History Overview

Misión La Purísima Concepción De María Santísima (Mission of the Immaculate Conception of Most Holy Mary) was founded by Father Presidente Fermin de Lasuén on December 8, 1787 and was the 11th of 21 Franciscan Missions in California. During the Mission's early years, several thousand Chumash Indians were baptized into the Catholic Church; over 100 large and small adobe buildings were built; a water system was developed; crops and livestock were raised, and La Purisima grew and prospered.

The year 1812 in California was known as "El Año de los Temblores," or "The year of the Earthquakes."  A major earthquake struck La Purisima on December 21, 1812, destroying many of the Mission's structures. Aftershocks and drenching rains damaged La Purisima beyond repair.

Father Mariano Payeras, then in charge of the Mission, requested and was granted permission to rebuild four miles to the northwest in "La Cañada de los Berros," the Canyon of the Watercress. This new site had several advantages: a better water supply, a better climate, and a closer and safer access to El Camino Real, California's main travel route.

In a few years, La Purisima once again became a thriving community with approximately 1,000 Chumash Indian Neophytes (converts) living on Mission lands. It became a school and training center for the inhabitants as well as a great ranching enterprise. At times over 20,000 cattle and sheep roamed the hills along with hundreds of horses, mules, burros and other livestock. The padres developed shops for weaving, pottery, leatherwork and other crafts in addition to organizing and administering the religious activities of the Mission settlement.

In 1834, the order to secularize California's Missions was enforced. Mission assets were to be civilly administered, landholdings divided up among the inhabitants, and the neophytes released from supervision of any type. In 1845, La Purisima Mission was sold to Juan Temple of Los Angeles for $1,000. It subsequently changed hands and uses a number of times prior to the close of the 19th century.

Buildings and other features of the Mission eventually collapsed from weather and long neglect. In 1933 when the property was given to public ownership by Union Oil Company, the Mission was a complete ruin. Preservation and reconstruction of the Mission complex began in 1934 through efforts of the County of Santa Barbara, the State of California, the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Under direction and labor from the latter two organizations, buildings and grounds were restored and furnished to appear as they had in 1820.

At present, the mission is within La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, an area of 1,928 acres - a small but most important portion of the original 300,000 acre mission property. Ten of the original buildings have been fully restored and furnished authentically; other structures have also been restored including the historic aqueduct and water system.

A five-acre garden shows native and domestic plants typical of a mission garden, while mission-type animals such as burros, horses, longhorn cattle, sheep and goats are displayed in a corral located in the main mission compound. In addition to the historic buildings there is a picnic area and approximately 25 miles of hiking trails.

This page is a summary of the detailed history of La Purisima Mission.