The History of our Mission


1771 ~ Padre Junipero Serra entered the Valley of the Oaks to establish the third mission in California. The date was July 14, 1771. In the secluded sierra district, Padres Junipero Serra, Miguel Pieras and Buenaventura Sitjar hung the bells on the branches of an oak tree and named this mission San Antonio de Padua. Fr. Pieras and Sitjar were left with a small group to start the Mission. They start by building small dwellings and plant the first fields.

1773 ~ The site of the Mission was moved from the original location to a place farther up Los Robles Valley because of the unstable water source. At the end of 1773 the Mission has established workshops, a small church and dwellings established at the new site. The construction was of adobe brick. Some houses of tulles and wood were set up to accommodate the soldiers and converts who now numbered about 163. It was also the year of the first marriage celebrated in Alta California between Juan Maria Ruiz and Margaretta de Cortona.

1775 ~ Small adobe buildings were constructed for the church, store rooms and the padre's rooms.

1779 ~ 2nd church structure was built along with a small sacristy.

1781 ~ Three more small rooms were built along with the roofing using tiles. Serra writes; "thus far San Antonio triumphs, especially with its roofing of tiles." No more reports were given on building developments until 1794.

1804 ~ Padres Padro Cabot and Juan Bautista Sancho arrived at San Antonio. Fr. Sancho was known for having a strong and agreeable voice and taught both Gregorian chant and figured music. The reports for the year noted that a cemetery was laid out, 153 x 125 ft., surrounded by a high thick wall of stone, topped with adobe.

1806 ~ A water-powered gristmill was constructed to grind the Mission grain. The millhouse was two-storied, the lower section housing the water wheel and the upper portion the millstones and a storeroom. The reservoir, millrace and stone masonry of the mill remain intact; the water wheel and mill house have been restored.

1808 ~ A Structure of 165 x 37 ft was built for storing lumber. A tannery was constructed, having four tanks covered with tiles. This can still be seen out by the water-mill. A ditch was extended to irrigate the fields close by.

1810 ~ The 3rd and final church structure was started. Known as the Great Church, the structure ceiling consisted of large timbers that were floated down the mountains on the water of the San Antonio River. It measured 200 feet long and 40 feet wide, with adobe walls approximately 6 feet thick. It is finally blessed in the year 1813. It is the same church building, which stands reconstructed today. A horse-powered mill was constructed for grinding wheat.

1815 ~ A large building 224 ft long was built, with thick walls and 20 ft wide inside. This was partitioned with adobe to provide shops for the weaving room, a room for carding and spinning, a workshop, storage for iron implements and tools, leather a carpenter shop and a stable. A corridor was attached to two sides of the patio formed by the four wings, with pillars partly of adobe and partly of brick and mortar. The old granary walls were raised by five adobes and the wooden beams and roof were renewed. Pigs, corn and flour were exchanged for iron to make needed tools.

1817 ~ There were no supplies that year from Mexico. Heavy rains washed the cattle corral away and it had to be rebuilt The corridor floors of the quadrangle were paved with brick. A house of adobe, covered with tiles, was erected for the vineyardist. This stood until 1906, and old photos show it in near collapse. It was excavated by the Archaeological Summer School from Cal Poly University over the semesters of 1985 to 1986.

1821 ~ An archway is built to the portico of the ‘Great Church’. This façade stands 12 feet from the front wall with three arched openings, the middle being the largest. On each side above, are square towers topped by cupolas, bell towers.

1834 ~ The beginning of the period of secularization. San Antonio becomes government property. Governor Figueroa on November 4, 1834 issued the final proclamation that took Mission San Antonio from the mission padres and placed the entire establishment under civil jurisdiction. At this time, the mission began to fall into a state of neglect.

1851 ~ Fr. Doroteo Ambris, a young priest who came as seminarian from Mexico, first comes out from Monterey and then takes up residence at San Antonio. A few Indian families live at the Mission with him.

1862 ~ On May 31, the U.S. Land Commission formally returns Mission property to the Church. San Antonio received title to 33 acres. The degree is signed by office of Abraham Lincoln.

1882-83 ~ Fr. Ambris dies at the Mission and is buried in the sanctuary of the Church. The Mission is abandoned. Tiles are taken from the roof. Exposed to the weather, the walls crumble. Only the walls of the church itself still stand, along with the brick façade and the row of brick arches along the front corridor.

1903-08 ~ The California Landmark League rebuilt parts of the church walls and covered it with a wooden roof. An earthquake in 1906 destroyed much of what they had done, but the project was begun over again. A local Indian family, the Encinales, assisted in the restoration.

1928 ~ The Franciscans are invited to take back ministry at Mission San Antonio through residence at Mission San Miguel.

1939-40 ~ The United States Army acquires the surrounding area from Randolph Hearst to establish the Hunter-Liggett Military Reservation and train troops during the second World War.

1948-52 ~ The Mission’s Reconstruction by the Franciscans is complete by 1952 and it is used as a Brothers Training School for the Province of Santa Barbara.

1971 ~ On July 14, the 200th anniversary "Bi-Centennial" of Mission San Antonio's founding was celebrated.

2005 ~ was the year of transition in which the Franciscan Friars turned over the caretaking to the Diocese of Monterey, the owners of the Mission. The Diocese continues to host group retreats, maintain a gift shop and serve as an active Catholic parish. There are four annual fundraisers each year to raise the money necessary for the upkeep of the Mission buildings and grounds.

A beautiful museum is located in the front section of the quadrangle of the main building. A tour through the museum is self explanatory, with a donation of $5.00 per adult and $3.00 for child requested. Non-flash photography and video recording are welcome. The grounds outside offer a realistic example of life in the mission days, with signs to read at places of interest. There are picnic grounds with tables under the shade trees to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of our secluded area.