Chapter IV. The Cross of Santa Fe
With a few men and three days' provisions consisting of small cakes made of bran and water, which was the only food they had left, this brave Spanish officer marched away, little imagining the honor which was soon to be his. Leading this expedition, he was the first white man to explore the peninsula where now stands the guardian city of the western coast, and we must wonder what were his thoughts when, pushing his way up some brush-covered heights, he came out suddenly upon the great bay we call San Francisco.
What a mighty surprise was that sixty miles of peaceful water that had so long remained hidden from European explorers, baffling the anxious gaze of Cabrillo, the faithful explorations of Ferrelo, the eagle eyes of Drake, and the earnest search of Vizcaino!
Pushing steadily on toward Point Reyes, Ortega encountered a second surprise, when from the Presidio hills he looked down on beautiful Golden Gate, whose rumpled waters seemed to say: -
"No farther can you come. We keep guard here."
Seeing that it was quite impossible for him to reach Point Reyes, Ortega decided to return to Portola. He found the commander and his party so weakened by sickness and the lack of food that it had been decided to explore no farther, but to return at once to the southern mission. After a painful march of sixty days the party reached San Diego.
Bitter was the disappointment of Padre Junipero Serra at the failure to found the mission of Monterey. he did not believe, as many of the party reported, that the bay was filled up with sand. Keener still was his grief when Portola, after looking over the supply of food, announced that unless the ship San Antonio or the sloop San Jose arrived by a certain date with provisions, they would have to abandon Upper California and return to the peninsula.
The padre at once called the people together for a nine days' session of prayer and other church services at which to pray for the coming of the relief boat. Portola, though he attended the services, went steadily on with his preparations for departure. On the morning of the day before the one set for the beginning of the march toward Lower California, the padres went to the heights overlooking the bay, where they remained watching and praying. At sea a heavy fog hung over the water. Hour after hour passed as they gazed out on the lovely bay. Noon came, but they would not return to the mission to rest or eat. The afternoon wore away, the sun sank in the clouds above the horizon, then, as all hope seemed gone, the fog was lifted by a sunset breeze, and there, far out at sea, they saw a white sail. The good men fell on their knees in thanksgiving, while their Indian servants ran to carry the news to camp.
This vessel, the San Antonio, brought not only abundant provisions but fresh orders from Galvez to hurry the work at Monterey. The settlement of Upper California was now made certain.
An expedition by land and the San Antonio by sea immediately started northward. A few weeks later Padre Junipero wrote to Padre Palou: "By the favor of God, after a month and a half of painful navigation, the San Antonio found anchor in this port of Monterey, which we find unvarying in circumstances and substance as described by Don Sebastian Vizcaino."
They even found Vizcaino's oak. Indeed, it is said on good authority, that the oak remained standing until 1838, when the high tides washed the earth from its roots so that it fell.
Soon the land expedition arrived, and one June morning in 1770 the members of the two parties, all in their best attire, were gathered on the beach for the purpose of founding the second mission. It must have been a pretty scene, - the stanch little vessel San Antonio, gay with bunting, swinging at anchor a short distance out, while on shore were grouped the sailors in the bright dress of seamen of those times, the soldiers in leather uniform, the governor and his staff in the handsome costumes of Spanish officials, and the padres in their gray robes. Close beside the oak a brush house had been built, bells hung, and an altar erected. While the bells tolled, the solemn service of dedication was held by Padre Junipero, and so was founded the Mission San Carlos de Borromeo at Monterey.
Near each of the earlier coast missions there was also founded a military station called a presidio, a name borrowed from the Roman presidium. The word meant a fort or fortified town. These presidios were intended to guard the safety of the missions from the wild Indians, and to defend the coast from ships of other countries.
After the religious services Governor Portola proceeded to found the presidio and take formal possession in the name of the king of Spain by hoisting and saluting the royal banner, pulling up bunches of grass, and casting stones, which was an ancient manner of taking possession of a piece of land or country. The presidio of Monterey was for a long time the site of the capital of Upper California and therefore most important in the history of the state.
For the sake of better land and water the mission site was soon removed about six miles, to the Carmelo River. Although not so wealthy as some of the missions, it was the home of Padre Junipero Serra, president of all the missions, and so its history is especially interesting.