The Mission Santa Cruz Mystery

MillerMaxfield

The Mission Santa Cruz Mystery – Seven Clues to Find the Site of the First Mission
By Melanie J. Mayer with artwork by Ann Elizabeth Thiermann
@ 2019 Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, Santa Cruz, CA

THE MISSION

SANTA CRUZ

MYSTERY

Seven Clues To Find The Site

Of The First Mission

by Melanie J Mayer

ThatsMyPark ® PRESS

PUBLISHED BY FRIENDS OF SANTA CRUZ STATE PARKS.

All proceeds benefit Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park.


The Mission

Santa Cruz Mystery:

Seven Clues To Find The Site

Of The First Mission

by

Melanie J Mayer

With artwork by

Ann Elizabeth Thiermann

© 2019 Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

Santa Cruz, California


The Mission Santa Cruz Mystery:

Seven Clues To Find The Site Of The First Mission

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction: What is the Mystery? ................................................................... 1

Using This Guide ...........................................................................................2

What You Will Need .....................................................................................3

Some Previous Candidates for Location .....................................................3

Clue 1: Near Where Portolá Crossed the San Lorenzo River .......................... 11

The Portolá Expedition ..............................................................................12

Clue 2: 2,500 Feet from Laurel Creek Waterfall .............................................27

Clue 3: The Portolá Expedition Campsite ........................................................33

Clue 4: Father Palóu’s Description, 1774..........................................................39

Clue 5: Maps from the 1790s ...........................................................................43

Malaspina Map, 1791 ................................................................................. 44

Córdoba Map, 1796.....................................................................................47

Clue 6: 1791 Report from Founding Priests ....................................................53

Clue 7: Description by Hermenegildo Sal, Supervisor of Construction ........57

Your Best Estimate for Location ......................................................................59

Then What Happened? .............................................................................. 60

History ........................................................................................................61

vii


Acknowledgements ..........................................................................................63

Bibliography ......................................................................................................69

Index ..................................................................................................................75

Conclusions: “Mission Flats” ............................................................................85

FIGURES AND MAPS

Fig. 1. Modern Topographic Map of Downtown Santa Cruz ...........................5

Fig. 2. Northern Section of Portolá Expedition’s Route on a Road Map .......13

Fig. 3. Weary Portolá Expedition Begins Crossing the San Lorenzo River ... 17

Fig. 4. Detail from Bache 1853 Coast Survey Map (transparency) ................19

Fig. 5. Repeat of Modern Topographic Map of Downtown Santa Cruz ........ 21

Fig. 6. Bird’s-Eye-View of Santa Cruz in 1870 .................................................32

Fig. 7. Repeat of Bache 1853 Coast Survey Map .............................................35

Fig. 8. Corvettes of the Malaspina Expedition at Anchor ..............................42

Fig. 9. Malaspina Expedition Map of Monterey Bay, 1791 ..............................45

Fig. 10. Detail of Córdoba 1796 Map of Santa Cruz Area .............................. 48

viii


The Mission

Santa Cruz Mystery:

Seven Clues To Find The Site Of The First Mission

INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS THE MYSTERY?

Where was the first Santa Cruz Mission church built in 1791? “Wasn’t it

on Mission Hill?” you may ask in puzzlement. No, it wasn’t.

The original site for the church was selected and inspected several times

by various Spanish explorers and churchmen over a 22-year period in the late

1700s. When construction of Mission Santa Cruz finally began in 1791, it was

not located on the hill above downtown Santa Cruz, now known as Mission

Hill, [1] near the Mission Plaza bordered today by High, Sylvar, Mission, and

Emmet Streets. Where was it?

This Guide gives seven clues from historical sources [2] that describe the

first church’s location. If you follow all the clues, you will have a pretty good

idea about where it was. You may also get a sense of how this area—what

became the City of Santa Cruz—looked over 250 years ago.

1. Donald T. Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names. (Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Historical Society, 1986) 208.

2. The sources relating to each clue are cited in footnotes. A footnote does not “prove” anything. It just

tells you the source of the cited information, with full information about the reference given in the

Bibliography beginning on page 69. Sometimes a footnote also may include extra information, details,

or alternative ideas that you may want to think about later or in a discussion group.

