Mission Trail Today - The California Missions

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El Camino Real Back to California Missions First Asistencia

Mission Trail Today

All photographs taken by Kenneth A. Larson. All rights reserved. © 2003 - 2013.

Select photographs of my many visits to the California Missions build by Spain and Mexico between 1769 and 1823.

Mission Asistencias and Estancias


Many of the California Missions had outlying Estancias (ranchos) and Asistencias (extension or sub-missions) that provided for the agricultural needs of the Mother Mission and to spread Christianity further inland. At one time, there was a plan to establish a second chain of missions, further inland from the first coastal chain. This chain never developed, but a broken chain of Asistencias was established. Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, the father of mission history, defined an asistencia as "a mission on a small scale with all the requisites for a mission, and with Divine service held regularly on days of obligation, except that it lacked a resident priest." Today, little remains of these asistencias and estancias and researching them is difficult. The best preserved is the still active San Antonio de Pala.

Following is a brief description of several mission outposts that I have found some reference to. In some cases, it was only a few words in passing that only hint of an asistencia or estancia. I intend to research these further. This list is geographic, south to north.

(1-4) I have read reports of "four asistencias in the San Diego District." Santa Ysabel was attached to San Diego de Alcala. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia had two asistencias San Antonio de Pala and Las Flores. I am still researching what the fourth asistencia might be. Mission Pala and Santa Ysabel also had outlying chapels that I am researching.

(5) Diego Sepulveda Adobe Estancia. Possible Estancia, or rancho, to Mission Capistrano. Est. c 1820, California State Historic Landmark 227; Costa Mesa's oldest structure.

(6) Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles. An asistencia to Mission San Gabriel in El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, now known as the Plaza Church at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.

(7) Mission San Gabriel Arcangel had Estancia San Bernardino in modern day Redlands. This was not a sub-mission but a rancho, so it is properly referred to as an Estancia, although this designation is disputed.

(8) The Estancia de San Francisco Xavier, 1804, was a ranching out-station, and probably a religious outpost, of Mission San Fernando. The estancia was upgraded to an asistencia.

(9) Asistencia Santa Paula, August 11, 1769. Portola Expedition Campsite. Asistencia to San Buenaventura.

(10) Rancho San Marcos was established by the Santa Barbara Mission as an outpost and is now a golf club.

(11) Santa Margarita de Cortona was an asistencia of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Established about 1787, what little remains is incorporated into the structure of a ranch barn on private land. The ranch house also incorporates parts of the original structures.

(12) Mission San Rafael Arcángel began as an asistencia to Mission San Francisco de Asis and was upgraded to a full mission.

(13) Mission Dolores Asistencia at San Mateo

(14) Possible Asistencia in Sonoma County near the Bay. Santa Eulalia.

(15) Asistencia at Santa Rosa. This construction seems not to have progressed very far.

The information gathered here is from other web sites and partially edited. I have not yet gathered enough information on these asistencias to finish this page to the level of the other pages in this site. Further research is revealing many other asistencia missions. I will pursue this information. There may well be more Asistencias and Estancias and I hope to find them in time. Little is written of this second chain of inland missions and I hope to change this.


adobe - mud made of clay, straw, and dung. The mud was mixed with water and pushed into wooden molds. After drying in the sun, it could be used to build structures and wall. Without protection it melts quickly in the rain.
Asistencia - Extension or Sub-mission to a mother mission. There was usually a farm and a chapel for Catholic mass.
estancia - literally a "station". A ranch or farm meant to provide food for a Spanish mission. Usually built near an Indian village.
rancho - A Spanish or Mexican ranch. Many California land deeds refer to the original Spanish or Mexican land grants. The main reason for the ranchos was to raise cattle for their hides.
zanja - a ditch. The zanja was an irrigation canal. The zanja irrigated the Spanish vineyards, fields and orchards.

Santa Ysabel Asistencia.
Founded September 20, 1818 by Father Fernando Martin.

Santa Ysabel Asistencia


Mission San Antonio de Pala. Founded June 13, 1816 by Father Antonio Peyri, OFM.

San Antonio de Pala


Las Flores Asistencia. Founded 1823 by Father Antonio Peyri, OFM.

I do not yet have any information or photos of this poorly preserved Mission Asistencia.


