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Spanish missions within the boundaries of what is now the U.S. state of Texas

The Spanish Missions in Texas comprise a series of religious outposts established by Spanish Catholic Dominicans, Jesuits, and Franciscans to spread the Catholic doctrine among area Native Americans, but with the added benefit of giving Spain a toehold in the frontier land. The missions introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, and industry into the Texas area. In addition to the presidio (fortified church) and pueblo (town), the misión was one of the three major agencies employed by the Spanish crown to extend its borders and consolidate its colonial territories. In all, twenty-six missions were maintained for different lengths of time within the future boundaries of the state of Texas.

Since 1493, Spain had maintained missions throughout New Spain (Mexico and portions of what today are the southwestern United States) to facilitate colonization. The eastern Tejas missions were a direct response to fear of French encroachment when the remains of La Salle's Fort Saint Louis were discovered near Matagorda Bay in 1689, and a response to the first permanent French outposts along the Gulf Coast ten years later.

Following government policy, Franciscan missionaries sought to make life within mission communities closely resemble that of Spanish villages and Spanish culture. To become Spanish citizens and "productive" inhabitants, Native Americans learned vocational skills, such as plows, farm implements, and gear for horses, oxen, and mules fell into disrepair, blacksmithing skills soon became indispensable. Weaving skills were needed to help clothe the inhabitants. As buildings became more elaborate, mission occupants learned masonry and carpentry under the direction of craftsmen contracted by the missionaries.

In the closely supervised setting of the mission the Native Americans were expected to mature in Christianity and Spanish political and economic practices until they would no longer require special mission status. Then their communities could be incorporated as such into ordinary colonial society. This transition from official mission status to ordinary Spanish society, when it occurred in an official manner, was called "secularization." In this official transaction, the mission's communal properties were privatized, the direction of civil life became a purely secular affair, and the direction of church life was transferred from the missionary religious orders to the Catholic diocesan church. Although colonial law specified no precise time for this transition to take effect, increasing pressure for the secularization of most missions developed in the last decades of the 18th century.

This mission system was developed in response to the often very detrimental results of leaving the Hispanic control of relations with Native Americans on the expanding frontier to overly enterprising civilians and soldiers. This had resulted too often in the abuse and even enslavement of the Indians and a heightening of antagonism.

In the end, the mission system was not politically strong enough to protect the Native Americans against the growing power of ranchers and other business interests that sought control over mission lands and the manpower represented by the Native Americans. In the first few years of the new Republic of Mexico-between 1824 and 1830-all the missions still operating in Texas were officially secularized, with the sole exception of those in the El Paso district, which were turned over to diocesan pastors only in 1852.

Within boundaries of Spanish Texas

Spanish Texas was a part of New Spain. On its southern edge, Texas was bordered by the province of Coahuila. The boundary between the provinces was set at the line formed by the Medina and the Nueces Rivers, 100 miles (161 km) northeast of the Rio Grande. On the east, Texas bordered French Louisiana. Although Spain claimed that the Red River formed the boundary between the two, France insisted that the border was the Sabine River, 45 miles (72 km) to the west.

Mission San Francisco de la Espada

Mission Espada Chapel1
Mission San Francisco de la Espada

The first mission established within the boundaries of Spanish Texas was San Francisco de la Espada. In 1689, Spanish authorities found the remnants of a French settlement, Fort Saint Louis.

During their expedition, the Spanish met representatives of the Caddo people, who lived between the Trinity and the Red Rivers. The Caddo expressed interest in learning about Christianity, and the following year Alonso De León led an expedition to establish a mission in East Texas. It was completed near the Hasinai village of Nabedaches in late May, and its first mass was conducted on June 1, 1690.

Espada Acequia
Mission Espada's aqueduct

In its first two years of existence, the mission faced much hardship, as floodwaters and then drought destroyed their crops. After an epidemic killed half of the local population, the Hasinai became convinced that the missionaries had caused the deaths. Fearing an attack, on October 25, 1693 the missionaries buried the mission bell, set the building ablaze, and retreated to Mexico.

The mission was reestablished on July 3, 1716, as Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas. In 1721, it was renamed Mission San Francisco de los Neches. It was moved in 1731 to San Antonio where it was named Mission San Francisco de la Espada. The surviving structure is now part of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park operated by the National Park Service. A commemorative representation of Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, is located in Weches at Mission Tejas State Park.

