Life previous to the era of steam navigation, and
for its graphic description of conditions in California before
visions of gold sent the long lines of "prairie schooners" drifting
across the plains to unfold the hidden destiny of the West.
California and her Missions
It is not easy to realize that, during the stirring days when the
eastern coast-line of North America was experiencing the ferment
of revolution, the Pacific seaboard was almost totally unexplored,
its population largely a savage one. But Spain, long established
in Mexico, was slowly pushing northward along the California coast.
Her emissaries were the Franciscan friars; her method the founding
of Indian missions round which, in due course, should arise towns
intended to afford harbor for Spanish ships and to serve as outposts
against the steady encroachments of Russia, who, from Alaska, was
reaching out toward San Francisco Bay.
Thus began the white settlement of California. San Diego Mission
was founded in 1769; San Carlos, at Monterey, in 1770; San Francisco,
in 1776; Santa Barbara, in 1786. For the general guardianship of
these missions a garrison, or presidio, was in each case provided.
It was responsible not only for the protection of the town thus
created, but for all the missions in the district.