Places - Missions

Mission San Gabriel

Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was established on 8 September 1771 by Fathers Angel Somera and Pedro Benito Gambon. The fathers had been instructed to build a mission 40 leagues north of San Diego, and Father-President Junipero Serra had selected the site himself. Originally built on what is now Montebello, the mission was moved to its current site of San Gabriel in 1776 because of flood waters from the Rio Hondo. Although it was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1812, the mission was immediately rebuilt and still stands today in the same location, nine miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Mission San Gabriel

The mission was a major stopping point on both Anza expeditions. In fact, during the second Anza expedition, the colonists remained at the mission for over a month while Anza, Font and seventeen soldiers traveled to San Diego with Rivera to assist in the punishment of Indians who had attacked and burnt the mission there. The colonists took the opportunity to rest and relax at the mission after their grueling trek through extremely harsh winter weather.

Following Anza's visits during the early years of the mission's existence, the establishment became quite prosperous and earned the sobriquet "Queen of the Missions." The location of the mission played a large role in its becoming the heart of agricultural development of the region. It was situated in a fertile valley with plenty of timber, pasturage and water for irrigation. It produced sizable crops of corn and beans, as well as large numbers of cattle. The mission also focused on its most salient purpose -- the conversion of Indians. Initially, the task of conversion was made difficult by the antagonistic relationship between the Indians and the military personnel who helped build the mission and who frequently traveled through the region. The Indians remained distrustful of the military, but eventually came to trust the fathers of the mission. As a result, many Indians were converted to Christianity at San Gabriel. In addition, many Indians learned useful trades, such as weaving and leather-working, while living at the mission.

Mission San Gabriel remained prosperous until its secularization in the mid-nineteenth century. At this time, all of the mission's vast wealth was turned over to a secular administrator. Over the next two decades, the mission re-gained and lost again its lands. Finally, in 1859, U.S. President Buchanan restored the mission lands to the Catholic church, which administered the mission as a parish church until 1908. At this time, the mission and its lands passed into the hands of the Clareton Fathers, who have retained control to the present day.