Mission San Luis Obispo De Tolosa - History

History

In the year 1772, Gaspar de Portolà discovered San Luis Obispo on a journey north to rediscover the Bay of Monterey . It was in this year when San Luis Obispo received its nickname as the la Cañada de los Osos ("Valley of the Bears") by diarist, Padre Juan Crespí. Briefly following the discovery of San Luis Obispo, the city was forgotten. In 1772, when food supplies started to dwindle, Father Junípero Serra remembered the "Valley of the Bears." He decided to send hunters on expeditions to kill the bears in order to feed the Spanish and the Neophytes (Indians that converted to Christianity) in the north. The huge success of the hunting expedition caused Father Junípero Serra to consider building a mission in fertile soil San Luis Obispo. Upon further investigation he was convinced that San Luis Obispo would be a perfect site for a mission based on its surplus of natural resources, good weather and the Chumash, a local friendly Indian tribe who could provide the labor for constructing the mission. The mission became the fifth in the mission chain constructed by Father Junípero Serra.

Father Serra sent an expedition down south to San Luis Obispo to start building the mission. On September 1, 1772 a cross was erected near San Luis Obispo Creek and Father Junípero Serra celebrated the first mass, marking the site as the destination for yet another mission. However, briefly following the first mass, Father Junípero Serra returned to San Diego and left the responsibility of the mission's construction to Father Jose Cavaller. Father Cavaller, five soldiers and two neophytes began building what is now Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Father Cavaller received help in the building of the Mission from the local friendly natives, the Chumash Indians. The Chumash helped construct palisades, which would serve as temporary buildings for the Mission. However due to several Indian tribes which were determined to get rid of European settlers, they set these buildings ablaze . Because of this, Father Cavaller was forced to rebuild the buildings using adobe and tile structures.

Starting in 1794 Mission San Luis Obispo went through extensive building operations . They helped build numerous buildings to accommodate the nearby Indians. They also made many improvements and additions to the Mission. The renovation was finally finished when they completed the quadrangle in 1819, celebrated a year later by the arrival of two mission bells from Lima, Peru . The arrival of the bells marked the end of improvements made to Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa for many years . In 1830 Fr. Luis Gil y Taboada took over the mission however 3 years later he died . Then in 1842 the death of Fr. Ramon Abella marked the last Franciscan at the mission .

In 1845, Governor Pío Pico declared the Mission buildings for sale and he sold everything except the church for a total of $510. John C. Frémont and his "California Battalion" used the Mission as a base of operations during their war with Mexico in 1846 (see Bear Flag Revolt). The Mission fell into ruins during the period of secularization and the priests that were left would rent out rooms to help support the Mission. The Mission San Luís Obispo de Tolosa became the first courthouse and jail in San Luis Obispo County, California. In 1872, during the 100th anniversary of the Mission, improvements began, but real restoration did not begin until 1933. The Mission is still the center of the busy downtown area, and functions as a Roman Catholic parish church for the City of San Luis Obispo in the Diocese of Monterey. Although many changes have come to the Mission, it remains the center of town. In 1970 the Mission "was recognized as the center of the City of San Luis Obispo, with the dedication of Mission Plaza ."

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