1


³ THE MISSION SANTA CRUZ MYSTERY

³

³

Using This Guide

This Guide is designed to lead you on a walking historical tour of downtown

Santa Cruz. You can use it on your own. Or follow the clues with friends,

family members, or classmates. You may choose to just read the Guide, thinking

about the clues and looking carefully at the maps and figures as you read. In

fact, you will probably want to do this even before you set out on foot.

Although there are seven clues to think about, each presented in a separate

chapter, they don’t have to be considered all at one time. You can start

with the first one or two clues, then stop. Come back for some more exploring

on another day or days. But do follow the order of the clues because the

information about location builds on what has come before.

The discussion of each clue includes actual records of early European

explorers or settlers. Have fun thinking about these people as you look around!

At the end of each chapter is a highlighted “TO DO” section. There you will

see specific step-by-step instructions on what you can do to actively evaluate

a clue by using the maps provided and by visiting the site(s) of the clue in

today’s Santa Cruz. You are asked to keep track of each clue’s information on

the map in Figure 5 on page 21.

Record all marks on the Modern Map on page 21. For example, you can

use a pencil to shade the boundary limit of an area. Or draw a circle around

an area described in a clue. Label your line or area with its clue number.

Using different colors for some of the clues may help to keep them clear too.

2


CHESTNUT STREET 4 CHURCH 1 LUMBER CO. 2 TOWN CLOCK 3


N

FIG. 1

Scale: 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 ft


— CLUE 1 —

NEAR WHERE PORTOLÁ CROSSED

THE SAN LORENZO RIVER

The founders looked for a site for the original Mission Santa Cruz for over

twenty years. They knew life on the frontier had to be self-sufficient. There

were no nearby stores so all foods, household goods, tools, and materials

had to be produced on site. Thus, the founders were careful to find a place

with easy access to excellent water, building materials, fertile soil, and good

grazing lands.

What couldn’t be grown or manufactured had to be transported to the

mission from Mexico in ships or carried from nearby missions or forts (presidios)

by foot or on pack animals. Roads needed to be laid out and improved

before crude carts with wooden wheels (carretas) might help with heavy loads.

So some thought was also given to how easily a proposed mission could be

accessed by water or trails. And then, because establishing missions on the

Spanish frontier of the Californias—Baja and Alta [13] —was a joint effort between

the Spanish government and the Catholic Church, both groups had to agree on

the location and plan for funding, building, and populating the mission sites.

13. Alta (upper) California is now simply the state of California in the United States of America. Baja

(lower) California consists of two states of the United Mexican States that form the Baja Peninsula:

Baja California [formerly Baja California Norte (north) ] and Baja California Sur [south].

11


³ near Where POrTOLÁ CrOSSed The San LOrenZO rIVer

³

³

CLUE 1 TO DO

1. Overlay the 1853 Coast Survey (page 19) on the Modern Map (page 21)

aligning the red cross-hairs of the two maps. Locate where the route

of the Portolá Expedition (assuming it was approximately along Soquel

Avenue) intersected the 1853 east bank of the San Lorenzo River.

Where is that intersection today? (Consult the page 35 version of 1853

map to clarify details.)

2. Walk to that intersection. Can you see the mouth of the San Lorenzo

from this spot? Find where the mouth becomes visible from the 1853

east bank of the San Lorenzo River.

3. Using the transparency (page 19), make an “x” on the Modern Map of

downtown Santa Cruz (page 21) that shows where you would have

needed to be in 1853 on the east bank of the river to see its mouth and

widening (the “good-sized inlet”) near Monterey Bay (the “embayment”).

4. Starting from your “x” mark, on the Modern Map make a line of hatches

(# # # #...) in a northerly direction along the east side of the San Lorenzo

River corresponding to the 1853 east bank of the San Lorenzo River.

5. Label the line of hatches “CLUE 1”.

25


THE MISSION

SANTA CRUZ

MYSTERY

Seven Clues To Find The Site

Of The First Mission

by Melanie J Mayer

THANKS FOR

LOOKING INSIDE.

The book is available online for $26.

Proceeds support local parks

and beaches.

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