Misión la Purisima Concepción de Maria Santisima (the Mission of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Mary) was the eleventh California mission to be established on Dec. 8, 1787 by Fray Fermín Francisco de Lasuén .
The first site of Misión
La Purisima was at the base of some low hills just south of the Santa
Inez River within the present-day city of Lompoc. Indians were given considerable
freedom during the first years at La Purisima. In all but the harvest season
they were allowed as much time off as they desired to move about the countryside
and refresh their spirits according to their long-established custom. In
1804 smallpox, measles, and other health problems began to take
a heavy toll on the mission Indians. Between 1804-1807 there were about
500 deaths (1 death for every three living at the mission)....total population
of mission Indians began a decline.
On Dec. 8, 1812, a series of
small tremors were experienced at La Purisima causing little or no damage.
On Dec. 21, at 10:30 AM, however, a violent earthquake lasting some 4 minutes
caused serious damage. Half an hour later, a second and still more violent
quake brought down the church and ruined most of the other mission buildings.
Heavy rains followed the quake and washed the ruins into a hopeless state
After the great earthquake,
the new La Purisima Mission was relocated across the river in a small canyon,
Canada de los Berros. The new site was just two miles northeast of
the original founding site right on the famed El Camino Real. La
Purisima mission grew to be a large physical plant. The mission eventually
held dominion over some 200,000 acres which included eleven ranchos varying
in size from 4,500 acres to 50,000 acres. There were two vineyards and
an anchorage at Cojo Bay supported by the mission. The main mission complex
included a large residence building, a shops and quarters building, a church
and numerous utility buildings which included a large warehouse, an Indian
barracks, a blacksmith shop, and a small hospital.
Decline of the Mission Complex
After 1823, La Purisima suffered
a series of setbacks which eventually led to its abandonment as a mission
and sale in 1845 to Juan Temple of Los Angeles for $1,100. The mission
buildings began to fall into ruin after 1836. By 1904 roof tiles had been
removed from the residence building. Subsequent rains eroded away the structure
so that by 1934 it had become a series of shapeless mounds of brown adobe
overgrown with weeds and brush.
Mission Becomes a CCC Project
The crumbling remains of the
mission complex were rescued by the National Park Service and the Civilian
Conservation Corps. The National Park Service assigned a staff of historians,
archaeologists, engineers, and architects to dig out the facts of the mission's
original structure. After nearly a year of study, they developed the plans
from which CCC company 1951 rebuilt the entire mission. CCC enrollees used
original tools and methods wherever possible. When completed the mission
was turned over to the State of California to administer as an Historic
Park. More completely restored than any other mission, La Purisima is in
fact the largest and most complete restoration in the West.
By 1938 the Los Angeles District had some 23 CCC Camps. Nine of the 23 camps were National Forest Service Camps. Five were Soil Conservation Camps. Six were Park Service Camps. Two were National Monument Camps. One was supervised by the Department of Grazing.
The camps associated with La
Purisima were Companies 2950, which was a Soil Conservation Camp, and 1951,
which was under the jurisdiction of the Park Service. The unique project
of the Los Angeles District was considered to be the restoration of La
Purisima Conception by Company 1951 at Camp Purisima, SP-29. Company 2950
was formed in April of 1936 and was transported from Fort MacArthur to
Camp Lompoc (site of the current La Purisima Mission). For the first several
months, the camp fought forest fires. Company 2950 merged with Company
1951 in May of 1937. After the merger, the La Purisima CCC company (camp)
became known as the "Twin Camps".
With up to 200 men involved in the massive job of reconstruction and restoration, the work went on for several years. The first major project, the residence building, was complete in 1936; the water system, fountains and cistern in 1938; the church in 1939; shops and quarters building in 1940; the monument residences and other misc. jobs including the interior decoration of the church in 1941.
CCC enrollees made by hand 110,000 adobe bricks, 31,000 roof tiles, and 15,000 floor tiles for the residence building alone.
Late in 1941, on the eve of the 154th anniversary of its original founding, La Purisima Mission was ceremoniously opened to the public as a state historic monument. After the outdoor festivities, religious services were given in the old church for the first time in 105 years. The date was Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II.