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Re-Creating Old Mission Days

August 08, 1987|WILLIAM S. MURPHY

Entering the grounds of La Purisima State Historic Park at Lompoc is like turning the pages of history back to that pastoral era when California was under Spanish rule. Founded Dec. 8, 1787, the Mission la Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima (the Mission of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Mary) was the 11th mission to be established in California as part of a chain of 21 founded by the Franciscan Order.

Next Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mission Life Days will be celebrated with docents wearing the dress of the 1820s and demonstrations of such crafts as bread and tortilla making, candle dipping, soap making, and spinning and weaving. Visitors will be able to sample bread fresh out of the beehive ovens, feel the soft warmth of sheep's wool as it is carded, or watch a candle grow as it is dipped into hot vats repeatedly.

Members of the Prelado de los Tesoros (prelate of the treasures) will assume the roles of the inhabitants of 1820, two years before the successful Mexican revolution of 1822 when California became a part of the Mexican empire, a time when the Spanish flag still flew over the presidios of California.

Indian Labor

The visitor center will provide you with a tour guide that is easy to follow. The walk will take you through the church that was once filled with Indian neophytes. These were the Chumash, and during the early 1800s there were more than 1,500 living here, providing the labor to develop the surrounding fields into fertile gardens, groves of fruit and olive trees, and extensive vineyards. They also tended the herds of cattle that grazed across the hills.

A building marked cuartel (barracks) is where a detachment of unmarried soldiers lived. Their bunks are neatly made, flintlocks rest against an adobe wall, while their uniforms and accouterments are hanging from pegs. A table is set in one corner for the evening meal. You can also pass through the padres' living quarters, library and mission store. There are areas set aside for weaving, soap and candle making, leather working and carpentry. Additionally, there is a wine cellar, gristmill and a kitchen.

Outside, the current staff has nurtured the groves where the Franciscans originally grew pears, grapes, apples and olives. Mexican longhorn cattle roam the remaining fields. Horses, donkeys, goats, turkeys, geese and pigs add a touch of realism to the setting. The sheep you may see are descendants of the flocks left on the Channel Islands by early Spanish settlers.

La Purisima Mission is 135 miles from Los Angeles City Hall. Follow U.S. 101 north to Buellton, take California 246 west 15 miles to the mission, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is $1 for adults and 50 cents for youngsters from 6 to 17. The mission is administered by the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

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