Mission Trades / Activities / Economy

Did San Luis Obispo produce any goods? Were they well-known for producing anything?

The primary products produced by the missions were cow hides and tallow. The cow hides were also known as Yankee dollars, because they were traded for manufactured goods brought by ships which were mostly from Boston. San Luis Obispo was also famous for being the first mission to make roofing tiles, which the other missions soon copied.

As of 1832, the last year for which records were kept, San Luis Obispo had a herd of 2.500 cattle and 5,432 sheep. San Luis Obispo also had large agricultural fields under cultivation.

What activities supported the economy of Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo?

In the beginning the Spanish crown supported the missions. As the missions matured they began to become self supporting. They grew enough food to feed the neophytes and often enough to supply the presidios and pueblos. They had large herds of cattle and sheep. The cattle not only produced beef to eat, the hides became a medium of exchange. The sheep produced wool which was used to make clothing, blankets etc. Starting in the late 1700s ships began to call at the Spanish ports. While the authorities discouraged trade some took place.

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Can you tell me about weaving at the missions and its importance?

Weaving was very important. The missions had to make their own clothing, rugs and blankets. The primary material used was wool .Most of the missions had herds of sheep. In 1832, the last year for which records were kept, there were 137,969 sheep at the 21 missions.

There was a lot of activity connected with the sheep and weaving. Some of the neophytes became sheep herders. The sheep had to be sheared. Later the wool was washed, dyed, carded and combed by the women at the mission. Then looms were used to weave the prepared wool.

What products are made at the mission,what are they made from,and what are they used for?

Today the missions primarily consist of a restored church (which sometimes serves as a parish church) and few additional buildings. The only mission which has most of the workshops where products were made is La Purisima, which consists of over 20 buildings. They give demonstrations there of candle making (made from the tallow of cows), weaving (using wool), woodworking, a blacksmith shop (where they forged products like nails and tools).

What work did the Indians perform at Santa Ines?

The work didn't vary a lot from mission to mission, although Santa Ines had one of the largest networks of ranches and agricultural fields in the mission chain, where they grew wheat, barley, corn, beans etc. Even today the Santa Inez valley is rich farming country.