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Footsteps of History

The California Missions

San Miguel

Mission San Miguel Arcangel
Founded on July 25, 1797
by Father Fermin Lasuen
The 16
th Mission in the California Mission Chain

Naming of Mission:
Named for Saint Michael, the Arcangel. He was known as "Most Glorious Prince of the Celestial Militia."
sometimes referred to as the Mission on the Highway. It is located along the El Camino Real (U.S. 101)
Location:
The mission is near the juncture of the Salinas and Nacimiento Rivers It is located in the town of San Miguel just 7 miles north of Paso Robles and is approximately halfway between the San Luis Obispo Mission and the San Antonio de Padua Mission.
History:
During 1795, several searches were made from Mission San Antonio for a site for a new mission between San Luis Obispo and San Antonio to aid travelers between the two missions. Finally, on July 25, 1797, two years later, President Fermin Francisco de Lasuen took possession of the land for Viceroy Branciforte and founded the San Miguel Arcangel Mission. 1797 was a prolific year for the mission chain which had three other missions dedicated in the year - San Jose, June 11, San Juan Bautista, June 24, and San Fernando, September 8. There was a good relationship between the Mission and the Salinan Indians. As many as 15 Indian children were baptized at the founding of the mission.
The original church was typical of a brand new mission church. It was built with just a thatched roof which, later, in 1806, burned causing great destruction to the mission, particularly to the storage of crops and grains. Over 6,000 bushels of wheat were lost in the fire. Other nearby mission were quick to respond with supplies and the mission began to function once again rather quickly. At the time of the fire, there were over 1,000 neophytes at the Mission. Father Juan Martin was in charge at this time and was credited with the great success of the mission. The mission lands went out from the mission 18 miles to the north and the south. The property was as far as 66 miles east and 35 miles west, to the Pacific Ocean. The mission sustained itself well with a combination of agriculture, farming, ranching and particularly with the making of the tiles for the mission churches and other buildings. Between 1808 and 1809, they made 36,000 tiles.
The rebuilt church was big enough to hold 1,000 Indians and was completed in 1820. The roof was made of tile. The building is 27 feet wide, 144 feet long, 40 feet tall at the highest. The walls are six feet thick. The church, when built, was simple and plain and did not have a bell tower. The beams for the building had to be brought from 40 miles away. Estevan Munras, an artist, came to the mission and taught the Indians the art of fresco painting. The walls of the plain church were decorated beautifully and are still seen today, with clear colors and designs.
Father Juan Cabot is known for utilizing the hot sulfur springs almost ten miles to the south of the mission. He served twice at the mission first from 1807 to 1819 and then again from 1824 to 1834. He had a shelter built at the nearby hot springs where natives and others would go to ease their pain and suffering. Many of them suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis and the hot springs seemed to help them.
In 1831, the Indians were told they could leave, but none did. Finally, the mission was secularized in 1834; by 1841, there were only 30 Indians at the mission. The property was sold, by the last Mexican governor, in 1846 to Petronillo Rios and William Reed. Reed and his family lived at the mission and operated a store there. Mr. Reed was enthralled with the California Gold Rush in 1848 and went to seek more fortune. Unfortunately for him, he talked a little too much about his "strikes," which had not really happened. When he returned, some undesireables followed, wanting to steal his gold. They killed Reed, his family and everyone else at the mission. They were all either captured and executed or died. Other uses for the mission before restoration to the Church were as a dance hall, storeroom and housing. The church, itself, was not returned to the Catholic Church until 1859. Father Phililp Farrelly came to the mission in 1878 after the site had been without a father for 38 years. The church was kept in good condition even though it has aged. The mission is an active Parish church today.
Contact the Mission:
Mission San Miguel Arcangel
775 Mission Street
P.O. Box 69
San Miguel, CA 93451
Phone: (805) 467-2131 or 467-3256
Fax: (805) 467-2141
Gift Shop: (805) 467-3256
Museum: (805) 467-3256
Mission Trivia:
San Miguel is the only mission where the arches are different heights and widths.
The inside of the mission has never been repainted. The beautiful pictures and frescos in the interior were the ones painted by Indian artists. Esteban Munras, an artist from Spain, but more recently from Monterey, oversaw the painting.
Mission Links:
Mission San Miguel Arcangel Website
A history page for the Mission
A page for the Mission

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This page was last updated on 27 June 2012 at 6:05 pm
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