Area History

California was part of Spanish Mexico during the time the California missions were founded.The Spanish government encouraged the creation of the missions. To further this end Padre Sitjar,from Mission San Antonio, searched the region between Missions San Luis Obispo and San Antonio during the summer of 1795, to find a new mission site, as the system was designed for missions to be located a day’s journey apart. A site was found and marked near the Indian Village of Vahca near the Salinas River. Mustard seed (imported from Europe ) was scattered along the route from one mission to another, making it easier to locate each mission.

One of the purposes of the new mission was to evangelize the local Native Americans. When the first Padres arrived, only 1200 natives were estimated to be living in the area between San Luis Obispo and Monterey . They were members of the Hokan Nation and have come to be called Salinans, from the Spanish and modern designation given the  river which drains the region. Some of the local Indians had learned of the Padres and their work through friends or relatives living at Missions San Luis Obispo and San Antonio , and had been asking for a mission near them.

The Mission Church , which became the centerpiece of the mission buildings, was completed in 1821. The Spanish artist, Don Esteban Munros, directed the Indians in frescoing and painting the interior, and their artwork can be seen today. A little group, which included Father Fermin de Lasuen and Father Buenaveture Sitjar and eight soldiers, returned to the site marked two years before and founded Mission San Miguel on July 25, 1797. The mission was the 16th of the missions founded in California . Later, the town of San Miguel was developed adjacent to the mission.

During this general time period, the Indians used the mineral springs in the area known as “El Paso de Los Robles,” which referred to the numerous valley oaks that adorned the area’s landscape. The Indians, and even animals, used the hot springs for curative purposes. Old-timers told of a grizzly bear that made regular nocturnal trips to cure a lame leg by grasping an overhanging limb with his forepaws and dipping his sore leg into the hot pool. A writer in the 1830’s reported that “Father Juan Cabot, the minister of San Miguel Mission, erected a small house at the spot to offer shelter and convenience to bathers and it was used by many persons.”

When Padre Abella, the last of the mission Franciscan padres, died in July 1941, there were only thirty frightened, helpless Indians left of all the mission’s flock. First the Spanish, and then the Mexican governments had allowed greed to undermine the missions, and thus destroy their greatest assets.

The Mexican government appointed Jose de Jesus Pico as San Miguel’s civil administrator in 1841. He quickly issued a decree to sell the mission. On July 4, 1846 , Petronillo Rios and William Reed purchased the mission buildings and the remaining mission lands. Earlier, the Rancho el Paso Robles, some nine miles south of the mission, had been granted by the Mexican government in 1844 to Pedro Narvaez, who had transferred it to his countryman, Petronillo Rios. In 1857, the Rancho was purchased by D. D. Blackburn, J. H. Blackburn and Lazare Godchaux. Godchaux sold his interest to Drury James (uncle to Jesse James).

After Mexico declared itself a free nation independent of Spain , the new Mexican government decided in 1825 to secularize the missions as quickly as possible, to eliminate the role of Spain in Mexico and to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church in owning and managing the California missions.

San Miguel Mission, with its 53,000 acres of mission lands, was one of the last missions to be secularized on July 14, 1836 . Ignacio Coronel assumed jurisdiction over San Miguel mission property and lands for the civil government of Mexico . Under Mexican rule, most of the Indians deserted the mission and the buildings deteriorated and livestock raising and farming was generally abandoned.

In the mid-1840’s, a movement by Americans to free California from Mexico was successful. On July 7, 1846, Commodore Sloat, on his flagship Savannah, arrived in Monterey with 250 marines and sailors, and unfurled the American flag over
Monterey, which was the Mexican government’s capital city for its California territory.

On July 10, 1846 , Captain John Fremont arrived at San Miguel Mission. His army made camp on the three hills just west of the mission, where soldiers rested and ate many of Se├▒oras Reed’s and Rio ‘s sheep. After the Americans gained control of California by deposing Pio Pico on August 10, 1846, the mission churches, priests’ dwellings, cemeteries, gardens, and orchards were ordered left in charge of the padres until the question of ownership was decided later by the United States’ Courts.