Diego Sepulveda Adobe Estancia Est. c 1820

Costa Mesa's oldest structure. It is a possible Estancia to Mission San Juan Capistrano. I am still researching this and hope to visit this spring.
California State Historic Landmark 227
The Estancia is open to the public every month during limited hours.
1900 Adams Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626
949 631-5918

Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles

Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles, began as an asistencia to Mission San Gabriel. It is now familiarly called the Old Plaza Church in Los Angeles and is part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.

Mission San Gabriel served the spiritual needs of the Indians, soldiers, and rancheros for several decades until Asistencia Nuestra Se&ntilda;ora was formed at nearby Los Angeles. Two priests were assigned to Mission San Gabriel and they divided their time between the Mission and the Asistencia. Our Lady Queen of the Angels Chapel (the Old Plaza Church, or La Placita, founded in 1781) was given parochial status in 1826 and assumed the ecclesiastical welfare of the city and its environs. It is Landmark 144.

Location: 535 N. Main St. near Macy St., Los Angeles, California. Now part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Monument.

Mission Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles
Mission Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles. Photo date: 9-4-04.
Mission Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles
Mission Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles. Photo date: 9-4-04.
Plaza Catholic Church 1818-1822
Plaza Catholic Church, 1818-1822. Photo date: 9-4-04.
Plaza Catholic Church, 1818-1822
Plaza Catholic Church, 1818-1822. Photo date: 9-4-04.
Plaza Catholic Church, 1818-1822
Plaza Catholic Church, 1818-1822. Photo date: 9-4-04.
Plaza Catholic Church, 1818-1822
Plaza Catholic Church, 1818-1822. Photo date: 3-24-01.
Mission Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles
Mission Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles, gratto. Photo date: 9-4-04.
New Plaza Catholic Church
New Plaza Catholic Church. Photo date: 9-4-04.

Estancia San Bernardino
Founded by .

image pending


Possible other sites around San Bernardino

San Jacinto and a number of identified estancias such as San Bernardino.

Estancia de San Francisco Xavier, founded on Dec. 3, 1804.

Estancia de San Francisco Xavier began as a ranching out-station, and probably a religious outpost, of Mission San Fernando. It was later upgraded to an asistencia. Father Pedro Muñoz and Father José de Miguél were probably the founders.

Portolá had considered the confluence of Castaic Creek and the Santa Clara River to be a "very suitable site" for Father Junípero Serra to establish a mission, but this was never realized. Later, as Mission San Fernando's herds grew, the mission needed more land. Only a few years after the founding of Mission San Fernando, the Santa Clara River Valley was seen as an ideal location for a mission rancho, or estancia.

Early in 1804, the padres at Mission San Fernando learned that Francisco Avila had claimed several thousand acres east of Piru Creek along the banks of the Rio Santa Clara, land owned by the Mission. The padres protested to Governor José Arrillaga at Monterey that these lands belonged to the church. After due study, Governor Arrillaga acknowledged the mission's title and rescinded Avila's grant. The fathers decided to establish a presence in the Santa Clara River Valley to protect their interests.

The Estancia was built with Tataviam labor in 1804 on the site proposed by Portolá and Crespí.

According to church historian Zephyrin Engelhart, "At the Rancho de San Francisco Xavier, or Chaguayabit, a building was erected to provide for a granary and other necessary rooms." It also included a kiln, granary and tiled sacristy.

The Estancia was named for St. Francis (San Francisco) Xavier, the patron of foreign missions and "Apostle of the Indies," who lived from 1506 to 1552. The feast day of St. Francis Xavier was December 3.

The first building built was 105 feet long and seventeen feet wide. It had dirt floors and thirty-four-inch-thick, whitewashed adobe walls. Later a second structure was built, 107 feet long and almost twenty-three feet across. This building had five rooms, the largest featuring a burnt-tile floor and altar. This second structure was erected to the north of the original building, at the edge of a precipice that dropped off to the valley floor below. Two adobe walls with gates ran between the two long buildings at either end forming an enclosed courtyard. Overall the front facade was sixty feet long.

Records are not clear as to when the Estancia was upgraded to an asistencia. Another adobe structure known as the "Old Milk House" was built about the time of the upgrade.

To prevent cattle from wandering away, a bar was placed across present-day Newhall Pass and a sturdy fence was erected along Piru Creek in 1813. A dam rose up in Piru Canyon, and irrigation ditches brought water to crops in the western, or Camulos, section of the rancho. During October, 1821, about 3,000 pounds of corn was shipped to Santa Barbara from the asistencia.

