Spanish Roots In Our Community

Jun 11, 2014
Three Spanish missions were in today's Santa Barbara County.

Spanish Roots In Our Community 

From the desk of:
Kenneth Harwood
Economist
Solvang Chamber of Commerce 

  European agriculture arrived here in 1804 with the founding of Mission Santa Ines. Today agriculture is a mainstay of our economy, just as it was when Spanish priests introduced European methods of farming and ranching.
Three Spanish missions were in today's Santa Barbara County. Each mission was different from the others in economic strength. Here is an estimate of their economic outputs in 1818.
  Mission La Purisima at today's Lompoc produced about three times as much   as Mission Santa Barbara, while the output of Mission Santa Ines was about twice as much as that of Mission Santa Barbara.
  The age of each mission seemingly was little related to the economic value of what it produced. Mission Santa Barbara was oldest, having been established in 1786. Next came Mission La Purisima in 1787, and then Santa Ines in 1804.
  Location, economic function, and managerial leadership of each mission probably accounted for many of the differences among these missions. The primary purpose of missionaries was to save souls in each vicinity. In economic pursuit of that goal, the long distance seaborne trading center of the three was at the port in Santa Barbara, the main economic support of Santa Barbara was at Purisima, and the secondary economic support at Santa Ines. A main economic function of Mission Santa Barbara was to aid the presidio or military center at Santa Barbara by exchanging cattle hides and tallow for manufactured goods from Spain or from Spanish possessions in Mexico, South America, and East Asia.
  The political and economic purpose of the Spanish Crown in sponsoring twenty-one missions from San Diego to north of San Francisco in Sonoma was to blunt the southward drive of Russian hunters who sought sea otters for their prized fur pelts. Otters ranged as far south as the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara.
  Father Sarria in 1818 estimated a fair share of support for the presidios as 50 pesos each for Missions San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose, Santa Cruz, San Carlos, Soledad, San Antonio, and San Diego. Missions San Juan Bautista, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Rey were responsible for 100 pesos each. San Luis Obispo and Santa Ines paid 200 pesos each, while Purisima's share was 300 pesos. San Juan Capistrano paid 350 pesos. San Buenaventura and San Gabriel paid 400 pesos each. These amounts may be taken as index numbers of relative economic strength.
  Notice an approximate pyramid of economic strength beginning at the broad base of 50 pesos each for 8 missions and narrowing to the peak of 400 pesos each for 2 missions. Santa Barbara, Santa Ines, and Purisima were at neither base nor peak, but in the middle range.
  All of this points to the differing economic strengths of individual missions as they brought techniques and tools of farming and ranching to what is California today. Farms and ranches here continue to display varied economic strengths, according to location, economic function, and management. Today, as in 1818, we see an approximate pyramid of economic strengths in agriculture.
  Thanks to Sheila Benedict, Archivist of Old Mission Santa Ines, for her suggestions. Statistical details are from Robert Archibald's The Economic Aspects of the California Missions (1978), page 108. Dates are from Warren A. Beck, and Ynez D. Haase, Historical Atlas of California (1974), Map 19 text.

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