Chapter 2: Spanish San Diego
5. When and why was the Mission San Diego de Alcalá founded?
The next few years saw a consolidation of the Spanish colony in San Diego. More soldiers and priests came and went. Fr. Serra left and was replaced by Fr. Mugáregui in 1774. Before he left he received permission to move the mission out of the presidio and several miles up the river.
There were several considerations in this move. First Serra wanted to remove the neophytes (newly converted Indians) from the corrupting influence of the soldiers. Fr. Jayme in his letter of 1772 complained about the soldiers who were constantly raping the Indian women. This, in turn led to the Indians avoiding contact with the priest. There were very few converts and Serra wanted to increase the yield of souls by moving away from the cause of the problem.
Another reason for the move was to find suitable agricultural lands near the presidio mission. On more than one occasion a flood washed away the crops, or a drought dried them up. The move would be to a place with a more dependable water supply for agriculture. The military commanders also wanted to be rid of the massing of Indians around and inside the presidio. No mention was made of the possibility that the new mission might be difficult to defend, being so far from the presidio.
The friars moved their mission in August 1774 to a site near the Kumeyaay ranchería called Nipaguay. With a small number of neophytes they set about building a small church out of the tules and willows that grew in the area. The neophytes dug a well to provide drinking water and the friars planed to construct a dam further up the river to develop irrigated farming. Within a year Serra's hopes began to be realized. They now had 97 neophytes, but this was still fewer than any other mission in California at the time.
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