Tumacacori's Yesterdays
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Let us glance at pertinent results of the growing pains which beset the struggling new republic. With a host of internal problems and great financial difficulties, and possessed of a great deal of hostility toward the old Spanish regime and persons who might conceivably be more loyal to the old order than the new, Mexico promptly terminated grants of government financial aid to missions. Other restrictive legislation followed, as outlined below:

1827, December 20—Mexican decree formally required expulsion of Franciscans from their mission churches.

1829, May 10—All mission goods still found upon mission property were ordered confiscated.

1833, Mexican Congress provided that education should be free, lay, and obligatory. Church officers were to be appointed by the national government. Legal collection of church tithes was suppressed and civil obligation of monastic oaths annulled.

1834, April 16—The Mexican Congress decreed:

a. All missions should be secularized.

b. Missions should be converted into curacies, the limits of which were to be designated by governors of the states where missions existed.

c. The decree was to go into effect in four months.

As a result of the secularization law, all missions in Arizona and California are believed to have been secularized or abandoned after 1834. In fact, any missionary priest remaining at a mission after the expulsion decree of 1827 would have done so in opposition to civil law, and some missions were abandoned before that date. In Upper Pimeria only Tubutama, Oquitoa, Cocospera, San Xavier del Bac, Caborca, San Ignacio, and Tumacacori remained functional until the date of the expulsion law, and they were described as being in a very debilitated condition. They had indeed fallen into troublous times, and by 1828 were left without management [10].

The church register of Tumacacori shows entries were made as late as November 26, 1826, by Father Rafael Diaz, but since some following pages had been removed, it is impossible to state just when the last actual entry was made. Diaz may quite possibly have made entries on through to the expulsion date in December of the following year.

We do not learn a great deal of what ensued at Tumacacori after the departure of the missionaries. Don Ignacio Zuniga, who for years had commanded the northern presidios, made a very discouraging comment in 1835. He stated that since 1820 this frontier had lost everything but 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 Papagos, Apache raids had been somewhat less frequent than before."

Routine entries were being made in church records during the 1830's at other towns farther south, but so far we find no reference in them to Tumacacori. However, we have no reason to assume our town was deserted. The Journal of Private Land Claims, General Land Office, Phoenix, Arizona, has provided us with some illuminating quotations which give evidence that the pueblo of Tumacacori was still definitely in existence in 1841. The material is from a report of surveyors and measurers who were seeking to establish reliably the boundary between the Los Nogales de Elias Grant and the Calabasas Grant:

"November 13, 1841, notifications were made to neighboring ranches the contiguous ones which I am going to measure is only the ranch 'La Casita,' property of said Elias, and Calabasas, belonging to the mission of Tumacacori in charge of the Reverend Father, Friar Antonio Gonzales, His Reverence being summoned to appear by himself or empowered attorney with the corresponding title in order to define the boundary of the said Calabazas . . ."

On the 25th of November the measurers ". . . reached the place called Los Nogales where I stopped on account of sundown. Don Marcelo Bonillas empowered attorney of Rev. Antonio Gonzales having stated that he had today summoned the Governor of the natives of Tumacacori, with the view that he should show them the landmarks of said town, or of the deserted town of Calabazas and requested me to delay the continuation of the measurement until the Governor's arrival to which I agreed . . ."

The above references clearly indicate that Tumacacori was still occupied, and had a governor. They also indicate a priest was in charge of the mission, which has led some history-minded folk to believe that one was still in residence here. However, a study of old parish records in Magdalena and in the Altar Valley reveals that frequently a priest was in charge of several missions at one time, while having residence at only one, and making routine visits to the others as opportunity or need arose. Father Antonio Gonzales was such a man.

He is known to have spent most of his time south of the present international boundary. During the years from December 9, 1837, to August 24, 1841, he made very numerous entries in the church registers at Oquitoa and Atil, in the Altar Valley. During the next three months we find no entries by him, and then, on November 30, 1841, his name shows up after entries in the Magdalena register. (Some entries before that date are missing, and probably account for the three months.)

The above data practically rule out the possibility that Father Gonzales was a resident priest at Tumacacori in 1841, as he would not have sent an attorney to summon the native governor of the town to show the landmarks to the surveyors—it would have been so much simpler to just step next door and summon the governor himself!

In 1842 the Mexican government passed a law providing that abandoned pueblo lands valued at $500 or less could be sold at public auction. On April 19, 1844, the treasury department of Sonora held such a public sale, calling the lands of Tumacacori abandoned (despoblado). At this time, Don Francisco Aguilar purchased the entire Tumacacori holdings for $500, presenting the only bid offered. It is believed Aguilar made this purchase in behalf of his brother-in-law, Manuel Maria Gandara, who was several times governor of Sonora. That was not an excessively high price to pay, for the more than 52,000 acres of highly desirable range and river bottom land!

How Tumacacori could have been regarded as an abandoned pueblo in April of 1844 is something we find difficult to understand. We believe the Indians were living in the town at that time, as they had been doing for a long, long period. We also believe they were not as conversant with legal technicalities as were better educated people living in more populous regions to the south.

One might have thought the inhabitants of Tumacacori, having had the land sold out from under their feet, might have departed from their ancestral home at once. But such was not the case. Only four months after the sale, Father Trinidad Garcia Rojas, visiting priest, baptised three girl children in "La Santa Iglesia de Tumacacori," on August 28, 1844. Next day he went on from the "abandoned" town to make 15 similar entries at Tubac, and was in Tucson on September 1.

Father Rojas had a tremendously big job to handle. He was, in his own words, in charge of the "Mission of San Ignacio and other points of the line." His records for 1844, now kept in Magdalena, show entries for Magdalena, San Ignacio, Imuris, Santa Ana, Santa Cruz, Tumacacori, Tubac, Tucson, and San Xavier.

A year later, in 1845, Father Rojas was in Santa Cruz, where he made an entry, on August 23. The following day he baptised a girl child at Tumacacori, and on the same day he went on to make eight entries at Tubac. The next day he made entries in the register for San Xavier.

On September 8, 1846, the same priest conducted 13 baptisms at Tumacacori, which was hardly an indication of a diminishing or failing population for the town! The same year shows numerous of Rojas' entries at Tubac, Tucson, and San Xavier.

The year 1847 brings the last church record we can find for the Indian population at Tumacacori. To read dates of baptismal entries at different places makes one picture Father Rojas as a distinctly busy man. Look at the following list:

1847—February 12—baptisms at San Xavier.
     February 14—6 baptisms at Tumacacori.
     February 18—in Magdalena.
     August 23—at Magdalena.
     August 26—at Tumacacori, for at least 1 baptism.
     August 28—at Tucson.
     September 1—at San Xavier.
     September 3—to Tumacacori, where he merely posted 8 entries for San Xavier.
     September 9—to Santa Cruz and back toward Magdalena.

That entry of September 3, 1847, is the last entry for Tumacacori, although on January 1 of 1848 he was in Tucson, on January 9 at San Xavier, and stopped at Tubac on January 10 for baptisms, and for more baptisms at Santa Cruz on January 16. How regrettable that some comments could not have been dropped into the routine records, to give a better picture of Tumacacori as its people approached the last days before abandonment!

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Last Updated: 10-Apr-2007