San Gabriel Mission, named for the Arcangel Gabriel, was founded on September 8, 1771 by Fathers Pedro Cambon and Angel Somera. It was the fourth in a chain of 21. The original plan was to place it on the Santa Ana River, but when the founders arrived, they went further inland to found the mission near the San Gabriel River.
Legend claims that the native chiefs tried to prevent the fathers from building. Afraid of a bloody battle, they showed the chiefs a painting of Our Lady of Sorrows and the chiefs immediately threw down their bows and arrows.
Early YearsThe Indians were friendly in the beginning and helped with the building. Baptisms began immediately after the founding. However, relationships with the Indians turned bad because of the soldiers. One of the soldiers attacked a chief's wife and killed her husband when he objected. Fortunately, the fathers acted quickly and had the guilty soldier sent to another location.
In 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza arrived from Mexico City, establishing a land route that placed San Gabriel Mission near a busy crossroads. Its location made it one of the most important missions. In 1775, the fathers found a better site closer to the mountains and it was moved. In 1776, Fathers Sanchez and Cruzado took over the mission. They ran it for the next thirty years. They began church construction in 1779.
In 1781, two fathers, several Indians and eleven families left and traveled nine miles west to form El Pueblo de Nuestra la Reina del Los Angeles (The City of our Lady Queen of the Angels), the present city of Los Angeles.