A history of California’s missions
Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sails into San Pedro Bay and claims the California coast for the king of Spain.
Spanish Catholic missionaries from the Jesuit order begin colonizing Baja California, beginning with Loreto. Sixteen more missions will follow in the next 70 years.
About 300,000 Indians live in Alta California, organized into about 80 autonomous groups, sustaining themselves mostly through hunting, gathering and fishing.
Spain expels the Jesuits from Baja California and gives control to another Catholic order, the Franciscans.
Spanish soldiers and Franciscan friars, led by 55-year-old Father Junípero Serra, found the first Alta California mission in San Diego. Spain’s king is eager to strengthen his hold on the region before Russian fur-traders can move south from Alaska. Once baptized, Indian converts (known as “neophytes”) are typically forced to remain and are taught farming, weaving, carpentry and leather-working.
As the missionaries advance up the coast, European diseases spread among Indians, killing thousands. A native group attacks the Mission San Diego, killing Father Luís Jayme.
Serra dies at age 70 in Carmel, having established nine missions. Father Fermín Lasuén takes over the chain. Friars and soldiers expand the network of farms and ranches, using Indian converts as captive laborers.