Gaspar Francisco de Clemente


Ginny Sphar

The youthful Clemente stood more than two varas tall, probably 5’8”or 5’9”. His face was ruddy, his hair chestnut. He came from the far north of Spain, the villa of Pancorvo. The highway from Burgos to Vitorio passed through the town.

In 1764 he had taken the Franciscan habit in Vitorio. Five years later, while a deacon at Santander on the north coast, he enlisted in the Mission of 1769.[1] Of all the friars who served at Tumacácori, at 27 he was the youngest.

By November 1772, Clemente had joined Ximeno at Tumacácori. For the first time the mission had two friars but only one stipend.[2]

Together Clemente and Ximeno set about improving the living conditions at Tumacácori. They tore down the hovels and built proper adobe dwellings. Father Gil de Bernabé may have started the project, but the two evidently carried on. They or their successors refurbished the small church. They built a wall around the entire complex and hoped it would dissuade the marauding Apaches. At Calabazas they roofed and put into service the church and consecrated the cemetery.[3]

In March 1773 Clemente and Ximeno received the news of Father Gil’s death.

Father Clemente stayed on after Father Ximeno left. By October he had a new compañero, Father Joseph Matías Moreno.

Father President Ramos came to Tumacácori on an inspection tour early in June 1774. For weeks they had known he was coming. Because the secretary of the visit was ill, Father President deputized Moreno. The inspection began when Ramos formally ordered Clemente, under Holy Obligation to comply with five demands.

1. Present a census, exhibiting the Indians so that the Visitor can verify the numbers, with a breakdown of neophytes, Christians, and heathens, their tribes, marital status and sex.

2. Give the rank or racial make-up of non-Indians.

3. State the distance to the nearest mission and presidio and to the pueblos de visita; and if the country is dangerous or not.

4. If there is any obstacle to joining the pueblos de visita to the cabacera, or the entire mission to another, as the Viceroy orders for economy’s sake, state it.

5. Declare whatever more may be pertinent.

With Moreno as witness, Clemente bound himself to do so.[4]

The 1774 census told a sad story. Only two of four pueblos remained. Guevavi and Sonoita were deserted. Clemente made no distinction between Pimas and Papagos. Tumacácori’s meager total of 236 Indians and 19 Spaniards made Tumacácori the third most populous mission in the Pimería Alta, after Caborca (535 and 33) and San Xavier del Bac (399 and 0).[5] There was danger between the missions from Apaches. Tubac was close but didn’t do much good. Tumacácori had enough land to support the entire mission population but for the hostility of the Apaches. The refugees from Guevavi and Sonoita were camped at Calabazas, but maintained their old pueblo identities, own officials, each in separate rancherías. Evidently they hoped to return home one day.[6]

The missionaries cried out for mission guards and enough money to support two friars in each mission. The government, bent on economy and preparedness for war, denied them.

The years of the 1770s for the friars were years of paradox and of victory in the shadow of defeat. They had shed the missions of Texas and Coahuila and won the right to administer the Sonora missions in the old way. Fathers Ximeno, Clemente and Moreno could again, as had the Jesuits, discipline their wards, make them work for the mission and exercise over them the old paternalism. Yet they were in danger of losing Tumacácori to the fury of the Apaches.

Gaspar Clemente and Joseph Matías Moreno kept up their ministry at Tumacácori and Tubac throughout 1774. They made do on a single 350-peso stipend. Fortunately the harvests were better.

By early 1775 both friars had left Tumacácori. Clemente, not yet 30, had lasted 2 years. He apparently went back to the College, his health broken. For 15 to 16 years he lived the ascetic routine there and then dropped from the rolls.

[1] Arricivita, Lista, 1769.

[2] Cartagena to Bucareli, September 25, 1772. Clemente’s first and last entries in the extant Tumacácori register, both marriages, are dated November 16, 1772, and January 23, 1775. DCB.

[3] Barbastro, Compendio. Arricivita, Crónica seráfica, p. 448. Except for the roofing of the Calabazas church, which seems to have been done after the fall harvest of 1772, it is impossible to fix the precise dates of these physical improvements. On September 22, 1772, Ximeno recorded the last burial at Guevavi of a body from Calabazas “in the church.” Four months earlier, on November 16, 1772, he had celebrated a marriage at Calabazas, which may mean that the church was already in service by then. DCB.

[4] Ramos, Tubutama, April 13, 1774; visita of Pimería Alta, April 28-June 8, 1774, AGN, Californias, 39. Luis Baldonado, O.F.M., translated portions of another copy as “Missions San José de Tumacácori and San Xavier del Bac in 1774,” The Kiva, Vol. 24 (1959), No. 4, pp. 21-24.

[5]Estado de la población de las misiones de la Sonora, 1774, CC, 201.83. Totals for all eight Pimería Alta missions were 2,018 Indians and 168 Spaniards.

[6] From entries in the Tumacácori register it would appear that Father Moreno had been living at least part of the time at Calabazas. DCB. Father Roche of Cocóspera had told the Father Visitor how fervently the people of Soamca wanted to go back to their gutted pueblo even after six year’ absence.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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