Gliding down the long smooth descent for several miles, we came to
Bonsal-the existence of which we should never have discovered had it not
been for the signboard-where we left the main road for Pala. For a dozen
miles we followed a sinuous road along the San Luis Rey River, bordered
by trees and shrubbery in endless variety, until we found ourselves
in the streets of the queer little Indian town. Before us rose the
whitewashed walls and quaint bell-tower of the much-restored mission,
surrounded by the wooden huts, each very much like every other. Each had
its tiny garden patch, showing in most cases infinite care, and, as we
learned, requiring infinite labor, for all the water had to be pumped
or carried from the river for irrigation. We were told, however, that
the government was building a pipe line and that on its completion in
a few months Pala would speedily spring into verdure.
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While we were getting our bearings the ladies of our party made a hurried round of several of the cottages, fully expecting to find Pala baskets in unlimited quantities at bargain prices. It was with considerable chagrin that they reported not a basket to be found in the town; an old Indian declared that no baskets were now made-the women and girls of the village were learning lace-making, which they hoped would be easier and more remunerative. Indeed, from all we could learn, basket-making is becoming a lost art among the California Indians. Contact with civilization seems to have killed the infinite care and patience necessary to produce the finer examples of this work, which is now done in a very small way by the older women.
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A year later we came to Pala again and hardly recognized the place, so great was the improvement wrought by the completion of the water supply work. The cottages were surrounded by flowers and the little garden patches looked green and thriving. The government schoolhouse had been completed and we saw a score or more of well-mannered and intelligent-looking children at their studies. The lace-making school was also in this building and the authority of our party declared the work really fine and the prices very low. We felt the more willing to make a small purchase of the laces when the matron assured us that every sale was of material help to the poor people of the community. The women and girls are willing to work diligently if they can earn only a few cents a day, but they have the greatest difficulty in disposing of their product.
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We found the mission in charge of Father Doyle, a kindly and courteous gentleman and a fellow-motorist, since he visits his few charges by means of his trusty Ford. He lives in the old mission building in very plain-even primitive-quarters; clearly, his work is a labor of love and faith, since what else could induce a young and vigorous man to lead such a comfortless and exacting life? He told us the history of the mission-how Pala was founded about a hundred years ago by Padre Peyri as an "assistancia" to San Luis Rey, about twenty miles away. It prospered at the start, its conversions numbering over a thousand in two years. The chapel was built shortly after-a long, narrow adobe twenty-seven by one hundred and forty-four feet, with roof of characteristic mission tiles. As a result of the secularization by the Mexican government, Pala rapidly declined and when it came into the possession of the Americans, it was already falling into ruin. It was finally deeded to the Landmarks Club, which agreed that it should revert to its proper ownership, meaning, doubtless, the Catholic Church. When Father Doyle came here, it was in a sad state of decay, but with untiring zeal and energy he has restored the chapel and rebuilt the quaint campanile or bell-tower. Father Doyle pointed out his work on the chapel-the restoration of the walls and old tile roof-but little has been done to the interior, which still has its original floor of square tiles and rude, unhewn beams supporting the roof. The priest who preceded him for a short time evidently had little sentiment, for he had ruthlessly covered up the ancient Indian decorations with a coat of whitewash. Father Doyle had removed it carefully in places, exposing the old frescoes, and hoped it might be possible to complete this work some time. In the chapel are two odd wooden statues from Spain, gaudily colored and gilded, of the Virgin and San Luis Rey, which the father declared were highly venerated by his Indian parishioners. He also showed us with much pride a few vestments used by the early padres, and a fine collection of baskets-mostly given him by the makers-of the different tribes among which he had worked.
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The most distinctive and picturesque feature of Pala Mission is the quaint campanile, of which our picture will be far more descriptive than any words. The present structure is largely a restoration by Father Doyle, who also rescued and hung the two large bronze bells now in the niches of the tower. The dormitory building is quite ruinous-with the exception of the priest's quarters and a portion occupied by a small general store, it has almost vanished.
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The Indians now living in Pala are not the descendants of the original inhabitants of the village when the mission was founded. These were ousted after the American occupation and scattered in the surrounding hills, having now practically disappeared. The present population is made up of the Palatingwa tribe, which was evicted from Warner's Ranch some twenty miles away and given a home here by the Government. An effort is now being made to improve their condition and it is to be hoped that tardy justice will make some amends for all that the red men about Pala have suffered at the hands of their white brothers.