CHAPTER V. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN ARIZONA.
NO PROTESTANT CHURCHES IN TERRITORY IN 1866—RESUMPTION OF LABORS BY CATHOLICS—ARRIVAL IN ARIZONA OF BISHOP LAMY—VISITS PRESCOTT AND TUCSON—COMMENCEMENT OF CHURCHES IN TUCSON AND YUMA—ESTABLISHMENT OF SCHOOL AT SAN XAVIER—REMOVAL OF SAME TO TUCSON—COMMENCEMENT OF SCHOOLHOUSE FOR SISTERS OF ST. JOSEPH—DANGERS FROM INDIANS.
In 1866 there were no regular Protestant churches. Intermittently there were services held in Prescott by the chaplain from Fort Whipple, but there was no organized church. The Roman Catholics were the only denomination actively at work in Arizona. Their priests in Arizona, as elsewhere, were the heralds of the Christian faith. They braved all dangers from the Apaches and, taking their lives in their hands, went forth as true missionaries to propagate the Christian faith. As we have seen, their missions were, to some extent, abandoned at the commencement of the Civil War, or soon after they were established. The following account of the resumption of their labors from Bishop Salpointe's “Soldiers of the Cross,” written by the Archbishop of Arizona, describes the early activities of the church in the Territory:‘‘
“On the 26th of October, 1863, the Right Rev. Bishop Lamy, who had already procured two Jesuit Fathers from California for the missions of Arizona, started from Santa Fe with one of his priests, the Rev. J. M. Coudert, in order to
“The inhabited districts of what has since become the growing city of Prescott were then only small mining camps; Weaver was a gold placer worked by a few Mexican men; still there was activity everywhere, and the miners looked contented and entertained great hopes for the near future. The Bishop and his priest reached Tucson on the 19th of March, just in time to spend Holy Week in that town. They found generous hospitality, the Bishop in the house of W. S. Oury, and Father Coudert in that of Don Juan Fernandez.
“The two Jesuit Fathers already mentioned were the Revs. Mesea and Bosco, the former residing in Tucson and the latter in the San Xavier pueblo. They had succeeded Father Donato Rogieri, an ex-Franciscan, who was killed, with two of his companions, by the Apaches at the hot springs of Vado de Bigas in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. This priest worked faithfully for about three years in Tucson and San Xavier del Bac. He laid in Tucson the foundations of the church which was afterwards the
“As the Jesuit Fathers had neither church nor residence of their own in Tucson, they remained only a short time after the Bishop's visit. The people have kept a good remembrance of their stay among them. The San Xavier Indians especially were formerly fond of speaking of Father Mesea as a man who pleaded their cause with their agent, to get from him the agricultural implements they needed, besides caring zealously for their spiritual welfare.
“In August, 1864, the Right Rev. Bishop of Santa Fe was informed that the Jesuit Fathers had been recalled by their Superior, and that Arizona was left without priests to care for the spiritual wants of its people. As the mission was considered a very dangerous one on account of the Apache Indians scattered all over its territory, the good Prelate felt reluctant to send to it any of his priests authoritatively. What he did was to express his desire that some of them would volunteer for it. Out of three who offered themselves for the distant and dangerous mission, two were accepted, viz: Rev. Peter Lassaigne and Rev. Peter Bernal. The third was kept back on account of two schools he was actually engaged in building in the parish of Mora, and which had not yet reached their completion. It took only a few days to have the two priests ready for their journey. The distance between Santa Fe and Tucson was six hundred miles. The half of it was travelled by stage without difficulty, but from Las Cruces, where they left the stage, the missionaries could not find any facility for going farther in the direction
“The danger from the Indians between Santa Fe and Tucson was always the same; but time was going rapidly by, and the Bishop was growing more and more anxious every day for the portion of his flock which remained without priests. At this juncture the parish priest of Mora was reminded of the promise he had made the year previous of his services for the missions of Arizona. Bishop Lamy joined to him the Revds. Francis Boucard and Patrick Birmingham, and Mr. Vincent, a young man, as school teacher. The four were provided with saddle horses, and baggage and provisions. Thus equipped the small party started on their long journey in the afternoon of the 6th of January, 1866.