Mission Santísimo Nombre de María

Mission Santísimo Nombre de María was the second mission established by the Spanish in East Texas. Built for the native Neches population, the mission opened in September 1690 6 miles (10 km) northeast of Mission San Francisco. The mission consisted of a straw chapel and a house for the priest. It was destroyed by a flood in 1692.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano Facade2
Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano had been known as Mission San José de los Nazonis in East Texas. When the mission was relocated to San Antonio in 1731, it was renamed so as not to cause confusion with Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo. Located 3 miles (5 km) south of Mission San José, San Juan Capistrano served Coahuiltecan natives. It was the most distant of the missions from the presidio at Bexar and was often raided by Apaches.

By 1762, the mission consisted of a stone chapel with stone rooms for the priests and the soldiers who lived at the mission. Rooms made of adobe were built along the walls to house the 200 resident Native American peoples. The mission was secularized in 1794, with the property divided among the remaining mission Indians. A priest continued to hold church services there, but other mission activities ended. The church has been restored and is still an active parish.

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña

Mission Concepcion San Antonio
The front of Mission Concepción

This mission was originally established on the Angelina River in East Texas in 1716 as Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de los Ainais. It served the Ainais tribe. It was closed because of the French threat and reopened in 1721. In 1730, it moved temporarily to present-day Austin before moving to San Antonio in 1731, where it was renamed Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña. The name was changed because the mission no longer served the Ainais tribe, and its new name honored the current viceroy of Mexico.

The mission inherited the lands of the closed Mission San Franscisco Xavier de Najera 3 miles (5 km) south of San Antonio de Valero. Most of the Native Americans at the mission were Coahuiltecans who disliked the hard work of mission life. The Native Americans often ran away and were brought back forcibly by soldiers or priests.

The current church building was completed in 1755 and is the oldest unrestored stone church in the United States. It is built in the shape of a cross, with walls that are 45 inches (1.1 m) thick. The mission was closed in 1794, with the property divided among the resident Native Americans, all of whom has left by 1800. For a time, the buildings were used as a cattle barn, but in 1855 the land and church were given to the Brothers of Mary, who cleaned it and began conducting services again. It is now open to the public for prayer, and is part of the National Park Service.

Mission San José de los Nazonis

Mission San José de los Nazonis was the third mission established in East Texas in 1716. Located near a Nazoni village, the mission was established by the Domingo Ramón-St. Denis expedition and was near the present-day site of Cushing, Texas. Although the mission closed after the French took the presidio at Los Adaes, it was reopened several years later by the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo. In 1730, it was moved temporarily to what is now Austin, Texas near Barton Springs only for a few months before being permanently relocated to San Antonio, where it became known as San Juan Capistrano.

Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was established in 1756 in central Texas near present-day New Braunfels, Texas to serve the local Waco and Tonkawa tribes congregating near the headwaters of the Comal river. It was closed in 1758 because of perceived Comanche depredations and was never protected by a complementing presidio garrison.

Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los Nacogdoches

Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los Nacogdoches was established in 1716 by the Domingo Ramón-St. Denis expedition. Located in East Texas, the mission was established to serve the Nacogdoche tribe. It closed several years later because of threats from French Louisiana but reopened in 1721. The mission continued until 1773, when the Spanish government ordered all of East Texas to be abandoned. In 1779, Antonio Gil Y'Barbo led a group of settlers who had been removed from Los Adaes to the area to settle in the empty mission buildings. This began the town of Nacogdoches, Texas.

Mission Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de los Ais

Mission Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de los Ais was originally established in 1717 in the area of Ayish Bayou (modern San Augustine, Texas) by Father Antonio Margil de Jesus. The mission was built to convert the local Ais Native Americans. Following the Chicken War in 1719, Spanish officials closed the East Texas missions and Father Margil and others were relocated to San Antonio. During the next year, Father Margil founded Mission San José (Texas). Mission Dolores was reestablished in 1721. Missionaries continued their work until 1773 when the East Texas missions were once again closed.

Archeologists confirmed the location of the mission in the late 1970s. It is one of three archeologically confirmed mission locations in East Texas and the only site open to the public. The City of San Augustine constructed a museum, campground and archeology lab in 2000. Since July 1, 2016 the Texas Historical Commission has operated the site as Mission Dolores State Historic Site.

