Established: July 4, 1823
By: Father Jose Altimira
Order: 21st of the 21 missions
Location: 40 miles North of San Francisco
Named: St. Francis Solano
Interesting Fact: There was no bell tower or bell wall. A single bell was hung from a wood frame in front of the church.
Mission San Francisco de Solano was founded in 1823 by a Spanish missionary named Fray Altimira. Fray Altimira asked the Mexican Governor if he could build a mission and take some people from San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores). Mission Dolores was in terrible condition. The person who Fray Altimira did not ask was the dying president of the missions. He got very angry with this and refused to let him build the mission, but the man who was about to take his place convinced him to allow the 21st mission to be built. It was made in a place called the Valley of the Moon. There was lots of farmland, plenty of creeks, and a bunch of Native Americans. This was the perfect place for a mission. It was named after St. Francis Solano. This mission was the last of the missions.
Mission San Francisco de Solano is an amazing sight. Instead of a bell tower or campanario, it has a simple wooden frame with a bell in the middle of it. The bell was a gift from the Russians at Fort Ross. The mission was made in an interesting style called a quadrangle. A quadrangle is where many long rectangular buildings are put in the shape of a square. The first church was a small wooden church whitewashed with mud. It was replaced by a larger adobe one. In 1838 that church was destroyed. In 1840, after the Franciscans had left that church was replaced by a church that was 105 ft. long and 23 ft. wide. A lot of this mission was made of adobe bricks. Soldiers and Native Americans pounded the clay earth with their hands and feet. They mixed in straw and water. Then they poured the mixture into a mold and out popped an adobe brick 23 in. long, 11 in. wide, and 2-5 in. thick. The nice thing about adobe was that it stayed warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The problem with them is that they need to be dried in the sun or in the oven. Although this mission wasn't as prosperous as most of the missions it did have over 10,000 acres of fertile land. The monastery wing was a long, low adobe structure that provided living quarters for the mission staff. There was a fountain in the middle of the patio that spurted out water. The patio was where they had big fiestas where you could eat plenty of food. It was surrounded by long buildings and peaceful gardens. The patio was a happy place.
Fray Altimira was a cruel man. He would whip any Native that tried to escape. The Natives got very annoyed with this and soon grew so impatient that they ruined the mission and forced Fray Altimira to leave. In 1827 he was replaced by Father Fortuni who replaced the adobe buildings with wood and thatch ones. Then in 1834 the mission was secularized. In 1835 Vallejo laid out the town of Sonoma and put a huge plaza in front of the mission. Then in 1846 some American settlers claimed the area a California Republic and raised the state flag. The 1906 earthquake really damaged the mission. Later, state funding provided for the rebuilding of a church from 1911-1913. Now the mission site is the Sonoma Mission State Historic Park. It sure deserves to be there!!!