San Antonio Missions - Their Beginnings

Missions of Eastern Texas

Threatened by French encroachments from Louisiana, Spain stepped up its colonization and, beginning in 1690, six missions were established in what is now East Texas. Despite an interval of withdrawal, eastern Texas missions began a period of slow growth. In need of a waystation between these and their source of supply to the west, a failed mission known as San Francisco Solano, was relocated from Coahuila to the San Antonio River and renamed San Antonio de Valero. (It later became known as the Alamo.)

The lush area had long attracted native hunters and gatherers and, in time, Spanish explorers. The missions established along the San Antonio River in the 1700s are reminders of the extent of Spain's dominion north from Mexico.

Beginnings of the City of San Antonio

Noting the substantial population of native people nearby, Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús established a second mission, San José, south along the river in 1720. By 1731, as a result of changing political policies, drought, and disease, the missions in eastern Texas once again began to falter. Three of these missions were eventually relocated along the San Antonio River, joining the two founded earlier and the presidio of San Antonio de Béxar. These missions are Concepción, San Juan, and Espada.

The missions flourished between 1745 and the 1780s. Increasing hostility from the mission Indians' traditional enemy, the Apache, and later the Comanche, coupled with inadequate military support, caused the communities to retreat behind walls. Disease reduced the native population, accelerating the missions' decline.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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