The Church of The Angels was ordered built by Mrs. Frances E. Campbell-Johnson as a memorial to her husband, Alexander Robert Campbell-Johnson, an early settler of the area.
Cambell-Johnson was an Englishman, the son of Sir Alexander Johnson, chief justice of Ceylon. His mother was the daughter of Sire William Campbell, a direct descendant of the Duke of Argyll who was the last British governor of South Carolina.
Young Alexander adopted the surnames of both his parents and later entered the British diplomatic service. Visiting Southern California in 1883, Campbell-Johnson and his wife arranged to purchase 2,000 acres from a man named Prudent Beaudry who was mayor of Los Angeles from 1874 to 1876.
Beaudry had acquired a large portion of the historic Rancho San Rafael property in 1869 when descendants of the Verdugo family were unable to make payments on a loan secured through Beaudry and other creditors. A court commission awarded the San Rafael hills area to Beaudry as his share of the settlement.
As new landowners, the Campbell-Johnsons rechristened their land the San Rafael Ranch and developed it to agricultural use. The Campbell-Johnsons returned to England, giving over management of the ranch to three of their ten sons, Augustine, Coneya, and Alexander Napier.
Campbell-Johnson returned to the ranch with his wife early in 1888, but was taken ill and died on January 21. Mrs. Campbell-Johnson returned to England with the remains for burial and while in London decided to build a church to perpetuate the memory of her husband.
She directed that the church be oriented to the west, instead of the traditional east to allow the sun to brightly illuminate the stained glass depiction of the resurrection behind the altar.
Plans were drawn by Arthur Edmund Street, an English church architect, and modeled after Holmbury St. Mary's Church near Dorking, Surrey, England.
Mrs. Campbell-Johnson returned to San Rafael in early 1889 to oversee construction of the church which she had named "Mission of the Church of the Angels". Mrs. Campbell-Johnson laid the cornerstone on Easter Eve, April 20, 1889 and visited the site daily during construction. The church was completed in September, and shortly thereafter Mrs. Campbell-Johnson returned to England, where she died in 1893.