Friday, November 8, 2013

San Juan Capistrano

The native Americans who lived in the San Juan Capistrano area were peaceful hunter gatherers who had a monarchic form of government, with leadership passing within one family, and a council of men who aided the leader.  If there was a war it was to avenge crimes against family members or leaders.  A deity , who was called Chinigchinich was worshipped in religious ceremonies held in a small temple structure located in the center of each community.

The missionaries divided the Native Americans into groups based on their proximity to area missions.  The groups were known as Juanenos, who were originally Acagchemem and Gabrielinos.  It is thought that there were small tribes that belonged to the Shoshone family.

A large part of San Juan Capistrano is the Mission that was founded on November 1, 1776.  Two factors essential to Franciscan Missionaries in placing the Missions.  One factor was a site with ample fresh water and arable land and the other factor was a native population of prospective converts to do the work of the church and eventually become Spanish citizens.  An increasing population led to the building of numerous adobe homes for the native and intermarried families with ties to the Mission.  In 1796 records showed that nearly one thousand Indian neophytes lived in or near the Mission compound.  1649 baptisms were recorded  in 1796.  In 1807, 34 adobes were built or remodeled.

A Secularization Act was passed in 1833 to divest Mission lands.  Land grants, more often than not, went to political appointees rather than Native Americans as was supposed to have happened.  The land grants began the Rancho system, which were owned by a few powerful men and families.

The Secularization Act caused a decline of Mission San Juan Capistrano and the town.  In 1841, the Mexican government declared San Juan to be a pueblo. Instead of a religious parish.  In 1845, the Mission was sold to John Forster, who was an Englishman and had married the governor's sister.  John Forster would eventually own about 250,000 acres across three counties.

In 1848, the Americans were victorious over Mexico and resulted in the acquisition of the Terriotry of California and statehood in 1850.  San Juan Capistrano was initially plagued with squatters, drifters and bandits, as it was one of the few stopping and resupply pints between San Diego and Los Angeles.  Bandits and stagecoach robbers were plentiful and it was said that until the 1920's, San Juan Capistrano had "one good murder a year."

San Juan Capistrano was on the road to the gold fields in Northern California, which led to rapid growth with homes, stores and a hotel being built.  Homes of various types of architecture were built in the Los Rios area.  Part of the Miguel Yorba adobe on Camino Capistrano became an overnight stage stop.

The California Central Railroad came to San Juan in 1887 brought access to markets and created a land boom.

The early part of the 1900's saw the community become a tight knit group of farm families and merchants.  The Capistrano Valley developed into an agricultural center with an orange processing and produce packing plant near the railroad.

In 1910, Father John O'Sullivan came to the Mission and restored the Mission to a semblance of its earlier self.  In 1939, a live NBC radio broadcast spread the fame and legend of the swallows' return to a nation wide audience.  San Juan Capistrano also became a place for tourists to have a glimpse of early California life.

In the early 1970's, there was intense developmental pressures and a new General Plan was created which would preserve historic resources and open space, limited development density and provided for ridge line preservation.  The measures were adopted in 1974 and helped assure the continuance of San Juan's Capistrano unique heritage.

The information for this post was taken from information provided by the City of San Juan Capistrano and the pictures were taken by me from two years ago.  The last three pictures are of the Forster Mansion, located on Ortega Highway and the first three were taken of an old house on Camino Capistrano.

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