In 1859, President Buchanan declared that the Mexican government’s confiscation of church lands was illegal, and he returned the mission to the Catholic bishop of Monterey . Only the church and the buildings on the immediate
grounds were returned. The mission still belongs to the Bishop of Monterey, though it is run by the Franciscan padres who returned to the mission in 1928. The same Franciscan order had founded the mission in 1797. Today it is a parish church.

St. Rose of Lima Church in Paso Robles

The town site of Paso de Robles was mapped and established in 1886 by the Blackburns and James, and sites were marked and reserved for churches. The Blackburn brothers and James donated land to religious organizations, which resulted in Paso Robles having many denominations and churches.

In 1890, a lot on 15th and Park Streets was donated to Bishop Mora of Monterey . Within the year, a Catholic church was built. It was a small wooden building, and its lumber was transported by parishioners using teams of horses from Port San Luis Obispo over the Cuesta Grade. The Southern Pacific Railroad had not yet been constructed.

The ecclesiastic status of the Paso Robles church was under the jurisdiction of San Miguel Mission and was served by priests from the mission. Father Peter O’Reilly was in charge of the mission from 1899 to 1903, and said Mass in the Paso Robles church on Saturdays.

The earliest records of the church date from 1892. The first child to receive Baptism in the new church was Doctor Woehl, formerly of San Luis Obispo . On cold Sundays church members from such far places as Creston, Union , Shandon, Adelaida and Atascadero heated rocks to put in their buggies for the pre-dawn trip to church. Our early pastor referred to late arrivers and early departers as “road runners.” He also asked women wearing lipstick and rouge in church to “wipe that lipstick and powder off your face.”

During this period, Paso Robles was in the midst of a beautiful region, with vast areas of hills and valleys covered with oaks. These were also rich farming, grazing, and almond lands. The almond acreage turned the countryside into a photographer’s paradise when the almond trees blossomed in February. Santa Rosa Road ran west to Cambria and San Simeon, and a highway to the east linked Paso Robles with the San Joaquin Valley . The El Camino Real was the city’s main thoroughfare and linked Paso Robles with San Francisco and Los Angeles. While the area was sparsely settled, the town of Paso Robles was steadily growing.

The Tidings for July 10, 1908 stated that Rev. William Power established a parish residence in Paso Robles. Bishop Conaty of Monterey inspected the residence and urged parishioners to provide a permanent rectory for the small church. While the rectory was never built, the church and grounds were beautified.

One the church’s most illustrious parishioners was Ignace J. Paderewski, a Polish pianist and statesman, who came to Paso Robles for the mineral baths in 1916. He was so captivated by the area that he bought a ranch on the Adelaida Road west of Paso Robles, known as Rancho Ignacio.Paderewski attended services at St. Rose for a year, from 1916 to 1917, again in 1922, and for the last time in 1939. He would often come to services in the little church handsomely dressed in a white suit and hat, accompanied by his wife, Helena. Some parishioners were fascinated by the rows of buttons on Madame Paderewski’s dresses and by her fancy hats. Both Ignace and Helena were considered faithful practicing Catholics. Jan Gnieciak, a native of Poland, came to the area as Paderewski’s ranch foreman. He purchased and operated a ranch on the Adelaida Road called Saint Helena in memory of Paderewski’s wife. He as a faithful St. Rose of Lima parishioner.

On November 11, 1921 , Paso Robles was separated from San Miguel Mission. Father Leo Foin was appointed the first pastor of the newly independent St. Rose
of Lima parish, and began his duties in 1922. He rented and furnished a house on the northwest corner of 18th and Vine Streets.

On April 2, 1922 , Father Foin purchased a fifteen acre parcel, which was to become the church’s new cemetery. The cemetery is located on a hill above the
Paso Robles Cemetery District property, at the junction of Nacimiento Lake Drive and Mountain Springs Road in northwest Paso Robles.

