THE FRANCISCANS IN PIMERIA
|1767-8 ||There was a short period of neglect of the
missions in Sonora. They were pretty well plundered by greedy overseers
sent by the government to administer the properties after the Jesuits
left. The Apaches took advantage of the situation to make raids, and
the Indians were scattered. Only 270 Indians were attached to the
missions of the Santa Cruz Valley when Garces came.|
|1768 ||The Franciscans of El Colegio de Santa Cruz de
Queretaro were ordered to take over the abandoned missions of Northern
|June 30th ||Father Francisco Hermenegildo Garces arrived
at San Xavier del Bac. (Garces in Doc. Hist. Mex., Ser. 4, Tom. 2, p.
365.) Sixty families at Bac at this time.
Tucson also welcomed the missionary, and the Indians there built a
hut for him to stay in whenever he should visit them. Garce's report
stated that the "adobe church" at Bac was capacious but that it was
poorly equipped with furniture and vestments. (Snell, 1919,
|August 29th ||Garces left San Xavier with one Indian from
the mission and four Indian guides to make his first missionary journey,
going west and north to the Gila River. He established friendly
relations with the Gila Pimas on this trip. (Carrillo, 1915,
|June ||The same year that brought Garces to Bac brought
at least twelve other Franciscans to northern Sonora from the Franciscan
Colegio de Santa Cruz de Queretaro: Chrisostomo Gil de Bernavo took
charge of the Los Santos Angeles de Guebavi, with its visitas,
San Jose de Tumacacori, San Cayetano de Calabasas, and San Ignacio de
Sonoita. Francisco Roche went to Santa Maria de Suamca with its
visita of Santiago de Cocospera. Martin Garcia was at San
Ignacio de Coborica with visitas, San Jose de Imuris and Santa
President Mariano Antonio Buena y Alcalde took charge at San Pedro y
San Pablo de Tubutama at the beginning of Franciscan occupation. Jose
del Rio succeeded Buena during the same year. (Santa Teresa was the
visita.) Jose Soler was the first Franciscan at San Francisco
Ati with San Antonio Oquitoa as visita. Juan Diaz was assigned
to La Purisima Concepcion de Caborca with San Antonio Pitic and Nuestra
Senora del Populo (or San Juan) Bisanic as visitas.
Bancroft does not list any missionary for Dolores de Saric until 1783
when Florencio Ibanez took charge. San Jose Aquimuri was the
visita, Arizona and Bisanic having been abandoned in 1766 on
account of savage raids. Aquimuri was abandoned before 1784.
Antonio de los Reyes went to Cucurpe. (For list of missionaries,
1768-1800, see Bancroft, North. Mex. States, 1883, I, 689-91.
Other missionaries who came to Pimeria Alta in 1768 may have been
Juan Sarobe, Estevan Salazar (at Tubutama 1769-1771), Jose Maria
Espinosa, Juan Zuniga, and Felipe Guillen. (Engelhardt, 1899,
|1769 March ||Garces made his second missionary journey,
probably to the north and east of Tucson.
The raids of Seris, Apaches, and other wild tribes caused depletion
of population from 1,315 Spaniards in 1763 to 178 in 1769. Elizondo was
sent against the Seris with a thousand men in 1768. This campaign was
not a success. Jose de Galvez came to Sonora in May, 1769. Still the
Seris were not subdued.
Tumacacori was attacked by Apaches who burned the church.
While Father Gil was absent from Guebavi, the Apaches attacked and
sacked the mission buildings and killed all but two of the little band
of soldiers that was guarding it. Gill was substituting for Garces, who
was suffering from sun stroke acquired on his recent missionary journey.
Later in the year, some of the buildings were destroyed at San Xavier
del Bac. They were quickly repaired under Garces' direction.
(Robinson, 1919, 62-3.)
|1770 ||Vicery Croix and Visitor Jose de Galvez drew up a
new plan of government for the northern provinces. The intendent system
was to be established in New Spain and the northern provinces were to be
erected into an independent commandancy general. One or more new
bishopries were to be formed. This was not put into effect until 1776.
(Bolton and Marshall, 1920, 386-7)|
|October 19 ||Father Garces started on his third
missionary journey, going northwest. He went as far as the Gila Bend,
thereby reopening a country that had been neglected for a third of a
|1771 ||Elizondo terminated his military campaign in
Sonora. This year, while in pursuit of a band of Indians, he discovered
rich gold placers at Cienegmilla near Altar. Within a few months, over
two thousand men rushed to the spot. These mines were worked for over a
decade. (Chapman, 1921, 238-9)
The Indians of Tucson, having suffered from repeated Apache raids,
threatened to vacate it. This would have removed the buffer to San
Xavier del Bac and the missions and visitas to the south, and the
government intended to prevent it. Garcdes asked that a mission be
established at San Agustin de Tucson.
|February 20 ||Garces wrote a letter to President Buena
informing him of conditions on the northern frontier. He stated that
the Sobaipuris had entirely vacated the San Pedro Valley because of
Apache raids. (Brady, 1925, 38)|
|August 8 - October 27 ||Garces made his fourth
expedition. One of his purposed was to verify the belief that, without
great dificulty, the frontier provinces of New Mexico, Pimeria Alta, and
California could communicate with each other. On his journey of 1770,
he had noticed that the Indians had blue shells characteristic of the
California coast. Garces left San Xavier with three Indian companions
and mounted on a mule. He went to Sonoita and set out from there, going
northwest to the Gila, which he reached on the 20th.
