Tomás Eixarch


Ginny Sphar

Father Tomás came from the village of Leria, Spain, northwest of Valencia. In 1759, 15-year-old Tomás was received into the Order of Friars Minor in Valencia. He had black hair, black eyes and a sallow complexion. He stood no more than 5’2”.

Ten years later he sailed with the Mission of 1769 for the College of Querétaro. By 1772 he was in Texas at San Juan Capistrano in the San Antonio cluster. Later when the Querétarans gave up their Texas missions, he went back to the College, only to set out in 1774 for Sonora. Father Tomás and Pedro Arriquibar came to Tumacácori early in 1775. At Tumacácori Father Tomás outranked his Basque compañero. [1]

In May 1775, less than a year since his previous inspection, Father Visitor Ramos again came to Tumacácori for a progress report.

Economically things could have been worse. Apache raiding over seven years caused a decline in Tumacácori’s community property. Still livestock count was up. Enough grain and produce were grown to feed the mission. Proceeds from the sale of surplus seed went to clothe the Indians and furnish the church. The mission business agent, or síndico, had 350 pesos from the sale of provisions to the presidials and settlers at Tubac. That all this was true, Father Tomás swore at Tumacácori, May 12, 1775.[2]

Tubac was both a blessing and a burden. A settlement of 300-500 persons so close did serve as a deterrent to the Apaches and a market for mission produce. However, the settlers and soldiers with their drinking, gambling, swearing and wenching did not set a good example for the Indians.

Fathers Eixarch and Arriquibar, who were supposed to be missionaries entre infieles, now ministered to more non-Indians than Indians. For better or worse, Tumacácori and Tubac were one community. They shared the same river. When it’s volume dwindled, Captain Anza enforced irrigation control. One week the Indians of Tumacácori diverted the flow into the main ditch, the next week they let it through downstream to the presidio’s dam.[3] Mission and presidial herds grazed together.

The two friars continued to bury victims of the unrestrained Apaches.

In the hot month of August 1775, Tubac was astir. Would the government really deactivate the presidio and transfer the garrison? What provision would be made for the protection of settlers and mission? Don Hugo O’Conor, commandant-inspector of all the presidios on the northern frontier was on his way from Altar. For ten days he and his staff took stock of the garrison. Their verdict was harsh. O’Conor felt that if the presidio were moved, the civilian population would move to the new location.[4]

O’Conor and his staff chose Tucson.[5]

Anza was making his second trip to California. Father Tomás was going part way and, except for the diary he kept, he remained almost anonymous in the official correspondence.

Whether he liked it or not, Father Garcés was committed to going to the Yumas on the Colorado. He asked for a companion, Eixarch. In accordance, Anza outfitted him with mules, horses and gear.[6] The two friars reached an agreement. Father Tomás would hold the Yumas’ hands while Garcés struck out for New Mexico.

While Eixarch kept his vigil on the Colorado, the western Pimas again threatened revolt. Notoriously inconstant, these people of the Caborca area and their relatives up the Altar Valley had run amok in the bloody revolts of 1695 and 1751.

On March 4, 1776, Eixarch left on a six-week trip to the missions of Caborca and the Altar Valley. On his return, he stayed four weeks. On May 11, Captain Anza returned from California with the soldiers who went from Tubac on the expedition.[7] Although Father Tomás would share little of the recognition and none of the glory, by his patient ministry to the Yumas, he made possible one of the epic journeys of North American exploration.

At Caborca, Eixarch heard bad news. Don Felipe Belderrain, still an ensign at Tubac, rode in on May 24 to report that nothing was left at Tumacácori. Father Eixarch asked Anza for some saddle horses so he could return to Tumacácori. In the afternoon, Eixarch departed in the company of Ensign Belderrain. He found Tumacácori as he had left it seven months before. The story that Tumacácori had been destroyed in 1776, picked up as fact by historians using Font’s diary, was Belderrain’s idea of a practical joke.[8]

Back at Tumacácori after his seven-month absence, Father Tomás stayed hardly long enough to tell Father Arriquibar about the Yumas. By late summer of 1776, he was living at the impoverished visita of San Antonio de Oquitoa and commuting as interim chaplain to the Altar garrison. There he served out the remainder of his required ten years, counting his stint in Texas, and in 1781 retired to the College. He did not ask to return to Spain.

At a meeting in Guadalajara, January 13, 1783, the Provincial and Definitory of the Franciscan Province of Jalisco approved the petition of Tomás Eixarch to join their Province. During the mid-1780s he lived at the convento of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Acaponeta, midway between Tepic and Mazatlán. In 1790 his superiors named him, then 46, guardian of the friary at Amacueca, south of Guadalajara. How long he lived after that, solo Dios sabe.[9]

[1]Arricivita, Lista, 1769. Madoz, Diccionario, Vol. 10, pp. 308-12. Lists of personnel, ACQ, M. Eixarch, who also wrote his name Eyxarch, made his first and last entries in the surviving Tumacácori books March 14 and October 1, 1775; both were for baptisms. DCB.

[2] Visita of Tumacácori, May 12, 1775, Libro de patentes, ACQ; Kessell, ed., “Father Eixarch and the Visitation at Tumacácori, May 12, 1775,” The Kiva, Vol. 30 (1965), pp. 77-81. Six weeks earlier a statement of the Sonora missions’ monies for annual expenses showed Tumacácori, still listed as Guevavi, with 580 pesos 5 reales. Átil, San Xavier, and Cocóspera were poorer, San Ignacio was more than three times as rich. Razón del estado, March 30, 1775, CC, 201.81.

[3] Manuel Barragán, et al., Tucson, November 24, 1777; translated as Appendix C to Lt. John G. Parke, Report of Explorations for Railroad Routes . . . 1854-5 in Reports of Explorations and Surveys . . . 1853-6, Vol. 7, 33d Cong., 2d. Sess., Sen. Ex. Doc. 78 (Washington, D.C., 1857). DCB.

[4] O’Conor, Extracto de revista, Tubac, August 9-18, 1775. AGI, Guad., 515.

[5] Garcés cosigned the site inspection certification at San Xavier del Bac, August 20, 1775, ibid. Dobyns translated it in Lance, Ho! Containment of the Western Apaches by the Royal Spanish Garrison at Tucson, p. 5. See also Moore and Beene, “Report of O’Conor,” pp. 270-71.

[6] Garcés to Bucareli, December 15, 1774. In July, Garcés had announced that Father Juan Gorgoll would be his compañero. Garcés to Anza, Tucson, July 7, 1775, AGN, PI, 237. Anza to Bucareli, Tubac, October 20, 1775, ibid.

[7] Eixarch’s diary.

[8] Font’s complete diary, ACE, Vol. 4, pp. 510-15. Contemporary correspondence, including a late-1776 rundown by Font himself of pueblos destroyed by Apaches, fails to substantiate the story. Font to Ximénez, Imuris, November 30, 1776, CC, 201.79.

[9] Eixarch’s first and last baptisms at Oquitoa are dated September 11, 1776, and February 1, 1781. ACE, Vol. 3, p. 381n. Lists of personnel, ACQ, M. Records of the Jalisco Province, Biblioteca Pública del Estado, Guadalajara, Asuntos Eclesiásticos, 98/26. Notaría Parroquial, Acaponeta, Nayarit, Libros de Bautismosb, tomo 1.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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