On May 5, 1922 , Father Foin purchased property at the southeast corner of 13th and Vine Streets. A two-story wooden building was built on the east side of the lot in 1925, as a rectory and home for the pastors of St. Rose. Father Foin occupied the new rectory in June of 1925.

In 1926, Father Foin relocated the existing church to its new site at 13th and Vine Streets. It was an ambitious task, which took three evenings. Telephone and electric wires along the rout had to be disconnected and moved to allow the bell tower to navigate the route. The church was remodeled and additions were built. The fourth baby to be baptized in the relocated church was Betty Cousins, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Cousins, donors of the original organ.

Reverend Leo J. Foin served as the founding parish priest for St. Rose of Lima from 1922 to 1930. He died in San Jose on July 18, 1930 , while still pastor of St. Rose parish.

Rev. Leo J. Beacon was appointed the new St. Rose pastor by the Diocese of Monterey in 1930. Fr. Beacon began the Confraternity of Christians Doctrine for the parish in 1935. During the 1930’s, Father Beacon and the parishioners remodeled and enlarged the church. Upon completion, there was choir loft at the north end of the sanctuary, and the baptismal font was in the round room in the corner below the bell tower. The altar graced the south end of the church. Father Beacon was responsible for the lovely stained glass windows installed in 1938. Church members donated money for the windows, and dedicated them to loved ones. The Rev. Patrick Leddy took over the parish on November 18, 1939.

Rt. Rev. Monsignor Michael Sullivan, vicar general of the diocese, became pastor on November 21, 1940 . Monsignor Sullivan was a sponsor of the “Army of Prayer” movement during World War II, whose members recited 122,000 rosaries daily for men and women in the armed services and for peace. This movement brought great consolation and blessings to innumerable war-tortured members of the church. Also, as a result of Msgr. Sullivan’s interest, the National Catholic Community Service was assigned to the Paso Robles U.S.O. in 1942.

In 1940, the Catholic population of Paso Robles numbered 1,750. The church debt at the time, $6,700, was liquidated within the next three years. During World War II, the parish, like the entire country,experienced a sudden growth, and a school fund was begun.

Rev. Timothy Cummings served as pastor from 1954 to 1956.

Rev. Patrick E. Flood was pastor of St. Rose from 1956 to 1960. Under his administration, the dream of a parish school became a reality. On November 25, 1957 , it was announced by Father Flood that the parish goal of raising $100,000 to build a new school and convent had been surpassed. Ground was broken for the new school in January 1958. The complex included classrooms and related facilities for eight grades,and a convent. The new buildings were located on eleven acres adjacent to Creston Road and Trigo Lane . A contract was signed between the Roman Catholic Bishop of Monterey-Fresno and Arden Hutchings, contractor, on March 20, 1959 , to build the St. Rose convent facing Trigo Lane . The teaching staff for the new school was from the Order of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita , Kansas .

The Rev. Brendan McGuinness became pastor of St. Rose in 1960. By this time, the congregation had outgrown its quaint little church, and under his administration a new church and rectory were completed. The new church and rectory were added to the building complex begun by the parish on Creston Road in 1959 with the completion of the school and convent. In July 1964, the Paso Robles Planning Commission approved a use permit for St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church to immediately construct a church and rectory. Construction started in mid-August 1964. Banta and Parish of Los Angeles were the architects fro the church and rectory. Low bidder on the project was Mandello Construction Company, who put in a final bid of $178,000. The bid did not include paving for the parking lot, nor carpeting or furnishings for the church and rectory.

The new church, with a 6,000 square foot sanctuary, was of contemporary Spanish style, and seated 500 on the main floor and 80 in the choir loft. It included an Italian marble altar, which was designed for the new Catholic liturgy with the priest facing the congregation. An 11 foot tall tile mosaic of St. Rose of Lima adorned the front of the church. Services were first held in the new church on Holy Thursday evening, and the official opening took place on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1965 .