He passed the junction without knowing it, crossing the Colorado when
he thought he was crossing the Gila. He got as far as the vicinity of
Dixieland in Imperial County, California, September 29. Thus Garces was
the first white man to cross the Colorado Desert. (Bolton, 1917,
325-330.) He opened up the way for the Anza expedition of
|Garces in Paul, 1917, 156-164.|
|1771 February 1 ||The Apaches attacked Tucson, the third
or fourth time within three years. Although there were but few people,
the attackers could do no harm because the inhabitants took refuge in
the house, which had fortified towers and was in an inclosure made of
Afterwards the Apaches threatened San Xavier and drove away horses,
cattle and sheep, killing two boys.
|February 20 ||Garces reported to Father President Fray
Mariano Buena y Alcalde that it was the purpose of the Apaches to lay
waste both Tucson and Bac, the two pueblos which are the main protection
of the Pimeria, since the Sobaipuris had abandoned their pueblos on the
San Pedro River.
He recommended that the Tubac presidio be moved to the Gila, that the
Terrenate presidio be moved farther north on the San Pedro River so that
the Sobaipuris could return to their pueblos. This would bring war into
the Apache country and prevent these savages from destroying the
Summing up, Garces that missionaries be sent to the following places:
Santa Cruz on the San Pedro River, Tucson, San Marcelo de Sonoita, Ati,
Aquitum, (a total of three in the Papagueria.) Four missionaries should
be sent to the Gila River and many others could be sent to the
Cocomaricopas, the Opas, and the Yumas, "and this does not present
insuperable difficulties, it requires only a presidio, but a large one
on the Azul River, or (on the) Colorado River well upstream." In this
way the Moqui and the Apache could be reduced and communication could be
established between New Mexico and Pimeria "and between these and
|August 8 ||Garces left San Xavier for a third missionary
journey. He went west to the Coyote Mountains. August 15, he reached
Sonoita, 50 leagues west of Bac. He new determined to make a visit to
the Yumas, since he could approach them from the region of their
friends. August 23, Garces reached the Gila, ten leagues above its
junction. Garces's farthest point reached was the base of the San
Jacinto Mountains. He was thus the first white man to break a path
across the Colorado Desert.
October 21, Garces got back to Sonoita and five days later was at
Coborca. The experience of Garces on this journey was fruitful in
arousing interest in the possibility of opening communication between
Sonora and California and led to the Anza expeditions of 1774 and
|1772 July 6 ||Father Antonio Reyes, while in Mexico City,
drew up a report on the state of the missions in both Pimerias. Father
Engelhardt has made a summary of the life at the missions which he
gleaned from Reyes (Engelhardt, 1899, 68-71.) He says that the Indians
learned the rudiments of the Christian faith very slowly. "Only
baptisum distinguished them from pagans." To remedy this evil as fas as
possible, a uniform method was adopted at all the missions. At sunrise
the bell called all to mass, after which the missionary led a Spanish
recitation of prayers and the catechism. "At sunset the Christian
doctrine and prayers would be repeated in the little court in front of
the church, when the rosary would be said," followed by other chants.
Particular attention was paid to instruction on Sundays and holy days.
"On the more solemn days of our Lady there would be processions through
the village, during which the rosary was chanted."
The missionaries ruled in civil and political matters through headmen
and other officials who were elected annually by the Indians in the
presence of the missionary. These Indian officials saw that the land
was cultivated and the cattle taken care of. (See Engelhardt, 1899, 70,
For the most part of the churches as well as the other buildings at
the missions were constructed of adobe and roofed with timber, grass,
and earth. The Indian huts were constructed of boughs. Sometimes, in
order to please the fathers, the natives would build there dwellings of
adobe, roofed with thatch.
Reyes also described the appearance of the Indians, their manners,
dress, customs, etc.
Engelhardt translates part of that portion of Reyes' report which
concerned the local missions in Pimeria Alta. (Engelhardt, 1899,
At San Xavier there was a fairly capacious adobe church with 170
parishioners who cultivated wheat and corn and raised some cattle. At
San Jose del Tucson, there were about 200 heads of families, with no
The church at Guebavi was well furnished. There were about 86
Indians who did some cultivation of the soil. At San Cayetano de
Calabasas there was neither church nor house for the visiting priest.
