Early Clericals of Los Angeles
BY H. D. Barrows.
As Alta California was settled by
Spanish-speaking people who tolerated no other form of religion
except the Roman Catholic, of course there were no churches
except of that faith in Los Angeles, from the time of the
settlement of the ancient pueblo, in the year 1781, until the
change of government in 1846.
From and after the founding of the
mission of San Gabriel, in 1778, until, and after the completion
of the old Plaza church in the latter part of 1822, that mission
became and remained the center of industrial activity, as well
as the head-quarters of clerical authority for this portion of
Fathers Salvadea, Sanchez, Boscana
and Estenega managed with zeal and great ability the extensive
concerns, both spiritual and temporal, of the mission, sending a
priest occasionally to the pueblo, or coming themselves, to say
mass, at the capilla or chapel which had been erected north and
west of the present church. After the latter was built. Father
Boscana became the first regular rector or pastor, serving till
1831. He was succeeded by Fathers Martinas, Sanchez, Bachelot,
Estenega, Jimenez, Ordaz, Rosales, etc., who served as local
pastors, for longer or shorter periods, of the only church in
the town, from 1831 to 1851.
The first priest, whom I knew of, but
did not know personally, was Padre Anacleto Lestrade, a native
of France, who was the incumbent from '51 to '56. Padre Bias
Raho, who came here in 1856, I knew well, and esteemed highly.
He was broadminded and tolerant. He told me that he had lived
sixteen years in the Mississippi valley before he came to Los
Angeles. He was a native of Italy.
It was during his pastorate that the
old church building was greatly improved. It was frescoed inside
and out by a Frenchman, Mr. H. Penelon, the pioneer photographer
of Los Angeles. The lettering on the front of the building as
seen to-day was done by Penelon, viz.: "Los Fieles de Esta
Parroquia A la Reina de Los Angeles, 1861;" and also on the
Dios Te Salve, Maria Llena De Gracia.
El Señor Esta En Su Santo Templo:
Calle La Tierra ante su Acatamiento.
Habac. 2, 20.
Santa Maria Madre de Dios, Ruega por
Padre Raho was the first Vicar
General of the diocese, under Bishop Amat.
Later, Padre Raho, who served his
parish faithfully for a number of years, and who was respected
and revered by his parishioners, fell sick and went to the
Sisters' Hospital, which was then located in the large two-story
brick building which stood, and I think still stands, to the
east of the upper depot, and between the latter and the river,
which the Sisters bought of Mr. H. C. Cardwell, who built it.
I visited Padre Raho here during his
last illness, at his request. He told me that he had not a cent
of money (having taken vows of poverty,) in the world; and that
the good sisters furnished him refuge, etc. The venerable Sister
Ann, whom many will remember, and who, I believe, is still
living at an advanced age, at the home of the order of Sisters
of Charity, at Emmettsburg, Pa., was at that time the
superioress of the order here.
Fathers Duran and Mora succeeded
Father Raho. There were other priests whom I did not know so
well, who' made their home at different times at the parsonage
adjoining the old church. But none of these, so far as my
acquaintance permitted me to know, with the possible exception
of Father Mora, were as liberal as Father Raho. The bishop of
the diocese during these times was Tadeo Amat, who, though his
jurisdiction extended to' Monterey, made his headquarters first
for a time at Santa Barbara, and then at this old church of "Nuesta
Señora, la Reyna de Los Angeles." Bishop Amat was succeeded by
Bishop (formerly Father) Mora, a gentle and scholarly prelate.
It was during the latter's administration (in 1874, I think.)
that the cathedral (and bishop's residence) was built, on Main
street and the official headquarters of the diocese were removed
thither. Bishop Mora was succeeded by Bishop Montgomery, the
present head of the local church.
When Father Mora was made bishop,
Father Peter Verdaguer, who was a very eloquent Spanish orator,
became pastor of the old church. "Father Peter," as he was
widely known, was made a bishop a few years ago, and he was
succeeded by the present rector, a young and talented priest,
Father Liébana. "Father Peter," now Bishop Verdaguer, presides
over the diocese of Texas.
Bishop Mora, and genial, gentle
Father Adam, long his Vicar General, and long an honored and
active member of our Historical Society, both now reside with
their relatives, in retreat, during the closing years of their
lives, at Barcelona, Spain.
Source: Annual publication of the Historical Society of Southern
California and Pioneer register, Los Angeles, Part I. Vol.