500 years ago nobody wanted the stretch of land known today as California. No Europeans, anyway. For hundreds of years the Spanish knew of the area but didn’t care to settle there. It wasn’t until King Carlos III learned that Russian seal hunters were operating on the Pacific Coast that he felt compelled to claim for Spain what it had never previously desired.
To give his military conquest religious cover, King Carlos III ordered the Franciscan Friars stationed in the Baja missions of New Spain (Mexico) to lead the expedition; accompanied by an armed escort, of course. On July 16, 1769, Father Serra launched the California mission system by establishing Mission San Diego de Alcalá near the bay.
Six years later this first mission of California experienced a tragic first of its own when some 600 Native Americans stormed the compound and killed Father Jayme. Known as the first Christian martyr of California, Father Jayme remains interred beneath the alter of Mission San Diego de Alcalá.