The Lands of Mission San Miguel
Capture 25: Mission San Miguel - The later Years.
by Wallace V. Ohles
Author and Historian
After thirty-six years without a resident pastor, a priest was assigned to Mission San Miguel in the person of Father Philip Farrelly; he served from January 1,1879 to May 20,1886. "Father Felipe" was transferred to Mission Santa Ynez, and was followed by Father Joseph Mut, whose period of service was June 13, 1886 to October 30, 1889. Father Mut is the only priest to be buried in the cemetery of Mission San Miguel; he rests there with the 2,249 Indians buried at the mission.
Father Zephyrin Engelhardt has this to say about Father Jose Mut. "To his energy is due that the row of buildings comprising the ancient Convento was preserved. Many of the rafters were decayed and others were broken, so that the roof with its heavy tiles threatened to collapse at any time. Father Mut, therefore, undertook to collect the necessary funds.
The people, delighted that their beloved landmark should be preserved, gave freely. $3,000 were secured. With this amount the energetic priest replaced the rotten timbers and broken tiles with new material, and thus rendered the rooms habitable and safe."
While Father Mut lived at Mission San Miguel for three years, he also served Mission San Antonio to the north and Cashin's Station and the San Jose Valley to the south. He . made the circuit once a month with two horses hitched to a light wagon.
Father Mut was followed by Father Carolus Franchi (1889 to 1894), then Father Henry S. O'Reilly (1894-1889). There is a gap of time from 1889 until Father Philip J. O'Reilly's service from February 12, 1900 to March of 1903. During that gap, Rev. George Montgomery signed the Registers on June 16, 1895 and March 25, 1900.
From August 16, 1903 until August 21, 1905, Father Hugh Curran was pastor at the Mission; he was followed by Father Patrick Murphy; from August of 1905 to May of 1908. Father William Power served from June 7, 1908 until November 13, 1909; he was followed by Father William Nevin, November 1909 to September 1922.
Father Patrick Ryan served the Mission from 1922 until November of 1924. (In 1922, St. Rose of Lima parish was formed in Paso Robles.) Father Ascensio Segarra was pastor from December of 1924 until August of 1928. After 86 years of absence, the Franciscan Fathers again took charge of Mission San Miguel, on August 1, 1928.
We have already seen that the mission had been founded in 1797; the first church burned in 1806. Ten years were spent making and storing adobe bricks to be sure that enough were on hand when the construction of the present church was begun. It was completed in 1818-1819. The church portion is 144 feet long, 27 feet wide and 40 feet tall. Most of the walls are 5 feet 10 inches thick.
The mission building had been enclosed by a high adobe wall. At least two people have told of a low adobe wall extending from the Caledonia adobe to the Mission. Steve Buelna, born at the Caledonia on January 1, 1885, and Maude Viola ("Babe") Wright born at Oat Springs, on September 14, 1894, speak about walking on top of this adobe wall.
"Babe," as a young child was carrying a bucket of milk from a dairy herd near the Caledonia to her home in town. The Telfords had a dairy at the Caledonia between 1889 and 1902. On the way; she tripped and the milk was lost; she went home, dreading what the reaction would be. When she arrived, everyone in the household was upset at the news that grandfather had just died; the spilled milk was the least of their worries.
During stage-coach days, the courtyard of the mission was used to hold the stage horses. During the course of repairs in 1930, a crudely-lettered sign was uncovered on the end pillar: "Corral For Stock."
The church of today was built against the front wall of the old or second church, or the front wall of the second church became part of the rear wall of the third church, which is the church now standing.
In April of 1935, Mrs. Webb received information from Mrs. Kate Brown of "Morro Beach," daughter of John Warth. Among other things she said, was that "in the first little room to the right of the church was a large stone basin or bowl in which she and the other children played "fishing."
Edith Buckland Webb has written that "In the spring of 1932, we took Peter Cheney; now almost eighty years old, to visit the mission. Peter said he remembered when the first serious break was made in the north wall of the Indian village. This was made over in the northeast corner in order to have a longer track for horse-racing. The races were run over a straight-away course which was from 600 to 1200 yards in length and lay in front of the mission."
In her book, Indian Life at the Old Missions, Edith Buckland Webb states that Stephen Rios remembered a sort of "basement" which stood at the extreme front end of the front wing of San Miguel's quadrangle. She states that "Early photographs show buildings beyond those now existing at that mission buildings whose foundations have never been uncovered."
Around the same time period, Brother Benedict was rebuilding the altar. During his work, the long- sought escape tunnel was discovered. The tunnel, since fIlled in, led away to the river.
During the time of Father Mut's stay at the mission, John Warth and his two daughters were occupying a room in the Father's dwelling. Nearest the church were Father Mut's quarters, then a Doctor's office, a meat market, the Warth's, other people, then continuing along the south wing, Mexicans were living in the rooms.
Anna Nygren Hebel, writing in 1923, stated that there were twenty rooms in the southern wing of the Mission. In the small houses along the walls, the Indians had been taught various trades. Mrs. Hebel had been told by the pastor, in 1923, that as many as 2,000 Indians could gather inside the mission church. The Indians were hard to control, and instead of shaking hands to greet each other, they patted one another on the cheek. This cheek-patting by several hundred Indians made much noise; the Padres placed curtains over the windows, because the darkness frightened the Indians into silence.
