The California Missions: #18

san-luis-reyFormally named San Luis Rey de Francia, after St. Louis IX, King of France, the 18th California mission was founded June 13, 1798, by Fathers Fermin Lasuen, Antonio Peyri, and Juan Santiago in present-day Oceanside. The indigenous Indian tribes in the area, who performed almost all of the labor of construction, came to be called the Luiseños. The Indians also worked as herders and farmers, performed cooking and cleaning tasks, and engaged in a variety of industrial skills taught by, and under the control of, the padres. The current church, built in 1811, was the third one built at this location. In 1816, a “sub-mission” named San Antonio de Pala Estancia was established twenty miles inland. At its prime the San Luis Rey mission compound covered almost 950,400 acres, making it one of the largest in the mission chain. The first Peruvian pepper tree in California (later named the California pepper tree) was planted here in 1830. After secularization in 1834, religious services were discontinued. During the Mexican-American War Colonel Richard Mason took charge of the mission property. He  appointed a member of the recently-arrived Mormon Battalion as a sub-agent—and also appointed the Battalion’s guide Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the Native American Shoshone child of Sacagawea who had traveled with the Lewis and Clark Expedition 40 years earlier, as the area’s mayor. Charbonneau, however, resigned this post the following year.  Religious services commenced again in 1893 and Father Joseph O’Keefe began restoration of the old mission in 1895, completing the quadrangle and church in 1905. Today beautiful Mission San Luis Rey functions as a museum and retreat center, and a parish church of the Diocese of San Diego, where dates for wedding ceremonies and special events can be requested. The cemetery is open to receive deceased of all faiths.