Mission La Purisima

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Mission La Purisima (1787-1834) - A Spanish mission established in 1787 by Father Fermin Lasuen in present day Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, California. Associated with the Presidio of Santa Barbara. Named for Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The original mission was destroyed in 1812 by an earthquake and a new Mission La Purisima was built three miles from the old site. The Mission was Secularized in 1834. Also known as Mission La Purisima Concepcion.

Mission La Purisima Main Church Interior
Mission La Purisima Privates Barracks Interior
Mission La Purisima Main Church, Bell Tower and Cemetery Compound
Mission La Purisima Quarters and Shops Building. The Military Garrison Occupied the Near End of the Building.
Mission La Purisima Padres Residence Building (Church, Quarters and Offices)

The Spanish Period (1769-1821)

The Spanish period began in California with the building of Mission San Diego de Alcala, and the Presidio of San Diego in 1769. The Spanish Presidio provided a support system for the attached missions that included military troops. The mission provided provided a complete community for the converted native peoples that included agriculture and industry activities as well as religious instruction and services. Typically a very limited military presence was maintained at the missions and the presidio acted as the garrison for the surrounding missions.

Original Mission la Purisima Church Entrance Ruins
Mission La Purisima Layout from Visitor Center Display

The Mission La Purisima was founded on 8 Dec 1787, by Father Fermin Lasuen, as the 11th of twenty-one Spanish missions founded in California. The mission grew to be a large adobe quadrangle, 330 feet square, with a large church, quarters for the priests, soldiers, married Indian converts and unmarried female converts. The population included two Franciscan priests, six to seven soldiers and some 1,520 Chumash Indian converts over the years. The military garrison was under the control of the Presidio of Santa Barbara. The mission site was located south of the Santa Ynez River in what is now Lompoc, California, and included lands for miles around the main mission compound.

The original mission was destroyed 21 Dec 1812 by an earthquake that collapsed the church, many of the other buildings and the quadrangle walls. That destruction was followed by the winter rains that turned the exposed adobe into mud. A decision was taken to relocate the mission rather than try to rebuild the old one. Construction on the new mission was started in the spring of 1813 on a site along the El Camino Real 3.3 miles northwest of the old site and north of the Santa Ynez River. The new mission was built as a linear series of three main buildings to avoiding the problem of collapsing quadrangle walls. The three main structures housed the main church building, the quarters and shops building, and the priest's chapel and quarters building. The old mission was abandoned and became known as Mission Vieja.

The military garrison at the new mission was housed in the shops and quarters building. The garrison was typically five single privates and a married corporal who were responsible for law enforcement as well as protection of the mission from attack. During the Mexican Revolution Spain refused to pay the salaries of the garrison (who were Mexican not Spanish) and this caused the garrison much hardship.

Mexican Period (1822-1846)

Indian Hut at the Mission
Residence Chapel Confessional

The Mexican period began with the end of the Mexican Revolution around 1820. Mexican troops occupied the presidios and Mexican governors ran the province of Alta California. The Mexican government began the process of secularization (turning church lands over to private interests) around 1831 and passed laws in 1833 mandating secularization of all missions in Mexico. Secularization gradually ended church ownership of community property. Most of the missions and presidios were abandoned and fell into disrepair as the lands were redistributed to private owners.

The military garrison remained the same after the Mexican Revolution because even under Spanish control the soldiers were actually Mexican.

In 1824 there was a rebellion by the converted Indians against the harsh treatment at the missions. Mission La Purisima was captured by the rebels who held it for about a month. The mission was retaken and seven Indians were condemned to death. A total of sixteen Indians and one soldier were killed in the conflict.

The main church was abandoned about 1834 because a spring underneath the church foundation caused significant damage. The private chapel in the Padres residence was converted for public services. The total population of the mission had shrunk to less than 400 by this time and with secularization looming it didn't make sense to keep two large chapels open. Mission La Purisima was secularized in 1834 and put under a private commissioner. Part of the mission was sold at auction in 1845 and became a Ranch.

The American Period (1846-Present)

The Mexican War was declared by the U.S. Congress on 11 May 1846 in response to a Mexican attack on U.S. troops in Texas. The declaration of war opened the door for American occupation of California. The American period began when American forces occupied San Diego in 1846. With end of the war, Mexico ceded all of upper California to the Americans in 1848 and a new round of land redistribution began.

On 19 Feb 1853, Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany filed a claim on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the return of all former mission lands in the State of California. Ownership of 1,051 acres (for all practical intents being the exact area of land occupied by the original mission buildings, cemeteries, and gardens) was transferred back to the Catholic Church by land patents and proclamations signed by U.S. Presidents between 1855 and 1874. Mission La Purisima was returned to the Catholic Church in 1874 but was later sold to private parties.

Mission La Purisima CCC Camp Visitor Center Display

In the 1930s the abandoned mission site was rebuild by President Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) after the land was donated by Union Oil Company and the Catholic Church. Two companies of the CCC rebuilt the second mission on the remains of the foundations using both traditional and modern construction techniques. The reconstruction effort took seven years and the restored mission was reopened on the fateful day of 7 Dec 1941.

Current Status

Visitor Center

Restored and interpreted Spanish mission. La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, California. One of the most completely restored of the California Spanish Missions. Most of the interior rooms have period furnishings. Both chapels are restored as are the priest's quarters and offices. The military barracks rooms are recreated to show how the garrison lived. The visitor center has interpretive displays and artifacts from and about the mission. Knowledgeable docents and park personnel are most helpful.

Ruins of the original site can be seen on an interpretive trail at the south end of South F Street in Lompoc. Pick up the brochure for this location at the La Purisima Mission State Historic Park Visitor Center, ask for the Mission Vieja brochure. Ruins of the original church entrance and original floor tiles can be seen. The red clay floor tiles protrude from the embankment on the east side of the alley between G and F Street close to Locust Avenue. Much of the old mission is now on private property and a railroad track bed but the two sections of the interpretive trail are on city property.

A state roadside marker for the 2nd mission is located about one mile east of the mission site on Hwy 246. The roadside marker for the 1st mission is located at the south end of South F Street in Lompoc.

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 246011

Location: La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 34.6713719 Long: -120.4229395

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 157'

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Visited: 27 Nov 2012

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