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October 26, 2007

Texas Ephemera

Verger’s 1772 Report to the Viceroy on the Progress of the Newly Established California Missions

247. VERGER, Fr. Rafael José (1722-1790). Manuscript report in ink, signed at end, written to Mexican Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa, dated at Colegio de San Fernando de México, July 22, 1772. 11 pp. on laid paper with watermark of horse, folio (30.5 x 21.5 cm), stitched. Two tiny wormholes running through entire manuscript, only occasionally touching a letter, otherwise very fine. This document appears to be a file copy kept by Verger, because it does not contain an address cover (carátula), an internal address, or annotations by Bucareli. The signature, nevertheless, appears to be that of Verger. The text is in a very clear and legible hand, possibly that of Verger himself, typical of religious script of the period.

            This is the first part of Verger´s answer to the viceregal order of July 15, 1772, for a report on the precise status of the missions of the College of San Fernando in the Californias to be delivered as soon as possible. Based on the information currently at hand, Verger responds immediately. The present manuscript is the first part of Verger’s report, the second part being the December 25, 1772, report sold by our firm in February 2007 at Auction 20 (Lot 122). What follows is Dr. W. Michael Mathes’ summation and analysis of the content of the manuscript:

Father Verger reports that on March 27, 1772, Father Francisco Dumetz informed him that forty-three baptisms and four marriages were performed in Mission San Diego de Alcalá, and that there are great hopes of baptism of all of the Indians, who have become very docile. It is impossible to advance the agricultural production of the mission without moving it because it lacks land and water; last year it suffered from need. An inventory of supplies indicated that only thirty-seven days’ worth remained and a great number of the livestock have been consumed, necessitating aid being sent from Mission San Gabriel.

            From Mission San Gabriel de los Temblores (Earthquakes), founded on August 15, 1771, Father Pedro Benito Cambón reported that they had only one catechumen but hoped for great success. The mission was founded on the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, Queen of the Angels (reason for the name of Los Angeles since the area where it was founded was a corner-the “porciúncula” of the land pertaining to San Gabriel mission). The act of founding the mission by Cambón and Father José Ángel Somera and the beginning of building and settling Indians is described in detail. Captain Pedro Fagés established a military escort and regulations regarding the conduct of Indians, but conflict ensued, and a larger escort was assigned. The hostile Indians’ attack on the mission stockade, the ensuing combat, and the tactics of the Spanish, Christian Indians, and hostiles are noted in detail. The arrival of Fagés, troops, and missionaries en route to the founding of Mission San Buenaventura established an escort of eighteen soldiers and three muleteers at the mission.

            Reports from the other missions of San Buenaventura, San Luis Obispo, and San Carlos Borromeo (that was to be moved from Monterey to Carmel) have not been received, but the attack on San Carlos after the sailing of the supply ship from Monterey in June 1771 indicated the need for a larger garrison at Monterey for military escort.

            Verger states his preference for Leather Jacket Soldiers (soldados de cuera) for service in the Californias because they are all outdoorsmen and cowboys, because they adapt well to the rugged mountains and deserts, and because they are well-equipped to defend themselves from Indian arrows. They should not be conscripts, but serve as volunteers and be of good conduct to set examples for the Indians. When such soldiers served at the presidio of Loreto they received 450 pesos per year, but Verger understands that even though they are farther away, the soldiers in California only receive six reales a day [274 pesos per year] and must have clothing, two horses, two mules, a leather coat, shotgun, sword, etc., and possibly pay for their food. The current soldiers are violent, unhappy, unwilling to help in the missions, and have inferior arms.

            Because of the constantly foggy weather at San Gabriel, the crops, especially wheat, are poor, and the mission should be moved into Sierra Madre, but it is better to await arrival of reports in August with the return of the supply ships. These will bring information regarding the Santa Barbara Channel and the missions of San Antonio, San Carlos Borromeo, and Monterey.

            Father President Francisco Palóu reports regarding San Fernando Velicatá, the only Franciscan foundation in Baja California, founded by Father Junípero Serra in May 1769 en route to Monterey, that to mid-September 1771 there have been 380 baptisms (306 adults and seventy-four children), eighty-six marriages, and twelve burials. Attracting Indians has been difficult because of shortages of food and clothing. The mission has abundant water but saline soil, and harvests of wheat and corn are low, so that the mission sustains only twelve married families, three single adults, and twenty-four children. In the surrounding villages there are eighty-seven families, eleven single adults, and 183 children who come to the mission for mass, instruction, and festivals. It has forty-nine head of cattle, forty sheep, forty-four goats, ten tame colts, and two wild colts. There are no mules, horses, or burros; fruit trees and cotton failed because of the salinity.

            The five missions planned are awaiting soldiers, stock, supplies, and also ornaments, since only the ornaments sent by Viceroy Marqués de Croix from the peninsular missions have arrived. After the ships from San Diego and Monterey arrive, further information will be forthcoming.

Verger (b. Mallorca in 1722) came to New Spain with Junípero Serra, Francisco Palóu, Juan Ramos de Lora, Juan Crespí, and Fermín de Lasuén to the College of San Fernando in 1749; was a missionary in the Sierra Gorda from 1750 to 1758; was elected guardian 1770-1774 and 1777-1780; served as bishop of Linares (Nuevo León) 1783-1790; established Monterrey as the seat of the diocese, and died in Monterrey in 1790.

ENGELHARDT, Zephyrin. Missions and Missionaries of California. San Francisco: J. H. Barry, 1913-1930. Vols. 1, 2.

____. San Gabriel Mission and the Beginnings of Los Angeles. San Gabriel: Mission San Gabriel, 1927.

GEIGER, Maynard. Franciscan Missionaries in Hispanic California 1769-1848. A Biographical Dictionary. San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1969.

Gómez Canedo

GÓMEZ CANEDO, Lino. Evangelización, cultura y promoción social: ensayos y estudios críticos sobre la contribución franciscana a los orígenes cristianos de México (siglos XVI-XVIII). México: Editorial Porrúa, 1993.

____. Un lustro de administración franciscana en Baja California. La Paz: Gobierno del Estado de Baja California Sur, 1983.

PALÓU, Francisco. Recopilación de Noticias de la Antigua y de la Nueva California. José Luis Soto Pérez; Lino Gómez Canedo, eds. México: Editorial Porrúa, 1998. 2 vols.

____. Noticias de la Nueva California. Petra (Mallorca): Vicedo, 1989.

____. Noticias de la Nueva California. San Francisco: E. Bosqui, 1774. 4 vols.

____. Documentos para la Historia de México. Cuarta Serie. VI, VII. México: 1857.

____. Historical Memoirs of New California. Herbert E. Bolton, ed. Berkeley: University of California, 1926; New York: Russell and Russell, 1966.


Sold. Hammer: $20,000.00; Price Realized: $23,500.00

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