Following Mexican independance in 1833, the Mexican government confiscated all mission holdings. The next year, Mexican Lieutenant Antonio del Valle was assigned to inventory the property of Mission San Fernando. The land was supposed to revert to the indians, but Don Antonio appealed to his friend Juan B. Alvarado, governor of California, for the deed to the former asistencia. Alvarado granted the 48,000-acre rancho to Antonio, then 46, in January, 1839.

Don Antonio died two years later and in 1845 the rancho passed to his son, Ignacio, who was mayor of Los Angeles until the war with the United States. By 1849, the former asistencia had become headquarters of the Del Valles' Rancho San Francisco.

The Del Valles sold most of the rancho in the 1860s, retiring to their hacienda at Camulos, at the western fringe of the rancho. The property passed through a succession of owners until being renamed "Newhall Ranch."

Today, little more than memories remain of the Asistencia. The last vestiges of Asistencia de San Francisco Xavier were razed in 1937, after vandals broke up the tiled floors and adobe walls in search of fabled mission treasure.

Archaeologists whorking with the Newhall Ranch development from 1993 to 1995 uncovered roof and floor tiles, hand-blown glass, hand-crafted nails and pottery dating from 1750 to 1840. The asistencia site remains undeveloped and the Newhall Ranch Company plans to deed the site to a nationally-renowned non-profit organization that will preserve and manage it on an ongoing basis.

Location: Castaic Junction

Sources for most of the material on this asistencia are various articles published in : ©1998, THE SIGNAL · ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, Santa Clarita's local newspaper. Also: Leon Worden - August 28, 1996 - ©1996, THE SIGNAL -- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Can anyone provide me with better directions to this site?

Asistencia Santa Paula

Asistencia Santa Paula, founding date not yet established, founder not yet established. Santa Paula, California. Asistencia to Mission San Buenaventura.

Portola Expedition Campsite on August 11, 1769 - later became site of Asistencia Santa Paula

On August 11, 1769, the Portolá Expedition camped at the junction of the Arroyo Mupu and Santa Paula Creek, at a place they named the Holy Martyrs Ipolito and Cassiano. Later, the priests of the Mission San Buenaventura established Asistencia Santa Paula at this site, where they held services for the Mupu Indians.

Today all the remains is a road side marker in the lawn of Boys and Girls Club of Santa Paula.
Location: Boys and Girls Club of Santa Paula, just east of Harding Park, south side of Harvard Blvd in the 1400 block in the City of Santa Paula.

photos coming.

Estancia San Marcos

The History of Rancho San Marcos

Rancho San Marcos was established by the Santa Barbara Mission as an outpost. Named for Fray Marcos Amestoy of the Santa Barbara Mission, the compound included an asistencia comprising a chapel and living quarters, a granary, wine cellar, and dwellings for the Chumash Indians. In addition there was a wine press, pottery kiln, threshing corral, and livestock pens.

Presided over by one or two padres, the Chumash raised grain, tended the vineyards, and the herds of sheep, cattle, and horses. Products for the trade to Spain included hides and tallow, and the mission padres taught the Chumash European methods of agriculture and animal husbandry.

In 1822 Mexico declared its independence from Spain and began to secularize the missions and sell off their lands. When Pio Pico became Governor of California in 1846 he actively sold off Land Grants to finance the Mexican-American War of 1846. Accordingly, on June 8, 1846, Rancho San Marcos, comprising 35,573 acres, was sold to Nicholas and Richard Den for $750 in gold. The original boundaries were described by a diseno survey made by two horsemen.

Source: Rancho San Marcos Resort web site.

Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia, 1800

Asistencia Santa Margarita de Cortona was attached to Mission San Luis Obispo de Toloso and is considered by some to be one of only two Mission Assistencias with buildings still maintained and in tact. Still visible is a rocked-wall barn where priests came regularly by horseback up the grade from Mission San Luis Obispo to conduct mass for the Indians. Asistencia Santa Margarita de Cortona is sometimes referred to as San Luis Obispo County's "third mission." The asistencia was at one time the most northern outpost for Mission San Luis Obispo de Toloso.

The building of this auxiliary mission was originally 120 by 20 feet and consisted of a chapel at the southwest end and eight rooms for the use of the majordomo and his servants and for visiting priests. One room was used as a granary for storing mission crops.

The "asistencia" still stands near the main ranch buildings on the Ranch that was acquired by Joaquin Estrada in September, 1841. He acquired the 17,734 acres and owned it until bad times caused him to lose his rancho, which became the property of General P. W. Murphy in the 1860s. It was Murphy who constructed a barn over the asistencia to protect it from the elements.

