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La Purisima Mission

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art (State Historical Landmark)

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Founded in 1787, the La Purisima Mission land holdings once covered nearly 470 square miles. Bordered by the Santa Maria River in the North and the Gaviota coastline in the South, the land was home to the Chumash people and Spanish settlers. The mission was best known for its hides and blankets, and at its peak inhabitants herded as many as 24,000 cattle and sheep.

Today, history lives at La Purisima. The most extensively restored mission in the state, La Purisima hosts over 200,000 visitors each year for recreation and a chance to explore California's heritage.

The mission is open nearly every day for self-guided tours, and frequently the park provides a re-creation of life here during the 1820's, when the residents engaged in weaving, pottery making, candle making, blacksmithing, livestock production, and leatherwork.

In addition to the restored original buildings, the nearly 2,000 acre park is home to 25 miles of hiking trails, a modern Visitor Center and Exhibit Hall, and livestock.


The original mission location is about five miles from the current mission, at the south end of Lompoc. On South F Street.
Mission ruins circa 1900
1854 drawing of mission layout as it would have appeared shortly after it was constructed in second and final location.
C.C.C. workers rebuilding mission. Taken in 1935
Replica of Chumash hut on La Purisima State Historic Park grounds.
Grave and marker in church of Father Mariano Payeras
C.C.C. camp by ruins.

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Established on December 8, 1787 by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuén, it was named after the Virgin Mary. The same day, the first baptism, an Indian, was conducted. By 1802 the poorly made buildings were reconstructed. The original buildings suffered mostly from the many rainy seasons that came through the area. Father Mariano Payeras oversaw the mission, replacing Lausen, for 19 years. The mission would grow and prosper with 1,522 Indians and over 20,000 head of cattle by 1810. 

On the 12th of December in 1812, a four-minute earthquake hit the mission (and the entire coast). The walls of the buildings were badly damaged and largely collapsed during the heavy aftershock that occurred a half hour later. If that wasn’t enough, nature followed this up with torrents of rain. The resulting flood washed out the mission site with most everything lost.

A new site was then selected (the current location) some four miles northeast of the original location. The location was in the “Valley of the Watercress”. Work began on rebuilding the mission. 

The new buildings were built with earthquakes in mind. The walls were four and a half feet thick and reinforced with stones. In a departure from the quadrangle design, normal for missions, the new buildings were built along a line and oriented to minimize shaking during quakes. A complex irrigation system brought water from the hills to the mission; a distance of three miles. The new mission again prospered for awhile.

rom 1815 to 1819, Father Payeras was appointed the President-General of all Alta California (Upper California) missions. He used La Purisima as his headquarters. This helped bring some more prosperity to the mission. However, there were three different events that struck blows to the mission: 1) In 1816, the area was hit with a severe drought, which killed off most of the large sheep herd. 2) In 1818, a fire destroyed most of the worker's homes and 3) Father Payeras died in 1823, his death causing focus placed on La Purisimia to go away. If these three events under Father Payeras were not enough, in 1824, shortly after Payeras' death, supplies to the missions and the Spanish military were largely cut off in 1821 when Mexico declared independence from Spain. This caused friction between the mission residents and soldiers who now had to depend on the mission for support. At Mission Santa Inés (present day Solvang) in 1824, this friction rose to the level of a revolt after a Santa Inés guard flogged a neophyte corporal from La Purísima. The Indians at Santa Inés revolted and, with the help of rebels from Santa Inés, the rebellion spread to La Purísima. The Indians there took over the mission grounds and held them for about a month; until the news reached the Governor who sent troops from Monterey to quell the revolt.

In the end, 16 Indians died, many were wounded, one soldier died, and three were wounded. As a show of authority, the Governor condemned seven Indians to death and 18 to varying terms of imprisonment for their participation in the rebellion.

Ten years later, 1834, Mexico passed the Secularization Laws. These laws, coupled with the rebellion in 1824 and subsequent loss of faith by the indians, crippled the mission. The last missionary assigned to La Purisima left in 1836. Church for those that remained was held in Santa Ines. Although 200 indians remained, all mission buildings and land was sold to a Don Juan Temple of Los Angeles for $1,100. In 1883, the lands and buildings changed hands again and became a ranch. In 1903 the Union Oil Company bought everything and then returned what little of the buildings remained to the public in 1933. In 1935, with the onset of the Great Depression, he Civilian Conservation Corps adopted the mission restoration as a project. After intensive historical study, the original mission plans were recreated and starting in 1936 C.C.C. Company #1951 effectively rebuilt the mission from the ground up. (According to engineering reports a few original walls and foundations were used; and some of the original soap vats and cisterns could be cleaned out; but little else.) In the process they used processes originally used to build the structures. Bricks, floor, and root tiles were made by hand. Furniture, likewise was made by hand. And, the water system was rebuilt. The project is the most complete and authentic mission restoration in California.

Of all days to hold a rededication, the mission was rededicated on December 7, 1941. 

Today, Mission La Purísima Concepción is a State Historic Park consisting of 967 acres. Rangers and docents recreate mission life; including periodic “living history” weekends when docents dress up in period costumes and recreate the mission period by weaving wool, tanning hides, making candles, working the blacksmith shop, and answering visitor questions.

La Purisima Mission State Historic Park is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., seven days a week except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Free guided tours are conducted every day except during Special Events or Living History Days. The tour begins at the Visitor Center at 1:00 p.m., and generally lasts 60 to 90 minutes.

The Visitor's Center is open Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Mondays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Sources

"California Missions." Lowman Publishing Company, Arroyo Canyon, CA. 2011. La Purisima is on page 13. Forbes, Alexander (1839). California: A History of Upper and Lower California. Smith, Elder and Co., Cornhill, London. Ruscin, Terry (1999). Mission Memoirs. Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA. Yenne, Bill (2004). The Missions of California. Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, CA.

Address
2295 Purisima Road
Lompoc, CA 93436
Phone Number
(805) 733-3713 (Park Information) or (805) 733-130
Tags
  • Agriculture and Rural History
  • Architecture and Historical Buildings
  • Colonial History
  • Cultural History
  • Latino/Latina History
  • Military History
  • Native American History
  • Religion
  • Local History Societies and Museums
  • State Historical Societies and Museums
  • Western/National Expansion
This location was created on 2013-12-15 by Michael Tanner .   It was last updated on 2015-06-23 by Mike Emett .

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