CHAPTER XV. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS UPON THE COUNTRY.

  First settlement of the missionaries 
  Population 
  Characteristics of white population 
  Employments 
  Pleasures and amusements 
  Position of women 
  Soil 
  Grasses 
  Vegetable productions 
  Agriculture 
  Fruits 
  Cattle 
  Horses 
  Wild animals 
  Minerals 
  Climate 
  Flora 
  Water-power 
  Timber 
  Religion.

It was during the month of November, 1602, the sun just retiring behind the distant high land which forms the background of a spacious harbour at the southernmost point of Alta California, that a small fleet of vessels might have been seen directing their course as if in search of a place of anchorage; their light sails drawn up, while the larger ones, swelling now and then to the action of the breeze, bore them majestically along, forcing their way through the immense and almost impenetrable barrier of sea-weed, to a haven which, at the remote period stated, was considered the unexplored region of the North. The fleet referred to hauled their wind to the shore, and, passing a bluff point of land on their left, soon came to anchor; but not until the shades of night had cast a gloom over the scene so recently lighted up with the gorgeous rays of a setting sun.

This was the commencement, or rather preliminary mark, of civilization in this country, by the Spaniards, (if so it can be called,) and on the following morning a detachment was landed, accompanied by a friar, to make careful investigation of the long ridge of high land which serves as a protection to the harbour from the heavy north-west gales. They found, as reported, an abundance of small oak and other trees, together with a great variety of useful and aromatic herbs; and from its summit they beheld the extent and beauty of the port, reaching, as they said, full three leagues from where the vessel lay at anchor. A large tent was erected on the sandy beach, to answer the purposes of a church, where the friar might perform mass, and by directions of the commanding officers, the boats were drawn up for repairing, wells were dug, parties were sent off to cut wood, while guards were placed at convenient distances to give notice of the approach of any hostile force. The latter precaution was hardly carried into effect, ere a large body of naked Indians were seen moving along the shore, armed with bows and arrows. A friar, protected by six soldiers, was dispatched to meet them, who, making signs of peace by exhibiting a white flag and throwing handfuls of sand high into the air, influenced them to lay aside their arms, when, affectionately embracing them, the good old friar distributed presents of beads and necklaces, with which they eagerly adorned their persons. This manifestation of good feeling induced them to draw near to where the commander had landed with his men, but perceiving so large a number, they retreated to a neighbouring knoll, and from thence sent forward to the Spaniards ten aged females, who, possessing apparently so much affability, were presented immediately with gifts, and instructed to go and inform their people of the friendly disposition cherished for them by the white strangers. This was sufficient to implant a free intercourse with the Indians, who daily visited the Spaniards, and bartered off their skins and furs in exchange for bread and trinkets. But at length the time arrived for the fleet to depart, and they proceeded northward, visiting in their course Monterey and Mendocino, where the same favourable result attended the enterprise as at other places, and they returned in safety to New Spain.

So successful had been the character of this expedition throughout the entire period of its execution, that an enthusiasm prevailed in the minds of the Spaniards, which could only be assuaged by an attempt to conquer and christianize the inhabitants of that distant portion of the American continent. Many were the fruitless results of the Spanish adventurer - numerous were the statements of his toil and labour, till at length a formidable attempt, under the patronage and direction of Don Gaspar de Portala and Father Junipero Serra, successfully achieved the desired object for which it was planned and executed.