“Measures had been taken, as far as possible, for the safety of the missionaries. At the request of the Rt. Rev. Bishop, General Carleton, commanding Fort Marcy at Santa Fe, was kind enough to furnish an escort to the missionaries as far as Bowie, the limit of his department.”’’
The journey of these missionaries to Tucson, as detailed by the Rev. Father, was one of great trial, endurance and danger, but they passed through the “Jornada del Muerto (the journey of death), through Cook's Canyon, and all the
A few weeks later Don Elias, with the help of some of his friends, purchased a house and lot in the vicinity of the place in which the church had already been commenced for the use of the missionaries. The house was enlarged at different times, and is now the priest's house.
“On their arrival at Tucson the priests sent from Santa Fe took their destinations according to what had been determined by their Bishop, the Right Rev. J. B. Lamy. The Rev. J. B. Salpointe had been sent as parish priest of Tucson, with the faculties of Vicar Forane for the Territory; the Rev. Francis Boucard, as assistant priest of Tucson, and the Rev. Patrick Birmingham as parish priest of Gila City, the name of which has been changed since to that of Yuma. After a couple of weeks spent in Tucson, the Rev. J. B. Salpointe started for Yuma in order to put Father Birmingham in possession of the parish assigned to him by the Bishop. Meanwhile, Rev. Boucard remained in Tucson, having, at the same time, to attend to the San Xavier mission. The journey to Yuma was made on horseback, and mostly by night, in order to avoid the heat of the day. The distance was 300 miles. At about eighty miles from Tucson were seen numerous small villages of the Pima Indians, at a short distance from the Gila River.
“At the request of the priest a few men volunteered to go with their wagons to the Santa Rita Mountains, about twenty-five miles southeast of Tucson, to ascertain whether good timber could be had from there or not. On the appointed day five men, having the parish priest at their head, started for the mountains. The next day they reached as far as the road would permit, and from this point it could be seen that there were plenty of good pine trees, but all far up on the tops of the peaks, and no practicable way could be found to bring them down to where they could be loaded on the wagons. For this reason the expedition failed almost entirely,
“In the meantime the warm season had broken out, and it was felt that the house thus far used as a church, was untenable during the holy offices. It became necessary to have a kind of temporary roof laid on the sanctuary of the new church, so that masses could be said early on Sundays with more comfort for the priests and for the faithful.
“On his return from Gila City the Rev. Salpointe went to San Xavier to install Mr. Vincent in the functions of school teacher for the Papago Indians. The school lasted only a few months, owing to the carelessness of the Indians in regard to the education of their children, The teacher was then removed to Tucson, where there appeared better prospects for a good school. Indeed, Mr. Vincent found there pupils enough to occupy his time. The only difficulty was that the school had to be taught, for a time, in the priests' house, which consisted of but one room 15 by 22 feet, and a little alcove. For about six months the room had to be used alternately as parlor and schoolroom, and sometimes as dormitory when the weather did not allow sleeping outdoors. The furniture of the priests' house comprised three chairs, a writing table, and a pigeon-hole case for papers, the whole of which
“Four months had elapsed since Rev. Birmingham had been stationed at Gila City, and nothing had been heard of him. The lack of a regular mail service was thought to be the explanation of this protracted Silence, but at last news came that the priest had left his mission on account of sickness and gone to California in order to improve his health. This was a reason for the Rev. Salpointe to look for the first opportunity of a caravan, and to start for Gila City, leaving, as before, the Rev. Boucard in charge of Tucson and of San Xavier. He reached the mission on Sunday morning after seven days of travel, mostly on horseback. He said mass and preached as usual, but fell sick in the afternoon with chills and fever, a disease which very likely he brought from Tucson, where it prevailed, and which kept him four months in the locality. During this length of time the priest was given hospitality and all possible care in the house of Jose M. Redondo, one of the principal citizens of the place. The missionary thought seriously that he could not get over the sickness, which was increasing in him every day, and had no desire but an opportunity of making his confession and receiving the last sacraments of the church before departing from this world, but he could not even entertain any hope for such a blessing, as he was separated from all priests by
“At last the fever subsided, and, after a short convalescence, the priest was able to leave on horseback for a visit to La Paz, an inhabited place about seventy-five miles above Gila City, on the Colorado River. During his stay at Gila City the Rev. Salpointe had a flat roof put on a small church, the walls of which had been built by the people at the request and under the direction of the Rev. Birmingham. The population of this locality was about 1,000 inhabitants. The town owed its start to the discovery of gold placers, made in May, 1854, at Laguna and at Picacho, fifteen and twenty miles, respectively, from the town. The first settlers of this part of the country, after the discovery of the placers, were the Redondo and the Contreras families, who had already worked in the California mines.
