Three Missions Chapter

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Mission San Xavier de los Dolores

icon Mission San Francisco Xavier de la Delores - The Texas Historical Marker is located eight miles west of Rockdale on Farm Market Road 908 at latitude N 30.69142° and longitude W 97.11332°

Mission San Xavier marker - click for larger image
Click for larger image

Today's view from Mission Xavier towards Mission Il Defonso

View today from Xavier marker towards Il Defonso marker

Today's view from Mission Xavier towards Mission Candelaria

View today from Xavier marker towards Candelaria marker

icon The Mission San Xavier de los Dolores, also known as San Francisco Xavier de Horcasitas Mission, was the first of three San Xavier missions founded along the San Gabriel (known then as San Xavier) River. Located about six miles from the present site of Rockdale in Milam County, the mission was established by the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro under the recommendation of Father Mariano Francisco de los Dolores y Viana (Father Dolores).

icon The original push to establish this mission came in June 1745 when a group of Indians came to San Antonio de Valero Mission (now called "The Alamo") to ask Father Dolores to establish a mission for them in their own territory. They were invited to convert and live in the San Antonio missions already established, but declined stating their desire to stay near their own people and lands. Father Dolores persuaded Father Francisco Xavier Ortiz to petition the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro for support of the mission project, because not only would they convert a new group of Indians, but the missions would stop runaways from the San Antonio missions, as well as breaking the monopoly on Indian trade with the French.

icon In December 1745 Father Dolores with five soldiers and several mission Indians met with the Indian chiefs of the Deadoes, the Yojuanes and the Meyeye to set the site for the first mission. After the meeting, a temporary mission was begun by planting fields and laying out the church and another building. The church was 25 varas (approximately 33 inches) by 30 varas in size. The second building was about 25 varas square, and both were surrounded by a stockade. All were built with the help of the Indians. Ortiz traveled to Mexico City on behalf of the college to get necessary paperwork and financial support for the mission project. After a protracted debate over the physical location of the missions, the need to supply soldiers to protect the missions, and other details, Viceroy Francisco de Güemes y Horcasitas sent his permission and financial assistance for official establishment of the San Xavier missions on the site selected by Father Dolores. San Francisco Xavier Mission - or Mission San Xavier de los Dolores - was founded on the south bank of the San Gabriel River in February 1748 by Father Dolores. It served primarily the Yojuane and Mayeye Indians.

icon Because of personality and authority disputes between the missionaries and the military, the missionary work suffered. Thirty soldiers on temporary detachment proved to be inadequate to in defending the mission from frequent Apache attacks. Royal officials in Texas declined to assist the missionaries by sending additional troops. The College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro finally urged Viceroy Revilla Gigedo to establish a presidio, or fort, to guard the missions. While investigating possible sites for building a presidio in the summer of 1750, Capt José Joaquín de Ecay Múzquiz found 153 Indians at Mission San Francisco Xavier and noted that seventy-seven baptisms had been performed since 1748.

icon Conditions deteriorated after the presidio, San Francisco Xavier de Gigedo, was established in 1751. The priests complained about a lack of cooperation and immoral behavior of the soldiers and their commander. In 1752, an attack on sister mission Candelaria, which resulted in the deaths of a missionary and a soldier, and further undermined morale. A drought and an epidemic also plagued the missions between 1752 and 1755. Despite these hardships, Capt. Pedro de Rábago y Terán, the new presidio commander in 1754, discovered seventy native Indians still at San Xavier Mission.

icon Unhealthy conditions along the San Gabriel eventually forced Rábago to move the presidio and the missions without waiting for authorization. He pulled the men back to the San Marcos River in August 1755. Shortly thereafter more than 1,000 Lipan Apaches joined the missionaries. The San Marcos site could not support such a gathering of Indians, and in 1756 all property from the San Xavier missions and the presidio were reassigned to Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission which would serve the Apaches in their own territory.

icon BIBLIOGRAPHY: Herbert Eugene Bolton, Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1915; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970). Kathleen K. Gilmore, The San Xavier Missions: A Study in Historical Site Identification (State Building Commission Report 16, Austin, 1969). Mary Belle Batte, Spanish Missions of Milam County 1746-1756 (Cameron: Milam County Historical Museum, 1999).

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