The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission Santa Cruz
Founded September 25, 1791

Founding of the mission

In 1769, Spanish explorers led by Gaspar de Portola named this area Santa Cruz, or Holy Cross in English. Mission Santa Cruz was founded on September 25, 1791 by Father Fermin Lasuen, Presidente of the California Missions Chain. It was the 12th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for the Sacred Cross. The church was completed in 1794. It was 112 feet long and 29 feet wide.

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Local Indians
Click here to see a video Inside some the rooms used by the Indians at the Mission

The Indians who built and lived at the mission were from the Yokut and Ohlone Tribes. They became known as the Santa Cruz Indians as most of the the Mission Indians were named by the Spaniards at the local mission. The first few years at Mission Santa Cruz were happy and prosperous. Indian Chief Sugert and his family became members of the mission. By 1796 the total number of Indians was around 500 at the mission.

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Economy of the mission

The economy at Mission Santa Cruz was similar to the other missions in that they planted crops of wheat and corn. They also planted vineyards, and raised cattle and sheep. The agriculture was needed not only to maintain the mission community and the nearby Indians, but was used for trade and served to visitors to the mission. Records show that in 1796 the farm had produced 1,200 bushels of grain, 600 bushels of corn, and 60 bushels of beans.

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The community
Click here to see a video Inside the Mission Quadrangle

The Mission Santa Cruz seemed destined for trouble. In 1799 a rainstorm damaged the church so badly that it had to be rebuilt. Father Quintana was tricked into visiting a sick Indian and attacked and killed by the Indians. The Indians were punished but said that the padre treated them badly. In 1818, the padres and Indians were ordered to leave the mission and go to Mission Soledad for fear of pirate attacks. The settlers near the mission were to hide the mission valuables, when the padres and Indians returned they found that the valuables had instead been stolen. The settlers also damaged the inside of the church. The town of Branciforte continued to be trouble for the mission. The town became a place for gambling, thievery, and drunkenness. This proved to be a poor influence on the Indians who left the mission to work in the town. By 1831 there were only 300 Indians left at Mission Santa Cruz which was not enough to continue the mission.

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After Mexico won its independence from Spain, it found that it could no longer afford to keep the missions running as Spain had done. In 1834, Mexico decided to end the mission system and sell all of the lands. They offered the lands to the Indians who did not want the lands or could not come up with the purchase price. The lands were divided into smaller Ranchos and sold to Mexican citizens who were helpful during the war for independence. After nearly 30 years, the missions were returned to the Catholic Church. Although some of the missions had already been returned to the church, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act declaring that all of the 21 missions in the California mission chain would become the property of the Catholic Church and have remained so since that time. A series of earthquakes in 1857 destroyed the mission. The mission was put up for sale, but no one wanted to buy it. In 1858 a wood frame church was built on the old mission property. In 1889 the current Gothic style Holy Cross Church was built on the original adobe mission site.

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There is nothing left of the original mission except for a row of buildings which at one time housed Indian families. The buildings are open to visitors and are in remarkable condition. In 1931 Gladys Sullivan Doyle proposed to build a replica of the mission. She used her own money to build a half size replica of the mission church. Today only the little chapel is left to remind the world of Mission Santa Cruz.

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Current use

The Mission Santa Cruz is a museum open to visitors. The Holy Cross Church on the site of the original church is an active and busy parish. The half size chapel has weekday masses and is available for weddings and funerals. It is a small reminder of a once rich heritage.

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Graphic tour
Click below to see a video Inside the Mission Church
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Mission Quiz

Objective: answer 7 questions correctly. JavaScript required!

1. Who was the founder of Mission Santa Cruz?

Junipero Serra
Gaspar de Portola
Fermin Lasuen
Sebastian Vizcaino

2. Mission Santa Cruz was founded....?

September 25, 1791
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

3. What Indian Tribe was in the area of the Santa Cruz Mission?

Yokut and Ohlone

4. What was the name of the town that caused so much trouble for the Mission?

Santa Cruz

5. Who did the actual building of the missions?

construction companies
the priests
the soldiers
the local Indians

6. What happened to the missions in 1834?

They opened
The Indians took over

7. Santa Cruz is named for...?

Saint Christopher
Saint Charles
Sacred Cross
Santa Claus

8. Why did the padres and Indians leave the mission in 1818?

local Indians were unfriendly
Pio Pico order them to leave
fear of pirate attacks
an earthquake destroyed the mission

9. What happened in 1931?

The mission was completely rebuilt
Harry Downie rebuilt the mission
the mission was totally destroyed
Gladys Sullivan Doyle offers to build a replica of the mission church with her own money

10. What did Abraham Lincoln agree to in 1863?

Formally return the Mission lands to the Church
Run for President of the United States
Visit the San Antonio de Padua Mission
force the Indians to leave the Mission

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The Mission Page | The Assessment Page |Main Page

Other Santa Cruz sites:

California Mission Internet Trail

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions Interactive Homepage

California Missions

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz County Local History: Spanish Period. Also includes articles on Portola and Branciforte

Santa Cruz Mission Visitor's Page - Events at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park; visitor information; links to "The Quiroste Attack on the Santa Cruz Mission," "Mission Santa Cruz and the Ohlone and Yokuts Indians" by Phil Laverty, a brief history of the main adobe, "History of the Old Adobe" and informational materials from the Costanoan Ohlone Indian Canyon Resource

This project written by Rob Garretson in partial fulfilment of the Master's of Arts Degree from Cal Poly Pomona

Please send questions and/or comments to Mr. Garretson

This page last updated on February 28, 2015