The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission San Miguel Arcangel
Founded July 25, 1797

Founding of the mission

Mission San Miguel Arcangel was founded on July 25, 1797 by Father Fermin Lasuen, Presidente of the California Missions Chain. It was the 16th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California and the 3rd mission founded during the summer of 1797. It was named for Saint Michael, the Arcangel. One of the chief purposes of this mission was to facilitate travel between Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and Mission San Antonio de Padua. The mission system was designed so that each mission was one day's travel from its neighbor. The church is 144 feet long ,27 feet wide and 40 feet tall. The walls are 6 feet thick. The inside of the mission has never been repainted. This means the the colors you see were created and painted by the Indians.

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

On July 25, 1797, at the founding ceremony of Mission San Miguel Arcangel, 15 Indian children were baptized. This was the beginning of a long and friendly relationship with the Spanish Padres and the Salinan Indians. They eagerly awaited the arrival of the padres and the establishment of this mission. The Indians had heard good things about the missions and wanted to be part of the system. Several Indian families from other missions even came to help in the beginning of this mission. The number of Indians at the mission grew to over 1,000.

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Economy of the mission

Mission San Miguel Arcangel was a busy and active mission. The economy at Mission San Miguel 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 Indians at the mission were excellent at making roof tiles. Between 1808 and 1809, they made 36,000 tiles. They would sell or trade the tiles to other missions. Mission San Miguel Arcangel was one of the most prosperous of all of the missions.

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

Mission San Miguel Arcangel was set up as a midway point between the missions San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and Mission San Antonio de Padua. The Indians were friendly and even anxious to be part of the mission. Travellers were always welcomed with a place to stay and food to eat. In 1806 a fire destroyed two rows of buildings and the roof of the church. Nearby missions helped out with tools, supplies and materials so the mission could be rebuilt.

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Click here to see a video of old ruins at the Mission

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. In 1846 Governor Pio Pico sold the mission for $600 to Petronillo Rios and William Reed. Reed used the mission as a family residence and a store. In 1848, Reed left to find gold as a participant in the California Gold Rush. Upon his return, 5 runaway sailors robbed and killed everyone at the mission. They were eventually captured but they left 11 people dead. The mission was a stopping place for miners coming from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The mission was used as a saloon, dance hall, storeroom and living quarters.

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In 1878, after 38 years without a resident padre, Father Philip Farrelly became the First Pastor of Mission San Miguel Arcangel. Through all the years the priests kept the church in condition and it is called the best-preserved church in the mission chain today. In 1928, Mission San Miguel Arcangel and Mission San Antonio de Padua were returned to the Franciscan order of priest. Since then, the mission has been repaired and restored.

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Current use

Today the mission is similar to the old mission days. It is located in the town of San Miguel just 7 miles north of Paso Robles. It continues to serve the town as an active parish church. It has one of the best preserved interior and gives one of the best examples of old mission life.

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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 Miguel Arcangel?

Junipero Serra
Gaspar de Portola
Fermin Lasuen
Sebastian Vizcaino

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

July 25, 1797
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

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


4. Mission San Miguel Arcangel is know as...?

King of the Missions
the best preserved mission
the smallest
the oldest 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. San Miguel Arcangel was established as a...?

church for Indian prisoners
midway point between San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and San Antonio de Padua
mission hotel

8. The Indians at the mission were best know for...?

attacking the mission
their ability to raise cattle
their well made roof tiles
killing the Reed family

9. What happened in 1846?

An earthquake
the California Gold Rush
the mission was sold for $600

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 Miguel Arcangel sites:

California Mission Internet Trail

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions Interactive Homepage

California Missions

Summary History of Mission San Miguel Arcangel - Summary History of this mission from its foundation in 1797 to 1986 with an emphasis on its architecture and associated preservation issues. Bibliography.

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