A 3,000 square foot rectory was also built alongside the church. It was of modern Spanish style, built around an enclosed patio. It included two offices separated from the living quarters. Self-contained suites of sitting room, bedroom, and bath were provided for the pastor and an assistant (if one was later assigned), and for the housekeeper. The rectory also included a priests’ dining room, service room, and a guest room and bath.

A 50-foot bell tower was erected in front of the church and rectory. It was composed of brown-stained slanted beams topped by a gold cross. When the bell tower was completed in 1965, it did not include a bell. Three years later, in January of 1968, Robert Fr. Fryer, aged 20, was the first serviceman from Paso Robles to be killed in the war in Vietnam . He and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Fryer, were members of St. Rose of Lima Parish. For many years he served as an altar boy. Mrs. Fryer was the parish secretary. Shortly after their son’s death, Mr. Martin Heynen proposed that a commemorative memorial be erected. It was decided that a giant bell should be installed in the tower to serve as a memorial. The response of the people of Paso Robles, Catholics and non-Catholics, was immediate and generous. The blessing and dedication of the bell took place on Thanksgiving weekend, 1968.

On April 7, 1965 , members of St. Rose Women’s Council held a meeting at the school to reminisce and share memories of the early days of the parish. Father McGuinness attended and paid tribute to the pioneer priests and parishioners who founded the parish and endured hardship and prejudice. He was happy that the community climate of anti-Catholic days had evolved into a very positive and supportive atmosphere with regard to the new St. Rose of Lima Church . His tribute was appropriate, as it recalled that in the mid-20’s the Ku Klux Klan was in Paso Robles, when Klan members were seen slipping down alleys to get to their secret Klan meetings, and crosses were burned on hillsides. The group expressed thanks that today’s parishioners do not face such tribulations. They also expressed thanks for the parish pioneers who built the first church in 1890, and whose fourth generations now attended St. Rose of Lima Church .

With the completion of the new church, the old church at 13th and Vine was no longer needed. Following desanctification of the old church, it was rented for several purposes, including some years as a racquetball court. In 1978, the property was purchased for use as a restaurant. The rectory building was removed to make room for a newly constructed banquet room and lounge. The original and beautiful stained glass windows were uncovered. A second floor was added for dining, but was free-standing, so the huge vertical stained glass windows would be the primary focus for diners. The California Coastal Restaurant Association became the owners in 1988, and later the facilities were taken over for Joshua’s Restaurant. Later, a patio and vineyard were added, and a one hundred year old redwood wine cask from York Mountain Winery was placed near the north door.

While the restaurant has changed ownership throughout the years, the charm of the old church remains, with light filtering through the stained glass windows as a reminder of days past with children singing in the choir, the smile of a bride walking down the aisle, spring flowers on the altar, and the chiming of the bell on Sunday morning.

Rev. Msgr. James Marron served as St. Rose pastor from 1969 to 1974. The BBQ celebration that is held each June was created by Msgr. Marron, to benefit the St. Rose School .

Rev. Douglas F. Keating served as St. Rose pastor from 1974 to 1991. In 1981, the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce presented Father Douglas Keating with the Chamber’s Beautification award for the month of November. The award was for the completion in 1981 of the parish’s handsome Parish Center building on Creston Road . The architect was Ralph McCarthy, and the builder was Tom Bordonaro, Sr.

Rev. James P. Henry served as St. Rose pastor from 1991 through 1996. He was welcomed as the new parish priest on March 1, 1991 , at a time when the parish numbered 1,300 parishioners.

Rev. Derek Hughes served as pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish from 1996 through 2005.

Rev.Michael Volk served as pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish from 2004 through 2007.

Fr. Wayne Dawson served as parish priest at St. Rose from Aug 2007- Dec 2010.

Fr. Roberto Vera is currently serving as the Parish Pastor.