In 1905, Alvin Hillis Wilmar wrote the following for the Paso Robles High School yearbook.
SONNET TO SAN MIGUEL MISSION
San Miguel never had a large bell tower of adobe construction. Its bells usually hung on wooden standards. The original bell, used at the dedication of the mission, was found to have a crack in it. Mission San Antonio loaned a smaller Mexican bell; it is inscribed "S. S. Gabriel A. D. 1800." This bell is suspended under the eaves of the corridor. There is also a bell that had been cast in Lima, Peru, in 1698.
During the summer of 1886, Jeff Stockdale, using his freight team, took a collection of broken bells to the end of the tracks at San Ardo. A large bell was recast, from the several mission bells, in 1888 at the Glove Bell & Brass Foundry in San Francisco. Its translated inscription reads "Blessed Michael Archangel dedicated the day before October 1888."
In August of 1888, a newspaper article which was printed in the San Luis Obispo Tribune and the Daily Republic stated that "The new brass bell for San Miguel Mission arrived, and is at the depot. The whole affair weighs 2,800 pounds, and cost, laid down in San Miguel, $653. Father Mut says it will- - -or should- - - be heard as far away as Paso Robles."
In October of 1888, the newspaper reported that "Father Mut furnishes a financial statement of work, from which it seems that there was raised for the purchase of the bell from individual subscriptions $521.15; from the proceeds of the sale of the old bells from San Luis Mission, about which we gave a detailed account some months since, $87.20; and from the Ladies' Fair $289.25 (for) a total of $898.25. The new bell cost, with incidental expenses, is exactly $700 and the balance left, with such moneys as may be raised later, is to be applied to the erection of a suitable belfry;"
The bell was hung in a low wooden tower, directly in front of the mission; later, the tower and bell were moved to the south side of the mission church. When the bell was on the short tower, and situated in front of the church, Ella Adams says "Its mellow tones, echoing against the mission church, could be heard five miles away;"
A steel tower was sent out from Chicago, and arrived at the mission in time for Christmas of 1902. The bell hung on this spindly steel tower for many years. Ella Adams says "In 1930, parishioner Frank Serpa was ringing the bell, when the clapper fell out, just grazing his hat brim and digging a hole at his feet. Incentive for prayer was good that morning." The clapper weighs 70 pounds.
In 1934, Father Wand, pastor at Mission San Miguel, invited Jess Crettol and his sons to come to San Miguel and help restore the mission. Jess Crettol had been born in Switzerland on May 5, 1883. He studied for the priesthood, for a period of time, in Spain. While there, he learned the art of making adobe bricks.. Crettol left Spain, and eventually arrived in Bakersfield, where he married Blanch L. Crettol, who had been born on December 4, 1879, in England.
Their son, Jesse, was born on October 1, 1913; he became a stone mason. Son Joseph George Crettol was born on February 23, 1925; he was a member of the Coast Guard, and died on August 1, 1943.
Upon being invited to help restore the mission, Jess Crettol and his sons had originally planned to do only a partial restoration; they later decided to do a complete job on the foundations of the old quadrangle. When they started the job, the mission had almost been reduced to rubble. During one year, 250,000 adobe bricks were made.
The Crettols made the adobe bricks and restored the quadrangle first; then Jesse built the bell tower at the south end of the mission property; The elder builder, Jess, built the rock and masonry bell tower adjacent to the mission cemetery; Previously, the huge bell had been mounted on a short wooden tower. The wall in front of the mission was constructed in 1937.
In the 1950s, a new wing and a wall around the south end of the mission were added. The Crettols are also credited with aiding the rebuilding of the Estrella Adobe Church, as well as Mission San Antonio. For all of these projects, Jesse designed and had a Paso Robles blacksmith, Fred Cuendet, build an adobe mud-mixer; the machine, built on a 1931 Chevy chassis, looks like a cross between a truck and a tractor.
Jesse's building was interrupted by World War II. After the war, Jesse returned to San Miguel, and married Lucille Crettol. She had been born on August 16, 1907.
Louise Crettol later related that some of the old adobe bricks that the men found had been made with the bodies of birds inside, used instead of straw: Dan Krieger, history professor at California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, has stated that San Miguel's adobe bricks ordinarily had ox-blood and horse manure blended with the adobe soil.
[There is a stucco house at 11th and L Streets in San Miguel, which was built by Jess Crettol and his son. It contains a wall which features cement plaques which represent the signs of the zodiac and the four phases of the moon. Also featured is a barbecue pit with a stone chimney in the shape of a dragon; it is designed to release smoke through the dragon's mouth and nostrils when the pit is being used.]
The tennis courts and handball courts were the final projects; they were constructed in the 1960s. Jesse Crettol worked on the mission buildings until 1967; that year, he went to work for San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation Department in San Miguel.
Blanch L. Crettol passed away on February 9, 1958; she was followed in death by her husband, Jess, on December 15,1958. Jesse Crettol died on May 18, 1989; Lucille Crettol passed away on May 25, 1993.
The daughter of Jesse and Lucille is Lynne Schmitz. She and her husband, Andrew "Bud" Schmitz, live and work on the property across from the mission; it was once the mission pear orchard and was later a dairy;
This excerpt was used with Author's permission from: