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Navigation for Santa Inés:

Mission Santa Inés

In Brief

Founded: 17 September 1804 by Padre Estévan Tápis
Named for: Saint Agnes
Number in Series: 19th
Indian Name: Alajulapu
Brand: Santa Ines Brand


1542: Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator employed by Pedro de Alvarado, Governor of Guatemala, discovers the Bay of San Diego, thus becoming the named discoverer of California. He sails north as far as the Santa Barbara channel islands.

1776: Padre Pedro Font, with the Anza Expedition, takes note of the local Chumash Indians. He writes, "I surmise that these Indians who are so ingenious and so industrious, would become experts if they had teachers and suitable tools or implements, for they have nothing more than flints, and with them and their steady industry they make artifacts." In fact, the Chumash had a thriving civilization, populating the area between today's Ventura and the San Luis Obispo county line. Their boats even allowed them to populate some of the Santa Barbara channel islands.

1798: Captain Felipe de Goycoechea, along with Padre Estévan Tápis surveyed sites for a new mission in the Santa Ynez valley. The mission would serve the friendly Chumash and, at the same time, provide a buffer against the Tulares, Indians to the northeast. Two sites were examined closely:

  • Calahuasa rancheria (Chumash villages were called rancherias by the Spaniards) which is the present Santa Ynez Indian Reservation, and
  • Alajulapu, present-day Solvang.

Because of the density of Indians the Calahuasa site was initially picked. Before approving the site, however, the governor, Diego Borica, died. His successor, Jose de Arrillaga, wanted more information from Father-President Lasuén because he was not familiar with the site. In the meantime, Padre Lasuén passed away, to be followed by Padre Estévan Tápis as the new Father-President of the mission system.

June 1803: Padre Tápis was finally able to answer Governor Arrillaga's request. By this time, because of various factors (mostly the ability to protect the mission from attackers), a location closer to Alajulapu was recommended.

March 1804: Initial construction at the mission location began. A single row of buildings 232 feet long by 19 feet wide and 19 feet high were built to house the first church, padres' quarters and granary. The whole building was of adobe.

17 September 1804: The mission is dedicated to Saint Agnes by Padre Tápis during a Mass attended by 200 Indians. On the initial day 27 children were baptized and 15 men came forward for instruction. The first resident priests were Padres José Rumualdo Gutiérrez and José Antonio Calzada. By the end of the year there were 112 Indian converts.

23 January 1805: The first burial at the Mission is recorded.

1805: Additional construction added a second row of buildings 145 feet long.

1806: A third building, 368 feet long, was added. This basically completed the typical quadrangle shape. Tiles and a walkway were added along 75 feet of the front to protect the walls from rain.

1807: New quarters for the padres were built.

1810: Five double homes for soldiers and families along with a storehouse and guardhouse were added.

1810: Also during this year the Mexican War of Independence cut off the Spanish support for the missions (and soldiers). Everyone became more dependent on the missions for basic needs. This change affected all missions, not just Santa Inés.

21 December 1812: Two massive earthquakes struck the area. At Santa Inés the earthquakes brought down one corner of the church along with a portion of the housing. This is described in Padre Francisco Javier de Uría and Padre Olbes' 1812 report: "December 21, 1812, at about 10 o'clock in the morning two earthquakes occurred at an interval of a quarter of an hour. The first made a considerable aperture in one corner of the church; the second shock threw down the said corner, and a quarter of the new houses contiguous to the church collapsed to the foundation. All the thin walls of the upper houses fell down, demolished all the tiles, and opened a main wall. All remain serviceable, however, if no greater tremors occur."

Reconstruction from the earthquake damage took place over four years under the direction of Padre's Uría and Tápis.

4 July 1817: Dedication of the new church, 140 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 30 feet high took place. Typical of the structures of that day, the new walls were five feet thick with heavy pine timbers from the San Rafael Mountains (30 miles away) supporting the roof. The residence was also rebuilt lower and with a tiled gabled roof. This is basically the structure you see today.

The Mission had an extensive water system designed by Padre Uría. It brought water several miles from the local mountains. The lavenderia (laundry for Indian women) can still be seen.

1817: The Mission was thriving with the year-end report showing thousands of cattle and sheep and hundreds of horses along with goats, pigs, and pack mules. The 1817 baptismal record showed 1,030 entries. There were 287 marriages and 611 deaths and a total Indian population of 920.

1818: Padre Uría directed a two-year period where the interior of the church was decorated with murals.

1818: A sailor from Maine, Joseph Chapman arrived in Hawaii. Also arriving in Hawaii that year was French pirate Hippolyte de Bouchard. Bouchard had been sailing against Spain in the Philippines.

October 1818: With a shanghaied crew, including Joseph Chapman, Bouchard set sail from Hawaii to California. He stopped in Monterey and then sailed south to Santa Barbara where he found the deserted Ortega Ranch in Refugio Canyon. He plundered the ranch; but, Sergeant Carlos Antonio Carrillo and his men from Santa Barbara had, during the time, moved to cut off egress from the canyon and captured some of the men, along with Joseph Chapman (Bouchard also captured some of Carrillo's men). Bouchard arranged a prisoner exchange but Chapman was left behind. He was kept a prisoner at the Presidio for a short time and then released.

1820: Padre Uría saw to the reservoir and new grist mill construction. Taking his clue from 1812, these building were built to withstand future temblors.

1821: After becoming a Catholic at Mission San Buenaventura, Joseph Chapman married Guadalupe Ortega at Mission Santa Inés and then moved his family to Santa Ynez and was employed at the Mission. In this year he built the Mission's fulling mill near the grist mill. (A fulling mill treats woolen fibers to make them softer.)

Note: Both mills are presently administered by the Santa Barbara County Trust for Historical Preservation. 

1821: Mexico won independence from Spain. This was the start of a very difficult period as the Mexicans associated the missions with the evils of Spain. The missions were left on their own. To add insult to injury, the Indians at the missions, over the objection of the padres, were forced by the Spanish soldiers to work for them with no pay other than worthless IOUs. Because the Spanish soldiers were not getting paid either they tended to take out their frustrations on the Indians.

21 February 1824: A Spanish guard at Santa Inés flogged an Indian neophyte from Mission La Purísima. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back and sparked a revolt among the Santa Inés Indians. During the revolt the padres became hostages; although the Indians maintained that their quarrel was with the soldiers, not the padres. Portions of the church were set on fire. Seeing this the Indians stopped the hostilities and helped to put out the fires. They then fled to La Purísima and brought the revolt to that Mission. There the Indians took over the mission grounds and held them for about a month; until the news reached the Governor who sent troops from Monterey to quell the revolt.

In the end, 16 Indians died, many were wounded, one soldier died, and three were wounded. As a show of authority, the Governor condemned seven Indians to death and 18 to varying terms of imprisonment for their participation in the rebellion; despite the padres trying to intervene on their behalf.

1824: The church was repainted and redecorated. These are basically the artifacts you see today. Altar and ceiling designs are vegetable colors painted by Indians. The statue of Saint Agnes, in the center of the altar, is thought to be created by Native artisans. Floor tiles are original.

1834: Mexico's Secularization Laws were ratified in 1834. Coupled with the rebellion and resulting loss of faith in the missions, this was largely the death knell for the missions.

The administration of the Mission was turned over to José M. Covarrubias. He basically did nothing but collect rent for the property (580 pesos/year).

1836: Mexican Governor Mariano Chico came to the Mission. He entrusted the Mission to a civil commissioner: José Maria Ramirez. But, Ramirez did nothing to help the Mission and by 1839 conditions were bad there.

1843: In a gesture to the missions, Governor Manuel Micheltorena used a land transfer to try to bypass the secularization process. He transferred 35,499 acres from Mission Santa Inés to Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno, the first Bishop of Alta California for use as California's first college seminary (College of our Lady of Refuge).

1844: The seminary moved from Mission Santa Inés to College Ranch near present day Santa Ynez. Here it stayed until it closed in 1881.

1846: Governor Micheltorena was replaced by Governor Pio Pico. Pico was not sympathetic to the missions and did all he could to speed their demise; including making illegal sales to his own benefit. For example, in June of this year, for $7,000, he sold Mission Santa Inés to José M. Covarrubias and José Joaquin Carrillo. This was just before California was taken over by the United States on 7 July.

7 May 1850: The Mission was managed from the college seminary until this date when Padres J. J. Jimeno and Francisco Sanchez transferred control to the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Picpus Fathers of South America).

Mid-1851: The Picpus Fathers were replaced by Father Eugene O'Connell. Some of the asphalt floors seen in the garden area were among the improvements he made.

1850s: A historical character, Fernandito of Santa Inés (actually Fernandito Cardenas from Latin America), arrived at the Mission. Fernandito mingled well with the natives in the area and learned, from them, the extensive history of the Mission. He could often later be found sitting in front of the Mission, smoking, and telling anyone who would listen (but not interrupt!) to his stories. Historians sought him out for his accurate memory. He died 7 February 1919 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Santa Barbara.

23 May 1862: President Lincoln signed a decree that formally returned mission lands to the Catholic Church. Mission Santa Inés was returned to control of the Bishop of Monterey lacking any local Franciscans.

1877: The Christian Brothers took over the college seminary.

1881: The seminary closed due to financial problems. Of the 36,000 acres controlled by the Mission/seminary the Bishop sold 20,000 leaving Mission Santa Inés with 16,000 acres.

1880s: Despite their leaving the missions, Chumash customs did not completely die out. During this period Rafael Solares was the last Antap (Native spiritual leader) and also the sacristan of Mission Santa Inés as well as an active Christian leader.

1882: The Mission continued on a downward spiral. The Donahue family arrived this year from Ireland. They lived in the rectory and took on the task of restoration over the next 16 years. But, the work was beyond them.

1884: The southern section of the front corridor collapsed. This was followed by the adjacent building. Only the buttressed arch, preserved in the parking area, was left.

July 1904: Diocesan priest Father Alexander Buckler was assigned as pastor of the Mission and outlying areas of Lompoc, Sisquoc, and Las Cruces. He undertook a restoration and built a new water/drainage system. He also reinforced the padres' quarters, re-roofed much of the structure, and removed crumbling structures.

1911: The bell tower collapses during heavy rain.

1912: Father Buckler rebuilds the bell tower and adds a third arch.

Father Buckler also worked hard to preserve the collection of vestments at the Mission. His niece, Miss Mamie Goulet, worked with him to repair the vestments, paintings, and statuary at the Mission.

November 1924: Father Buckler retired. The Franciscans were asked to come back to the Mission but declined. Instead, the Capuchin Franciscan Order of the Irish Province took over control of the Mission. It was they who installed electric lights and modern plumbing.

1926: The Capuchin Franciscans redesigned the Mission's inner garden. You can still see the hedge in the shape of a Celtic cross planted at this time.

1947: A full restoration was undertaken by the Capuchin Franciscans. Over time, this restoration returned the buildings to a form that more closely existed prior to the 1812 earthquake. The bell tower was also returned to its original pre-1911 design. The Chapel of the Madonna was added during this period.

1954: The Mission celebrated its 150th anniversary. During the reconstruction one of the bells had been sent to Rotterdam to be recast and it was in place for the celebration. The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, made in Obergammergau, was placed in the shrine next to the cemetery.

Portions of the original Mission quadrangle were preserved. Original foundation stones can be seen at the northwest corner of the Mission grounds.

1972: Irrigation and drainage systems were placed into the garden and the garden was relandscaped. Interior walls were strengthened against earthquakes and much repair work and plastering was done to the exterior. The grounds were made more tourist friendly.

1984: Two new bells were cast and hung in the bell tower. They are named "Santa Inés" and "Saint Francis".

August 1989: The 18th annual Fiesta celebrated the restoration of the east wing. The façade had been restored to its appearance prior to the 1834 secularization.


  • California Missions by Sunset Editors. (September 1979) Sunset Pub Co
  • Weber, Msgr. Francis J. Encyclopedia of California's Catholic Heritage. St. Francis Historical Society and The Arthur H. Clark Company. 2000.
  • Mission Santa Inés History Page at http://www.missionsantaines.org/history.html
  • Mission Santa Inés Web Site at http://www.missionsantaines.org/home.html
  • Mission Info Page at http://www.bgmm.com/missions/sanines.htm
  • Mission Info Page at http://www.californiamissions.com/cahistory/santaines.html
  • Mission Santa Barbara Story at http://www.sbmission.org/story.htm
  • Mission tour guide pamphlet.

Navigation for Mission Santa Inés:

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