The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores)
Founded October 9, 1776

Founding of the mission

Mission San Francisco de Asis was founded on October 9, 1776 by Father Francisco Palou. It was the 6th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order. The name Mission Dolores is used to refer to Mission San Francisco de Asis. Juan Bautista de Anza named the river near where the mission was later founded, Arroyo de los Dolores. The church is 114 feet long and 22 feet wide. It has remained unharmed and relatively unchanged since its construction in 1782.

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Local Indians

No Indians came to the founding ceremony of Mission San Francisco de Asis. They returned to the area about a month later, and were scared by the guns of the white men. The Coastonoan Indians did not do well at this mission. They were treated poorly by the padres. The padres were very strict and only fed the Indians dry grain. Many of the Indians ran away from the mission until new padres were sent to the mission. The Spanish brought great sickness and disease to the mission Indians. After 10 years, only a few Indians remained at the mission. Disease was so great that there are over 5,000 Indians buried in the mission cemetery. Many of the Indians went to Mission San Rafael to live in the better weather. There were around 6,500 Indians baptized, 2,000 married and over 5,000 buried at the Mission San Francisco de Asis.

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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. Mission San Francisco struggled its whole life to support itself. The mission had a very hard time growing crops and raising herds. Most of the food came from lands that the mission owned 19 miles south of the mission. Life was so hard at this mission, that there was much discussion between the leaders on whether or not to close this mission.

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

The city of San Fransico grew as the mission community diminished. Many of the Indians did not want to live in a city which was growing around the mission. The quadrangle was finally completed in 1798, 22 years after the founding of 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. Mission San Francisco de Asis was the first mission to be secularized. In 1845, Pio Pico warned the Indians that if they did not return to the mission then it would be sold. No Indians came and no one even wanted to buy the mission. By the time that the Gold Rush began in 1848, the city of San Francisco had grown tremendously. There were even saloons and two race tracks on the mission property.

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The mission church has stood and remained unchanged since its beginning. During the 1906 earthquake, the huge basilica next to the small mission church fell and was destroyed, but the Mission San Francisco de Asis remained unharmed. In 1971 some of the wooded beams were strengthened with hidden steel beams. The church was reinforced but not changed or rebuilt.

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Current use
Click here to see a video Inside the Mission Basilica

Mission San Francisco de Asis is still an active church in the city of San Francisco. Many people attend services in the mission church and even more attend mass in the basilica next door to the mission church. The mission is open to visitors and is a wonderful legacy to the old ways of the past.

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Graphic tour
Click here 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 de Asis?

Junipero Serra
Juan Bautista de Anza
Francisco Palou
Fermin Lasuen

2. Mission San Francisco de Asis was founded....?

October 9, 1776
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

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


4. Mission San Francisco de Asis is know as...?

Mission De Anza
Mission Dolores
Queen of the Missions
the Indians Mission

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. The church at Mission San Francisco de Asis...?

was destroyed in 1906 by an earthquake
is the largest of any mission
has remained unchanged since its building
was rebuilt in 1958

8. Most of the food at the mission came from...?

the local Indians
Mission San Rafael
mission land 19 miles away
mission crops grown in the quadrangle

9. What happened in 1845?

An earthquake
the mission was sold for $500
Missions were taken over by Mexican priests
no one wanted to buy the mission

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 de Asis sites:

California Mission Internet Trail

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions

Misión San Francisco De Asis (Mission Dolores) - Registered Landmark Number One ...." Interior and exterior photos of present-day mission structure, historical photographs 1816-1906, 2 floor plans and elevations done by the WPA for the Historic American Buildings Survey, some historical data, and visitor information.

Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) State Historic Landmark 327 - Photos of plaque and mission, visitor information

San Francisco Cemeteries - Today there are only two cemeteries within San Francisco City limits, and one of them is at Mission Dolores. This site will tell you why. A link will take you to four photographs of the mission and its cemetery.

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