Updated date:

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, CA: Short Life and History

California is a state full of natural wonders, including many state & national parks. See interesting sites in San Francisco & beyond.

My photo of an illustration of the original site of Mission San Francisco Solano

My photo of an illustration of the original site of Mission San Francisco Solano

Mission San Francisco Solano

Now an integral part of the Sonoma State Historic Park, the Mission San Francisco Solano has a short but fascinating history. The mission was founded in 1823 and only had an eleven-year life.

My husband and I wandered the grounds of the mission many years ago on a vacation trip to the California wine country. Since we were spending some of our time in the Sonoma Valley visiting wineries, we also thought it would be of interest to see the town of Sonoma.

It is near the central plaza, in the heart of the town, where one finds what there is today of the mission. At the top of this article is a photograph I took of an illustration. It shows what the original site was like in appearance.

Brief History of This Area

For centuries, long before the discovery by Europeans, Native Americans lived in this verdant area. After the discovery of the New World, Spanish colonization of North and South America took place. By the 1800s, their reach had extended up the coastline of California to slightly north of San Francisco to what is now Sonoma. The New Spain province was known as Alta, California.

Many Spanish missions dotted the landscape. Catholic priests of the Franciscan order were an integral part of settling the land for Spain. They needed human power to build and sustain these missions, and the native Americans became tenants under their rule. Conversion of these native Americans to Christianity, teaching them life skills, and educating them were all a part of the plan. They would become Spanish citizens.

The goal of each mission was to become self-sustaining. Tending of animals and the growing of crops took place. Buildings made of local resources, such as the adobe and stone buildings that still exist, are now some of California's oldest structures. While settlement and expansion took place, the native Americans suffered much loss of life. Primarily it was due to the introduction of diseases such as measles, influenza, and tuberculosis, among others, of which they had no immunity.

World events started changing rapidly in this location. In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain. The Mission San Francisco Solano is the most northern mission, and it came into being under the rule of Mexico instead of Spain. The Mexican Congress decided in 1833 to close all of the missions and desecularize them. General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo was the military man in charge of this project and settling this area for Mexico.

Russian interests were also active in this area, with an outpost at Bodega Bay and Fort Ross on the coastline not far from Sonoma. Settlers from the United States were pouring into California, lured by tales of riches to discover. While ultimately the Russians left, the United States settlers were there to stay. They revolted from Mexican rule on June 14, 1846, and raised the new Bear Flag of the Republic of California. It was not even a month later that the U.S. flag replaced the Bear Flag. On September 9, 1850, California became the 31st state of the United States.

From Yesterday to Today

Buildings of this mission surrounded a large open square enclosure. Included inside and outside of the courtyard were some of the following: the chapel, living quarters, storehouses, workhouses, an infirmary, a jail, beehive ovens, and a gristmill. Also, there were fields of grain, orchards, gardens, vineyards, and a cemetery.

A brochure that I have states the following:

"Northernmost and last of 21 missions, site selected by Fr. Jose Altimira in 1823; Mission named for Peruvian saint. The building you see before you is not the original Mission. Original wooden structure dated back to 1824; more permanent church structure begun in 1827 by Fr. Buenaventura Fortuny. All that survives from Mission days is portion of Padres' House. Present church, built by Gen. Vallejo in 1840 and rebuilt in 1858, was substantially weakened by 1906 earthquake.

Restored adobe has been stuccoed; features wood lintels, hand-hewn timbers tied together with leather thongs and tile roof supported on small boughs. Earthen floor is bricked and tiled. Original Mission bell hangs under heavy beam. Large clump of ancient cactus fills most of north side. Cupola added to peak of front gable roof about 1850. Although extensively altered through restoration, the Mission represents the establishment of contemporary history in Sonoma."

According to notes that I made, the fourteen Stations of the Cross are authentic mission period relics.

Visitors to this site can get a sense of what mission life was like back in the early years of the 1800s when spending some time in this area. We can credit early preservationists for saving this site.

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Peggy Woods

Comments

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 07, 2021:

Hi Nell Rose,

I'm glad to be able to share this information with you and others. The Mission San Francisco Solano is a fascinating place to visit. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 07, 2021:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

So glad you enjoyed reading this article. I hope your travel plans to go to Sonoma come true someday.

Nell Rose from England on January 07, 2021:

Absolutely fascinating Peggy! I love reading these sort of historical unknowns. Another great article!

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 07, 2021:

You're so lucky to be able to travel to such historical locations. I'd like to be able to travel to Sonoma one day. It's sad that many of the residents died due to diseases they didn't have immunity against.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 06, 2021:

Hi Osman,

I am glad you enjoyed learning about this historic site in Sonoma, California.