“La Paz, which was founded at about the same time as Gila City, counted in 1866, a little over four hundred inhabitants. It had been a prosperous mining town, but, at the date just mentioned, the mines and placers were exhausted, and the people who remained there yet had to depend for their living mostly on cattle raising and cutting wood for the steamboats, which ran on the Colorado by the place, down to the Gulf of California.
“In 1867 was commenced, on the church block at Tucson, a schoolhouse which was to be occupied by the Sisters of St. Joseph. This building, as far as the walls were concerned, was put up in a short time with no more difficulty than for the walls of the church. Everyone contributed willingly, either money or work for the
“The lumber was prepared in the Huachuca mountains, about eighty miles from Tucson, where there was an easier access to the pine woods than there was at Santa Rita. But, as a proof that the works of God must be tried in many different ways before success can be reached for them, there also arose another trouble. The lumber was ready, but wagons could not easily be procured to send at once for it, and the Apaches were only waiting for the departure of the workmen from their camp to burn the lumber that had been prepared. It became then necessary to look for wagons, and to send them before the coming of the workmen, to move the lumber a distance of twelve or fifteen miles to Camp Wallen, where it would be put under the care of the soldiers until some good opportunity could be found to have it brought to Tucson. This opportunity was offered by the firm of Tully & Ochoa, as soon as they had to carry provisions to Camp Wallen. The so
“The life of the priests in Arizona, for some years from 1866, was one of hard work and privation. The frequent and long journeys in a country infested by wild Indians made it dangerous for them even to go a few miles out of their residence. Whenever the mail came in, it brought invariably the news of people having been murdered here or there by the Apaches, so that, when a journey had to be undertaken, one would think of it for days and weeks in advance, fearing that he might not come back to his home. This was expressed by a missionary who used to say: ‘When I have to leave my house for a visit to the distant settlements of my missions, I write to my mother as if it were for the last time.’
“Speaking for himself, the writer of these notes, who, during the nineteen years he spent in Arizona, had to travel in all directions through the Territory, always experienced a kind of painful apprehension for a few days before starting on a long journey, though he must say he had never any trouble from the Indians in Arizona. He saw their tracks on the road; he was told once by a mail carrier that he (the missionary) had been followed by the Apaches two nights and one day, but was not attacked, very likely because he was known to the savages,
“At home the priests were safe as regards attacks from the Apache Indians, but they had sometimes to fight against poverty. The country was very sparsely settled, poor, and desolated by the incessant raids of the savages, and in many localities, by the scourging shaking fever.
“This disease was not new in the country; it was mentioned in 1762 by the author of the ‘Rudo Ensayo’ under the name of the ‘vomito amarillo,’ as the plague of the province of Sonora, except along the Gila and Colorado rivers. ‘This,’ says the same missionary, ‘must not be assigned to the climate, which is dry and good, but to the bad condition of the water the inhabitants had to make use of for drinking purposes, which comes generally from swampy places, and runs by shady bottom lands where it must take noxious substances.’ Against the disease Father Och used with success the bark of the orange tree, made dust, and taken in a cup of ‘atole,’ or cornmeal.
“This disease, or the shaking fever as it was called, later, was brought and propagated into Arizona in 1866 by the coming from Sonora of many poor people who fled from their country on account of the war after the intervention of France. The places which suffered most from
“The people were generally inclined to help their priests, but knowing the circumstances in which they were, the missionaries refrained from asking anything for themselves, except when it was absolutely necessary. Those located at Tucson had for two years to depend for their personal expenses mostly on what they had saved of the money they had received from their Bishop for their journey to Arizona. It must be said, though, that these priests were not extravagant in their way of living. Very often they cooked for themselves; for beds they had the clay floor of their room or of the yard, and the blankets they had brought from New Mexico. When they had to visit the scattered settlements, it was necessary for them to wait until some other people would have to travel in the same direction, as they could not afford, many times, to hire a man to accompany them. The scarcity of material resources was felt especially, even later, bY the priests who had to start new missions.”’’