Arguably, the most plausible location for Carbrillo's gold is the Mission San Gabriel, which was founded on September 8, 1771 by Father Junipero Serra. San Gabriel Arcángel, named after the Archangel Gabriel and often referred to as the "Godmother of the Pueblo of Los Angeles", was designed by Father Antonio Cruzado, who hailed from Córdoba, Spain. Cruzado gave the building its strong Moorish architectural influence. The capped buttresses and the tall, narrow windows are unique among the missions of the California chain. The planned site for the Mission was along the banks of the Río de los Temblores (the River of the Earthquakes—the Santa Ana River). Inexplicably, the priests did not build on this site, instead they surveyed multiple locations until they settled on a location in a fertile plain located directly alongside the Rio Hondo in the Whittier Narrows. The site of the Misión Vieja (or "Old Mission") is located near the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue in Montebello, California (known to the natives as Shevaanga). The purpose behind the priests search for the mission site is never really explained. Treasure theorists believe the missionaries were searching for Cabrillo's gold, and eventually founded Misión Vieja on top of the treasure site.
In 1776, a flash flood destroyed much of the crops and ruined the Mission complex. For weeks after the flood the chaplins remained on site recovering what they could from the Mission. Months later, they moved what they had found in covered wagons to a location five miles closer to the mountains in present-day San Gabriel (the native settlement of 'Iisanchanga). Again, historians gloss over what it was that was recovered from the original site. The new location was thought to be more secure, and able to protect the important relics the church had moved in the wagons.
On December 9, 1812 (the "Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin"), a series of massive earthquakes shook Southern California. The 1812 Wrightwood earthquake caused the three-bell campanario, located adjacent to the chapel's east façade, to collapse. Along with it, significant damage was rendered to the foundations. A larger, six-bell structure was subsequently constructed at the far end of the capilla, and the foundation was reworked over the course of two years, finally completing around 1814. During this period, locals described a "tremendous" amount of dirt being carted from the site, leading some to believe underground chambers were being constructed. Also of note, the dirt was said to have been carted several miles north of the mission in the San Gabriel mountains. Although the exact location is not documented, many believe they were taken to what is known in present day as Eaton Canyon. Although a seemingly innocuous event, the decision to cart the dirt to such an odd location has led some to believe they were not carting dirt at all, but the treasure of Juan Cabrillo.
An interesting side note, this Mission is the base from which Pueblo de Los Ángeles was founded. Many believe that some or all of the gold may have been moved offsite to the new pueblo in 1814.Legend has it that the founding expedition was confronted by a large group of native Tongva people, the very same tribe which attacked Cabrillo. One of the padres laid a painting of "Our Lady of Sorrows" on the ground for all to see, whereupon the natives, designated by the settlers as the Gabrieliños, immediately made peace with the missionaries, because they were so moved by the painting's beauty. Today the 300-year-old work hangs in front of and slightly to the left of the old high altar and reredos in the Mission's sanctuary. The designation given to the Tongva, Gabrieliños, is particularly interesting. Both the Tongva and the Mission are named after the Archangel Gabriel. In biblical texts, Gabriel is a messenger of God, stands at the right hand of the throne, and watches over Heaven. The Tongva were known for generations to be fiercely protective of the mission, just as the missionaries were fiercely secretive.
A large stone cross stands in the center of the campo santo (cemetery), first consecrated in 1778 and then again on January 29, 1939 by the Los Angeles Archbishop John Cantwell. It serves as the final resting place for some 6,000 "neophytes;" a small stone marker denotes the gravesite of José de Los Santos, the last American Indian to be buried on the grounds, at the age of 101 in February 1921. Also interred at the Mission are the bodies of numerous Franciscan fathers who died during their time of service, as well as the remains of Reverend Raymond Catalan, C.M.F., who undertook the restoration of the Mission's gardens. Entombed at the foot of the altar are the remains of eight Franciscan priests (listed in order of interment): Father Miguel Sánchez, Father Antonio Cruzado, Father Francisco Dumetz, Father Roman Ulibarri, Father Joaquin P. Nuez, Father Gerónimo Boscana, Father José Bernardo Sánchez, and Father Blas Ordaz. Buried among the padres is centenarian Eulalia Perez de Guillén Mariné, the "keeper of the keys" under Spanish rule; her grave is marked by a bench dedicated in her memory.
Well over 25,000 baptisms were conducted at San Gabriel between 1771 and 1834, making it the most prolific in the mission chain. In its heyday it furnished food and supplies to settlements and other missions throughout California. A majority of the Mission structures fell into ruins after it was secularized in November 1834. The once-extensive vineyards were falling to decay, with fences broken down and animals roaming freely through it.
The Mission's chapel functioned as a parish church for the City of San Gabriel from 1862 until 1908, when the Claretian Missionary Fathers came to San Gabriel and began the job of rebuilding and restoring the Mission. On October 1, 1987 the Whittier Narrows Earthquake damaged the property. A significant portion of the original complex has since been restored. Rumor's of any cache of gold from Juan Cabrillo are scoffed at by current denizens, and are not taken seriously despite the mission's interesting history.