Attack on Mission Santa Cruz

by Philip Laverty

On the night of December 14, 1793, Mission Santa Cruz was attacked and partially burned by members of the Quiroste tribe. Based on all available information, this occurrence appears to be the first and perhaps the only direct attack on a mission building in Central California during the Spanish era.

Nearly two years (1) of armed resistance on the part of members of the Quiroste tribe preceded the attack, which was probably the first extended resistance against the Spanish in the entire San Francisco Bay Area.The Quiroste tribe, an Ohlonean group, was situated around Año Nuevo and the mountains to the east. The term Ohlone is not a tribal name but refers to a large language group to which the Quirostes belonged. The Quirostes were more than likely the largest and most powerful coastal tribe between the Monterey Bay and the Golden Gate. One reason for their eminence was their control of the source of Monterey Banded Chert used for the making of stone tools throughout the area. the attack of December 14, 1793 was an affair of great importance.

The period of Quiroste resistance began around November of 1791 just as Mission Santa Cruz was beginning its operations. The instigator was a man by the name of Charquin, who was a leader of the Quirostes. Charquin was baptized at Mission San Francisco's outstation, San Pedro, on the eighteenth of November, at the age of sixty. Over one year later, a report was issued from Hermenegildo Sal, Paymaster at San Francisco Presidio, to interim Governor José Joaquín de Arrillaga on February 27, 1793. The following is a paraphrase of the destroyed original:

Item 3. "some eighteen months ago a mountain Indian, who had been called Charquin as a pagan, was baptized at Mission San Francisco. He didn't even remain at the mission for eight days. Not even when the missionaries sent out messengers for him did he return. On two occasions endeavors were made to apprehend him. On one of them he retreated into the mountains and on the other he took up arms against the Christians of the mission. This has caused him to become insolent, inasmuch as he is increasingly fearsome in the eyes of the Indians. On the fifteenth of this month corporal Miguel Pacheco, in charge of the escort of Mission Santa Cruz, reported that there was no news except that two Indians of Charquin's ranchería, who had been baptized, went back there with a license to visit. Because they had become Christians he wanted to kill them and take their wives. Although they fled that day, they returned by night to look for their wives. Upon discovering them, Charquin took away their weapons. They had to return alone to their mission. On that same day the Reverend Father Baldomero López told him that Charquin had finally given them more than they could endure. The commander of the presidio of San Francisco also concluded that he would no longer allow such excesses (which had continued, notwithstanding the consideration with which they had tolerated his behavior). He desires to go under cover of darkness to capture this Indian and give him what he deserves, regardless of the obstacles presented by the impregnable reaches of the mountains in which he pulls together his forces. It was known that said Charquin had in his power about twenty Christians of the Mission of San Francisco, including women and children, and allowed none to leave him. Consequently, in regard to what he has reported, he hopes to receive a directive for action as soon as possible (Sal [1793] 1991:521-522)".

Documentation of the expedition which led to Charquin's capture has not been located. We know, however, of his arrest from a reference by Governor Arrillaga in 1794 to Charquin as a prisoner at the Santa Barbara Presidio (Arillaga 1794a).

Despite the capture of Charquin, a key leader, the Quirostes remained active in their resistance. In December of 1793, after a raid on the Quirostes by Spanish soldiers recaptured fugitives from Mission Santa Cruz, the mission was attacked by the Quirostes. Two of the women taken were Tuiguimemis and Miscamis, the same women Charquin had allegedly prevented from returning to the mission earlier.

Only one official report of the assault on the mission, authored by Father President Fermín Lasuén, is available:

I have found out for certain that on the night of the fourteenth of last December the pagan Indians, and some Christian Indians, from the rancherías to the northwest of that mission made an assault on the guard, wounded the corporal in the hand, and another soldier in the shoulder, and set fire to the roof of the corral for the lambs, and the old guard house. The corporal fired a few shots, and with that they withdrew without serious injury to either side. The motive they have given is this, that the soldiers had taken away to San Francisco various Christian Indians belonging to that place who had been fugitives from there for some time, and that they had taken a Christian Indian woman away from a pagan man, and it was he who was the principal instigator and leader of the disorder (Lasuén [1785-1803] 1965:299).

