The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission San Gabriel Arcangel
Founded September 8, 1771

Founding of the mission

Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was founded on September 8, 1771 by Father Junipero Serra, Presidente of the California Missions Chain. It was the 4th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for the Archangel Gabriel. The mission was designed by Father Antonio Cruzado with the front of the mission actually being a side wall. The entrance to the mission is on the side of the building.

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Local Indians
Click here to see a video of the Mission Cemetery

There are nearly 6,000 Indians buried at Mission San Gabriel Arcangel. The Indians near the mission were from the Gabrielino Tribe. At first there was trouble with the Indians as the soldiers treated them very poorly. But in time, the padres gained the Indians confidence as soon there were many Indians living at the mission. Many of the Indians were hired as labourers in the pueblo of Los Angeles.

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Economy of the mission

Mission San Gabriel was a busy and active mission. The economy at Mission San Gabriel Arcangel 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. The mission grew large crops of food such as corn and beans. It was also well known for its fine wines, and most of the soap and candles used at the other missions were made at the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel.

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

The El Camino Real was the main road that connected all of the 21 mission together. However, Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was reached by 3 roads; the El Camino Real, one from Mexico and the third from the East Coast of the United States of America. The mission was always a center of activity with many travellers and guests. Settlers came to the area from many different places. They established towns called pueblos; the one near the mission was the Pueblo de Los Angeles, or commonly know today as Los Angeles.

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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. Governor Pio Pico broke the law on May 4, 1846, he sold the mission lands and used the money to pay off his personal debt. 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.

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For nearly 20 years, the mission remained neglected and deserted. The church was used as a parish church for the city of San Gabriel from 1862 until 1908. In 1908, the Claretian Missionary Fathers came to San Gabriel and began the job of rebuilding and restoring the mission. On October 1, 1987 the Whittier-Narrows earthquake damaged the mission. It took many years to repair the buildings from the earthquake and the restoration continues today.

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Current use

Today, the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel is very active and busy. It sits at the intersection of Mission Boulevard and Junipero Serra Avenue in the City of San Gabriel. The intersection also has railroad tracks which are used daily. All day long cars, trucks and trains pass by the mission. It is near the center of town and remains an important part of the city.

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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 Gabriel Arcangel?

Fermin Lasuen
Gaspar de Portola
Junipero Serra
Pio Pico

2. Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was founded....?

September 8, 1771
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

3. What Indian Tribe was in the area of the San Gabriel Arcangel Mission?


4. What was a town near a mission called?


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 Gabriel Arcangel is the only mission...?

that has been completely rebuilt
without a church
with the entrance on the side
destroyed by Indians

8. The pueblo that grew up near the Mission San Gabriel is now called...?

San Gabriel
Los Angeles

9. What happened in 1846?

An earthquake
Missions were taken over by Mexican priests
Pio Pico illegally sold 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 Gabriel 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