José Dario Arguello, commander of the Presidio of Santa Barbara wrote about the events in a letter on December 28, 1812, to the governor of Alta California.
He states that, after the earthquake, they moved to Mission Santa Barbara “fearing that the place where we were could, at any time, be wiped out by the sea [by watching the waves] and our refuge being some coverings made with branches.”
Father Jose Senan, a Franciscan priest at Mission Buenaventura, described the earthquakes and resulting tsunami waves in a letter written to the Bishop of Sonora in 1813. Mission San Buenaventura is in Ventura, California, along the coast about 30 miles south of Mission Santa Barbara.
In Santa Barbara:
“…there are so many cracks in the houses, church, and other buildings, and a chapel of Saint Michael, which was in the Rancheria of Mescaltitan, fell down completely, and the land was opened up in the vicinity, to such an extent that it causes horror. The Presidio of Santa Barbara is all on the verge of falling down, and there is not one room in it that can be used. People from the Rancheria are living on the plains around the Mission, to where they withdrew since they were very close to the ocean, which threatened to flood them.”
In Ventura (then called San Buenaventura):
“…it has been necessary for us to withdraw for now, for somewhat more than a half a league inland, for fear of the ocean, which now had flooded in two parts.”