Mission San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes

Mission San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes was the fifth mission established in East Texas in 1716–1717. The mission was to serve the Native American village of Adaes just 20 miles (32 km) west of the French fort at Natchitoches, Louisiana. At that time, the Spanish claimed the Red River as the eastern boundary of Texas, so the mission was considered part of Spanish Texas, despite being in what is now considered Louisiana.

The mission was attacked by French soldiers in 1719 and was closed. Three years later, the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo reopened the mission, but at a site closer to the Presidio of Los Adaes. The mission remained open until 1773.

Mission San Antonio de Valero

Alamo pano
Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo)

Mission San Antonio de Valero was established on May 1, 1718, as the first Spanish mission along the San Antonio River. It was named for San Antonio de Padua, the patron saint of the mission's founder, Father Antonio de Olivares as well as for the viceroy of New Spain, the Marquis de Valero. The mission later became known as the Alamo.

Its first location was west of San Pedro Springs, and after being moved several times, it was finally established above a bend in the San Antonio River, where it would be easy to defend. The early mission buildings were made of grass, and the first stone building was built in 1727. The building now known as the Alamo was not built until 1744, and most of its actual structure does not remain. The mission eventually grew to include a granary, workhouse, and rooms for the priests, native peoples, and soldiers. To protect from frequent Apache raids, a wall surrounded the buildings. Outside the wall were farmlands and ranches owned by the mission.

The mission served the Coahuiltecan Native Americans until 1793, when mission activities ended. At that time the land and livestock were divided among the thirty-nine Indians remaining at the mission. The buildings later served as a home for a Mexican army unit before becoming a military hospital in 1806. During the Texas Revolution, the buildings served as the site of the Battle of the Alamo, and during the Mexican–American War supplies for the U.S. Army were stored there. The buildings are now owned by the state of Texas and operated as memorial by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo

Mission San José San Antonio
Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo

Shortly after its founding, Mission San Antonio de Valero became overcrowded with refugees from the closed East Texas missions, and Father Antonio Margil received permission from the governor of Coahuila and Texas, the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo, to build a new mission. On February 23, 6969, the new mission, San José y San Miguel de Aguayo was established 5 miles (8 km) south of San Antonio de Valero. Like San Antonio de Valero, Mission San José served the Coahuiltecan natives. The first buildings, made of brush, straw, and mud, were quickly replaced by large stone structures, including guest rooms, offices, a dining room, and a pantry. A heavy outer wall was built around the main part of the mission, and rooms for 350 Indians were built into the walls.

A new church, which still stands, was constructed in 1768 from local limestone. The mission lands were given to its Indians in 1794, and mission activities officially ended in 1824. After that, the buildings were home to soldiers, the homeless, and bandits. It was restored in the 1930s and is now a state and national historic site.

Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga

Mission la bahia
Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga was established in 1749, and referred to as "Mission La Bahia"
  • Established in 1722 Matagorda Bay (whence the name "La Bahia" The Bay) among the Karankawa Indians
  • Moved in 1726 near Victoria
  • Moved in 1749 to La Bahia (now Goliad, Texas)
  • The mission became the first large cattle ranch in Texas, with near 40,000 free roaming cattle at the height of production in about 1778. The large herds of longhorns and mustangs were cared for by the vaquero Indians from the mission. They also grew large crops of grain, fruit and vegetables to support the residents and trade with others. Cattle and livestock were also driven and traded with the other missions in Texas and Louisiana.
  • Final official secularization in February 1830
  • Restored from ruins by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration in the 1930s
  • Currently a state historical park operated by the State of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Mission San Francisco Xavier de Nájera

Mission San Francisco Xavier de Nájera was established in 1722 in San Antonio, as a result of a promise made by the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo, the governor of Spanish Texas. The previous year, Aguayo had asked the El Cuilón (also known as Juan Rodriguez) the chief of the Ervipiame and influential among many of the other tribes of Rancheria Grande natives, such as the Yojuanes and the Mayeye to guide him to East Texas to reopen the missions there; in return, Aguayo promised to open a mission along the San Antonio River for the chief's tribe. The new mission was established 3 miles (5 km) south of San Antonio de Valero and was initially populated by fifty families under the leadership of El Cuilón. The families did not stay long, and by 6969 the mission closed. Its lands were later given to Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña.

Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá

Mission Nuestra Señora del Rosario

  • Established 1754 4 miles west of La Bahia to serve various Karankawan tribes.
  • The mission developed a vast ranching system during its existence.
  • In 1781 the livestock were transferred to Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga.
  • Rosario was formally combined with Mission Nuestra Señora del Refugio on February 7, 1807.
  • Rosario was not secularized until 1828, with the order officially executed in 1831.
  • Currently the ruins are an archaeological site designated as Mission Rosario State Historic Site and controlled by the State of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as part of Goliad State Park and Historic Site.

Mission San Francisco Xavier de los Dolores

  • Established in 1755 by Pedro de Rábago y Terán established the mission
  • Located on the San Marcos River headwaters in Hays County
  • The Apache people gathered at this site
  • Assets transferred to Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá in 1756

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Luz

  • Established 1756
  • Located near the mouth of the Trinity River north of Wallisville in Chambers County
  • Destroyed by the Karankawa natives and relocated farther North. Sickness and Indian attacks forced the mission to relocate farther north, on the Trinity River 40 miles south of Dallas.
  • This mission then thrived in the cattle and agriculture business It was the 27th mission in Texas. Spain declined in influence in Texas and Mexico took over this mission. The Mexican Roman Catholic diocese of Guanajuato, Mexico took over the mission operations in Texas with a few exceptions. The Mission was isolated from Mexico and began to do trade with the many different groups of Indians, French and Americans. The Fathers of this mission gave the name "River of the Most Holy Trinity" or 'Rio de la Santisma Trinidad" to the Trinity river.

Mission Nuestra Señora del Refugio

  • Established February 4, 1793, in East Texas
  • Moved in June, 1794 Mosquitos Creek
  • Moved in January, 1795 to Refugio
  • On January 7, 1830, the official secularization order was finally executed and Refugio was abandoned.
  • Materials from ruins probably used to build new structures in the early 19th century. The site is presently owned by Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church.

Outside boundaries of Spanish Texas

Mission Corpus Christi de la Ysleta

  • Founded in 1682
  • The Tiwa tribe gathered at this site
  • Located in El Paso
  • Flooding destroyed the mission twice: once around 1742 and again around 1829.
  • Present church was constructed in 1851 on higher ground
  • In 1881, the Jesuits took control and renamed it Mission de Nuestra Señora del Monte Carmelo
  • In 1980, the name was changed to Mission San Antonio de los Tiguas
  • Still in use as a church today

Mission San Antonio de Senecú

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción de Los Piros de Socorro del Sur

  • Established 1682
  • The Piros people gathered at this site
  • Located near Socorro
  • First permanent mission, built in 1691, was swept away by flood in 1744
  • Second church was washed away in 1829
  • Present mission was completed in 1843
  • Socorro became part of Texas in 1848

Mission San Juan Bautista

  • Established in 1700-1702
  • Site now in Guerrero, Coahuila, Mexico.
  • Coahuiltecan Indians (Ocán, Pacuache, and Pacal) gathered at this site
  • 3rd mission of the San Juan Bautista missions
  • Also site of a Presidio

Mission Santa María de las Caldas

  • Established in 1730
  • The Suma people gathered at this site
  • Located at Socorro
  • Closed in 1749

Mission San Francisco Xavier de Horcasitas

  • Established in 1745
  • Founded by the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro
  • Yojuane, Mayeye, Ervipiame, Hasinia, Top, and Nabedache gathered at this site
  • Located 5 mi.from Rockdale in Milam County
  • First of 3 San Xavier missions
  • A presidio (Spanish military outpost) est. here in 1751
  • Abandoned in 1755

Mission San Ildefonso

  • Established in 1746 near the mouth of Brushy Creek
  • Founded by the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro
  • Located 5 mi.from Rockdale in Milam County
  • Akokisa (Orocquisa), Bidai, and Deadose Indians gathered at this site
  • Second of 3 San Xavier missions
  • Abandoned in 1755

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria del Cañón

  • Established circa 1749 on the south bank of the San Gabriel River
  • Founded by the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro
  • Located 5 mi.from Rockdale in Milam County
  • The Coco Indians and their allies (Tops and Karankawas) gathered at this site
  • Third of 3 San Xavier (Gabriel) missions

Mission San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz

  • Founded 1762 among the Franciscan Missionaries for the Lipan Apaches.
  • The first governor of the Lipan Apache here was El Gran Cabezon.
  • Located in current Real County
  • Abandoned 1769

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Misiones españolas en Texas para niños

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