Missions, Missionaries and Military Annals

No successive narrative of early Arizona annals is extant. The data we have, which has been collected by Bancroft and others, is incomplete, but enough is known to justify the assertion that the Gila Valley of Arizona was not covered with prosperous Spanish missions and settlements that were abandoned on account of Apache raids. Under the Jesuit rule, only two missions, those of Bac and Guevavi, were established. The rest were rancherias de visita, which received a precarious protection by Tubac presidio, from 1752. Bancroft says: ”The Arizona missions were never more than two, and they were never prosperous. So, also, the rich mines and prosperous haciendas, with which the country is pictured as having been dotted, are purely imaginary, resting only on vague traditions of the Planchas de Plata excitement, and on the well known mineral wealth of later times. The Jesuits, of course – though the contrary is often alleged – worked no mines, nor is there any evidence that in Jesuit times there were any mining operations in Arizona beyond an occasional prospecting raid; and even later, down to the end of the century, such operations were on a small scale, confined to the vicinity of the presidios.” This remark may also be applied to agricultural operations, which were often abandoned, and more often plundered by the savages.

Tucson has been regarded as a more or less prosperous town from a very early date; some writers dating its foundation in the sixteenth century, but as a matter of fact it was not heard of, even as an Indian rancheria, until the middle of the eighteenth century, and it was not a Spanish settlement until the presidio was moved there in later years.

The expulsion of the Jesuits was caused primarily by the revolt of the Pimas in 1750, and after this revolt was put down by the Spanish arms, there rose a quarrel between the Jesuits and the civil authorities, each charging the other with being the cause of this revolt, which resulted in the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, when all mission property belonging to the Jesuits, was confiscated by the Spanish Government and its care entrusted to royal comisarios. “Respecting the definite acts of these officials in Pimeria Alta, there is,” says Bancroft, “no information.”

From another authority Bancroft quotes: “The missions were found by the Franciscans in a sad state. Some of the establishments had been plundered by the Apaches, and were again plundered, as at Suamca and Bac, during the first year of Franciscan occupation. In some cases, the comisarios had grossly neglected their duties. Everywhere the neophytes had been for a year free from all control, and had not been improved by their freedom. Not only had they relapsed to a great extent into their roving and improvident habits, but they had imbibed new ideas of independence, fostered largely by settlers and soldiers. They regarded themselves as entirely free from all control by the missionaries, whose whole duty in these later times was to attend to religious matters. The padres might not, so these independent aborigines thought, give orders, but must prefer requests to native officials; if they required work done for them, they must pay for it. The friars at first had nothing to do with the temporalities, but Galvez in 1770 – (it was really in June, 1769) – ordered the property returned to their control, and the slight remnants were thus restored. They received a stipend of $300 each from the royal treasury, and spent it on their churches and neophytes. They worked faithfully, though often discouraged, and presently the state of affairs became, in all essential respects, similar to that in Chihuahua, the padres keeping together the skeleton communities, instructing the children, caring for the sick, and by gifts and persuasion exercising slight and varying control over the masses of the Indians, who were Christians only in name.”

The military annals during this period are also incomplete. The general situation of affairs is clear. In 176771, the island and coast tribes of Sonora gave as much trouble as did the Apaches, and while these tribes were being reduced to submission, campaigns on the northern frontier were suspended, and protection was only given to the presidios and missions. There are no particulars as to when aggressive campaigns were inaugurated. By a reglamento of 17723, service against the Apaches was made more effective. Through a change in the military discipline and Indian policy, at the same time, the sites of the four frontier presidios at Altar, Tubac, Terrenate and Fronteras were ordered changed. These changes, except at Altar, were made, including the transfer of Tubac to Tucson, the exact date of which is unknown. General Croix, from 1779, is credited with having effected useful reforms in the military service. The garrisons at each presidio, before the year 1780, were increased from fifty to seventy-five men, and, in 1784, a company of Opata allies was organized, which gave efficient aid to the Spanish soldiers. Records showing these facts also give information respecting the Apaches and their methods of warfare, and contain a general complaint of never ending depredations.

In 1786 General Ugarte, by the viceroy’s order, introduced radical changes in the Indian policy. The Apaches were to be forced by unceasing campaigns against them, with the aid of the Pimas and Opatas, to make treaties of peace, which, up to that time, had never been permitted, and, so long as they observed such treaties, though closely watched, they were to be kindly treated, “furnished with supplies, encouraged to form settlements near the presidios, taught to drink intoxicating liquors, and to depend as much as possible on Spanish friendship for the gratification of their needs.”

