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Francisco Palou

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A Friar Minor, born at Palma, Island of Majorca, about 1722; died in 1789 or 1790. He entered the Franciscan order at his native place. In 1740 he began the study of philosophy under the illustrious Father Junipero Serra. With the latter he volunteered for the American Indian missions, and joined the missionary College of San Fernando de Mexico early in 1740. With his friend he was also in the same year assigned to the Indian missions of the Sierra Gorda, north of Querétaro, and laboured there until 1759 when with Father Serra he was recalled in order to work among the Indians in the San Sabás region, Texas. For some reason the college failed to accept those missions. Father Palou was therefore employed in the City of Mexico until 1767 when with Father Serra and fourteen other Franciscan friars he was sent to Lower California. In April, 1768, on reaching Loreto, he was given charge of Mission San Francisco Javier. In the following year, when Father Serra proceeded to establish the missions of Upper California, Father Palou succeeded him in the office of presidente or superior of the lower missions. While at the head of the friars in Lower California, he demonstrated his eminent fitness for the position in a protracted struggle with the hostile Governor, Phelipe Barn, whom he held at bay, and whose schemes against the missionaries and Indians he defeated while in the territory. When in 1773 the Franciscans turned the peninsula missions over to the Dominican Fathers, Father Palou joined his brethren in Upper California and acted as superior until the return from Mexico of Father Serra in 1774. In November of that year he accompanied Captain Rivera's exploring expedition to the Bay of San Francisco, and on 4 December, planted the cross on Point Lobos in view of the Golden Gate and Pacific Ocean, the first priest to reach that point. In June, 1776, he accompanied Lieutenant Moraga to the same bay, and on June 28, offered up the first holy Mass on the spot later under the Mission Dolores or San Francisco, which Father Palou founded a few weeks after. He remained in charge until July, 1784, when he was called to Mission San Carlos in order to administer the last sacraments to his fatherly friend and superior, Father Junipero Serra . When the latter had passed away on 28 August, 1784, Father Palou became acting presidente of the missions. Age, ill-health, and the necessity of having an experienced advocate near the vice-regal court to defend the rights of the Indians and their spiritual guides against the assumptions of the governor, induced Father Palou to retire to the College of San Fernando in September, 1785. In July of the following year he was elected guardian of the college, and held this office until his death. While in charge of Mission San Francisco he compiled his "Noticias" in four volumes. It is the standard history of the California missions from 1767 to 1784. At San Carlos Mission he wrote the Life of Father Serra which contains the history of the first nine missions, San Diego to San Buenaventura.


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