Santa Inés Mission is the 19th of 21 California missions established by the Franciscan Fathers. Padre Junipero Serra founded the first 8 missions beginning with mission San Diego de Alcala in San Diego in 1769.
These missions were established by the Spanish crown which controlled the secular activities of the Catholic Church in Spain and its territories. Together with the military, Spain could establish a presence in California and protect this territory from Russia and England.
The military established presidios close to ports and acted as a provisional government – Spain’s representative. They distributed funds for the Missions’ maintenance, and recommended how many padres would be allowed at the various Missions.
The Franciscan Padres established missions to teach the native population (the Chumash at this mission) the Spanish culture, Christianity and a trade. The military viewed the missions as a source of provisions and man-power. Only the zeal and protection of the Franciscan Padres kept the military from exploiting the population. At the end of 10-15 years, the mission was to become a pueblo, the Chumash would receive lands, and the padres would become parish priests.
Santa Inés was founded by Fr. Estévan Tapis on September 17, 1804. Fr. José Calzada and Fr. Romualdo Gutiérrez remained at the mission to begin the building and teaching of the Chumash. They are buried under the altar of the church. Also at the new mission were 5 soldiers and their families and neophytes (Indians (Chumash) learning to become Christians) from Santa Barbara and La Purisima. The census of 1806 recorded 132 neophytes from Santa Barbara, 145 from La Purisima, 570 local Chumash, 4 white children (soldiers’ children). The Padres began to keep detailed records of baptisms, marriages and deaths. Many of these records are in the archives with many more records stored at San Fernando Mission.
Among the skills learned from the Padres and the Mexican settlers who came with the Padres were, ranching, farming, weaving, leather making for boots and saddles, and candle making. The Chumash built the aqueduct to bring water from the Alamo Pintado River (1 ½ miles north) to the reservoir and the lavenderia building by installing tile pipes.
Indian revolt of 1824 was begun at the Mission Santa Inés when a visiting Chumash Indian from La Purisima and a Corporal named Cota at the Mission got into an argument. The Corporal began to strike the Indian. The Indian challenged the soldier by stating that the King would never allow the soldier to strike him. The soldier countered with “We have no king, the general is our leader” and began to whip the Indian. Other Indians ran to inform La Purisima. Soon the revolt broke out. The Chumash burned the soldiers’ quarters and the soldiers burned down the Chumash houses. The flames began to burn the church. As soon as the Chumash discovered that the church was on fire, they began to put out the fire. The boys ran to protect the vestments. The revolt then spread to Santa Barbara Mission. The revolt at Mission Santa Inés ended the next day.
Mexican independence from Spain (1821) cut off supplies and money to the soldiers’ stationed in California. Becoming increasingly poor and watching their families suffer; the soldiers’ became more reliant on the Missions for food and clothing and angry with this situation.
Santa Inés Mission was secularized by the Mexican government in 1835. Secularization meant the replacement of the Padres as managers of the missions by government appointed overseers. The Spanish Franciscans were replaced by Mexican Franciscans who were allowed to provide only for the spiritual needs of the Chumash. Under the new policy, the Chumash were mistreated and began to leave the mission. They either worked at the settlers’ ranches or returned to their villages.
The first Seminary in California (Our Lady of Refuge) was built at this Mission in 1844, to train young men to become priests. Later another seminary building (renamed Our Lady of Guadalupe) was constructed on lands granted by Gov. Micheltorena (about 1.5 miles from the mission). Also the first primary school for settlers’ sons was established along with the new seminary. The entire tract was known as La Cañada de los Pinos or College Ranch.
1862 President Lincoln returns some of Mission Santa Inés to the Franciscans.
Fr. Alexander Buckler arrives at Mission in 1904 and begins to restore the Mission. His niece Mamie Goulet (later Abbott) begins the restoration of vestments that had been discarded. Together they physically re-built some of the mission buildings with the help from passing hobos who were housed in the garden. The bell-tower was rebuilt after collapsing in 1911 with the help of some of the newly arrived Danish settlers.
1924 the Capuchin Franciscan Fathers from Ireland are assigned to Mission Santa Inés and began a massive renovation in 1947. They added the 2nd story to the convento which had been destroyed in the earthquake of 1812. They also created the museum, and began cataloging the art and artifacts discovered at the mission. The Capuchin Franciscans continue today to serve the needs of its parish members and the greater community.