The plan seems to have worked remarkably well. For over twenty years or more there were but slight indications of Apache depredations. They were regarded as hostile and treacherous at heart, but found it to their interest to keep their treaties, for they were supported by the Government at a cost of from $18,000 to $30,000 a year. Independent and detached bands of Pimas and Papagoes, as well as the Apaches, sometimes made trouble, requiring constant vigilance and ready chastisement to keep them in order, but, as compared with conditions in earlier and later times, the country during the last decade of the 18th century and the first decade of the 19th century was at peace. “Then it was,” says Bancroft, “that the Arizona establishments had their nearest approximation to prosperity, that new churches were built, that mines were worked to some extent, and haciendas. Unfortunately, we may not know the particulars.”

“San Xavier del Bac, known as a rancheria since the seventeenth century, and as a mission since 1720 or 1732, was, in June, 1768, committed to the care of Padre Francisco Garces, who was its minister for eight or ten years, but whose successors are not named in any record that I have seen. The neophytes were scattered and had forgotten their doctrina, so it is said, but they consented to return if not compelled to work. Before the end of the year, the mission was destroyed by Apaches, who killed the native governor and captured two soldiers, the padre and most of the neophytes being absent at the time. In several subsequent raids, the mission livestock disappeared, but after 1772 lost ground was more than regained, though Padre Garces was for a large part of the time, engaged in northern explorations. The official report of 1772 shows a population of 270 on the registers, and describes the church as moderately capacious, but poorly supplied with furniture and vestments. All the churches of Pimeria Alta at this period are described as of adobes, covered with wood, grass and earth. Arricivita, writing in 1791, mentions on one page that the Franciscans have built here adobe houses for the natives and walls for defense against the Apaches; but though specifying somewhat minutely the various churches that had been built or repaired, he says nothing of such work at Bac. In a similar statement on another page, however, he includes Bac, as well as Tucson, among the places where churches of brick had been built. Yet I think the chronicler would not have dismissed with so slight a notice the magnificent structure still standing at San Xavier, which has elicited many a description from modern visitors. The church is said to bear the date of 1797, which is presumably that of its completion. The building, or rebuilding, was probably begun soon after the date of the reports on which Arricivita based his work, and completed in the final decade of the century. The establishment seems to have had no minister, and to have been practically abandoned from about 1828, though the Papa go ex-neophytes are said to have cared for the building to some extent in later years.”

This is the oldest mission in Arizona or California, and today stands as a monument to the industry and religious zeal and architectural skill of the early fathers.

”Tucson, as we have seen, is first mentioned in 1763 as a rancheria visita of Bac, which had been for the most part abandoned. In the last years of Jesuit control, however, it had 331 Indians, more or less, under control of the missionaries. Reyes, in his report of 1772, describes San Jose de Tucson, as a visita of Bac, without church or padre’s house, on a fertile site where a large number of gentile and Christian Indians – not registered, but estimated at over 200 families – had congregated. Many of these seem to have been subsequently scattered; at least Anza found only eighty families of Pimas in 1774. Says Arricivita: ‘ The Apaches have always sought to destroy a small rancheria at Tucson, it being the point of entry for their irruptions; but by the efforts of Padre Garces, there was built a pueblo, with a church, house for the padre, and a wall for defense, and it is today, a presidio of Spaniards.'”

Padre Fra Francisco Garces was born in the Villa de Morata del Conde, in the Reyno de Aragon, on the 12th of April, 1738. At twenty-five years of age, having finished his studies, he was ordained in the priesthood of the Franciscan Order, and at the age of thirty he was assigned to San Xavier del Bac. None of the early fathers showed greater zeal than he in extending the dominion of the church and of his king. From del Bac he made pilgrimages to the tribes along the Gila, extending to the Yumas on the Colorado River, and from thence into California and as far as San Francisco.

