History of San Rafael
What is now San Rafael was once the site of several Coast Miwok villages in San Rafael, Terra Linda, and Marinwood.
Mission San Rafael Archangel was founded in what is now downtown San Rafael as the 20th Spanish mission in the colonial province of Alta California by four priests: Father Narciso Duran from San Jose, Father Abella from San Francisco, Father Gil y Taboada and Father Junipero Serra, the President of the Missions, on Dec. 14, 1817, four years before Mexico gained independence from Spain.
The mission and city are named for the Archangel Raphael, the Angel of Healing. The mission was originally planned as a hospital site for Central Valley American Indians who had become ill at the cold San Francisco Mission Dolores. Father Luis Gil, who spoke several native American languages, was put in charge of the facility. In part because of its ideal weather, San Rafael was later upgraded to full mission status in 1822. The mission had 300 converts within its first year, and 1,140 converts by 1828. The Mexican government took over the California missions in 1834, and Mission San Rafael was abandoned in 1844, eventually falling into ruin. The current mission was built in the style of the original in 1949, but faces at right angles to the alignment of the original.
For more information on San Rafael and Marin County history, visit the Marin History museum at www.marinhistory.org and the Marin County Free Library at http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/lb/main/crm/index.html.