The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima
Founded December 8, 1787

Founding of the mission

Mission La Purisima Concepcion was founded on December 8, 1787, by Father Fermin Lasuen, Father-Presidente of the Mission Chain after Father Junipero Serra's death. It was the 11th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for "The Immaculate Conception of Mary the Most Pure". La Purisima Conception is the only mission to be built in a straight line instead of the usual quadrangle. The church is narrow but could easily hold 1,000 Indians.

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Local Indians
Click here to see a video of the Indian Village

The Mission La Purisima Conception was established as part of Father Serra's orders to build 3 missions to take care of the many Chumash tribes in the area. During the mission's best years, there were 1,522 Indians living on the grounds. However, great numbers began to die during 1804-1807. They were victims of smallpox and measles. Nearly 500 Indians were buried at La Purisima. The Indians became excellent at leather working. They were best known for their saddles and harnesses for horses and shoes for people. The Chumash were a friendly people. In 1824, there was a major revolt at the mission. Spain had stopped funding the missions after Mexico won its independence. There were many soldiers at the mission after trying to fight off the pirate Bouchard in 1818. The soldiers were no longer being paid and took out their frustrations on the Indians. A soldier beat an Indian at the Mission Santa Ines and a revolt spread to Mission La Purisima Conception. The Indians took over the mission for one month until more soldiers arrived from Monterey. After a 3 hour battle the Indians lost. The leaders were executed. Many of the Indians left the mission after that battle. The Indians who did not fight and were hiding in the mountains during the revolt came back to the mission, but there were not enough of them to keep the mission going as it once had.

Click here to see a video of the Indian Girls Dormitory at the Mission La Purisima Conception
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Economy of the mission

The economy at Mission La Purisima Concepcion 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. Mission La Purisima Conception was well known for its soap, candles, wool, and leather goods. The orchards were loaded with pears and other fruit. There were vineyards of green and red grapes. This mission was famous for its fruits and wine.

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

The small City of Lompoc was near the mission. The city was so small that the Church made an exception to the rule that no mission is to be established within 7 miles from any city. The original site of Mission La Purisima Conception was only 1 mile from the tiny town. It was moved 4 miles east of the town in 1812 when a large earthquake hit most of Alta California and severely damaged the mission buildings.

Click here to see a video of the Cemetery at Mission La Purisima Conception
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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. Within six months, all of the valuables at the mission were gone. The padres even left the mission to live at Santa Ines. They only returned to baptize or perform funerals. The mission began to fall apart and by 1844 only 200 Indians and soldiers' residence buildings remained. The mission was sold that year for $1,100. The buildings were used to house cattle, sheep and at one time there was a saloon in part of it. The mission was even used as a hideout for outlaws. For years the mission was left alone in the wind and rain to slowly fade away.

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In 1934 only nine of the buildings remained at the mission. The government Civilian Conservation Corps would restore the Mission La Purisima if enough land could given back to make the mission into an historical monument. The Catholic Church and the Union Oil Company donated enough land for the restoration. It took 200 men 7 years to rebuild the mission exactly as it used to be. The buildings were all reinforced and the mission is one of the most fully rebuilt of all of the missions. The Dedication Day for the newly restored Mission La Purisima Conception was December 7, 1941, the day that World War II began for the United States.

Click here to see a video inside of the Padre's Chapel at Mission La Purisima Conception
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Current use

Mission La Purisima Conception is the largest and most complete restoration done in our Historic West. The mission grounds are part of an historical park and are well cared for by the State of California Department of Parks. The mission is no longer used as a parish church. It has a visitors center and museum on the grounds in the old infirmary buildings.

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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 La Purisima Concepcion?

Junipero Serra
Gaspar de Portola
Fermin Lasuen
Sebastian Vizcaino

2. Mission La Purisima Concepcion was founded....?

December 8, 1787
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

3. What Indian Tribe was in the area of the La Purisima Concepcion Mission?


4. Mission La Purisima Concepcion is know as...?

the first mission to have a school
the most fully rebuilt of all of the missions
the last mission to have a revolt
the Chumash Indians favorite 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. La Purisima Concepcion is now...?

an active parish church
closed and being restored
an historical monument
run by Chumash Indians

8. Mission La Purisima Concepcion was once used as a...?

hotel for miners during the Gold Rush
college campus
hideout for outlaws
funeral parlour

9. What happened in 1812?

an Indian revolt
Missions were taken over by Mexican priests
a large earthquake hit Alta California

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 La Purisima sites:

California Mission Internet Trail

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions Interactive Homepage

California Missions

California Mission - History and Facts

La Purisima Mission Granary/Warehouse Site Excavation - Report of 1995/96 excavation. Text by Glenn Farris

La Purisima Mission State Historic Park - Links to photos

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