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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

California San Juan Bautista Mission

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

There are 21 Spanish missions in California begun by the Catholic Friars of the Franciscan Order. They began the missions in 1769 and continued until the early 1830s. The idea was to spread the Christian faith among the local Native American population.

These Franciscans introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, horses, cattle and ranching to this area of the wilderness. Over time, there was a mixed result from this Spanish colonization of the native peoples and the government of Mexico shut down the missions. 

California missions are among the state's oldest structures. San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist) is the 15th mission built and is the largest founded in what is now present-day California. It was established on June 24, 1797.

Map of the California missions

San Juan's population grew quickly and by the early 1800s there were over 1,000 Native Americans living at the mission. Ranching and farming were the main activities.

 

Map of San Juan with the location of the mission

The mission of San Juan is 90+ miles southeast of San Francisco and is located on the main plaza in the town that developed all around the mission. Visiting this site offers the best opportunity to see and appreciate what California looked like 160 years ago.

Looking through the archway across the main plaza to the barracks made for the soldiers

During the California Gold Rush, the town of San Juan Bautista grew and expanded rapidly. Today it is still a thriving community. Buildings were constructed around the plaza in front of the mission including barracks for soldiers (now the Plaza Hotel) and a nunnery. These buildings have been restored to their original form.

The Ohlone and the Yokut Natives were brought to live at the mission and were baptized into Christianity. San Juan Bautista has served mass daily since 1797 and is today the parish church of the Diocese of Monterey, California.

Archways on the side of the Church

From this view, the cemetery is straight to the back, the original grassy plaza is to the right, and the gift shop is through one of the doors on the left.

In the 1840s this gift shop was a storeroom and became the temporary home for the Breen family who were survivors of the Donner Party tragedy. Their family bible is still kept on the premises.

Small restored adobe chapel

Once the church was built, this little chapel was no longer needed for Sunday services, and became another storage room, a meeting room, even a basketball court. Restoring the chapel to its original state required stripping layers of whitewash to reveal the designs and painting underneath. These designs were reproduced and the chapel was reconstructed back to its original appearance.

Outside entrance to the chapel from the gardens

There was a cat door carved into this blue side door of the chapel which allowed cats complete access to catch mice. These mice were a serious concern and ate much of the harvest during the 1800s.

Notice how thick the walls are around the windows.

View of the gardens

The garden area was the center of activity and the friars taught the natives skills such as carpentry, tanning, weaving and candle making. 

Another look at the garden area in the direction of the gift shop

At this period of time, the kitchen was preparing three meals a day for over 1,000 people. Fifty some head of cattle were slaughtered weekly in order to feed this mission community.

The present church

It was in June of 1803 that the cornerstone was laid for this church and with its three aisles, it became the widest of all the mission churches in California.

The floor tile was completed in 1817. If you look closely while visiting the mission, you can see animal foot prints in the tiles themselves. These tiles were dried outside in the sun, and animals simply walked across them, leaving their footprints behind.

 

The reredos (which holds the six statues behind the altar) were painted by an American sailor who jumped ship in Monterey. He painted these in exchange for his room and board at the mission.

A closer look at the altar and the reredos

Much of the mission property was seized by the Mexican government in 1835 and this government secularized the church at that time. It wasn't until 1895 that the present mission buildings and surrounding 55 acres was given back to the Church by Federal decree of the U.S. Government.

These reredos and the saint statues themselves are mostly in their original state.

Votive candles to the sides of the altar

The faithful will often light votive candles as a continuous prayer for a loved on or for a troubled situation. Sometimes they can be in thanksgiving for a prayer having been answered.

Memory plaque in the floor of the church

This is a memory plaque laid into the floor of the church. Maria Antonia Castro initially married Juan Miguel Anzar who was the brother of one of the priests who served at the Mission of San Juan Bautista. When he died, Maria married Frederick A. McDougall who was a doctor from Scotland. She died at 28 years of age leaving her children and her husband as heirs to a couple of nearby ranchos.

Mission cemetery

The cemetery is located on the north side of the church and contains the remains of 4,000 Christian Native Americans and Europeans. 

Part of the original El Camino Real is able to be seen just beyond the walls of this cemetery. The road is situated atop an escarpment of the San Andreas fault, and this fault runs along the base of the hill below this cemetery. In the San Francisco violent earthquake of 1906, the side walls of the church collapsed. They were restored in 1976.

If you would like to visit this mission for yourself, you can find information here. Address is 406 Second Street, San Juan Bautista, California, 95045. Tele: 1. 831. 623. 2127. There is no charge to see the mission, but a donation is requested.

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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