General Background

Father Francisco Palou, a Franciscan priest of the Alta California Mission Chain, founded the Mission San Francisco de Asis on October 9th, 1776. It was the 6th of California’s 21 missions and it became the headquarters for the entire Alta California mission system.

Mission San Francisco de Asis

Mission San Francisco de Asis - Based on an image from Mission San Francisco de Asis

Location and the Founding of Mission San Francisco de Asis

The Mission San Francisco de Asis, also known as Mission Delores, was first established on a scouting mission led by Lt. Don Jose Joaquin Moraga. He set out to find a place to establish a mission and presidio. What he found was a beautiful lake and stream, which he named after the saint of the day as Arroyo de Nuestra Senora de los Delores.

Lt. Moraga returned to the Mission’s headquarters in Monterey, where he received a commission to found his desired mission and Pueblo at the Arroyo. Father Francisco Palou returned with his permission to officially sanction the mission. The mission received its name from St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order of priests.

Native Americans and Mission San Francisco de Asis

When the mission was founded, there were no Indians at the dedication ceremony. They were afraid of the Spaniards with their guns and their diseases. They returned about a month after the founding and were met with cruel padres and harsh living conditions. The mission never had great success with the local Indians. The Natives who did remain at the mission were overworked, underfed, and subject to diseases.

The mission itself was quite beautiful. Work was completed on its construction in 1782, and since that time the chapel building has remained largely unchanged. It stands today 114 feet long and 22 feet wide.

How Did Mission San Francisco de Asis Support Itself?

Like most California missions, the Mission San Francisco de Asis supported itself and the Native inhabitants of the area by growing crops of wheat and corn. They also raised herds of horses and cattle, and cultivated grapes in a vineyard. The mission had an extremely difficult time growing enough food to support itself. Most of its wealth came from lands almost 20 miles south of the mission. Because the Indian labor force at the mission was so small, San Francisco never met with great economic success. There was much talk of closing the unsuccessful mission.

The Mission Today

Now located in the middle of a bustling metropolis, the Mission San Francisco was the starting point for what is one of the largest cities in California. Its unsteady beginnings gave way to the foundation of a great city.

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