Only sixty-four remained faithful to the missionary. There was a church
and a house at San Ignacio de Sonoita, but both were devoid of
furnishings. Ninety-four Indians lived there. There were 93 souls at
Tumacacori, but like Sonoita the church and house had no furnishings.
The church and buildings having been destroyed by Apaches in 1768, the
missionary lived at Cocospera. The whole population was not more than
110 in number. After making some attempts to re-occupy Suamca, the
place was finally abandoned. Engelhardt (1899, p. 183) says that Suamca
was probably never rebuilt. (Query: Was the presidio later established
at Santa Cruz on the same site as the old mission of Santa Maria de
Suamca? Descriptions made by members of the boundary commission and
emigrants of 1844 and the early 50's, speak of the old church at Santa
Cruz. Santa Cruz seems to have had more than one location before being
established at the present site.)
There were 148 souls at San Ignacio. Wheat, corn and beans were
cultivated. The church had three altars and was well furnished. The
church and house at Imuris were almost in ruins and were poorly
furnished. Only 39 people lived there. The church at Santa Magdalena
was large but in a ruinous condition. Eight-six Indians formed the
Tubutama was comparatively prosperous. The house was neat and
capacious, and a garden furnished some of the needed produce. The
church was well supplied with the necessary articles for the divine
service. There were 176 souls. Santa Teresa had a little church,
devoid of ornaments, and a population of only 52.
There were 634 Indians at Caborca, the most prosperous of all the
missions in 1772. Cotton, beans, corn, and wheat were raised on the
fertile bottom lands of the Altar River. The house and garden of the
missionary were ample and well supplied. The church and sacristy were
well kept up. At San Antonio del Pitiquin were 360 people with no
church. San Juan del Bisanic possessed an unfurnished church and house
for 271 Indians. They got most of their food from fishing in the
At Nuestra Senora de los Dolores del Saric there was a well furnished
church for a population of 137.
San Francisco de Ati had a small unadorned chapel. The soil was
good, but the 137 Indians did little to cultivate it. San Antonio de
Uquitoa had neither church nor house for the visiting missionary. There
were 106 Indians.
Tubac was a small military post with less then 50 soldiers.
Father Baltazar Arrillo succeeded Gil de Bernave at Guebavi. Father
Gil became president of the Pimeria Alta missions, succeeding Buena y
Alcalda who died and was buried at Ures. Gil was sent to found the new
mission of Carrizal among the rebellious Seris. He suffered martyrdom
March 7, 1773, the first of the Franciscans to be put to death in the
Pimeria. (Englehardt, 1899, 61-66)
The Viceroy, the Marquis de Rubi, recommended in a "Dictamen" the
establishment of new presidios in the north. In the autumn the
"Reglamiento" embodying these recommendations was promulgated. They
were never put into effect and Garces made complaint that the local
authorities were not acting.
Garces continually insisted the presidios should be so placed as to
be complete barriers to the Apaches and so as to open communication with
|December 4 ||Hugo Oconor was appointed commandant
inspector of the frontier provinces to establish the new line of
presidios. He ruled for four years subject only to the Viceroy and did
much to reduce the ills from which the frontier was suffering.|
|1774 January 8- May 27 ||Garces went on his fifth
expedition, accompanying Anza's first expedition to Alta California, the
first overland journey to the California settlements. Garces got back
at San Xavier del Bac, July 10th. (For details see Coues, "---Diary and
Itinerary of Francisco Garces," 1900, I, 1-36; Bolton, 1930, I.,
|1775-1776 October 21 |
1775-September 16 1776
his second expedition, led the colonists to be settled at San Francisco.
This was Garces sixth expedition. The party started from Tucson with
248 people and 825 head of live stock. (For details see Coues and
Bolton, cited above, and Eldridge, "The Beginnings of San Francisco." 2
|1776 ||The garrison at Tubac was moved to Tucson in order
to protect San Xavier del Bac from the Apaches. The Indians were
quartered in a little village adjoining the presidio, called San Agustin
del Pueblito de Tucson.|
|1776-1783 ||Teodore de Croix reigned as the first
commandante general of a new government of the frontier
provinces. Croix was a failure because he was incapable of taking a
broad view. He did not see the importance of Sonora as a link in the
chain of northern advance and took little interest in California and the
Colorado-Gila establishments. The failure of establishing
communications with New Mexico and California is due to him. (Chapman,
|1779 ||Father Garces left San Xavier del Bac and
established himself on the Colorado River as a missionary among the
Yumas. Father Diaz accompanied him. He founded La Purisima Concepcion
on the site of the later Fort Yuma.|
|1779 ||The new diocese of Sonora was established under
|1781 July 17 - July 20 ||The Spanish settlements and
missions on the Colorado were wiped out.
