Missionary Biographies

The following biographical sketches of prominent Franciscan missionaries of the Order of Friars Minor stationed in Alta California were abstracted from the work of Maynard Geiger, OFM.  For further information on each of the Franciscan friars of Mission era California, see Maynard Geiger’s Franciscan Missionaries in Hispanic California, 1769-1848 – A Biographical Dictionary (San Marino, Ca., The Huntington Library, 1969). Ms. Jennifer Lucido of the Sonoma State Cultural Resources Management program has assembled the transcripts upon which the content was based.

Serra, Junípero (1713-1784)

Serra, Junípero (1713-1784)

Arroyo de la Cuesta, Felipe (1780-1840)

Fray Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta, son of Matías Arroyo and Isabel  de la Cuesta, was born at Cubo, district of Bureba, a section of Santa María de Rivarredonde, province of Burgos, Old Castile, Spain, April 29, 1780. He was baptized in the parish church of St. Milán, May 2. At age of of sixteen, on August 3, 1796, he became a Franciscan in the convento grande of Burgos and made his profession on August 6, the following year. Note: Fray Arroyo de la Cuesta was assigned to Mission San Juan Bautista.

Crespí, Juan (1721-1782)

Fray Juan Crespí was born at Palma, Majorca, Spain, March 1, 1721, the son of Joan Crespí and Joana Fiol, members of the parish of San Jaume. He was baptized at the cathedral of by the Rev. Joseph Bauzá and received the names Joan Batista Martí. He was confirmed at the same cathedra, March 15, 1724, by Bishop Juan Zabate of Palma. Crespí made his elementary studies in Palma together with Francisco Palóu. He entered the Franciscan order, January 4, 1738, receiving the habit from the provincial, the Very Rev. Pedro Barceló, at the Convento de San Francisco, Palma, and made his profession, January 9, 1739. With Junípero Serra from 1740 to 1743, followed by three years of theology, both courses taken at San Francisco de Palma. After Crespí was ordained, probably in 1746, he was sent to the convent of Santa María de los Angeles de Jesús, the novitiate house outside the walls of Palma. It is not known in what capacity he served there. Note: Fray Crespí was assigned to Missions San Carlos Borromeo and San Diego.

Durán, Narciso (1776-1846)

Fray Narciso Durán was born December 16, 1776, at Castellón de Ampurias, diocese of Gerona, Catalonia, Spain. He became a Franciscan at Gerona, May 3, 1792, and was ordained a priest, December 20, 1800, by Bishop Pedro Díaz y Váldez in the episcopal chapel at Barcelona. Three years later he and Fray Buenaventura Fortuny left Catalonia for Cádiz where they sailed for Vera Cruz, Mexico, on May 3, 1803, arriving there about July. Durán was a preacher and confessor. He was tall, had dark hair, blue eyes, a heavy beard, and a large scar below the left eye. In the later years he was described as medium in height, somewhat stout, of fair complexion, with blue eyes. The engraving of him in Eugène Duflot de Mofras’ Exploration (1844) was considered by José María de Jesús González Rubio to be a tolerable likeness. Note: Fray Durán was assigned to Missions San Jose and Santa Barbara.

Fernández de Ulibarri, Román Francisco (1773-1821)

Fray Román Francisco Fernández de Ulibarri was born on February 28, 1773, at Alí, near Vitoria, diocese of Calahorra, Spain, and became a Franciscan in the province of Cantabria at Vitoria in April 1794. On leaving Spain in 1803, he held the offices of preacher and fessor, and was described in a passport records as tall, light-complexioned, ruddy, with blue eyes, and a s cara on the chin on the left side. He sailed from Cádiz, June 20, on the San Miguel or Sagrada Familia and arrived at Vera Cruz, Mexico, in August. At San Fernando College, Mexico City, he remained for five years, most of the time in poor health and generally not able to follow the routine of the institution. Nevertheless, he volunteered for the California missions, and there he found surprisingly good health and robust vigor. Note: Fray Fernández de Ulibarri was assigned to Missions San Juan Bautista, Santa Ines, Purisima, and San Fernando.

