived to take over the Mission and try to rebuild after the destruction of the riot. He spent seven years at the Mission.

1827: A wing about 50 varas long that had a double row of buildings was added as new missionary quarters. The second Church started construction. It was 150 feet long (55 varas) and about 30 feet wide and high. It was completed in 1832 but...

Spring 1833: A sudden rainstorm caused much damage to the new Church. It may have even made the Church unusable.

1833: When Padre Fortuni retired there was a new adobe enclosure, the damaged adobe church, and the 5-room convento was a 27-room structure. There were 30 buildings in total at the Mission. Upon Padre Fortuni's retirement Zacatecan priests were assigned to the Mission. At this time, the overall Mission grounds might have looked something like this...

1833Expand
Picture taken 10:28am 19 Feb 2012

1834: Mexico's Secularization Laws were ratified in 1834. Mexicans at the Mission, unwilling to live under secular authority, moved to San Rafael.

Vallejo1835: Governor José Figueroa directed Military Commandant Mariano Vallejo to carry out the secularization of the Mission and distribute property to the Mission Indians. He was also directed to establish a garrison in the area in order to continue to check the Russian settlement advances. Vallejo, however, saw an opportunity for personal profit. While saying he was acting to benefit the Indians, he actually added the Mission properties to his own holdings in the area and put the Indians to work for him. He never allowed the official appraiser to enter the Mission properties.

With the old Mission as his headquarters, Vallejo established a pueblo named Sonoma (Valley of the Moon). In order to man his position and perform his task of keeping the Russians in check Vallejo moved forces from San Francisco. He also downsized Fort San Joaquin, leaving only artillerymen to care for the guns. He also enlisted the Indians into his cause by forming an alliance with Solano, chief of the Suisunes. This gave him the help of the northern Indians who were treated well so long as they showed no indication of hostility. There was peace on the frontier and Vallejo was given the rank of General.

While headquartered in Sonoma, General Vallejo's property was the Petaluma Adobe; now a California State park. See here for additional information: http://www.parks.sonoma.net/adobe.html

Vallejo kept the Church in repair for awhile but eventually the locals removed roofing for their own use and the adobe walls, unprotected, essentially dissolved in the rains.

At some point Vallejo also started to build the Sonoma Barracks to house soldiers and as his new office. The Cuartel, when completed around 1840, was the headquarters of the Comandante de la Frontera del Norte (Commander of the Northern Frontier).

1840: Needing a parish church, a new adobe church 40 varas long was constructed on the original site of the Mission church.

1844: By this time the Barracks next to the Mission was no longer a stronghold. Vallejo paid off the garrison at the end of 1844; 30 men. Vallejo had been supporting the troops for several years out of his own money. Nothing arrived from Mexico to support the troops despite many requests.

1845: As he did with other Mission properties, Governor Pio Píco attempted to sell the property before the Americans came. Nobody bid on the property.

Pre-1846: Below is a photocopy of a drawing from the California Historical Society, San Francisco, California. The artist was Sherman and provides a general view of the Mission (right), barracks (left of Mission), and General Vallejo's residence in the center with the tower. It was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress. A print of this picture hangs in the Lachryma Montis museum.

Pre 1846Expand

Bear Flag14 June 1846: Sonoma became a player in the American takeover of California from the Mexican government. Captain John Frémont launched the Bear Flag Revolution and occupied Sutter's Fort. From there, he took over Sonoma and imprisoned General Vallejo. He fashioned a flag with the likeness of a bear and the words "Republic of California" on it and raised it over the plaza. Before the local Mexican supporters could rally against Frémont, Commodore Sloat landed in Monterey and the war with Mexico moved into California.

1850's: Below is a photocopy of a photograph from the Society of California Pioneers. It shows an exterior general view of the Mission complex in the 1850's. The photo was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1850's PhotoExpand

From the same era, another photocopy of a photograph, this time from the Golden Gate Park Museum, San Francisco, California. It shows a closer view of the exterior detail. Again, the photo was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1850's DetailExpand

1854: A plat map was made by G. Black for the U.S. Land Commission, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. The map was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1854 MapExpand

1861-1885: At some point in this span the artist Oriana Day created a drawing that is supposed to represent the Mission from before 1835. The painting was hanging in the De Young Museum, San Francisco, California. This picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

Pre 1835 PaintingExpand

1870: The image below is a photocopy of a drawing from the Society of California Pioneers. The artist was Vischer and the view is the exterior of the south facade of the MIssion and Convento from circa 1870. The picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1870 DepictionExpand

1879: Below is a photocopy of a painting from the California Historical Society, San Francisco, California. Oriana Day was again the artist in 1879. This picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress. Note the large differences between the various depictions of the Mission in this time period. This is one reason why reconstructing missions is such a hard process; data one has to rely on are quite variable.

1879 PaintingExpand

1880: A photocopy of a photograph from the William H. Knowles Collection of the exterior South front and West side from 1880. Again, note the differences in the depictions in this period. This picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1880 PhotoExpand

And, from The California Advertiser from 1880 comes this picture, obviously taken after the one above. The picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress. Given the source this picture might relate to the next item in the history.

1880 PhotoExpand

1881: Up until 1881 the church had been a parish church but it had fallen into ruin over the years. In 1881 it was sold by Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany to Solomon Shocken and the building was subsequently used as a hay barn, winery, and blacksmith shop.

In the early 1900s an immigrant from Italy, Samuele Sebastiani, with his wife Elvira, purchased the vineyard. You might recognize the brand name "Sebastiani" which continues to produce fine wines in the area to this day.

1883: Another photocopy of a drawing from the Society of California Pioneers. H.C. Ford was the artist and shows the Mission from a distance as it looked in 1883. This picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1883 ViewExpand

1903: The Historic Landmarks League used funds from William Randoph Hearst to purchase the Mission property. Their objective was to restore it. This is a picture of the Mission condition in 1903. It is from the California State Library, Sacramento, California and was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1903 PictureExpand

1906: The work performed by the Landmarks League was largely undone by the Great 1906 San Francisco Quake as you can see from this picture from The Grizzly Bear, published in September 1909. The picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1909 PictureExpand

1911-13: The state provided funds for the restoration.

1913: Below is a copy of a painting made of the Mission and Convento representing how the structures looked after 1913. The picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1913 PaintingExpand

1923: This photograph from the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, shows how restoration was progressing at this time. The picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1923 PhotoExpand

Closer to 1925 the restoration was more complete as shown in this photo found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress.

1925 EraExpand

1926: The League deeded the Mission property to the state to be used as a State Historic Park.

12 February 1934: This picture was taken by Roger Sturtevant. The picture was found in the collection of the Historic American Buildings Survey stored at the Library of Congress. The sign in front reads: "Sonoma MIssion. Open To The Public. Admission FREE."

1934 PhotoExpand

1943-1944: Additional reconstruction took place.

September 1953: The first systematic historical archeological investigations at Sonoma were begun; one of the first half-dozen such California investigations. The research showed that the 1913 restoration is a small part of the original Mission.

References

 

Navigation for Mission San Francisco Solano:

Mission Home :: History :: Museum :: Chapel :: Courtyard :: Exterior :: Jorgensen Watercolors :: Sonoma Plaza :: Sonoma Barracks :: Lachryma Montis


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