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Footsteps of History

The California Missions

Soledad




Official Name: Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad
Founded October 9, 1791
by Father Fermin Lasuen
The 13th Mission of the California Mission Chain
Naming of Mission:
Father Lasuen dedicated the site to "the Solitude of Most Holy Mary, Our Lady".
Location:
The Mission is midway between the mission at Carmel to the northwest and San Antonio de Padua to the south. This is the only mission located in the Salinas Valley. It is 3 miles south of the town of Soledad and 1 mile west of U.S. Highway 101
History:
The local Indians were the Costanoan. When Juan Crespi and Gaspar de Portola came through the area enroute to Monterey, a nearby Indian seems to speak a certain word over and over. It sounded like "Soledad," which means loneliness which seemed an appropriate word for the arid and desolate area. Later, on 9 October 1791, the mission was founded by Father Fermin Lasuen. The mission was begun to help fulfill the desire of the Fathers to have missions up and down California one day's ride on horseback apart. This mission was midway between the missions San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo and Mission San Antonio de Padua.
The first Padre here was Father Diego Garcia. He was not a popular man with the people and when he left in 1797, he was not missed. During his tenure there was also drought conditions which did not help. He was also accused of depriving and abusing the neophytes. Even after he left the mission, there still continued to be trouble with an epidemic in 1802 as well as a triple murder. After peaking in 1805, the population then dwindled down gradually.
This mission is in an area of extreme temperatures and climate. Because of the harsh clime, few Native Americans lived here. Because of the scarcity of people, the building of the mission took longer than most. Though a temporary church was set up rather quickly, the first permanent church was not completed until 1803. Even then, the mission had trouble from flooding of the Salinas River two different times.
In 1832 a third flood hit, spelling eventual doom for the mission Though the mission had a fairly short religious life, there were over 30 Fathers who served here. Many suffered from ill health while here and asked for transfers. Nevertheless, the Fathers were able to transform the area into something productive through irrigation and education of the Natives.
When secularization was initiated in 1834, the mission was abandoned fairly quickly. The last Franciscan Father here was Padre Vicente Francisco de Sarria. He valiantly tried to keep up the mission and help the few Indians remaining, but he died in 1835 and the residents found his body at the foot of the altar. His little band of loyal followers carried his body the 100 miles through the hills to the San Antonio de Padua Mission. After his death, the mission never recovered.
In 1837, there were just 187 people left, including just 45 men. In 1839 there were only 78 people. By 1941, it lay in ruins and dis-repair and remained so for over 100 years. In 1954, the Native Daughters of the Golden West made a project of restoring the ruins of the Soledad Mission. Though not completely restored, you can visit the small chapel and a wing of seven rooms. You can still see the lines from the original quadrangle on the ground. The Catholic Parish at Soledad holds Mass at the mission a few times each year, but no regularly scheduled services are held here.
Contact the Mission:
Nuestra Senora de la Soledad
36641 Fort Romie Road
Soledad, CA 93960
Phone: (408) 678-2586
Mission Trivia:
Mission Links
This is a good timeline page for the mission as well as a layout plan of the mission
A resource page for the mission

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This page was last updated on 28 June 2012 at 12:56 pm
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