Garcés, Francisco Hermenegildo (1738-1781)

Fray Francisco Hermenegildo Garcés was born at Morata del Conde, Aragón, Spain, April 12, 1738, the son of Juan Garcés and Antonia Maestro, and was baptized on the following day. His early education was left to an uncle, at the Rev. Moses Garcés, curate of the same town.  Garcés entered the Franciscan order in the province of Aragón at the age of fifteen, studied his theology in the friary of Calatayud, and was ordained at the age of twenty-five. At Madrid he offered his services as an Indian missionary to Fray Juan Crisóstomo Gil, commissary from the college of Santa Cruz de Querétaro, Mexico, who accepted him. He entered the college in 1766, and was employed there as a confessor. Note: Fray Garcés was assigned to Mission Concepcion.

García Diego y Moreno, Francisco (1785-1846)

Fray Francisco García Diego y Moreno was born at Lagos, Jalisco, Mexico, September 17, 1785, of well-to-do parents, Francisco Diego of León and Mariana Moreno of Lagos. He was baptized when six days old in the parish church at Lagos by the Rev. Ignacio Ramos. In 1707 he spent three years, becoming known for his talent and application. He joined the Franciscan order at the apostolic college of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Zacatecas and made his vows, December 21, 1803. He was ordained a priest, November 31, 1808, at Saltillo, by the Most Rev. Primo Feliciano Marín de Porras, bishop of Monterrey. Note: Fray García Diego y Moreno was assigned to Missions Santa Clara and Santa Barbara.

González Rubio, José María de Jesús (1804-1875)

Fray José María de Jesús González Rubio, the son of José María González Rubio and Manuela Gutiérrez, both Spaniards, was born at Guadalajara, Mexico, June 6, 1804, and was baptized on the tenth at the cathedral, when he received the names José Norberto Francisco. His paternal grandparents were Antonio González Rubio and Francisca Gómez, his maternal grandparents, Manuel Gómez and Petra Valdivia. As a youth he attended the conciliar seminary of Guadalajara where he received the baccalaureate in philosophy, January 10, 1820. He entered the Franciscan order at the apostolic college of Zapopan near Guadalajara and made his vows January 10, 1825. He received the tonsure, minor, and major orders that same year and was ordained a priest, December 22, 1827, in the episcopal chapel in Puebla, by the Most Rev. Antonio Joaquín Pérez. On December 10, 1829, he received faculties to preach and hear confessions. Note: Fray González Rubio was assigned to Missions San Jose and Santa Barbara.

Jayme, Antonio (1757-1829)

Fray Antonio Jayme de Seguras was born at Palma, Majorca, in January 1757 and at baptism received the names Antonio Mariano Francisco Miguel Gaspar. He became a Franciscan at the Convento de Jesús, outside the walls of Palma, Majorca, December 7, 1774. At Barcelona, en route to America, he was appointed collector of recruits to replace the officially appointed one who had die. He sailed with this group, however, under a newly appointed collector or commissary in 1794, arriving at San Fernando College, Mexico City, August 2, the same year. In February 1795, he set out for California, arriving at Monterey on the Aránzaza, August 24. There he was appointed to serve at Mission San Carlos. He baptized at that mission for the first time on September 17. Note: Fray Jayme was assigned to Missions San Carlos, Soledad, and Santa Barbara.

Jayme, Luís (1740-1775)

Fray Luís Jayme, the son of Melchor Jayme (Jaume in the local dialect) and Margarita Vallespir, was born at San Juan, Majorca, Spain, October 18, 1740, and soon after birth was baptized, receiving the name Melchor. He obtained his early training at the convent school of San Bernardino, Petra, which Fray Junípero Serra had attended earlier. Jayme became a Franciscan at the Convento de Jesús, outside the walls of Palma, Majorca, September 27, 1760, and on making his profession of the following year changed his name to Luís. He made his studies for the priesthood at San Francisco, Palma, and was ordained December 22, 1764. He became a professor of philosophy in the order. In 1770 he left Spain for America. At that time he was described as a person with well-proportioned physique, somewhat thin, and of a darkish complexion. Note: Fray Jayme  was assigned to Mission San Diego.

Lasuén, Fermín Francisco de (1736-1803)

The son of Lorenzo de Lasuén and María Francisca de Arasqueta, Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, was born at Vitoria, in the province of Alava, Cantabria, Spain, June 7, 1736, and was baptized on the following day by the Rev. Francisco de Elosu in the church of San Vicente Martir. His paternal grandparents were Juan de Lasuén and Magdalena Aspiunza; his maternal grandparents, Francisco Arizqueta and Aueda de Murua. Note: Fray Lasuén was assigned to Missions San Gabriel, Monterey, San Juan Capistrano, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, and San Carlos.

Martiarena, José Manuel (1754-?)

