Mission Santa Cruz

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Mission Santa Cruz (The Sacred Cross)

A brief history

The Mission Santa Cruz is the 12th mission founded in California. It was founded on August 28, 1791 by Friar Fermin Lasuen. Named for the Sacred Cross.

After its founding 1791, Mission Santa Cruz was blessed with many factors in its favor, excellent location, good climate, fertile fields and a peaceful native population. Within six years the mission quadrangle was complete with workshops and a granary.

Then to the surprise and to the violation of Spanish law, the Governor notified the padres in 1797, that a pueblo was to be founded across the river and they would need to help support it. Spanish law forbid establishment of pueblos within a league of missions, but the Governor insisted and Branciforte was founded. It was named after the Viceroy.

The first colonists to the pueblo were the worst sort the padres could have imagined. Seventeen vagabonds and criminals arrived. More arrived later. They encroached upon the mission lands and took the natives pasturage. When the mission padres complained, the Governor replied that the natives were dying out and that the mission was becoming obsolete.

The padres did what they could to keep the natives and the people of the pueblo separated, but eventually the strain upon the natives resulted in the death of one of the padres. Two years after the murder, the first autopsy in California’s medical history was performed and seven natives were charged. They pleaded cruelty by the padre as their defense but the Governor sentenced them to a severe flogging.

Then in 1818, the pirate Bouchard appeared offshore. He had already attacked Monterey, burning the presido there and people were afraid he would continue to plunder the settlements. The Governor ordered the padre, Ramon Olbes to pack up all the valuable and take them inland.

Obeying the orders, the padre told the officials of Branciforte to help carry out the Governors orders. While Bouchard did not land, the Branciforte population looted the mission completely. When Father Olbes returned and he then requested permission to abandon the mission. He was persuaded to continue.

The missions population was the lowest of any of the missions, where Branciforte attracted many settlers due to its smuggling and gambling. One of its first city improvements was a racetrack. Mission Santa Cruz among the first to be secularized with the land and livestock granted to individuals.

Then in 1840 the church tower collapsed during an earthquake. The church itself collapsed in 1857 when another earthquake hit. A frame church was build in 1858 until it was replaced in 1889 by the current structure.

In 1931, a small replica, half the size of the original mission church was built across the street. The design was made from a study of aged drawings and paintings still in existence of the Mission of the "Holy Cross."

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