Father Francisco Garces suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Yuma
Indians. The other three fathers were also killed, together with the
Spanish colonists. The destruction of these missions and settlements
meant the abandonment of the Sonora-California overland route by 1783.
Chapman blames Teodoro de Croix's policies for the result. (Opus cit:
|1786 ||General Ugarte, aided by Opata and Pima allies,
began a thorough campaign against the Apaches. Between 1786 and 1810
the Apaches were held in check comparitively well. (Robinson, 1919,
|1791 ||Arricivita brought his account to a close in the
year 1791. He treated of the Franciscan occupation.|
|1800 ||Duell states that the church at Tumacacori was
completed in 1800. Bancroft says it was not completed until 1820-'22.
(Duell, 1919, 66; Bancroft, opus cit.)|
|1810-1811 ||The Hidalgo revolution was one of the events
that took the attention ofd Mexican officials away from the frontier
provinces. Money and food were not regularly furnished the presidios.
The rations to the Apaches were cut down, resulting in their returning
to their old habits of stealing stock, raiding ranchos, and murdering
settlers. (Robins, 1919, 75.)|
|1821 ||Visit of bishop.|
|1821-1822 ||Mexico was declared a republic. Spain
withdrew financial aid from the missions.|
|1820-1822 ||Tumacacori was burned by the Apaches. No
attempt was afterwards made to rehabilitate it.|
||The Arizona missions are abandoned by the missionaries. San Xavier
del Bac and Tumacacori as well as the presidios at Santa Cruz, Tucson,
and Tubac were under the care of the priest at Magdalena who rarely was
seen in the more northern settlements.|
||"Don Iganacio Zuniga, who had served for years as commander of the
northern presidios, writing in 1835 on the condition of Sonoran affairs"
indicates the former prosperity of the region as compared with his time.
He said that betwen 1820 and 1835, 5000 lives had been lost; that at
least 100 ranchos, hacienda, mining camps and other settlements had been
destroyed; that 3000 to 4000 settlers had to leave the northern
frontier; and that in the extreme north absolutely nothing was left but
the demoralized garrisons of worthless soldiers. Zuniga advocated that
everything be restored as nearly as possible to the old condition. "The
presidial companies must . . . . be discharged and new ones organized,
to be paid and disciplined as in Spanish times, control of the
temporalities must be given again to the friars; colonists of good
character must be sent to occupy the deserted northern ranchos; some of
the presidios should be moved to better positions; and finally the
Colorado and Gila establishments should be founded as proposed in the
last century." (Quoted from Bancroft, op. cit., 403-404.) These
reforms were never carried out.|
||American trappers, no doubt, penetrated Pimeria Alta. Little record
is extant to show that they traversed the San Pedro and Santa Cruz
Valleys. The Daily Alta ff. Jan. 12, 1857 states that in 1834 a
certain Hammond with 12 others, Americans from Missouri, went south of
Tucson and found gold.|
||Cooke's party of Mormons and General Kearney passed through Tucson
on their way to California.|
||The Graham party of Dragoons passed down the Santa Cruz Valley from
Chihuahua to California.
In the late autumn the new appointed governor to Oregon territory
passed this way.
||Thousands of gold seekers used the route that passed by Santa Cruz,
Calabasas, Tumacacori, Tubac, San Xavier and Tucson. (See notes taken
from a few diaries in the Bancroft Library)|
||The United States boundary commissions visited the regions.
Tumacacori, San Xavier, Tubac and Tucson are described in their
||A French colony from San Francisco settled in the Santa Cruz Valley.
French and American adventurers were numerous in Sonora in the 50's.
(Syllys, The French in Sonora 1850-1854.)|
||Charles D. Postin, the first American settler in Southern Arizona,
established himself at Tubac, where he found was deserted. He was soon
followed by others who became engaged in opening up mines.
Pete Kitchen established his ranch north of Nogales. He successfully
withstood continued Apache raids.
||There were over 500 inhabitants (largely Mexican) at Tubac, brought
there because of revived mining activities. There were 150 silver mines
within a radius of 25 miles.|
||Vicar general J. B. Macheboeuf was sent to Arizona by Bishop J. B.
Lanry of New Mexico to ascertain conditions. He received a most
enthusiastic welcome by the Papagos at San Xavier. (Duell, 1919,
||Between 1854 and 1861 the Apache raids were stopped by the presence
of U.S. troops. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the army abandoned
Arizona and the Apaches were free to go on the rampage. Tubac and the
various American ranches along the river were abandoned for the most
part. Pete Kitchen managed to hould out against them by taking
extraordinary measures to fortify himself in his ranch north of
||The California Volunteers arrived and brought about a semblance of
order. J. Ross Browne wrote up his experiences and observations as a
member of this company in his book, "The Apache Country."|