"Three elliptical, beautiful arched doorways gave entrance to the main building," wrote Senator Chris N. Jespersen in his "History of the San Luis Obispo County." A portion of the asistencia remains today in one of the barns visible from either El Camino Real or Highway 101.

The ranch eventually came to be owned by the Reis family who later offered the property to Cuesta College for a campus. Cuesta in turn gave the ranch to Stanford University and in the 1970s sold the rancho to the Robertson family of Texas.

The ranch today is under the ownership of four families.

1800-1815 Rancho de la Playa (Santa Margarita Asistencia). Asistenia to SLO.

Six miles from San Luis is the Rancho Camado, where are some hot springs. Opposite these are to be found remnants of walls. These are ruins of the church of a vista or asistencia of San Luis, and a padre went regularly from the Mission to say mass for the Indians there.

Location: Rancho Santa Margarita Hay Barn (private property, no trespassing), 1/4 mi N of intersection of Yerba Buena Ave and F St, Santa Margarita

The Mondavi enterprise recently acquired the Santa Margarita Ranch.

Santa Margarita was originally an asistencia, for nearby Mission San Luis Obispo; wheat, grapes and vegetable crops were grown and cattle raised to support the mission community in the late 18th century.

In 1999, the Santa Margarita Ranch was purchased by a group that includes Rob Rossi, a local developer

Another marker for its outpost, Santa Margarita Asistencia, states "Here the mission padres and the Indians carried on extensive grain cultivation."

Mission Dolores Asistencia at San Mateo

Burlingame Country Club in 1893, the first country club on the West Coast, obtained permission to build a new depot, covering any costs over those of an "ordinary depot.'

First opened in October 1894, this one story structure is the first permanent building in the Mission Revival style. It features 18th-century red clay handmade roof tiles taken from the Mission Dolores Asistencia at San Mateo and Mission San Antonio de Padua at Jolon.

The Hospice (outpost of Mission Dolores), built around 1800 by the Spanish Padres on El Camino Real, was built to break the journey from Santa Clara and serve the Indians of Mission Dolores.
Location: SW corner of Baywood and El Camino Real, San Mateo

Burlingame Railroad Station
Location: 290 California Dr at Burlingame Ave, Burlingame

Asistencia Santa Rosa de Lima

The site of the Carrillo Adobe was also the site of a Native American village along Chocoalami (Santa Rosa) Creek. Without an archeological examination, the complete history of this site cannot be fully known. It could extend back many thousands of year and involve different ancient peoples.

An attempt was made in 1823 to establish a Mission in Santa Rosa but it failed.

In about 1828 or 1829 Padre Juan Amoros baptized a Native American girl "Rosa" on the Catholic feast day of Santa Rosa de Lima, thus giving the girl, the creek, and the city its name. On the feast day of Santa Rosa de Lima in 1828, Fr. Juan Amoros was celebrating Mass on a creek bank near the site now occupied by St. Eugene Cathedral. Fr. Juan noticed a group of Native Americans watching a short distance away, and he spoke to them of eternal life in Jesus Christ and the necessity of Baptism. One young woman came forward and asked to be baptized. As he administered the sacrament, Fr. Juan gave her the name Rosa and declared that the creek and the entire area henceforth would be known as Santa Rosa. The Asistencia Santa Rosa de Lima, an outpost never declared a mission, was erected on the site; it consisted of a chapel and a residence. From time to time, priests from the missions in Sonoma and San Rafael would come to say Mass for the members of the family of General Vallejo who settled in the area around 1837. This is an oral tradition...but St. Eugene's Church believed it enough in the 1960's to propose naming a new high school at the site of the Carrillo Adobe after Padre Amoros. The Asistencia Mission records are not available. Some say the records were deliberately destroyed in order to obscure the Carrillo Adobe site's earlier existence as an Asistencia Mission.

Mariano Vallejo reported in 1832 there were then two buildings with Padres and a herd of swine at the site of the Asistencia Mission in Santa Rosa.

A Mexican court denied a claim by Mariano Vallejo and instead upheld the claim of the Padres to the Asistencia Mission, Santa Rosa de Lima. They did not uphold the Padres' claim to San Vicente near Petaluma, ownership of which was subsequently granted to Vallejo.

