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"On To Monterey"

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:26 pm    Post subject: "On To Monterey" Reply with quote

AROUND the campfire, belts still tight, but health returning, the tender subject of abandoning California was brought up. It had been going the rounds for weeks. Now it was in the open.

Portola made the fact clear that, unless a supply-ship arrived, and soon, he was for returning to Mexico. He spoke as a soldier in command of troops. Their welfare was his responsibility.

Meantime, Fray Junipero and Commander Vila had checked over the story of the disappointed explorers with the map of Cabrera Bueno.

"There," cried Serra. "There is Monterey Bay. You were camped right on it—right here. And here is the spot where Viscaino landed, took the country and Mass was sung under that oak tree. And here is the Carmel River, and here are the Santa Lucias, that forced you down into the broad valley." Clear-headed Serra.

As they gathered about him, the truth dawned. They had looked for Monterey Bay, while for weeks they slept on it. Why? Just one of those things. But their chagrin was eased by the realization of their discovery of San Francisco Bay, many times larger and safer for His Majesty's galleons than Monterey Bay.

But the incontestable fact remained that they had been commissioned "to find and occupy Monterey.”

The decision of Portola and the men to return to Mexico saddened Serra, who replied: "Then, in that event, Father Juan [Crespi] and I shall remain.” He was not the man to permit his and Galvez' plan of colonization and Christianization of California to fail.

He entered into a compact with Portola to remain at San Diego until the 20th (March, 1770), feast-day of St. Joseph, patron of the expedition. He ordered a Novena, that St. Joseph be petitioned to intercede for them before the High Throne; that a relief-ship be sent before the fatal day. Every man, ill or well, attended.

We can see Serra with his friend, Father Juan, ascending to the brow of the hill to scan the sea for a sail, many times in the long day. And always when the sun was dropping into the quiet ocean.

As yet, no sail, and the 20th was near.

The men would begin to pack on the morrow.

On the eve of the 20th, the Padres ascended the hill for their daily vigil. They would soon be alone in the wilderness. Suddenly Serra cried out, "What's that?"

"A sail! A sail!"

Tacking back and forth, the supply-ship soon came into sight. It was the San Antonio. She had been blown far out of her course, and for days had been trying to make port. She made it in time to save the day.

Thus California was saved for God and the King. And, incidentally, for the United States, in the fullness of time.

The San Antonio brought everything the pilgrims needed—medicines, food, clothing, and cattle, seeds for necessary planting and needed church appurtenances.

Faith had saved the day.

Appointing a guard to protect the Mission and Presidio of San Diego, and two friars to carry on the work of teaching and preaching, Fray Junipero loaded the San Antonio with the elementary things that were needed to start a community, and sailed for Monterey.

Gaspar de Portola and his dragoons had already clanked noisily out of the Presidio, and were headed north once more, this time better equipped than before. For one thing, they knew where they were going. And more important, they had already beaten out their trails.

So, once again, that valiant soldier, Sergeant Jose Ortega, led the advance guard. Not such hard going this time, though in many places the scouting party was forced to cut its way through new growth. But, as before, the Indians were friendly, many accompanying them long distances as marks of friendship.

The overland command reached Monterey a few days before the San Antonio.

They pitched camp near the Viscaino landing-place, but soon moved over the hill to the old Carmel River camp. There they set up shelters near the cross they had erected the year before, that bore the inscription: "Dig at the foot of this cross and ye shall find writing." There it was, the message intact. No white man had seen it, obviously, to heed their plea. But they had sur¬vived, and now were back at the scene of their travail, ready to execute the commission that had eluded them.

From the high Carmel bank, it was easy to watch for the San Antonio. On the eve of May 28th she was sighted. All breathed more easily, for the Padre Presidente was aboard. A cheer went up.

The big cross was now a bit the worse for wear, its cross-arm having slipped its mooring. It was festooned with strings of shells and fish, more or less decrepit; but it was apparently highly regarded by the Indians, who told the Spaniards that the cross used to reach up to the stars at night, and shine. The gleam could be explained by phosphorous emanating from the pisca¬torial decorations. It does not, however, explain its vertical elasticity.

On the morning of the 29th, the whole command was early in motion, going over the hill to greet the San Antonio, already come to anchor in the bay.

Volleys of firearms from the Viscaino landing-place voiced a welcome to the little ship. It was returned with gusto.

Soon a small boat was seen to leave the ship, Fray Junipero in the prow. He landed in the little cove, whose small stream lost itself in the lapping waves.

He gathered up his habit and stepped ashore, his bare feet touching the waters that he had so long hungered to see. The commander and his men rushed forward to greet him with embraces. They were at last together—at Monterey. Now the spot was to be known as the Serra Landing-Place as well as Viscaino's.
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