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Mission Santa Cruz

Mission Santa Cruz replica

A modern replica of a mission church and an aging adobe building stand on a beautiful site as the only reminders of the ill-fated Mission Santa Cruz. Mission Santa Cruz was originally founded in 1791 on the floodplain of the San Lorenzo River. That winter, the Mission was flooded by the swollen river and the padres rebuilt the Mission on the hill overlooking the river. Within 6 years, the quadrangle was complete, with a 2-story granary and workshops.

In 1797, the Spanish governor of Monterey founded the pueblo (town) of Branciforte across the San Lorenzo River from Mission Santa Cruz. The initial colonists of Branciforte were 9 vagabonds and criminals with their families. More colonists of the same type arrived later. the colonists encroached on Mission lands and took over the pastures of Mission Indians (Native Americans). When the padres complained, the governor defended the colonists, saying that the Indians were dying out anyway, and that soon there would be no need for the Mission, itself. The restraint put upon Mission Indians may have led to the death of one of the padres. Accounts of the death vary, but one account attributed the death to natural causes, and an autopsy, the first in Alta California, was conducted, and 7 neophytes were charged with murder and sentenced to a severe flogging.

In 1818, fear that the pirate Hyppolyte de Bouchard would attack the Mission led to an evacuation, since the pirate had already captured the presidio of Monterey and set fire to the buildings. The governor ordered the padre-in-charge, Ramon Olges, to pack up the valuables and send them inland, and to flee to Mission Soledad. The padre left word with the officials in Branciforte to carry out the governor’s orders. Although de Bouchard did not land at Santa Cruz, the colonists from Branciforte looted the Mission.

The total population of Mission Santa Cruz reached 523 at its peak. Mission Santa Cruz was among the first missions to be secularized. Land was granted to individuals, and the Mission Indians just faded away. The buildings collapsed, one after another. The church tower fell in 1840. The church itself collapsed after an earthquake in 1857. In 1858, a wood-frame church was built on the property. In 1889, the Gothic-style Holy Cross Church was built on the site. A half block away is the restored Mission Adobe, now a state park, that was built in 1822 to house neophytes. In 1931, Gladys Sullivan Doyle used her own funds to construct the half-size replica of Mission Santa Cruz pictured above.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®.

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