City of San Fernando


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15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd., Mission Hills, CA 91345, 818-361-0186

Founded 1797

Mission San Fernando was built in the Valley of Encino, or Oaks. It grew to be one of the largest and longest missions.

Shortly after the founding of Los Angeles on September 4, 1781, Francisco Reyes, the alcalde or mayor of that newly established pueblo, acquired the right to raise cattle in the San Fernando Valley. Using local Indian labor, Reyes centered his cattle raising operation near a well-watered place close to the northern edge of the Valley. A few years later, the Franciscan padres chose Reyes' land as the site for a new mission, half way between the San Gabriel and the Ventura missions. For giving up his use of the land in the north of the Valley, Reyes received 4,460 acres --later known as the Encino Rancho, located along what became called the El Camino Real and much later, Ventura Boulevard.

On September 8, 1797, Father Fermin Lasuen, successor to the legendary Franciscan leader Junipero Serra, dedicated the San Fernando Mission. On that day, the priests baptized five Indian boys and five Indian girls. It was a beginning, and within twenty years, over 1,000 Indians lived and worked within the authority of the mission. At the height of its activity, the San Fernando Mission Indians created one of the most prosperous of all the California missions. The great number of cattle required that the Indians become expert vaqueros, or cowhands. Many others became skilled at farming, wine making, metal working and numerous additional crafts necessary to support and house the large community.

But the Valley's mission period lasted for less than 40 years, and even at that, the good years of mission life for the Indians were very few. As was true with most of the missions in California, the Valley Indians did not themselves prosper under mission control.

Beginning in the 1830s, Californian officials started secularizing the missions. Secularization meant the confiscation and seizure of the vast and generally prosperous mission lands, though the buildings themselves were usually allowed to remain under the control of the Church. During this period of secularization, from 1834-1836, most of those Indians who still remained at the San Fernando Mission were evicted. Many sought employment in Los Angeles; some joined relatives and friends among those Indians still living free in the hills or in other valleys.

With the confiscation of the mission lands and the dispossession of the Indians, the struggle between northern and southern Californians intensified. As part of this struggle, the little known Battle of Cahuenga took place in February, 1845. Two armed groups of about 400 each met near Cahuenga Pass. One side had three small cannons; the other side, two. After shooting at each other for half a day, the casualties amounted to two horses killed on one side and a mule wounded on the other. Apparently that was enough. The northerners retired, and Pio Pico became the new governor of California, with Los Angeles as the new capital.

Before the year ended, Governor Pico arranged a nine-year lease of the San Fernando Mission lands to his brother Andres Pico, for $1200 a year. And thus began the short-lived era of the San Fernando Valley Dons.

Source: The following was borrowed from a document called "Making History: A Chronicle of the Valley's Past" by Lawrence C. Jorgensen.

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San Fernando City Hall, 117 Macneil Street, San Fernando, CA 91340
Phone: (818) 898-1200, Fax: (818) 361-7631, Email:
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