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History of San Luis Obispo 3History of San Luis Obispo 3 Joseph A. Carotenuti City Historian/Archivist Our long journey today began on September 1, 1772. Franciscan friar Junipero Serra performed the founding rites and Mission San Luis de Tolosa became the fifth mission settlement…and eventually a pueblo, town and city. At least 240 years ago there was a name…and little else. Junipero Serra would return here six times but on September 2, Padre Joseph Cavaller, five natives from Baja and two soldiers bid farewell to him and the others who were heading south. Our community began with minimal supplies, great hopes and fervent prayers. What is considered the Mission Period in California history has been documented (often inaccurately) in numerous publications. Suffice to note here, while much has been remembered about the missions, the one named after a French saint reminds us of our civic roots and obligations. Thus, over the next 50 years, the spiritual center grew as neophytes required food, clothing, education and the stuff of life as well as religious attention. In what was an increasingly complex mixture of the sacred and secular, the Mission period parallels the Spanish governance (or lack thereof) of the Alta region of New Spain. Records indicate births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages and deaths. Required to maintain production statistics, from wheat to garbanzo beans, sheep to horses, the Franciscan reports capture a growing enterprise where progress was measured more by the former set of records than the latter. Much of what is called local history was then – and now – dictated by others long distant from our valley. Politics and political power always change and Spain relinquished control of California (among other vast pieces of real estate) to new governance in Mexico in 1820. San Luis Obispo along with the rest of the fringe of the Mexican empire began a quarter century of transformation…often chaotic, mostly unjust…but real. A sign of growing prominence, the mission settlement was declared a pueblo by Governor Alvarado in 1824?? This status was not confirmed by the central government in Mexico City. Some 30 years later, this will become a critical factor in our heritage. By the time California became a “Department” of Mexico, the 20 Spanish missions stretched from San Diego to San Rafael (the 21st in Solano was founded in 1823) and claimed some of the more productive land in the future state. In an agonizingly short period, the mission system was dismantled and the land transferred to private ownership. To Spain, the land was held by the padres in trust until the native population could form and supervise their own pueblos. As the land around the county missions was divided, the non-native population increased as did commerce…and crime. During what some call the “rancho” period, families established themselves on vast stretches of the central coast and, today, the names Dana, Branch, Price, etc. remain part of the local lore. Within the modern city, a few adobes help visualize a community dedicated to agriculture and trade. As the “Boston” traders (any ship from the eastern seaboard) increased along the coast, some decided to relocate in what was an exceptional change of weather. Easterners also brought a different economic outlook, experiences in governance and – especially – the ownership of land. Next time: San Luis Obispo joins the Union. Questions? Contact: jacarotenuti@gmail.com