Osman Ghazi on January 06, 2021:

Informative

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 06, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I learn so much by reading your articles. I am so happy to know that you enjoy learning about different places that you may not get to visit in person by reading my articles. Thanks for your comment.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 05, 2021:

I would love to explore the scenery and history that you saw. There are so many places that I'd like to visit. I probably won't be able to see them in real life, but I enjoy reading your descriptions and seeing your photos very much.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 05, 2021:

Hi Nithya,

I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about this historic site. Thanks for your comment.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on January 05, 2021:

I enjoyed reading about Mission San Francisco Solano and learning about its history. Great photos and videos thank you for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 05, 2021:

Hi Mary,

I think that you would truly enjoy getting to visit Sonoma and all its historic buildings. Let us pray that the day of safe travels will be here soon. In the meantime, stay safe! Thanks for your comment.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 05, 2021:

Hi Peggy, I love visiting missions whenever I am in the U.S. with them close by. We did this in Arizona but maybe when we can travel again, I will certainly visit this one.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 05, 2021:

Hi Ankita,

I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about the Mission San Francisco Solano and the related history. I appreciate your comment.

Ankita B on January 05, 2021:

It was interesting to read about Mission San Francisco Solano and its related history. The photos are wonderful. Thank you for sharing this, Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 05, 2021:

Hi Lora,

Most of our time, like yours, was spent visiting wineries when we were in Sonoma. I am so glad that we took the time one day to visit the town of Sonoma. There is more to see than merely this mission. I'll share more in an upcoming article.

Lora Hollings on January 04, 2021:

This is a very interesting article, Peggy on this mission in the Sonoma, CA. Even though, I have visited the Sonoma Valley wineries, I never visited the actual town or this landmark. I'm glad that it survived the earthquake there and I would love to go there one day. I enjoyed learning more about the history of California in your article too. Thanks for sharing!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi MG,

It will probably be a while longer before it is safe to once again safely travel. I am glad that you enjoyed learning about this mission and the history behind it. Thanks for your comment.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 04, 2021:

You have given a fascinating account of this place. I would love to visit it but now with all this turmoil, I don't think it'll happen.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi Ruby,

I am pleased that you enjoyed reading about this mission. Maybe someday, your travels will take you to Sonoma. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi Manatita,

Colonization had its merits, but also its drawbacks. It is interesting to learn from the past, and sites like this help to make it understandable. Our country is still in its youth compared to many civilizations of the past.

Happy New Year to you also!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi Osman,

I am glad that you found this interesting. Thanks!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 04, 2021:

It's amazing that the mission is still standing after all these years, but it sounds like it was built really well. I would love to visit. I enjoyed reading the history. Well presented Peggy!

manatita44 from london on January 04, 2021:

I think of history ... of colonisation as I read your writing here. Not new, of course. It goes way back before the Romans and leaves lots of inequites in its wake. Still, It has also left much beauty. Who know's the ways of the Higher Pendulum of Love? Happy New Year!

Osman Ghazi on January 04, 2021:

Interesting

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

I'm glad you could at least see photos of this mission and watch the video. I was amazed at the gigantic cactus and also all of the rosemary grown as a groundcover. The history is also so interesting. Thanks for your visit and comment.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on January 04, 2021:

Peggy,

I love visiting little places like this when I am traveling.

I would love to see this one but I honestly doubt that I will make it to California.

I enjoyed seeing the pictures.

Thank you.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

It is my pleasure to be able to showcase this historic mission in Sonoma, California. It was fun being able to view it in person and learn about the history surrounding it. Take care, and thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about this site. I plan to write more articles like this in the future. Thanks for your comment, and enjoy your week ahead!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 04, 2021:

Mission San Francisco Solano, sounds great by your description and the history. Your pictures provide a good idea of this wonderful place.

Thank you for sharing this well written and well illustrated article. I enjoyed reading it.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

I hope that you get to visit the Mission San Francisco Solano in person someday. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Have a good week!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi Heidi,

Some of that ancient cactus was planted at the time of when the mission was built, so it won't be long until it reaches 200 years of age! Some of it was twice my height!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:

Hi Pamela,

If you and your sister had a bit more time, I am sure you would have enjoyed seeing the town of Sonoma, this mission, and other historic sites. At least you get a glimpse of the mission here. Thanks for your comment.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2021:

You know I love historical sites. Great history, this, and I thank you for sharing it with us. I love articles like this one, my friend. Keep them coming!

Rosina S Khan on January 04, 2021:

It was interesting to know the history of Mission San Francisco Solano, CA. I loved the illustrations. I would like to visit this place when time permits. Thank you for sharing, Peggy.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 04, 2021:

Well, this looks like a lovely stop if in that area. I'm kind of intrigued by the ancient cactus. Wonder how "ancient" they are. I'm fascinated by succulent plants and their ability to survive and thrive in some brutal conditions.

Thanks for sharing this with us! Happy New Year!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 04, 2021:

While my sister and I were briefly in the wine country, we didn't get to see the mssion. I enjoyed reading the history, and you have many wonderful pictures, Peggy. Thanks for some great information in your article.