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July 7, 1861: San Juan Bautista

July 7, 2011

Glad Tidings Church, San Juan Bautista, CA

Glad Tidings Church, San Juan Bautista; by AGrinberg, on Flickr

Camp 38

Morning Pyramid 01

Transamerica Pyramid, on the site of the Montgomery Block; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr


We received a letter a day or two ago from Professor Whitney that he would be down either Saturday or Monday, for certain, so I suppose he will surely be here tomorrow, after our long suspense in waiting for him. He writes, and other letters and the papers confirm it, that several shocks of earthquakes took place last week in San Francisco, and reports come in from other parts of the state. I think that I have before told you that nearly or quite the whole of this state is subject to earthquakes. There will never be a high steeple built in the state, and in San Francisco the loftiest houses are but three stories high, the majority only two. There are two hotels four stories, but all old residenters will not stop at them for fear of having them shaken down over their heads. The shocks last week (six principal shocks) were quite severe, much more so than usual, and caused much alarm. Our office is in the Montgomery Block, a high three-story stone building, full of offices, but a building many are afraid of. Professor Whitney says he thinks that all of the occupants ran out into the street except him, and says that the building rocked and swayed finely. The city was in terror, the streets filled in an instant, everyone excited. No business was urgent enough to keep a man at it; men rushed into the streets from barber shops with their faces lathered and towels about their necks; men even rushed naked from baths, but were stopped before reaching the city in that primitive costume. We have perceived no shocks, but they were reported in the vicinity two weeks ago.

San Juan Bautista 09

Mission San Juan Bautista; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

I went to Mass this morning in the Mission Church. It is a fine old church, with thick adobe walls, some two hundred feet long and forty feet wide, quite plain inside, and whitewashed. The light is admitted through a few small windows in the thick walls near the ceiling, windows so small that they seem mere portholes on the outside, but entirely sufficient in this intensely light climate, where the desire is to exclude heat as much as to admit light—so the air was cool within, and the eyes relieved of the fierce glare that during the day reigns without.

Jesus Saves

Interior Detail, Mission San Juan Bautista; by AGrinberg, on Flickr

The usual number of old and dingy paintings hung on the walls, the priest performed the usual ceremonies, while violins, wind instruments, and voices in the choir at times filled the venerable interior with soft music. I never wonder that the Catholic church has such power over the feelings of the masses, especially when I compare its ceremonies with such as I saw in a Protestant church here. A congregation of perhaps 150 or 200 knelt, sat, or stood on its brick floor—a mixed and motley throng, but devout—Mexican (Spanish descent), Indian, mixed breeds, Irish, French, German. There was a preponderance of Indians. Some of the Spanish señoritas with their gaily-colored shawls on their heads, were pretty, indeed. It is only in a Roman church that one sees such a picturesque mingling of races, so typical of Christian brotherhood.

With scarcely enough Protestants here to support one church well, there are three churches, wasting on petty jealousies the energies that should be exerted in advancing true religion and rolling back the tide of vice swelling in the land.

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