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Historical Fruit and Vineyard Operations at Mission San Gabriel

Fruits from Los Angeles are beginning to arrive in our city; and we were yesterday surprised by a present of some fine apricots that had sought the seclusion of our sanctum from the far-away sunny orchards of the South (“Horticultural,” Daily Alta California, July 27, 1851, p. 2, col. 2).”

 

That’s what San Francisco citizens would have read in the pages of the Daily Alta California in the summer of 1851. Editors of the Daily Alta newspaper regularly notified readers about the fresh shipments of fruits they received from the orchards and vineyards of the city of Los Angeles–see this article I wrote recently for another similar example from 1855. And we’re thankful they did because these little blurbs, which could be easily overlooked, help illuminate details about agriculture in the state during the Gold Rush years.

Daily Alta California 1851-07-27
“Pears,” Daily Alta California, July 27, 1851, p. 2, col. 2.

 

“The Mission lands, that have so long been famous for their horticultural productions in the South, will yield our markets a delicious variety of their incomparable fruit.”

 

This short newspaper article from 1851 provides fascinating details about the Mission San Gabriel’s orchard and vineyard operations in the early 1850s and underscores the value of southern California agriculture to the rest of the state. According to the article, the Mission was growing about 150,000 vines for the production of wine and was cultivating orchards of oranges, lemons, olives, pomegranates, pears, quince, and fig trees, all of which were enjoyed throughout the state. We also get a hint of how southern California agriculture, including operations at the Mission San Gabriel, was participating in the economy and overall flow of goods throughout the state. Even with several important agricultural regions near San Francisco, including Napa, Sonoma, Santa Clara and San Jose as the editors point out, southern California agricultural products were still shipped and enjoyed up north.

The 1854 land survey map below provides a rare glimpse of the Mission San Gabriel in the same decade these newspaper articles were written. The map, from the Bancroft Library’s collection, shows the layout of the church buildings, cemetery, vegetable garden, orchard, and the large vineyard alluded to in the Daily Alta California article, which was about “16 chains” (approx. 1,050 feet?) northeast of the church building.

“Mission San Gabriel / surveyed by John G. Cleal, C.E., Septr. 1854.” UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library. Image from the Online Archive of California.

Below is an image from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection showing a rare view of the Mission San Gabriel vineyards from the 1870s. The Mission vineyards were probably located north of today’s Smith Park.

View of San Gabriel orchards [ca. 1870]. Image from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
View of San Gabriel vineyards [ca. 1870]. Image from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
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