Starting in 1769, the Spanish established missions in Alta California. A small band of soldiers, Franciscan priests and volunteers walked from Baja California to San Francisco Bay through semi-arid, scarcely populated land stopping occasionally to establish a location for a religious community. Usually two priests, a few soldiers and a few Indians from Baja California settled at the spot. Their only resources for starting an economy were themselves, a few animals and a nearby source of water. They attracted the local Indians to join the community and perform the work necessary to create a strong economy. After only a few years, the missions were almost entirely self-sufficient, and offered reliable supplies of food, clothing and housing to the inhabitants. By 1790, some of these missions had a population of more than a thousand people, including a handful of priests and soldiers. While there were many negative aspects of mission life, virtually all the coastal Native Californians willingly joined the missions and stayed. Their continually increasing skills and trade with military outposts and passing ships created the economic success of the missions
Doti, Lynne, "Spanish California Missions: An Economic Success" (2019). Economics Faculty Articles and Research. 213.
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