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A variety of books about the California missions are available. In cooperation with Amazon.com, I'm pleased to offer you these selections. (These are suggestions, not recommendations. Amazon.com, like all other e-commerce sites, collects personal information as part of the purchase. Please read their privacy statement for details.)

On this page are general Mission-related books. Two other pages are available that contain:

Featured Book

MissionTour is pleased to feature the following book as an outstanding selection for your library...

Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets and Priests
Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets & Priests

David J. McLaughlin

Pentacle Press
254 pages
ISBN 0-9604760-1-6

Buy Direct from the Author

Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets & Priests
by David J. McLaughlin

How do you make 30 different biographies interesting when compiled in a single book? You weave them into and around the 400 year history of California with an emphasis on the Missions. That's exactly what author David McLaughlin has done with his latest book: Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets & Priests.

McLaughlin divides the modern history of California into three major periods: the Spanish, the Mexicans, and the Americans. He then picks ten noted people (or groups) in each era and very skillfully weaves the stories of these with the events of their period. The choices of individuals is almost as interesting as the approach.

The Spanish era of course starts out with Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo then, because Spain basically ignored California for 200 years quickly skips to the three initial explorers of Alta California: Gaspar de Portola, Blessed Junipero Serra, and Juan Bautista de Anza. California government under Philipe de Neve is explored along with the Chumash Chief Pedro Yanunali's contributions to colonization -- along with many of the results of this cooperation.

The life of Francisco Hermenegildo Garces, a pathfinder and martyr (the Daniel Boone of the West) shows the influence the Spanish had on the local Indian population.

The Spanish era ends with more interesting characters of the time: architect Manual Ruiz coupled with artist Estevan Munras, Russian Count Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, and French pirate Hipolite Bouchard.

The Mexican era cast of characters is a much more varied group, reflecting the turbulent nature of the shorter period of Mexican rule in Alta California. They include:

  • Filipe Arroyo de la Cuesta, a dedicated missionary,
  • Estanislao, an Indian revolutionary,
  • Mariano Gudalupe Vallejo, a soldier and statesman,
  • William Edward Petty Hartnell, a hide trader and protector of the Missions,
  • Auguste Duhaut-Cilly, a French sea captain,
  • Jedediah Strong Smith, mountain man and explorer,
  • Richard Henry Dana, author of Two Years Before the Mast,
  • Narciso Duran, last leader of the Missions before secularization,
  • Don Antonio Aguirre, a Mission supporter, and
  • Pio Pico, California's most corrupt governor and the last of the Mexican era.

The American period, 1846 to the present, is a similar mixture of people largely associated with Mission restoration instead of Mission establishment or operation.

Men of action like John Charles Fremont, the soldier, and Charles Fletcher Lummis, the founder of the Landmarks Club start this section. They are followed by Indian rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson along with chapters dedicated to Mission Painters and Mission Photographers. Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes of El Camino Real bell fame is given a chapter as well as The Mission Play author John Steven McGoarty. William Randolph Hearst, a long-time supporter of Mission restoration is given his due. And, the book ends with two chapters dedicated to the artisans Joseph Jacino "Jo" Mora who created the Junipero Serra sarcophagus and Harry Downie who gave 50 years of his life to the restoration of Mission Carmel.

But, the book doesn't end there. A glossary of terms used in and around the Missions is included as well as a large foldout which lays California's history alongside other events of historical significance. An index for quick location of key terms and names is also included; a nice feature often overlooked in narrative history books.

The best overall feature of the book is its balanced coverage of what was basically a European invasion of native territories. He gives several chapters to important Native Americans of the period and goes on to describe the treatment of the Indians and the catastrophic effects the invasion had on the Indian population and, often, the culture. This not a one-sided presentation for either side; good and bad are presented equally.

In summary: Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets & Priests is a good biography for those covered as well as being a good overall history of California as it relates to the Missions. Plus, it's a good read. Throw in the quotes from source material scattered throughout and you have an excellent presentation about an important part of California. I'm happy to have read the book and recommend it to anyone even slightly interested in how California came to be what it is today.

Buy Direct from the Author

General Mission-related Books

Book CoverThe Search for the Golden Mission by Torrey Mahall
(2009) Self-published using Lulu.com
A kid's fantastic journey of the 21 California Missions. Join Allison, Mark, and Mishie (a flying tour guide) as they try to find the priceless treasure. Tour the missions through the eyes of a 4th grader.
Book CoverCalifornia Missions by Barbara Shangle
(October 1, 1997) Amer Products Corp

Book CoverCalifornia Missions by Sunset Editors
(September 1979) Sunset Pub Co

Book Cover21 Footprints on El Camino Real, the Story of the California Missions by Rosanna Van Gelder (October 15, 2001) Pro-Culture Editions, Inc. (Book is CD-ROM).

[Teachers: Take note of this one.]
California Missions: A Guide to the State's Spanish Heritage by Gregory Lee
(April 1992) Renaissance House Pub

California Missions: The Earliest Series of View Made in 1856 by Henry Miller, Harry Knill (Editor)
(September 1985) Bellerophon Books

Decoration of the California Mission by Norman Neuerberg, Norman Neuerburg, Nancy Conkle (Illustrator)
(December 1987) Bellerophon Books

Book CoverLife in a California Mission: Monterey in 1786: The Journals of Jean Francois De LA Perouse by Jean-Francois De LA Perouse, Malcolm Margolin (Introduction), Jean Francois de La Perouse, Linda Yamane (Illustrator)
(April 1989) Heyday Books

Book CoverMission Memoirs: A Collection of Photographs, Illustrations, and Late Twentieth-century Reflections on California's Past by Terry Ruscin, Sue Diaz
(September 1999) Sunbelt Publications

Book CoverThe Missions of California by Melba Levick, Stanley Young, Sally B. Woodbridge
(June 1998) Chronicle Books

Book CoverAn Uncommon Mission: Father Jerome Tupa Paints the California Missions by Holly Rarick Witchey
(December 1999)

Along the King's Highway: The Missions of California by Brian Bates
(April 2000) Wordwrights Intl

Book CoverCalifornia's El Camino Real and Its Historic Bells by Max Kurillo, Erline M. Tuttle
(November 2000) Sunbelt Publications

New Deal Adobe: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Reconstruction of Mission LA Purisima, 1934-1942 by Christine E. Savage
(March 1991) Fithian Pr

Tales and Treasures of California's Missions (Randall A. Reinstedt's History and Happenings of California Series) by Randall A. Reinstedt
(September 1992) Ghost Town Pubns

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Pray the rosary for peace!