The Cathedral of St. Eugene was built in 1950, on the site of the Asistencia Santa Rosa de Lima.

The Carrillo Adobe (walls still standing, protected under a metal-roofed pole structure) was the first house built in Santa Rosa. It was built in 1837 on her arrival here by the founder of Santa Rosa, Maria Ignacia López de Carrillo, a Spanish widow from San Diego, mother-in-law of Mariano Vallejo. Though insufficiently documented, there is some evidence that Señora Carrillo built her house at what had earlier been a Spanish-Mexican asistencia, or satellite chapel, of the Mission of San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. But even if there had never been this chapel pre-dating the Carrillo Adobe, the importance and antiquity of this place goes back much, much further.

Santa Eulalia

Cordelia area history.

The speculation is that the Spanish may have had a rancho or at least an asistencia (branch of a Spanish Mission) in the general area of Nelson Hill.

The earliest Spanish settlement in the Cordelia and Nelson Hill area appears to have been about 1824. Friar Altimira is said to have established ranchos as far east as Suisun, although according to Rudolph Rulofson in his history column, "California Echoes" in The Solano Republican, there was no positive proof of their exact locations.

Nelson's Hill in 1946. At the site of the Nelson quarry on the eastern side of Bridgeport Hill near Cordelia, while excavating, workmen broke through and discovered a pear-shaped olla or cistern, embedded in the side of the hill. The olla was approximately 8 feet across and at least 10 feet in depth.

The olla was formed from a cement, brownish in color and consisting of sand and small pebbles, and a white cotton-like substance, which appears under a microscope to be minute particles of seashell.

"Quarrying operations have been conducted at this site since the early 1850s and there is no knowledge or record of any habitation or structure antedating the quarry operations ... "

Friar Altimira may have set up one of his ranchos near Cordelia. If this should ever prove to be true, then perhaps that olla and an adobe in nearby Rockville were the oldest structural objects of Spanish origin in Solano County.

In a Rockville discovery in 1957a large stone object, which served as a horse trough for many years, was determined by local historian and archaeologist, Rulofson, to be a baptismal font. In his research, he discovered that an unknown asistencia had existed in Rockville. Records revealed that an adobe had been demolished in 1935 to make way for a new house. His research indicated the adobe had been used by Christianized Indians as a branch of the Mission San Francisco Solano at Sonoma.

In 1823, the rebellious Friar Altimira, stationed at Mission San Francisco de Asis, decided to take it upon himself to find a more suitable location to establish a mission to take care of sick and dying Indians. The weather at the mission in San Francisco was too damp and cold and there was the added problem of disease brought in by the European settlers who were dying in droves.

Altimira set out to explore the northern inland regions for a more suitable location, which resulted in the establishment of the Mission San Francisco Solano at Sonoma.

"Father Altimira expressed a desire to locate a rancho at Suisun Valley, and, there is some evidence that he may have done so in order to establish a center for the baptism of the Suisun Indians whose population base was near the present town of Rockville.

"Local tradition speculates that this adobe (no longer standing) was occupied by a padre for many years. There are two interesting points about this adobe on the Suisun Rancho. One is, that it was formerly owned by the Chief of the Suisun Indians, Francisco Solano. Also, within a few yards of the adobe site there is located, in the ground, a huge rock bowl that resembles the baptismal fonts found in other missions.

Meanwhile, back at Nelson's Hill ... Rulofson made note in his diary on May 24, 1957, "Read over digest - John Dos Passol - The Spaniards were here before us. Mentions introduction of almond in California by padres. Bitter almonds found at Rockville 'Esistancia' site, also near 'Olla' at Nelson's. Check if bitter almonds are throwbacks - were they seedlings several generations removed from original plants?"

As a final piece of evidence that there was a Spanish settlement, I finally found what I was looking for: The name of the rancho/asistencia. Clyde Lowe, a superb historian and researcher in Solano County, wrote an article debunking many of the myths about Chief Solano. In the article he wrote, "It should be noted that mission farm or 'rancho' called Santa Eulalia had been established at Suisun (Valley) before the end of 1824, with a house for the padre's visit, a corral for the horses, and a neophyte (Christianized Indian) in charge."

In addition, the 1837 diseno (a crude map) that was used to identify the boundaries for Chief Solano's land grant clearly shows a cultivated field just east of Nelson Hill. Quite likely, the olla was used to store water for the crops grown there.

Source: Jerry Bowen


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This page last updated 7-30-13

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