This post is PART 2 of a series of posts on the early history of North San Diego County, with a focus on the local missions. Here is a link to Part 1. I plan to post the rest between now and Tuesday morning.
In Part 1, I wrote about the beginning of the Mission San Luis Rey in North San Diego County and the lives of the Spanish Franciscan padres and Luiseno Mission Indians up to the mid-19th century.
By 1852, the Hon. B.D. Wilson of Los Angeles issued a report to the United States Interior Department about the status of the California Indians. The Indians had become laborers, mechanics and servants, speaking Spanish and in many cases able to read and write the language. Helen Hunt Jackson (Glimpses of California and Its Missions, published in 1883) summarized and quoted part of Wilson’s report:
He estimates that there were at that time in the counties of Tulare, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego over fifteen thousand Indians who had been connected with the missions in those counties. They were classified as the Tulareños, Cahuillas, San Luiseños, and Diegueños, the latter two being practically one nation, speaking one language, and being more generally Christianized than the others. They furnished, Mr. Wilson says, “the majority of the laborers, mechanics, and servants of San Diego and Los Angeles counties.” They all spoke the Spanish language, and a not inconsiderable number could read and write it. They had built all the houses in the country, had taught the whites how to make brick, mud mortar, how to use asphalt on roofs; they understood irrigation, were good herders.
It is interesting that Jackson described the Luisenos and Dieguenos as “practically one nation, speaking one language, and being more generally Christianized than the others.” According to Pablo Tac (one of the Luisenos who was educated in Rome in the early 19th century), the Luisenos and Dieguenos had warred against each other constantly before the arrival of the Spanish padres, who apparently brought peace to the two warring factions in the early 1800’s. By the middle of the 19th century, their conflict with each other appears to have been set aside.
California was still a Mexican province when the Mexican-American War began on May 13, 1846. However, support for the Mexican government was not without opposition from California’s hispanic population. Don Marron, for one, supported the Americans. Don Pio Pico was by then the Mexican Civil Governor living near Los Angeles, in constant conflict with the Mexican Commandante General, and it was plain to all that Mexican control would not last.
Still, the future was hard to forecast in a growing but still wild environment. California’s white population at the beginning of 1846 was only about 10,000 people, with a sprinkling of American traders, sailors, lumberjacks, and others who had no thought of leaving. In late 1846, a Mormon battalion camped at the Mission San Luis Rey, which had become a fort. For twenty-six highly celebrated days from June 14 to July 9, 1846, an army of twenty-four Americans declared the existence of The Republic of California, a separate nation whose national flag proudly depicted a lone star and a grizzly bear. British warships could be seen off the California coast, and rumors abounded that both England and the United States wanted California.
When the war ended on February 2, 1848, California became a province of the United States. By the time that news reached California in late summer, gold had been discovered at Sutter’s Mill in northern California, and the news had reached the rest of the world.
Less than three years later, on September 9, 1850, California was granted statehood in the United States. By that time, Americans had poured into northern California, drawn by the Gold Rush and new opportunities.
While new residents poured into California, the eastern United States was seeing an influx of immigrants from Europe and the British Isles. Between 1830 and 1860, famine in Ireland and political unrest in Germany sent 3,500,000 Irish and German immigrants to the United States. During the same time frame, all other countries combined accounted for only 1,500,000 new United States residents. As the nineteenth century went on, the numbers increased.
However, the east and west coasts were still quite separated from each other with no easy means of transportation between the two. Once a family arrived in California, they were generally there to stay, like it or not, for the difficulty of returning could be worse than that of staying put. There was not a strong sense of need to unite the California churches, other than the Roman Catholic Church, with the churches of Europe or those of the eastern United States.
Although technically part of the United States, San Diego County was not easy to reach in those days, even from other parts of California. A mountainous terrain, coupled with sandy, rocky soil and roads on which someone could easily become lost, made travel difficult. San Diego County's Christian population was still almost exclusively Catholic, while the Gold Rush drew immigrants to Northern California.
Northern Californians who were not Roman Catholics organized the "Diocese of California" in 1850. The diocese had no bishop, and the Constitution of the Diocese did not mention the Episcopal Church. The diocese went on for a couple of years before it actually obtained a bishop. Dr. John Rawlinson, the present-day archivist of the Episcopal Church U.S.A.'s present day Diocese of California, has concluded that the early churchmen of northern California envisioned a church with “a pan-Pacific vision and set of connections.” Initially, they sought out the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Alaska and the Americas, hoping that he would consecrate one of the California clergy as a Bishop of California. However, they were not prepared to become fully Russian Orthodox, which would have required the consent of the Russian Tsar and would have taken many years.