At the request of Palma, the chief of the Yumas, who had embraced Christianity and visited Mexico, on August 1st, 1779, leaving Padre Diaz with a small escort of soldiers at Sonoita, Padre Garces started with two soldiers and one other on his last entrada into what is now Arizona. He reached Yuma late in the month, and on September 3rd, sent the soldiers back to Diaz at Sonoita, with the information that he was already having trouble on account of the dissensions among the Yumas. The soldiers reached Diaz, and, at the same time, a Papago reported that some of his nation had revolted and proposed to attack the expedition en route. The soldiers were inclined to desert. This information having reached the higher authorities, the padres were advised to postpone further operations. They remained firm under orders of the commanding general to persevere. Padre Diaz succeeded in joining Padre Garces at Yuma on October 2d, with about a dozen men. From the start there was trouble owing to the discrepancy between what Palma’s people had been led to expect in the way of lavish gifts, and the beggarly outfit that the needy friars had to divide among them. During that winter Palma became disaffected, many Indians were in open revolt, and after much complaining on the part of the military and priesthood, it was determined to establish two foundations on the Colorado. Formal orders for each were issued March 20, 1780. Says Elliott Coues: “The scheme was a novel one – one so novel that Arricivita styles its author, Croix, ‘an artificer of death,’ (artifice de morir). The plan was for neither a presidio, a mission nor a pueblo, each of which was intelligible to a Spaniard, but a mongrel affair nobody could manage, combining features of all three such establishments; and there were to be two such mongrels. For the first of these were detailed a corporal, nine soldiers, ten colonists, and six laborers; for the second, a corporal, eight soldiers, ten colonists, and six laborers. Such were the two presidio-pueblo missions established on the Colorado; the one at Puerto de la Purisima Concepcion, identical in site with modern Fort Yuma, and the other perhaps eight miles lower down the river, at a place called San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuner, near the site of Modern Fort Defiance (Pilot Knob). The logic of events showed the whole business to be criminal stupidity, ending in a bloody catastrophe.”

There were, at this time, according to the account, twenty families or settlers or colonists, twelve laborers, twenty-one soldiers and four priests.

On Tuesday, July 17th, 1781, Garces was saying mass at Concepcion to a few people, mostly women, when the storm burst. Both padres survived the first outbreak. While the Indians were butchering right and left and looting the houses, both heard confession and administered the sacrament to some in the agony of death. The same day the Indians attacked Padres Diaz and Moreno at Bicuner as they were preparing to say mass, and they, and most of the soldiers, were killed on the first onslaught. Through the influence of Palma, Garces and Father Barranche were preserved from harm until the 19th when they were both beaten to death with clubs. The bodies of the four priests were afterwards recovered and laid to rest in one coffin in the church at Tubutama.

”As we have seen, the presidio was transferred from Tubac, in accordance with the reglamento and instructions of 1772. The change was made in or before 1777, and probably by order of Inspector Hugo Oconor, given during his visit of about 1775, so that the date of the founding of Tucson as a Spanish settlement may be set down as probably 1776. The Indians were quartered in a little pueblo adjoining the presidio, called from this time San Agustin del pueblito de Tucson, the presidio also being sometimes called San Agustin. Annals of this place are blank for many years, and practically so down to 1846, since we know only by occasional mention that the presidio maintained its existence; that the garrison numbered in officers and men about 106 men, though the ranks were often not full; and that there was frequent complaint of inadequate arms, ammunition and other supplies. We have no statistics, but the population of Tucson and the adjoining districts, in the last years of the period covered by this chapter, may have been about 2,000 including the families of the soldiers.”

“Tubac is a name that first appears in 1752, when a presidio was established there. In 17647, and for some years later, it was under the command of Captain Juan B. Anza, and had a population of nearly 500. Under orders following the reglamento of 1772, the presidio was transferred in 17767, to a site farther north, at Tucson. This left the few settlers of the region more exposed to the depredations of the Apaches, and they wished to quit the country, but were prevented from doing so by orders from) the government to be enforced by severe penalties. They sent in, however, many petitions for a restoration of the presidio or for an increase of troops, and at a date not exactly recorded, but before 1784, a company of Pima allies was organized and stationed here. Subsequently Spanish soldiers seem to have been added to the garrison, and the law of 1826 provided for a presidial company at Tubac as well as Tucson, though in later years the company seems to have been one of infantry. The poet has no other annals than an occasional mention of its existence and force. In 1826 a silver mine is spoken of as having been worked for several years. In 1834 all the Arizona establishments were organized as a partido with Tubac, or San Ignacio, as Cabecera. In 1812-3, a rancheria of friendly Apaches lived here. Spiritual interests were attended to by the padre of the adjoining mission. ”

Guevavi, in Jesuit times, called San Miguel and also for a time San Rafael, but by the Franciscans termed Santos Angeles, was a mission which, like Bac, dated back to 1732, or perhaps 1720, and in 17647, had 111 neophytes, or with its three visitas, 517. Padre Juan Cristobomo Gil de Bernave was its minister for several years from 1768. He became president of the missions and in 1773 was killed by the Indians of his new mission of Carrizal, Sonora. In 1772, Guevavi had 86 Indians, and with its visitas, 337. The church was a poor affair, and the establishment was often raided by Apaches. Before 1784, it was abandoned, and Tumacacori became head of the mission. The visita of San Ignacio Sonoita, or Sonoitac, seems also to have been deserted before 1784. The name of the latter is still retained, but that of Guevavi seems to have disappeared from modern maps.

