Father Antonio D. Ubach ( -1907)

antonioubachUBACH, Father Antonio D. Native of Catalonia. Educated for a missionary priest at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and traveled thousands of miles as a missionary among the Indians. He came to San Diego in 1866, and had been in charge of the Catholic parish here ever since. Had a dispensation which allowed him to wear a beard. He had Moorish blood in his veins. He brought the first organ to San Diego. In early days after the morning services were over, he would bring out a football which he brought with him here, and play with the boys on the plaza. He had the dagger of the celebrated bandit Joaquin Murietta. He had also had charge of a large number of valuable relics of early Spanish days, including vestments, books of record, etc., from the old mission.

He was the “Father Gaspara” of Mrs. Jackson’s Ramona, a circumstance which gave him wide fame and made him an object of extraordinary interest to all strangers. For many years he refused to discuss the truth of the incidents of the story, but in the San Diego Union of June 25, 1905, he spoke of the marriage of Ramona as follows:

“Although it took place forty years ago, I remember it very well-how the couple came to me and asked me to marry them and how I was impressed with them. But it was not in the long adobe building which everybody points out as the place — that is the Estudillo place — but it took place in the little church which stands not far away, near the old cemetery where the old mission bells are. Why, I would not marry them outside of the church; Catholics know that. Mrs. Jackson herself says that the wedding took place in the chapel, and I can’t imagine why the other building is the one that is usually pointed out.

“Do I know who Alessandro and Ramona were? Yes, but those were not their real names. I know what their right names were, but I do not care to tell. Mrs. Jackson suppressed them because she did not care to subject the families to the notoriety that they would be sure to get from the publication of the book. They were native families who lived in the country, and I was well acquainted with them. I have never mentioned their names to anyone and of course I don’t want to do so now.”

In 1874 he laid out the present Catholic cemetery [Calvary cemetery, now Pioneer Park] on the hill back of old San Diego. In 1878-80, he went home and visited his people in Catalonia. A large part of his work here has been among the Indians, with whom he has had great influence. The corner stone of the unfinished church at Old Town was laid in July, 1869, but he was destined to be unable to finish it. Three years later, a movement for a new building in new San Diego was commenced, and in 1875 he had the satisfaction of occupying a comfortable building on what was then mesa lands west of the new town. The present brick church was completed and occupied in 1894.

Father Ubach died at St. Joseph’s Hospital on the afternoon of Saturday, March 27, 1907. He had been in failing health for several months, but insisted upon pursuing his accustomed tasks until he could no longer appear in public. His death, though not unexpected, impressed the community profoundly. It was the sundering of the last link which connected the new day with the olden time, for Father Ubach was in truth “the last of the padres.” His funeral, which occurred in his church on the forenoon of Wednesday, April 2d, was exceedingly impressive. Bishop Conaty conducted the elaborate ceremonies and pronounced the eulogy. The church was filled to overflowing, while thousands of mourners remained outside the building. Among the mass of floral emblems nothing was more touching than the wild flowers sent by the Indians from the mountains. The historic priest sleeps in the Catholic cemetery on the mesa, which overlooks the scene of his labors.

[from Smythe, William Ellsworth. History of San Diego, 1542-1908. San Diego: History Co., 1907. (pages 175-176)]

Return to Biography.