While Northern Californian churches formed an episcopal-like diocese that was not yet recognized by the Episcopal Church, San Diego received its first Episcopal priest on December 31, 1850. The Rev. Dr. John Reynolds was sent to San Diego as a military chaplain and formed a small civilian congregation in the city. Although his small Episcopal congregation lasted for only the few years of his military duty, it was the first church in San Diego that was not Roman Catholic. His ties to the Episcopal Church initially lay through the military, so that his status as a priest of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States was on firm ground. His arrival, and the earliest days of San Diego’s first Episcopal church, were described by William E. Smyth in 1907 in his book History of San Diego 1542-1908:
"The Reverend John Reynolds, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, was appointed chaplain of the Post at San Diego, on December 31, 1850, and was army chaplain for the troops stationed at the mission until August 31, 1854. On July 4, 1853, the Herald announced that "hereafter the Rev. Dr. John Reynolds . . . chaplain of the U. S. Army, will conduct divine service at the courthouse, and for the first time we have Protestant church services in our town of San Diego." The very first service at Old Town was held at 3 P.M., on July 10, 1853. The details of these early meetings are meager, but the Herald and "John Phoenix" supply some local color. The paper complained that "an audience of over a dozen is rarely seen at the court house, where Dr. Reynolds preaches on Sunday, while the Sabbath calm is broken in upon by the riot of the inebriated, and the very words of holy writ are drowned by the clicking of billiard balls and calls for cocktails from the adjacent saloon." Derby's references to Dr. Reynolds are almost entirely in a joking way, and not to be taken seriously."
It was during the time that Dr. Reynolds led the sole Episcopal church in San Diego that Episcopalians in northern California decided to seek out an Episcopal bishop who did not have another jurisdiction. They sent a delegation to the General Convention of 1853, but the House of Bishops had some reservations about them, knowing their history of approaching the Russian Orthodox Church and Bishop Southgate. Beyond that, the northern California population had a Gold Rush reputation as the Wild West. After the Californians left, the House of Bishops declared the state to be a missionary territory.
In the last days of the convention, an Episcopal priest named William Ingraham Kip was chosen to become the first Episcopalian missionary bishop of California, something of a surprise even to Bishop Kip. Ordinarily, a missionary bishop is appointed for an area without a church, and he is sent to plant churches in his territory. In the words of John Rawlinson, “technically, Bishop Kip was a bishop without a diocese, and the Diocese of California was a diocese without a bishop.”
Dr. Kip's book, The Early Days of My Episcopate, describes the little Spanish town known as San Diego where he unexpectedly arrived in January, 1854. Off the Coast of San Diego on January 18, his ship encountered a storm and was shipwrecked. Those on board were rescued, but the shipwreck left the new bishop, his wife and his son stranded in San Diego for several days before they set out again by sea. The following is a portion of Bishop Kip’s description of Old Town San Diego and its abandoned Mission San Diego de Alcala during the week that he and his family thus unexpectedly became the houseguests of San Diego’s Don Juan Bandini:
"His [Don Juan Bandini’s] residence at San Diego, at which we have now been domesticated for nearly a week, is just on the edge of the town. It is built in the Spanish style, around the sides of a quadrangle into which most of the windows open, and is only one story high, with massive walls of adobes (sun-dried bricks). Everything here is conducted with such ease that we feel as much at home as if we had lived here for months. Nothing is omitted that could conduce to our comfort, and in the elegance with which the Señora Bandini presides over her household and entertains her guests, we found our ideas of the grace and dignity of the Spanish ladies fully realized.
"San Diego is a little Spanish town of about a thousand inhabitants, built in a straggling style, and with a perfectly foreign air. The houses are mostly constructed of adobes, except that here and there some white painted, clapboard shop tells us of the occupancy of one of our countrymen. As usual, the town is built around a large Plaza, where the population, Spaniards and Indians, wrapped in their ample mantles, sun themselves and lounge; and here, on Sundays, are their amusements. Through the week, however, it is as quiet as possible. The climate is delicious, said to be the most healthy on the coast, reminding me indeed of that of Naples. The people do not seem disposed to show any activity, except when on horseback. Now and then some cavalier, mounted on a fine horse, dashes across the Plaza, lasso in hand, his huge spurs and stirrups jingling as he goes. The American population, is gradually coming in, and in a few years the place will lose its Spanish characteristics. During the Mexican war, San Diego was taken by Commodore Stockton, and on the hill above, are the remains of the breastwork he threw up to command the town.
"Opposite to Don Juan's is a long Spanish house, the residence of the Padre, one end of which is fitted up as a Chapel. I looked into it when passing, but found everything, pictures, images, etc., in the worst possible state of tawdriness. One of our countrymen--a steerage passenger from the ship--followed me in, and lounged round the place with his hat on and a cigar in his mouth! Four miles further up the harbor is New Town, a more recent settlement, where several of our army officers are quartered; while six miles farther back in the country, at the old Mission of San Diego, a force of about one hundred soldiers is stationed. This is at present the residence also of the Rev. Mr. Reynolds, one of our clergy, who is a Chaplain in the United States Army. He officiates there on Sunday morning, and in the afternoon comes down to San Diego and holds service,--the only one, except the Romish, in the place."