History of San Luis Obispo Mission

The fifth Franciscan mission established in California, on a site, called Tixlini by the natives, now included in the city of the same name. The mission, dedicated to San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, was founded by Fr. Junípero Serra on Sept. 1, 1772, the place being near the Canada de los Osos, where Fages had earlier in the year spent three months hunting bears to supply the northern establishments with food. The natives were well disposed, willing to work, and offered their children for baptism, although the number of neophytes increased slowly. There was no rancheria near the mission, and the natives being well supplied with food, such as deer, rabbits, fish, and seeds, were not particularly desirous of settling at the mission. Crops seem to have been fairly successful from the first. In 1776 all the buildings except the church and the granary were burned by Indians who were enemies of those attached to the mission, the tule roofs of the buildings being fired by means of burning arrows. This led to the general adoption of tiles for roofing. In 1794 an unsuccessful attempt was made by outside Indians to cause the converts to revolt, but it ended with the imprisonment of five of the leaders. There were 492 neophytes in 1780, and 605 in 1790, while the highest number, 946, was reached in 1794. Want of water was reported as the chief drawback of the mission, though the average crop for the decade ending 1800 was 3,200 bushels, and for the next decade 4,456 bushels. About 1809 a chapel seems to have been built at San Miguelito.

One was also established at Santa Margarita, the ruins of which still remain. Though the population of the mission gradually decreased after 1794, industries seem to have thriven for a time. Both woolen and cotton cloth was woven, and the Indians were reported as always well dressed. After 1820 the decline was more marked, so that by 1830 there were only 283 neophytes remaining, and marks of neglect were everywhere visible (Robinson, Life in Cal., 84, 1846). In 1834 there were 264 neophytes. The total number of natives baptized to 1834 was 2,608, of whom 1,331 were children.

In 1840 there were still 170 ex-neophytes at the mission. The decline in wealth exceeded 50 percent. All the horses were stolen in 1840, and thenceforward the decline was rapid, so that in 1844 the mission was reported as having neither land nor cattle, while the neophytes were demoralized and scattered for want of a minister. The mission was sold in 1845 by Gov. Pico for $510.

The ownership of the buildings was later continued of course to the Catholic Church, but both monastery and church have been so much rebuilt that they have little resemblance to the original structures. The Indians in the neighborhood of the mission belonged to the Chumashan linguistic family, though speaking a dialect rather different from the others.

The following are a few of the villages: Chapule, Chiminer, Chofuate, De Impirmu, De Qmchechs, Lteguie, Sesjala, Sespala, Tchena, Tgmaps, Walekhe

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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