“Tumacacori, or San Jose, a visita of Guevavi from Jesuit times, with 199 Indians in 1761-7, and 39 in 1772, was almost in ruins in the latter year, having been attacked in 1769 by the Apaches at midday. But before 1791, a new roof had been put on the church, and from 1784, or earlier San Jose had become a mission instead of a visita Adobe houses for the neophytes and a wall for their protection were also built. After Padre Gil de Bernave, I have no records of missionaries in charge of this mission, and the adjoining presidio in early times; but Fra Narciso Gutierrez was the minister in 1814-20, Juan B. Estelrio in 1821-2, and Ramon Liberos in 1822-4. The ruins of Tumacacori are still to be seen near Tubac, on the west bank of the river. San Cayetano de Calabazas, the only pueblo de visita that seems to have survived 1784, had 64 neophytes in 1772, but no church or house for the padre, though these were supplied before 1791. In 1828, Calabazas is mentioned as a rancho near which some poor people worked a gold mine. Aribac, or Arivaca, in the west, appears on a doubtful map of 1733, as a pueblo. Anza, in 1774, says it had been deserted since the Pima revolt in 1751, though mines were worked until 1767. In 1777, it is noted as a place rich in mines, and one Ortiz is said to have applied about this time for a grant of the rancho. Zuniga, in 1835, mentions it as a ‘rancho despoblado.’ It may also be noted that in the early part of the present (the nineteenth) century, if not before, the old Terrenate presidio was located at or near the abandoned mission of Suamca, just south of the Arizona line, and was known as Santa Cruz.”

Up to 1811, the military organization was, in every way, effective, but during that year money and food began to be supplied irregularly. ”Credits, discounts and paper money began to do their work of demoralization; official peculations became rife, and discipline and vigilance began to be relaxed.” The Apaches, being hostile at heart, and having their regular rations cut off, went upon the warpath as the easiest way to make a living. The friars gradually lost interest in the presidios that protected the existence of their missions, and the settlers burdened and harassed by hostile Indians, gave no support to the soldiers and gradually abandoned their ranchos, which were allowed to lapse into the desert and all became desolation.

Don Ignacio Zuniga, several years commander of the northern presidios, in 1835, writing of affairs in Pimeria Alta, gives an excellent account of these disasters and their causes. He declares that since 1820, no less than 5,000 lives have been lost; that at least 100 ranchos, haciendas, mining camps, and other settlements had been destroyed; that from 3,000′ to 4,000 settlers had been obliged to quit the northern frontier, and that in the extreme north absolutely nothing was left but the demoralized garrisons of worthless soldiers, though in the most recent years, for lack of anything worth plundering and on account of the hostility of the Pimas and Papagoes, Apache raids had been somewhat less frequent than before. He recommended that control of the temporalities be given over to the friars, that colonists of good character be sent to occupy the deserted northern ranchos; that some of the presidios be moved to better positions and that the Colorado and Gila establishments should be founded as proposed in the last century.

In Arizona, all settlements except those at Tucson and Bac which were protected by soldiers, were abandoned, but at these two settlements a few soldiers still managed to live. Beyond these, no settlements remained in what is now Arizona. Hamilton says that they were finally abandoned by decree of the government in 1828. Bancroft says the order of expulsion against the Spaniards probably caused the departure of some of the friars in 18278 and that the management of the temporalities was taken away from them, and some of the establishments, including all in Arizona, were abandoned.

Notes About Book:

Source: History Of Arizona Volume 1, By Thomas Edwin Farish, 1915, Printed and Published by Direction of the Second Legislature of the State of Arizona, A. D.

Notes about Online Publication: This manuscript has been ocr’d and heavily edited. Many of the Native American words have been reproduced as clearly as online publication will allow us, but not all are exactly the way they were in the original work. The structure of this manuscript has been changed to allow better online presentation.

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