San Fernando Mission

By Jean Strauber, Travel Writer

On the weekend of July 15-17, the 405 Freeway will be closed to traffic because of a demolition of the Skirball Bridge. The Getty and the Skirball Museums will both be closed that weekend. For us San Fernando Valley residents I recommend the following places to visit. San Fernando Mission — Many readers might remember visiting this mission on one of their elementary school field trips.

It would be well worth your while to visit it again with your family. Located on Brand Street, just east of Sepulveda Boulevard, you’ll find the Mission San Fernando Rey de España which

San Fernando Mission
San Fernando Mission

was founded 8 September 1797 (17th in order) by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuén. The mission is named for St. Ferdinand, King of Spain (1217-1252). The Indian name was Pashecgna.

The San Fernando Mission church was completed within two months after the dedication, and there were already more than 40 neophytes here. Because it was so close to the Los Angeles pueblo, there was a market for their goods. By 1804, nearly 1,000 Indians lived at San Fernando Mission. By 1806, they were raising cattle and producing hides, leather goods, tallow and cloth. Its closeness to Los Angeles and location along a popular traveling route made this place unique. Travelers stopped often, and the fathers kept adding onto the convent wing to accommodate them, until the hospice (hotel) became known as the “long building” of the El Camino Real.

The most successful year at San Fernando Mission was 1819, and they had 13,000 cattle and 8,000 sheep. Their herd of 2,300 horses was the third largest in possession of the missions. After 1811, the San Fernando Mission native population began to decline, and productivity was threatened. By 1812, there were too few workers to farm the produce required for the military in Los Angeles. When the buildings were damaged by an earthquake in 1812, there were not enough workers to make the repairs. Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1822. In the California province, there were struggles to control the land. A few Indians in the valley received land grants, but most of the surviving Indians remained depended on the San Fernando Mission. When Mexican Governor Echidna arrived in 1827, Spanish Father Ibarra was in charge. Father Ibarra refused to renounce his allegiance to Spain, but the Mexican government let him stay there because they couldn’t find anyone else to run the operations.

Starting in the 1830s, the California officials began confiscating mission lands, although they usually left the buildings under the control of the church. From 1834 to 1836, most of the Indians stayed. The rest looked for work in Los Angeles or joined relatives and friends who were still living feely in the nearby hills. Finally, 1835, Father Ibarra left because he could not tolerate the secularization. In 1842, gold was discovered on a nearby ranch. The area was overrun with prospectors. A rumor that the missionaries had been prospecting gold for years drew the gold-seekers to the church and they dug up the floor looking for buried treasure. This digging continued into the early 1900s.

The struggle between northern and southern Californians over the land intensified, and in February, 1845, two armed groups met at the Cahuenga Pass. They shot at each other for half a day, but the only casualties were two horses and a wounded mule. The northerners then left, and Pio Pico became the new governor of California. In 1845, Governor Pio Pico leased the land to his brother Andres for $1,200 a year. Andres used it as a summer home. The San Fernando Mission was abandoned in 1847. From 1857 to 1861, part of it was used as a stagecoach station. By 1888, the hospice (hotel) was used as a warehouse and stable, and in 1896, the quadrangle became a hog farm. In 1896, Charles Fletcher Lummis began a campaign to reclaim the property, and conditions improved.

By Jean Strauber

Entertainment Writer

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