Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad
Date Founded: October 9, 1791
Founder: Fr. Fermin Francisco
Named for: Our Lady of Solitude
Also called: Mission Nuestra Señora Dolorosísima de la Soledad or Soledad Mission
Population: The highest recorded population was 687 in 1804
Location: 36641 Fort Romie Rd
Soledad, CA 93960
Located near the Salinas River, 3 miles south of Soledad and 1 mile west of U.S. Highway 101. To get to the Mission, take the first exit south of Soledad on Arroyo Seco Road, take a right on Fort Romie Road, the Mission is on the left.
Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, also called Mission Nuestra Señora Dolorosísima de la Soledad or Soledad Mission, is the thirteenth of the twenty-one Missions in the chain of Alta California missions. Established on October 9, 1791, at the site of an Esselen Indian village recorded by Pedro Font as Chuttusgelis. A temporary church was constructed in 1791 shortly after its founding and the first annual report was issued in 1794. No mention of construction on ranchos or outlying lands was made in 1794, but an unusual baptism was recorded in that the recipient was a 20 year old man who was the son of Nootka parents, natives of northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The following years, to 1797, during the administration of the unpopular Padre Diego Garcia, were years of unhappiness at the mission according to Bancroft's writers. Engelhardt notes that those years coincided with a period of harsh drought conditions, contributing greatly to accusations of deprivation and abuse of the neophytes by Padre Garcia's critics. In 1802, an epidemic and a triple murder contributed to deaths, which for a period of time numbered as high as five to six per day. By 1805, the neophyte population had peaked at 688 before slowly dwindling to 598 by 1810.
The 1827, an inventory of holdings required of all missions by Governor Echeandia described the mission boundaries, neighboring ranchos and mission outposts. Soledad's boundaries met with those of Mission San Carlos Borromeo (located in Carmel-by-the-Sea) on the northwest and Mission San Antonio de Padua (about 40 miles south in Jolon). The Mission's boundaries stretched from La Laguna de los Palos on the south to Chualar on the north. Soledad Indians tended 2,000 sheep at La Laguna Rancho, while two leagues west of La Laguna another 1,600 sheep were kept on a rancho used with the permission of Mission San Carlos. On a second Soledad rancho to the north 1,800 sheep grazed, mixed with the sheep of Mission San Carlos Borromeo as they had no fence to separate the herds. To the east of the mission 4,000 head of cattle and 800 horses were kept. The Rio de Monterey (Salinas River) ran through the cañon (canyon) at that point, but the water was too low to tap for irrigation. Croplands were irrigated from an arroyo four leagues south and east of the mission. The reporting padre was discouraged with the lack of good timber on mission lands. He noted that the only groves were of poplar, alder, and willow, with some live oak on the neighboring hills.
The secularization inventory in 1836 reported mission property consisting of a vineyard of 5,000 vines, ranchos at San Lorenzo, San Vicente and San Fernando, and livestock of 3,246 cattle, 2,400 sheep, and 32 horses. Mission liquid assets consisted of $556, while debits amounted to $677. The neophyte population in 1837 was reported at 172, including 45 able-bodied males. In 1839, inspector William Hartnell found 78 neophytes, with 45 cattle, 685 sheep, 25 horses, 2 mules and 260 bushels of barley remaining of the 1836 inventory. The neophytes complained to Hartnell of grievous wrongdoings by administrator Espinosa and Mayordomo Rosa. In 1841, soon after Hartnell's visit, the mission was reported to be in ruins with its vineyards, orchards and gardens gone wild. The mission buildings, furniture, gardens and 21 fruit trees, together with one league of land on which resided 20 Indians, were sold to Feliciano Soberanes in 1845 for $800. Without a roof, the building's walls crumbled from the weather by the time the United States government returned the property to the Catholic Church.
Reconstruction of the grounds began in 1954. So far, only the chapel has been restored. Today, the Soledad Mission is open daily to visitors and run by the Catholic Church.
Visiting the Mission is free - donations for continued restoration are appreciated. For more information regarding the museum, grounds and chapel, including current hours to visit the Soledad Mission, please call (831) 678-2586.
California Missions Resource Center | Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad
Mission Tour | Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad
See Monterey | Soledad Mission