After the first mission was established, it was only a matter of time before others followed. In 1770, the second mission was established in Carmel. This was the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo mission.
Like its predecessor, the Carmel mission was renovated and turned into a museum. It is now known as the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum, and it is considered to be one of the most authentic restorations of a Roman Catholic mission church in the state.
Many more missions followed as Spanish control over the region continued to expand. The next few missions were San Antonio de Padua in 1771, San Gabriel Arcangel in the same year, and San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772. The San Gabriel Arcangel holds the distinction of being the oldest building in Los Angeles County.
The original mission was burned in 1775 during an uprising by local natives. The current church, built in the early 19th century, is the fifth to stand on this location. The mission site is a National Historic.
Another mission wasn’t constructed until 1776. This mission was known as San Francisco de Asis, also referred to as Mission Dolores. This was followed by the San Juan Capistrano mission in the same year, Santa Clara de Asis in 1777, and San Buenaventura in 1782.
San Buenaventura was the last mission Junipero Serra ever founded. He died in 1784, and it would be another two years before new missions entered construction.
The 10th Californian mission was the Santa Barbara mission in 1786, followed by La Purísima Concepcion in 1787 and the Santa Cruz and Nuestra Señora de la Soledad missions in 1791. 1797 saw the construction of four different missions. These were San José, San Juan Bautista, San Miguel Arcangel, and San Fernando Rey de España.
San Luis Rey de Francia was built in 1789, just a few miles away from the first mission. It was followed by Santa Ines in 1804, San Rafael Arcangel in 1817, and finally San Francisco Solano in 1823, which was the final Californian mission.
San Francisco Solano is the northernmost of the 21 missions, which makes it a fitting endpoint, lying the furthest away from the original mission. At this point, much of California was under Spanish, and later Mexican, control. The area between the missions had been colonized, and Spanish settlers had started to create cities and raise families in the colonized land.
Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, which meant it was now in control of all the missions that had been constructed in the last half-century. Only the last mission, San Francisco Solano, was established after the Mexican government was in charge of the mission program. After this, the program was halted for a decade.
After much debate about the topic, in 1833 the Mexican government legally ended their missions and secularized many of the original mission sites. Though some sought to return the land to Native American populations who had been displaced, the land these sites occupied was largely divided between the Mexican government and private landowners.
Despite the now-defunct expansion program, the missions continued to play important roles in California’s history. Many were used as United States military bases during the war with Mexico, and once the US gained control over the territory, the Catholic Church was given ownership of some missions.
Now, the missions are primarily used for either religious purposes or as educational tools. Many have become museums that contain artifacts and artwork from this important time in California’s early history.