Scholarly and Academic projects are an important part of the California Frontier Project. These activities are aimed at uncovering and sharing knowledge, especially about lesser-known aspects of early California culture. Some of these projects have been completed, while others are ongoing. Below are brief descriptions of each of project and its outcome or projected outcome.
Surviving Secularization: A Mexican Franciscan in a Changing California 1833-1851
Author: Damian Bacich
José María del Refugio Suárez del Real was the last Franciscan missionary to serve at Mission Santa Clara. Arriving in Alta California in 1833, Suárez del Real was part of a group of Mexican-born Franciscans who were sent to replace Spanish Franciscans in a number of the northern missions. Originally stationed at Mission San Carlos Borromeo, he lived at Santa Clara from 1844 to 1851. Although known as a colorful character, Fr. Real, as he was known to his contemporaries, was a fairly misunderstood figure, who was blamed for much of the deterioration that marked the mission when it was taken over by the Jesuit order in the early 1850s. By reading the writings he left behind within the context of the events of the turbulent decades after mission secularization, we can better understand how Franciscan missionaries navigated such a difficult time period, and how they continued to carry out their mission, and how their identity shifted, from missionary protagonists to members of a marginalized minority.
Projected outcome: peer-reviewed article (forthcoming).
Sylveria Pacheco: A Californio Woman in a Changing Society
Author: Damian Bacich
Sylveria Pacheco was a frontier woman whose life spanned the decades of Spanish, Mexican and U.S. rule in the San Francisco Bay Area. A daughter of Anza party member and San Francisco Presidio soldier, Miguel Antonio Pacheco y del Valle, Sylveria was born and raised at Mission Santa Clara during the tenure of Fathers Magín Catalá and José Viader. In the 1830s she married German aristocrat Karl von Gerolt, only to be widowed a month after her wedding. Following secularization, she ran a boarding house for Anglo-American immigrants in what was the women’s neophyte dormitory at the mission during the tumultuous years of the U.S.-Mexico War and the annexation of Alta California. She later moved to the East Bay and married American immigrant, Charles H. Coles. She was also heiress to Rancho Arroyo de las Nueces y Bolbones, which later became the city of Walnut Creek. Her life was profiled in a 1916 issue of Bret Harte’s Overland Monthly.
As a woman, a single mother and a Californio, Sylveria Pacheco lived on the margins of the Spanish, Mexican and Anglo-American societies she inhabited. Yet she also persevered in adapting to the enormous changes she witnessed during her lifetime. An investigation of her life helps provide a more granular view of life in northern Alta California, one that doesn’t center on well-known historical figures, but instead on issues faced by ordinary people.
Projected outcome: Peer-reviewed journal article
Novena to the Immaculate Conception attributed to Junípero Serra
Authors: Damian Bacich and Annemarie Bacich
As part of the preparations for an exhibit dedicated to the life of Junípero Serra, we came across information about a novena to the Virgin Mary attributed to Serra and published during his lifetime. First printed in Mexico in 1765 and a second time in 1770, the work is titled La Prelada de S. Fernando; Novena a la Concepción Inmaculada de Maria, distribuida por las nueve Letras de Ave Pulcra. The authorship of the text was ascribed to Junípero Serra by José Mariano Beristáin de Souza in his Biblioteca hispano americana setentrional (1816).
Although Serra’s authorship of this novena cannot be definitively proven at present, it certainly can shed light on the spirituality of his Franciscan contemporaries of College of San Fernando in Mexico City, and currents that affected him within such an important context.
The only extant copies are preserved at the Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library and the Biblioteca Nacional in Santiago Chile; a copy of the Chilean edition was obtained by Michael Mathes. Msgr. Francis Weber of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles later edited an English translation of the novena based the Santa Barbara and Santiago copies in honor of the Marian Year proclaimed by John Paul II in 1988.
We are currently preparing bilingual edition of the text with an introduction and a new transcription and translation.
Projected outcome: Peer-reviewed article, bilingual (Spanish/English) edition.