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Home Page Button   Beginnings of the Mission
Teacher Information Button   Mission La Purisima was the 11th mission to be founded out of the 21 Missions. The Mission was dedicated on December 8, 1787 by Father Lasuen and named Mission La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima (The Immaculate Conception of Mary the Most Pure.)
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Mission History Button   Location and Geography
Sources Button   The Mission is located on the southern end of the central coast inland from the ocean, near what is now the town of Lompoc. The members of the Mission worked hard to build a permanent church. The first adobe church was finished in 1789. The church was used for three years but the Mission's population was growing quickly. By 1798 mission records showed that there were 920 neophytes living at the Mission and just 6 years later the population was listed at 1520.

A series of large earthquakes struck Southern California in 1812 and the Mission was destroyed. The Mission was rebuilt on another site four miles further north in a canyon named La Canada de los Berros, or The Canyon of Watercress.

The fathers rebuilt the Mission but decided to put the buildings in a straight line instead of the normal square shape since it would be more difficult for the buildings to damage each other if they fell during another earthquake. Mission La Purisima is the only Mission not to follow the quadrangle shape of the rest of the Missions.
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Top of Page Button   The Native Americans
    The main tribe that lived at Mission La Purisima was the Chumash. The Chumash were one of the largest tribes in California. Like most of the other California tribes the Chumash were nomadic. That means that they lived in one area for a time and would move their entire community to follow herds for food or when too much garbage piled up they would burn down the old ones and find another site to build their homes. Men hunted and fished to provide food while the women gathered acorns, wild herbs, roots, and berries to help feed their families. Sea Otters lived in the ocean near La Purisima and were hunted by traders. These hunters threatened the tribe members not living with the protection of the Mission and many moved to the mission for their help.

Top of Page Button   Architecture and Layout
    The Fathers followed a regular plan for creating the layout of the mission buildings. Right after blessing the site the Fathers and the soldiers would start building a small building to hold the religious ceremonies, called a Mass. They would encourage local Natives to help them. Many often did; they were fascinated by the tools and gifts that the Fathers had brought with them. The first buildings would be built of wood poles and brush. Eventually the buildings would be replaced by larger adobe brick or stone buildings. After a chapel or church was finished where the Fathers and Neophytes could hold Mass they would start building the Convento. The Convento was where the Fathers would live. Next would come workshops and the Monjerio. The Monjerio was where unmarried girls and women would live and be locked in at night. The Fathers didn't think that unmarried girls and women should live near single men. Eventually there would be enough buildings for four sides of a square or quadrangle. The Mission complexes weren't perfect squares because the Fathers didn’t have a way to measure distance other than walking off distances. Most Missions included a fountain. The fountain was used for washing, laundry, and water. The more fancy the fountain the more successful the Mission.

Mission La Purisima originally followed the standard four-sided quadrangle shape. Unfortunately the 1812 earthquake destroyed the Mission buildings and the Fathers decided it would be best to move to a different site. After moving they started to rebuild the Mission. This time they built the buildings in a straight line instead of a quadrangle. Mission La Purisima is the only mission to be laid out this way.

Top of Page Button   Life at the Mission
    Life at the Mission was difficult for both the Fathers and the Natives. During the early years most Missions had trouble supporting themselves and depended on deliveries of supplies and food from New Spain and other Missions. Often the ships were unable to make the trip and the Mission's members went hungry. It normally took several years before a Mission was able to plant enough food and raise enough cattle and other animals to be able to feed everyone who lived at the Mission.

Those that lived at the Mission went by a strict schedule. The Fathers were used to this type of lifestyle, but the neophytes were not. The structure of Mission life was one of the reasons many Native Californians tried to leave. A French explorer, Jean François de La Pérouse, visited Mission San Carlos is 1786 and wrote a detailed account of what he observed. Events at the Mission were signaled by the ringing of the Mission bells. Each day started around sunrise (about 6am). The Mission bells would ring to wake everyone and summon them to Mass and morning prayers. Prayer lasted for about an hour and then everyone would go to breakfast. Atole, a type of soup made from barley and other grains, would be served. Breakfast took about 45 minutes and then it was time for everyone to go to work.

The Fathers were responsible for running the Mission and instructing the new converts and children in the Catholic faith. Most of the men went to the fields to tend to the crops or to help with the animals while women stayed at the Mission and worked on domestic chores such as weaving cloth and making clothes, boiling down fat to make soap and candles, and tending to the vegetable gardens. Children often helped at these chores around the Mission once their religious instruction was over. Depending on the particular industry at the Mission there also might be neophytes leatherworking, metalworking, wine making, and pressing olives for olive oil.

At noon the bells would ring again for everyone to gather for dinner, what we would call lunch. Lunch was normally pozole, another thick soup with beans and peas. After an afternoon break everyone returned to their work for another two to four hours depending on how much work there was to be done. A last bell would be rung to end the work day. Another serving of Atole would be served and the neophytes would be able to rest until it was time for bed (Margolin, Pg. 85). Women were usually expected to go to bed by 8pm and men by 9pm. Most of the Fathers allowed their neophytes to continue to hunt and gather additional foods and to cook some of their traditional dishes.

Living at the Mission was often difficult for new converts. They were used to working when work needed to be done and resting when they were tired. The Mission lifestyle was different. The Neophytes were the main source of labor for the Missions. It was their hard work along with the soldiers' and Fathers' that built the Missions and their outbuildings. Agriculture and ranching required constant tending to the crops and animals. Without this labor the Missions would not have been able to survive. Many neophytes missed the freedom of their tribal life and would try to leave the Mission. The Fathers wouldn’t allow neophytes to leave and would send soldiers to search for them and bring them back. Runaways were usually punished for breaking the rules.

Life at Mission La Purisima was not as strict as it was in other Missions. The Chumash were allowed a lot of free time and were able to cook their traditional foods. Each Mission needed to be able to support itself and raised animals and crops to feed the members of the Mission. Mission La Purisima also grew figs, pears, and grapes.

Top of Page Button   The End of the Mission Period
    Mission La Purisima, May 1937 Most of the Mission lands had been sold off within 6 months. The Chumash were not given enough of the land to be able to provide for themselves and most of them moved away to take other jobs in houses or on ranches. The fathers were unable to take care of the Mission all by themselves and the buildings started to disintegrate. By 1930 they were almost gone.

Top of Page Button   Reconstruction and The Mission Today
    In 1934 the lands were sold to the county of Santa Barbara and the Civilian Conservation Corp started rebuilding a replica of how the Mission would have looked in 1820. It took them 17 years to complete the restoration and includes recreated furniture, gardens, and authentically created adobe bricks and clay floor and roof tiles. The Mission is now a California State Park and museum.

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