La Purisima Mission, the halfway point in this month’s “Route”, is an expansive landmark. On the nearly 2,000 sq feet of land, you feel totally immersed in California’s Mission history. The Mission as it stands today is not the original La Purisima that was founded by Father Presidente Fermin de Lasuen on December 8th 1787. After a devastating earthquake in 1812, the mission was moved 4 miles northwest (from its original location in Lompoc) for better water supply, better climate, and closer to El Camino Real. Following the end of the Mexican War of Independence in 1823, Spain cut all funding to the missions leaving the residents to wonder how to care for the land. This created years of tension between landowners, workers, and religious leaders, leading to the abandonment of many missions, including La Purisima. Finally, by 1934, preservation and reconstruction of the Mission began with the efforts of the County of Santa Barbara, the state of CA, the National Parks Services, and the CCC. On December 7, 1941 (coincidentally coinciding with America’s entry into WWII), the buildings and grounds were resorted to appear as they did in 1820.
Today, La Purisima is the only example of a complete mission complex in California. The history of La Purisima Mission is even more fascinating than described here, guests to the mission can take advantage of the guided tours available each day at 1 p.m., beginning at the Visitor’s Center. There is a bit of dark history behind the Mission, at least enough to send the Ghost Adventures team from the Travel Channel; I can’t speak for the legitimacy of ghosts, but during the mission restoration in the 1930s, there were many graves discovered on the grounds. History has it that the Chumash Indians were the victims of the frustrations of the Spanish soldiers following the Mexican War of Independence.