||Palou, Francisco, 1723-1789
||Francisco Palou's Life and Apostolic Labors of the Venerable Father Junípero Serra, Founder of the Franciscan Missions of California
||James, George Wharton (editor) and C. Scott Williams, (translator). Francisco Palou's Life and Apostolic Labors of the Venerable Father Junípero Serra, Founder of the Franciscan Missions of California. (Pasadena, California: George Wharton James, 1913).
||373 / 4
Francisco Palou (c. 1722-c. 1789) was a Franciscan missionary
and a student of Father Junipero Serra, whose life he gives in the
document presented here. They went to Mexico together from Spain
in 1749, and from the capital to Baja California in 1768. When
the next year Father Serra went north to Alta California, Father
stayed behind but coordinated supplies to the fledgling missions
in San Diego and Monterey. Father Palou finally went north in 1773,
establishing the border between modern Mexico and the United
States along the way, and over the next thirteen years he assisted
Father Serra in establishing the mission system throughout California.
In 1776 he founded the Dolores mission in what is now the Mission District of
San Francisco. In 1785, Father Palou was recalled to Mexico, where
he died about 1789.
Father Junipero Serra and the California Missions, 1769-1784
Born in 1713 to religious parents who worked as laborers on
the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain, Father Junipero
Serra (1713-1784) joined the Franciscan order and became a monk
in 1730, when he was just seventeen years old. He worked as a professor
of theology before joining a group of missionaries to Mexico. He
worked in missions in Mexico for fifteen years before he was sent to
northern California, where he founded nine missions between San
Diego and San Francisco Bay. Serra eventually settled at the
mission in Monterey, California, where he became quite
influential in the Spanish colonial policies toward the region.
He dedicated his life to the conversion of the Native Americans.
Mission life was very harsh on the natives, some of whom were
converted to Christianity forcibly. Once a member of a mission,
Native Americans were completely under the control of the monks
and were often beaten or imprisoned. Serra died at his mission
in 1784 and, despite modern controversy over the Franciscans’
treatment of Native Americans, was beatified in 1988.
After Fr. Serra’s death, his companion wrote the Relacion
historica de la vida y apostolicas tareas del venerable padre
Fray Junipero Serra : y de las misiones que fundó en la
California Septentrional, y nuevos establecimientos de Monterey
which was published in México, 1787. It was not printed again
until 1852; an much-abbreviated version was translated in 1884.
The volume presented here is the first complete edition in
English. Because Palou was both a participant and a biographer,
the book gives a unique perspective on the founding of
Other Internet and Reference Sources
Palou also wrote a lengthy history of the Franciscans in
Mexico and California first printed in 1857; it is available in
English as Historical Memoirs of New California…, edited
by Herbert Bolton in four volumes (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1926).
Useful background can be found on the Web at the following
PBS, New Perspectives on the West:
San Diego Historical Society:
Museum of the City of San Francisco:
A helpful summary that provides more context on this document
is available at the online exhibit, “Californiana at the Los
Angeles Public Library” at