The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission San Francisco Solano
Founded July 4, 1823

Founding of the mission

Mission San Francisco Solano was founded on July 4, 1823 by Father Jose Altimira. It was the 21st mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for Saint Francis Solano, missionary to Peruvian Indians. It is the only mission to have been founded without the churches permission. Father Altimira wanted to build a mission and instead of going to the Padre-Presidente as was the rule, he went to the Mexican governor. The governor wanted to close the two missions and have one further north to keep an eye on the Russians who were settling there. It was decided to build the new mission and close the Mission San Francisco de Asis and Mission San Rafael Arcangel. When the head of the missions Father Sarria heard of this he ordered the construction to be stopped. The parties involved came to a compromise, the new mission would be built and the other missions would stay open. The chapel is 22 feet wide and 105 feet long. The other missions did not give this new mission much in the way of support due to bad feelings. It was the Russians at Fort Ross who helped the new mission the most.

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Local Indians

Many Indians came to the new mission. They came from the San Rafael, San Francisco de Asis and San Jose Missions. The priest at Mission San Francisco Solano caused trouble and was power hungry. The Indians did not want to stay at the mission. They attacked the mission and set fire to the buildings. The priest fled for his life and returned to Spain. The new padre was an excellent priest and leader. Within two years he had the mission running better than ever. Local Indians from the Pomo and Coastal Miwok Tribes came to life at the mission. In 1830 there was almost 1,000 Indians living at the mission.

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Economy of the mission

The economy of the missions were similar to each other 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. The Mission San Francisco Solano never really got a chance to grow, it only lasted 9 years between its' founding and secularization. It is interesting to note that today, the city of Sonoma is home to many of the most successful wineries in the state.

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

During the years the mission was active, Mexican General Mariano Vallejo resided in the area. His job was to watch the Russians nearby. He helped to build the town of Sonoma and even paid for the rebuilding of the small mission chapel. There were always soldiers and settler in the town of Sonoma where the mission was located.

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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. By 1839 the mission was in ruins as no one lived there anymore. Through the years the mission was used as a blacksmith shop and later a saloon. It was also used as a barn and a storeroom.

In 1846, across from the mission a group of American settlers raised a flag and claimed the land for the California Republic. They wanted freedom from the Mexican government. The flag had a red star and brown bear on it. The settlers took over the town and put the General in jail. This was known as the Bear Flag Revolt. Soon after this, California became a state as part of The United States of America. During this time no one wanted the mission. It was sold to a man who used the chapel entrance as a saloon and stored his liquor and hay in the chapel.

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In 1903 the Historic Landmark League bought the remains of Mission San Fransico Solano. Slowly they began to restore and rebuild the mission. It was finally complete in 1913.

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Current use

Today the mission is part of the Sonoma State Historic Park. It is open to visitors and has a small museum located in the padres quarters. There is no furniture in the chapel today, which is very similar to the way it would have been originally. The Indians would sit on mats on the floor instead of in pews or chairs. It is located in the heart of the wine-growing area of California. The first vines were actually planted by the padres and now a celebration is held every year at the mission.

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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 San Francisco Solano?

Junipero Serra
Gaspar de Portola
Jose Altimira
Sebastian Vizcaino

2. Mission San Francisco Solano was founded....?

July 4, 1823
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

3. What Indian Tribe was in the area of the San Francisco Solano Mission?

Pomo and Coastal Miwok

4. Mission San Francisco Solano was built to...

be the last mission
watch the Russians settlers
be a Mexican mission
capture Indians

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. San Francisco Solano is the only mission...?

that has been completely rebuilt
without a church
to be founded without permission from the church
with a bell tower

8. Who began restoration of Mission San Francisco Solano?

The Sonoma State Historic Park System
The Bear Flag Revolt
The Historic Landmark League
The Hearst Foundation

9. What happened in 1846?

An earthquake
Missions were taken over by Mexican priests
The Bear Flag Revolt

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 San Francisco Solano sites:

California Mission Internet Trail

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions

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