Soldiers were quickly mobilized from the presidios of Monterey and San Francisco to defend Mission Santa Cruz from a subsequent assault and to apprehend the attackers. Indians from Mission Santa Cruz were sent out to track down those who participated in the raid. Informing the governor of the latest attempts to capture aggressors, Second Lieutenant Perez-Fernández, commander of the San Francisco presidio, wrote:

The nine Indians who, at the orders of ensign Pablo Cota, went out searching for the heathen Ochole on January nineteenth have not returned as of the twenty-eighth (Perez-Fernández [1794a] 1991:190).

Ochole was the father of Tuiguimemis.

"The nine Indians who went into the mountains on orders of Alferez Pablo Cota have returned. They brought in eight prisoners, including the ringleader called Pella. He believes it to be important that they be sent down to Monterey." (Perez-Fernández [1794b] 1991:190-191).

Five Christian Indians and many pagan Indians were reported by Fermín Lasuén on February 3, 1794 to have been sent from Mission Santa Cruz to Monterey for punishment (Lasuén [1785-1803] 1965:300).

Additional military expeditions captured other members of the Quiroste tribe. Charquin's brother Meve sought asylum at Santa Clara but was ordered by Governor Arrillaga to be taken prisoner. "In case the missionaries deny him to us, the corporal should enter the church and bring the culprit out, forgetting all the niceties,because his was not a crime that is given ecclesiastical immunity (Arrillaga [1794a])." The capture of Pella and other Quirostes seems to have marked the end of the Quiroste resistance movement. However, concern about another attack, which evidently never materialized, was expressed by Perez-Fernández on February 1, 1794, "the pagans of the mountains are making arrows to go fight against the mission " (Perez-Fernández [1794b]1991:191). Dramatically enough, Charquin escaped from the Santa Barbara Presidio, "He orders that the Indian Mateo Charquin, who has escaped form the Santa Barbara Presidio, be taken. When that is done transfer him securely to this presidio (Borica [1795e] 1991:212 n. 4)." He was re-captured and died in the San Diego Presidio.

The two year period of Quiroste resistance which culminated in the attack on Mission Santa Cruz represents a moment of great importance in colonial history. Challenged as to the legitimacy of their presence in this area, the Spanish acted to insure the decisive defeat of all opposition to their imperial aspirations.

(1) This article is essentially a summary of the first section, "Santa Cruz Mountain Resistance," of Chapter 6 of Randy Milliken's dissertation (1991), An Ethnohistory of the San Francisco Bay Area from 1770 to 1810, pp. 185-191

References Cited

Arillaga, José Joaquin de
[1794a] Informe al Alférez Perez-Fernández. Monterey. July 29, 1794. [Paraphrase of destroyed original.] Archives of California (C-A 1- 63) 22:367. Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Lasuén, Fermín Francisco de
[1785-1803] The Writings of Fermín Francisco de Lasuén. Finbar Kenneally, editor. Richmond, Virginia: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1965).

Milliken, Randall Theodore
[1991]"An Ethnohistory of the Indian People of the San Francisco Bay Area from 1770 to 1810." Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley: 1991.

______ Borica, Diego de
[1795e] Borica al commandante de Santa Clara sobre aprehensión de un Indio. Monterey. June 10, 1795. [Paraphrase of destroyed original.] Archives of California (C-A 1-63) 24:53. Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. In Milliken (1991) p. 212.

______. Perez-Fernández, José
[1794a] Informe al Gobernador Arrillaga sobre prisión de Indios. San Francisco Presidio. February 1, 1794. [Paraphrase of destroyed original.] Archives of California (C-A 1-63) 7:55-56. Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. In Milliken (1991) p. 190.

[1794b] Informe al Gobernador Arrillaga sobre prisión y aprestos. San Francisco presidio February 1, 1794. [Paraphrase of destroyed original, misdated February 1, 1793] Archives of California (C-A 1-63) 6:336. Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. In Milliken (1991) pp. 190-191.

______. Sal, Hermengildo
[1793] Informe a Gobernador interino Joaquín de Arrillaga. San Francisco Presidio. February 27, 1793. [Paraphrase of destroyed original.] Archives of California (CA 163) 55:160-164. Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Translated by Randall Milliken in Milliken (1991) pp. 521-522.

Go Back to the top of this page.

Go Back to the Santa Cruz Mission Page.

Go back to the Costanoan-Ohlone Home page.