Archive » January 11, 2007
Eye on Santa Barbara
By John Watson
La Purisima Mission
Recognizing that the best way to assert a claim on the vast wilderness to the north, the Spanish government (which had been settling Mexico and Central America) joined forces with the Franciscan monks to establish a system of missions in what would become Southern and Central California. They started in San Diego in 1769, jumped to Carmel in 1770 and then began to fill in their holdings with missions that would be spaced about one day's ride from one another. In 1786, the tenth mission was established in Santa Barbara, followed the next year with the eleventh in what has become the City of Lompoc. For the next 25 years, Mission La Purisima Concepcion was prosperous with herds of cattle numbering in the thousands. But alas, in 1812, the same earthquake that did substantial damage to the Santa Barbara Mission, leveled La Purisima. But to absolutely make the point, Nature (or was it God?) unleashed a torrential downpour that literally washed all remnants of the first mission out to sea. Can you imagine the sermons that came out of this event? The Franciscans are nothing if not persistent. The missionaries moved the mission four miles to the north (to its present location) and built a series of buildings with four-foot-thick walls and aligned the main axis of the structures with the direction of the recent quake hoping that these tactics would protect the buildings from any future seismic activity. By 1834, Central California had become secularized and La Purisima fell into ruins. In 1845 the mission and its lands were sold for $1,100. Then in 1933, Union Oil (which had acquired title to the property), donated 966 acres to form the state park we see today. After 100 years of neglect, the original buildings were at best ruins, so a restoration effort was begun in 1951, the fruits of which we see today.
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