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Carmel Mission

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Joined: 27 Nov 2007
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:14 pm    Post subject: Carmel Mission Reply with quote

IN AN inspired moment, Father Junipero selected the site for the Mission San Carlos de Borromeo de Monterey del Carmelo.

In previous chapters, the details of its transfer from the Port of Monterey to gentle Rio del Carmelo have been related.

We have seen the blight of secularization fall upon it, Governor Figueroa starting it, Governor Pio Pico completing it. We have seen the Indians scattered, when Carmel became a pueblo, a few to retain small patches of their land in Carmel Valley and in the foothills, only to lose them to land-grabbers of high repute, after the American occupation. It is a curious fact, however, that in most instances, the lands thus acquired have passed into other hands than the families of the racketeers. Paisano and Anglo-Saxon.

We have seen the last padre transport his belongings to Monterey, leaving the Mission to its fate, the buildings of the quadrangle falling to ruin. The Indians, "freed from the slavery of the Padres," refusing to work repairing them. The roof fell in 1852. Later, in a vandalistic effort to locate the tombs of Fathers Serra, Crespi, and Lasuen, the church was further de-roofed.

And in the general disintegration, settlers and townspeople fell upon the Mission, helping themselves to adobes and tiles. Also, whatever else could be of use—baptismal fonts for farm wash-basins, for garden seats, and for other quaint uses; doors and window frames for their houses, sometimes for firewood for clambakes in the sanctuary. It is reported by Vischer that clambakes in the old church were a favorite outdoor sport in 1872, when he visited the Mission. He tells us further that one of the liveliest forms of entertainment at the clambakes were shooting-matches in the church, the figures and paintings the targets. The '70s, it will be remembered, registered the lowest ebb of civilization in the United States, using the term to indicate the esthetic understanding of the people, as exhibited by their feeling for art and architecture, and reflected in their manners.

During the years between 1846 and 1850, when California achieved statehood, the army officers administering the government were brought face to face with the wrongs that had been committed through the execution of the Act of Secularization. And through their initiative, Congress appointed a Land Commission to investigate what Secretary of State Halleck, Monterey (later General Halleck), had declared to be a hopeless muddle.

The commission held sessions in various parts of the department, a long one in Monterey, where disputants presented their claims. A busy era for the capital.

Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany (Dominican), presented the claims of Carmel Mission. Though the facts were indisputable that the Mission lands, covering thousands of acres, belonging to the Indians by virtue of Spanish and Mexican laws, which the United States had agreed by treaty to respect, little resulted, except the return of the immediate property belonging to the Church—less than ten acres, with the buildings on it.

Spanish-Mexican laws made clear that the Mission churches and such buildings as were necessary to their administration, their vineyards and orchards, and their cemeteries, were inalienable. On that score, Bishop Alemany recovered approximately nine acres of all the lands made valuable by the labor of the neophytes, who had been taught from the beginning that what they produced was their property, held in trust. But they had been "freed" by the Paisano Chiefs, who took over the Mission property for their own. And not only were the lands of the Indians appropriated under the guise of law, but their labor for twenty years, to support the military and civil government. Over $500,000 was reported due the Missions by Governor de Sola in 1820. It must have been twice that in 1840. Never a cent had been paid, according to Hittell, Bancroft and Eldredge. Carmel suffered more than most, because of her proximity to the Presidio, and the resultant demands made upon the capital Mission.

The grant to Bishop Alemany included two and thirty-five hundredths acres on which the church stands, and six and sixty-five hundredths acres of orchard. It should have included the entire area on the north hill; south to the hills; Carmel Valley; and west to the ocean, in a most limited interpretation. But too much pressure had been brought to bear, and too much time had elapsed since Pio Pico sold the Mission under the hammer. The six and sixty-five-hundreths acres in the award jumped over property showing to this day ruins of adobe walls, to the orchard at the foot of the hill. And, by a curious twist of fate, in which a sacred trust was betrayed, the choicest part, at the foot of the hill, has been alienated into private ownership. The facts are clear. If church authorities, by a ruse, were induced to sign away to designing persons a part of the Old Mission orchard—property so valiantly fought for and won over a half-century ago—it would seem eminently proper for the hierarchy to take necessary steps to bring about its return; or cloud the title, to warn innocent purchasers that they should not reap a whirlwind, The records are perfectly clear as to the Land Commission award. The alienation took place in the late 1920s. A stain upon the honor of the Church.

As for the church in which the founders of California are entombed, much very good restoration, under the skilled hand of Harry Downie, directed by the pastor, is under way. Many of the fine stone carvings that distinguish Carmel Mission church are in course of repair. Many of the old paintings, some of them belonging to Mission San Antonio de Padua, by the way, have been repaired, and the outlook for the once abandoned "Mission where Serra sleeps" is encouraging. While the barn roof remains, however, nothing matters much. It throws the whole scheme out of line. But replacement along the old lines is a promise of the authorities, when funds become available. Meantime the rooms in front of the church are being rebuilt, including what was once the cell in which Fr. Junipero dwelt, and where he laid him down to rest.

Lovely Mission of Carmelo! When shall the day arrive when the brown-robed Franciscans will again be in possession of the sanctuary they reared in the long ago, where they may tend with love and reverence the shrine of California?

"The Franciscans at Carmel, and California's picture would be complete," a sentiment expressed by Dr. Herbert E. Bolton in an address on Serra's birthday in Golden Gate Park, a few years ago. He reflects the feeling of an increasingly large number of Californians, in and out of the Church. Santa Barbara rejoices in the presence of the Franciscans, who, at the solicitation of the Batbatenos, go about the town in their habits, filling the picture as they go. How particularly fitting in Carmel, the Mission where rest California's First Pioneers!

When will the Church authorities carry out this just thing—this desired thing—so obvious to all who are on the outside, looking in? The fact that Carmel Mission is an excellent source of revenue from tourists may, however, stand in the way. Again, it may not. A sense of fitness, justice and public sentiment may prevail. 'Twould be a gracious act.
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