Thirteenth of the California Missions
October 9, 1791
Our Lady of Solitude
Founding Father President:
Fr. Fermin Francisco de Lasuen
Frs. Mariano Rubi and Diego Garcia
Thirty miles southeast of Monterey in the Salinas River Valley at a site thought to have been an Esselen village known by the natives as Chuttusgelis.
A courtyard-centered quadrangle with out-buildings. Neophyte housing was located to the south and the cemetery to the east.
Salinas River (too low for irrigation) was used for livestock needs. The Arroyo Seco brought seasonal waters. A 15 mile long zanja or aqueduct dug by neophytes (rediscovered by archaeologists from CSU Monterey Bay in 2007) eventually irrigated some 20,000 acres in the Llano del Rey or lands about the mission.
The highest recorded population was 687 in 1804
The Soledad mission had a livestock herd of 6,000 cattle and 4,950 sheep in 1834, the last year for which records were maintained. The number of sheep exceeded 9,000 during the mission's peak years.
Agricultural production at Soledad ranked it in the bottom third of mission chain. Over the years 1793 - 1834 Soledad harvasted 119,492 bushels of wheat, barley, corn, beans and peas. Its most important product was wheat.
The simple Soledad chapel was built in 1832, and restored in 1954. The church was originally located at the east end of the padre's quarters until circa 1824 when it was destroyed in one of the recurring floods that plagued this hard luck mission.
A copy of the original mission bell, cast in Mexico City in 1794, hangs on a wooden beam to the left of the church entrance. The original is kep inside the church.
Both the exterior and interior of the chapel are quite simple. Colorfully painted reredos, stenciled wall decorations and original oil paintings of the Stations of the Cross adorn the sanctuary. There is also an original painting of Our Lady of Refuge in the sanctuary.
The grounds, which still contain the ruins of the mission's adobe walls, are a haunting reminder of how difficult life must have been at this remote and desolate mission.
Year Returned to Catholic Church:
A chapel of Our Lady of Solitude Catholic Church is in the town of Soledad.
Indians Joining This Mission:
Few natives lived in the vicinity of this mission so Indians were recruited from many tribes including the Chalon, Esselen, Yokuts and Salinan.
José Joaquín de Arrillaga, the first Spanish governor of Alta California, died at Soledad in 1814 during a mission tour, and was buried in a Franciscan habit beneath the floor of the church destroyed in 1824.
Soledad became the principal headquarters of the President of the California Missions, Fr. Mariano Payeras, in the wake of Bouchard's raid on Monterey (1819-1822).
Soledad's Fr. Vicente Francisco de Sarría authored a medical treatise titled "Descripción de la Operación Cesaria" (1830), the first original California contribution to the field of medicine.
Mission Soledad deteriorated rapidly after secularization. It served for several years as the Felilano Soberanes ranch house, a grocery store and a restaurant and was then abandoned for almost 100 years
The Daughters of the Golden West restored the chapel in 1953, and the convento wing (present day museum) in 1963