Monterey, California

The Apostle of California

Farher Junipero Serra saved the Spanish Galleon

Robert Louis Stevenson arrived at Monterey on August 30, 1879, to with the goal of marrying a woman named Fanny Osbourne who was not yet divorced from her husband, Sam. While she was in the process of getting that divorce, his future brother-in-law took him to the mission church of San Carlos Borrémeo in Carmel to see the annual celebration of St. Carlos. This mission was the second of nine missions built by the Apostle of California, Father Junipero Serra. This was Father Serra’s favorite mission. It is also where he is buried. As Stevenson marveled at the devotion of the Indians, he was moved to tears. The church was in ruins and when Stevenson returned to Monterey he was compelled do something about preserving Father Serra’s church so he made a plea for money in the Monterey Californian which he was working for at the time. It would be another two years before he began writing Treasure Island. What Stevenson did not know the day that he stood over his grave was that in the century before, Father Serra was credited with a miracle, without which there would never have been a Treasure Island.
On August 30, 1749, the Spanish galleon, the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, set sail from Cádiz, Spain, with European goods to exchange for treasure at Veracruz, Mexico. She was also carrying twenty Franciscan priests, one of whom was Father Serra. When the galleon was nearly in sight of Veracruz she was hit by a terrible storm. The galleon was blown away from port and encountered a hurricane. The Spanish crew despaired and pleaded with the captain to run his ship ashore. This was December 4, 1749, the feast day of St. Barbara. Father Serra called for prayer from his fellow priests and asked St. Barbara to deliver them. Their prayers were answered, the wind subsided and the seas became calm. The Guadalupe arrived safe in Veracruz. The Guadalupe remained in port until the summer of the following year and loaded her treasure destined for Spain. After leaving Havana, Cuba on August 18, 1750, the Guadalupe encountered a hurricane homeward bound and was driven to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Here her treasure was stolen and buried in the Caribbean at Norman Island, British Virgin Islands, on November 13, 1750. Robert Louis Stevenson was born exactly one hundred years later. He was inspired by this true story of buried treasure when he wrote Treasure Island, a story that almost didn’t happen but for the miracle at the hands of Father Junipero Serra.