Spanish Missionary, Historian, and Co-Founder of Mission San
Francisco de Asis
Entry Author: Br.
Guire Cleary, S.S.F
Franciscan friar, Roman Catholic priest, co-founder
with Fray Benito Cambón
of Mission San Francisco de Asís (Dolores) and the
assistencia of San Pedro y San Pablo. Fray Junípero
Serra was his instructor in philosophy and after successfully
passing qualifying exams, Palóu was appointed a lector
in philosophy. In 1749, Palóu accompanied Serra to
Mexico as a missionary. From 1769 until 1773, Palóu
was president of the Baja California Missions. On August 19,
1773 Palóu erected a cross and inscription demarking
for the first time the dividing line between the Dominican
missions and the Franciscan missions, which line is said to
be the basis for the boundary between Alta and Baja California.
Palóu began writing the first great history of California,
Noticias de la Nueva California, and then was assigned to
two exploratory parties reconnoitering what was to become
San Francisco, November 1774 and September 1775.
Assigned to the Moraga expedition, Palóu and Fray Benito
Cambón arrived with colonists at the vicinity of Laguna
y Arroyo de los Dolores on June 27, 1776. Moraga ordered the
building of an open-air chapel (enramada) and on June 29,
1776, the first Mass was celebrated along the shores of the
now vanished Laguna Dolores. Some look upon this date as the
birthday of San Francisco. Palóu presided over the
formal establishment of the Royal Presidio of San Francisco
on September 17, 1776 and the formal opening of Mission Dolores
on October 9, 1776. On June 24, 1777, Palóu baptized
the first Ohlone Indian, Chamis. On August 25, 1782, Palóu
laid the foundation stone of the present Mission Dolores church.
On August 28, 1784, Palóu buried his teacher, Junípero
Serra in Monterey after administering the last rites. After
briefly serving as the acting president of the Alta California
missions, Palóu returned to Mexico in 1785.
In Mexico, he completed his two books of history on the missions
of Alta California and the life of Junípero Serra.
An unsuccessful effort was made in 1940-1941 to transfer the
remains of Palóu to San Francisco from their assumed
resting place at the College of San Fernando in Mexico City.
A plaque at Mission Dolores placed in 1938 commemorates Palóu
as "Zealous missionary; able administrator; successful
pioneer; chosen companion of Junípero Serra. First
historian of California." With José
Joaquin Moraga, Fray Francisco Palóu may be considered
a co-founder of the Spanish Empire community that evolved
into the modern City of San Francisco.
Bancroft, Herbert H. History of California. Santa Barbara:
Wallace Herberd, 1963.
Beebe, Rose Marie and Senkewicz, Robert M (editors). Lands
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Santa Clara: Santa Clara University, 2001.
Bolton, Herbert Eugene. Palóu and His Writings.
Berkeley, University of California Press. 1926.
Englehardt, OFM, Zephyrin. The Missions and Misisonaries
of California. San Francisco: James H. Barry Co, 1929-1930.
Englehardt, OFM, Zephyrin, San Francisco or Mission Dolores.
Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1924.
Font, Obrador, Bartolome. El Padre Francisco Palou. Palma
de Mallorca: Ayuntamiento de Palma, 1976.
Geiger, OFM, Maynard J. Franciscan Missionaries in California.
San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1969.
Geiger, OFM, Maynard J. Palou's Life of Junipero Serra.
Washington, D.C.: American Academy of Franciscan History,
Palóu, Francisco. Historical Memoirs of New California
(Noticias de la Nueva California). Translated and edited
by Herbert Eugene Bolton. Berkeley: University of California
Palóu, Francisco. Life of Fray Junípero Serra
(Relación Histórica de la Vida y Apostólicas
Tareas del Venerable Padre Fray Junípero Serra).
Translated and edited by Maynard Geiger, OFM. Washington,
D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History,. 1955.