Santa Ysabel Mission & Cemetery
23013 California 79, Santa Ysabel, CA
Update: I have removed photos of the cemetery out of respect to the Santa Ysabel tribe members whom have loved ones buried here. This cemetery is not open to the public FYI. Appreciate from outside the fence if you visit the mission.
Santa Ysabel was a sub-mission of Mission San Diego de Alcalá. It was established in 1818 as a means of serving people who had a hard time getting to San Diego. There is nothing left of the original asistencia however in 1924 the San Ysabel chapel was dedicated and sits near the site of the original adobe. There are three structures and a cemetery. There's also a fourth (trailer like) building to the South of these three that houses the gift shop.
About the Cemetery:
Dedicated in 1818 as the center for a series of fifteen reservation cemeteries, this small burial ground retains a personality that combines Catholicism and Indian tradition. Almost every marked grave, even those without dates or names, is decorated with artificial flowers in vases, or wreaths, or a single dropped flower.
A white picket fence from the nineteenth century has been replaced with chain link, but the large white cross at the entryway remains. It guided travelers to the Mission as they entered the valley from the Northwest.43
The cross-shaped grave markers, either of wood or concrete, bear unique decorations in shell, rock, even colored bottle glass.
Buried with the Indians he knew so well, is Father La Ponte, a French Canadian missionary, who arrived in Santa Ysabel in 1903, and lived and worked there until his death in 1932.
On All Souls Day, November 2, the Indians in Santa Ysabel celebrate the Festival of Lights with a mass and up to 10,000 candles. A memorial that stands in recognition to those Indians in the area who had fought in wars emphasizes the outward community pride.
20 September 1818: Padre Fernando Martin blessed the spot for a capilla at Canada de Santa Ysabel. A temporary structure was then erected.
2 February 1819: Padre Vicente Sarria noted the presence of "a goodly number of baptized souls" and asked for permission to erect a permanent church.
1822: With permission granted, a church was erected and by this year a thriving community had been established.
1836: A report indicated that erosion has started to eat away at the foundations of several buildings, including the chapel.
7 May 1839: A report indicated thriving fields, two vineyards, an orchard, and animal stock. However, the erosion reported in 1836 continued.
1846: Erosion had so eaten away at the various buildings that the chapel was in ruins and all of the mud houses had effectively dissolved. A brush ramada served as a church whenever a visiting padre made their way back into the area. Two bells, bought by the Indians for six burro loads of barley hung in a frame as the only remains of the original chapel. The bells were among the oldest in California, dating from 1723 and 1767. (The picture here is an edited version of a picture from the museum. People were removed to highlight the bells.)
1899: A report from the period indicated that only the outlines of the church remained. Everything else had "sunk into indistinguishable heaps of earth."
1924: The current building was dedicated as Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church.
1926: The original two bells from the chapel disappeared. A day later Jose Maria Osuna found the clappers (but kept them).
1959: The clappers to the bells were returned to the Chapel and are now in the museum. A statue of the "Angel of the Lost Bells" stands at the site now.
1963: The University of California discovered the site of the original buildings, then only "faintly visible under the pasture grass."
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