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A Father Ibarra California Missions Mystery
By John J. O’Hagan

The death of a Native American from Mission San Francisco leads to a trip of discovery through California’s Delta for a Franciscan priest in the 18th century.


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A young Native American has died mysteriously in the remote back country of the California Delta, several days’ journey from his home in Yerba Buena. Why was he there, and what killed him? Was it some terrible new disease which might threaten the entire Spanish effort in Alta California? Was it at the hands of the Spanish military? His widow, “a child with a child,” asks Father Ibarra to find out what happened to her husband over a year after his death. When Father Ibarra expresses some hesitancy, she takes matters into her own hands. She sets off with her child for the wild country inland of San Francisco Bay. If she comes to harm in this endeavor it will reflect very badly on the already troubled Mission San Francisco.

Father Ibarra is confronted with three daunting tasks. He must find the missing mother and child, find the grave in which her husband was buried, and somehow determine the cause of his death. To do this Father Ibarra must not only face the wilds of the California Delta, he must take on the Spanish military and the Superiors of his own order. Based on an actual historic event, this book takes the reader on a trip through what is now one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the United States, but which was at one time the “ends of the earth.” Includes Readers Guide.

John O’Hagan is an amateur historian. Having grown up on the central California Coast he developed a life-long interest in the California missions and is a member of the California Missions Foundation. He has lectured extensively on the missions, done a variety of educational programs on them and has led tours of them for people from throughout the United States. He was a partner with the Saint Francis and the America’s project at Arizona State University. That project provided a multi-disciplinary forum for students, scholars and researchers to examine the impact that Francis of Assisi and the Franciscans have had on the new world. John is also the author of Lands Never Trodden: The Franciscans and the California Missions (University of Nebraska Press), an exhaustive review of each of the twenty-one California missions. He lives in Boise, Idaho and travels frequently to California to keep current on the happenings at his beloved missions.

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