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Home Page Button   Beginnings of the Mission
Teacher Information Button   Many people call the Mission near San Francisco Mission Delores. Mission Delores’ real name is Mission San Francisco de Asis. Father Francisco Palou claimed the site in June 1776 and held an official dedication ceremony on October 9, 1776. The Mission was named for Saint Francis of Assisi and was the 6th Mission founded.
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Mission History Button   Location and Geography
Sources Button   The site chosen for the Mission was near a lagoon named Nuestra Senora de los Dolores. The Mission was built on the foggy San Francisco peninsula where the weather was often cold and damp. One important factor in locating a mission was being near a Native American village. Mission Dolores was built on the site of the Chumash’s Chutchui village.
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    The Native Americans
    The Ohlone that the Mission was built for, like most of the other tribes in California, 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.

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 San Francisco de Asis’ chapel was finished in 1791. The adobe walls are four feet thick and may have been one of the reasons that the chapel was one of the buildings that was left standing after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The Mission has survived several earthquakes including the ‘Loma Prieta’ earthquake in 1989. The buildings have been reinforced with steel to make them stronger.

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 San Francisco de Asis was cold and damp. The weather was very poor and a number of the neophytes and fathers were often sick. Even with the poor weather the Mission was able to raise cattle, sheep, mules, and horses as well as several different crops including wheat, corn, beans, barley, peas and lentils, and had a fruit tree orchard.

Top of Page Button   The End of the Mission Period
    Mission San Francisco de Asis, c. 1860The Mission suffered through secularization as most of the other Missions did. In 1850 President James Buchanan returned some of the Mission lands to the Church. The Pueblo of Yerba Buena, eventually to become the city of San Francisco, started to grow toward the Mission and eventually made the Mission part of the city’s boundaries.

Top of Page Button   Reconstruction and The Mission Today
    The Victorian-era Church was built next to the Mission and both buildings are in active use by the local Parish.

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