Santa Cruz

Mission Report: Santa Cruz

Date: 5/16/95

Travel Statistics:

Yesterday we rode from a town called Seaside north of Carmel to Santa Cruz. Unfortunately this trip was not as peaceful as our travels along country roads near Missions San Antonio and Soledad. Our trip to Santa Cruz reminded us how much our world has changed since the early 1800s. North of Monterey we pedaled down busy streets lined with cheap hotels and car dealerships. Soon we found ourselves on Highway 1 listening to big trucks roar past us. Later we turned down a small farm road near Moss Landing where the smell of fresh fertilizer in the fields was so strong that we had to hold our noses. Fortunately we weren't far from Santa Cruz.


Mission Santa Cruz is known as "the hard luck mission." The first hard luck that the Mission suffered came in the form of floods. The original Santa Cruz Mission was located on the banks of the San Lorenzo river near what is now downtown Santa Cruz. This was a perfect location because the river produced such rich, fertile soil for growing food. In fact extra fruits and vegetables from mission's fields sometimes helped feed the people at Mission San Carlos Borromeo. No one predicted that heavy rains would cause the river to swell and flood the mission twice. The second flood forced the padres to rebuild the mission on a hill overlooking the city.

If only the padres knew what further trouble awaited them! The Governor of Spain decided that a pueblo was to be founded a few miles away from the mission. This pueblo was named Branciforte after the Viceroy at that time. To the padres' dismay most of the people that settled the town of Branciforte were convicted criminals. Branciforte soon became a center for smuggling and drinking. Many of the Ohlone Indians from the mission visited this town to learn more about the vices of the colonists. The Franciscans were very frustrated to see members of their mission community exposed to such unchristian behavior. To top off all this misfortune, the people from Branceforte robbed the mission while the padres were at a celebration at nearby Mission Santa Clara.

In the 19th century the mission fell into disrepair. In 1840 it's bell tower fell down and in 1857 the entire mission was destroyed in a bad earthquake. In 1930 a wealthy family planned to build a full-sized copy of Mission Santa Cruz a few hundred yards from where the old mission stood. While the new Mission was being built the stock market crashed. This meant that the family lost their fortune and could only afford to build a mission half the size of the original one.

We walked one block down School Street away from the new mission to visit a building called "the old adobe." The history books that we have read say that this building was used to house the Spanish soldiers that guarded the mission. We learned from the people at Mission Santa Cruz that this is not true. Recently archeologists have discovered clues that lead them to believe that this building was the home of several Oholne Indian families. If the archeologists are right, this building is very unique because it is the only permanent adobe building built by a mission for Native American converts. (We have sent you a picture of archeology students digging for more clues near this building.)

--Brian and Matt

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