Fray José Manuel Martiarena was born at Rentería, Guipuzcoa, Spain, in 1754 and became a Franciscan in the province of Cantabria. In Mexico he first entered Guadalupe College, Zacatecas, and in 1788 was transferred to San Fernando, Mexico City, entering June 2, 1790. He set out fro the college about January 1794 and came to California on the Concepción. He served at Mission San Antonio fro August 6, 1794, until June 6, 1795. It appears that President Fermín Francisco de Lasuén had some difficulty, as he did with a number of other missionaries, in finding a suitable place for Martiarena, for on August 19, 1794, he declared that San Antonio suited him quite well; still he thought suitability would be a problem no matter where Martiarena were sent. Note: Fray Martiarena was assigned to Missions San Antonio, Soledad, San Juan Bautista, and San Francisco.

Palóu, Francisco (1723-1789)

Fray Francisco Palóu, the son of Sebastián Palóu and Miquela Amengual, was born at Palma, Majorca, Spain, January 22, 1723. His parents were members of the parish of Santa Eulalia. Palóu was baptized on the day following his birth at the cathedral by the Rev. Dr. Antoni Ribat, a canon, and received the names Francisco Miguel Joseph Joachim. On March 6, 1724, Palóu was confirmed at the cathedral by the Most Rev. Juan Fernández Zabate, bishop of Majorca. Note: Fray Palóu was assigned to Missions San Carlos and San Francisco.

Payeras, Mariano (1769-1823)

Fray Mariano Payeras, son of Antonio Payeras and Gerónima Borras, was born at Inca, Majorca, Spain, October 10, 1769. In baptism he received the names Pedro Antonio. He became a Franciscan at Palma, October 6, 1784, and made his profession at San Francisco el Grande, Palma, October 11, the following year. While a member of the friary of Alcudia, he volunteered for service at San Fernando College, leaving his abode on February 19, 1793. He sailed from Cádiz, June 11 on the San Nicolás and arrived at the college on September 12, the same year. On leaving Spain, he was described in passport records as being of medium stature, of swarthy complexion, with chestnut-colored eyes, dark hair, and a light beard. When, after two years at the college, he applied to be sent to California, the guardian, Antonio Nogueyra, declared that he was a person of approved conduct and entirely satisfactory to the college membership.  Note: Fray Payeras was assigned to Missions San Diego, San Carlos, Soledad, and Purisima.

Sancho, Juan Bautista (1772-1830)

Fray Juan Bautista Sancho, the son of Pedro Sancho and Margarita Lliteras, was born at Artá, Majorca, Spain, December 1, 1772, and was baptized on the same day. He was confirmed on May 17, 1779. Sancho received the Franciscan habit at the Convento de San Francisco, Palma, February 9, 1791, and made his profession on February 10, the following year. After ordination to the priesthood, he became a preacher and choirmaster. Sancho was blest with a strong and agreeable voice and taught music, both the Gregorian plain chant and figured music.  Note: Fray Sancho was assigned to Mission San Antonio.

Serra, Junípero (1713-1784)

Born at Petra, Majorca, Spain, November 24, 1713, son of Antonio Nadal Serra and Margarita Rosa Ferrer, farmers, Junípero Serra was baptized on the same day at St. Peter’s Church by the Rev. Bartolomé Lladó and was given the names Miguel José. His paternal grandparents, Migeul Serra and Juana Abraham, his maternal grandparents, Bartolomé Ferrer and Martina Fornés. At the age of two he was confirmed by the Most Rev. Atanasio Esterripa y Tranajaúregui, bishop of Palma. In Petra, Serra attended the primary school of the Franciscans conducted at the friary of San Bernardino. At the age of fifteen he was taken by his parents to Palma to be placed in the charge of a cathedral canon, and he began to assist at classes in philosophy held in the Franciscan monastery of San Francisco.  Note: Fray Serra was assigned to Missions San Diego and San Carlos.

Tapis, Estevan (ca. 1756-1825)

Fray Estevan Tapis was born at Coloma de Farnes, Catalonia, Spain, about 1756. Though Bancroft gives the year and date of his birth as August 25, 1754, and in this is followed by Engelhardt, neither giving a source, Tapis’ death record in 1825 states that he was sixty-nine years old, which would place his birth in the year 1756. A document dated 1786 in the Archivo General de la Nación records his age as twenty-eight, which would pace his birth in the year 1758.  Note: Fray Tapis was assigned to Missions San Carlos, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, San Juan Bautista, Santa Ines, and Purisima.