For this 4th of July, we are doing a road trip from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. The goal is to visit the remaining Missions on the NorCal Mission Quest and spend some time at the beach.
Mission San Rafael Arcángel is not on the road trip list of Missions to visit; however, it is loosely related to California’s own independence before it became a part of the United States. When the U.S. gained independence from Great Britain in 1776, California was not included in the deal because it was still part of the Spanish Territory known as Alta California. It wouldn’t become a part of the U.S. until 74-years later.
After the Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821), Spain handed the Spanish Missions over to the Mexican Government who in turn attempted to sell them because they were too expensive to maintain. Some Missions thrived during this period but most suffered and by 1844, Mission San Rafael Arcángel was abandoned.
A little over a year later, John Frémont entered the scene and began his campaign for a separate and autonomous Republic of California. He encouraged Anglo-American settlers to revolt against the Mexican Government and during this time, he used Mission San Rafael Arcángel as his main headquarters.
On June 14, 1846, John Frémont and his small band of merry fighters managed to take Sonoma during the Bear Flag Revolt and declare California a free Republic.
However, the Republic of California didn’t last very long. On July 9, 1846, the state was occupied by American forces during the two-year Mexican-American War. On September 9, 1850, California became the 31st state to enter the U.S. as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
These days, little of the original Mission San Rafael Arcángel survives… one pear tree to be exact… the rest was torn down by Marin County and replaced by the existing chapel in 1949. The original graveyard exists but is buried under the parking lot.