THE EARLY SPANISH MISSIONARIES
Following closely in the wake of that army of daring adventurers, fired with the thirst for gold and glory, who conquered the vast empire of the Montezumas, and penetrated to the wild regions northward, came another army, which made up in fiery zeal what it lacked in numbers; an army proclaiming ‘‘peace on earth and good will to men,’’ whose standard was the emblem of Christianity, and whose mission was the spreading of the gospel among the tribes of the far South-west. Padre de Niza, as has been before stated, was the pioneer of the cross in what is now known as Arizona. He penetrated to the Cities of Cibola, and on his return to New Spain spread glowing reports of their richness and extent, which led to the expedition of Coronado. It has been charitably supposed that the father indulged in this exaggeration in the hope of extending the gospel of Christianity among the natives, but Coronado and his followers, disappointed in not finding the expected treasures, abandoned the country in disgust, and no efforts were made to establish permanent settlements in Arizona until more than a hundred years later.
The first attempt to found missions in this Territory, then known as Pimeria Alta, was made by the Franciscan fathers in 1650, at the Moquis villages. The enterprise was undertaken under the direction of the Duke of Albuquerque, then Viceroy of Mexico. In 1680, the Indians rebelled, massacred many of the Spaniards, and the missions were abandoned and never reestablished. As near as can be ascertained, the first mission built in Southern Arizona, was at Guavavi, forty-six miles south of Tucson, in the latter part of the seventeenth century. The mission of Tumacacori was founded some time afterwards, and San Xavier, below Tucson, in 1694. In the same year, Fathers Kino and Mange, who had been active in establishing missions in Sonora, visited the Gila river, and were the first to thoroughly inspect the ruins of the Casa Grande. They also explored the lower Gila and Colorado. Father Kino was a true friend of the Indians, and labored untiringly to better their condition. He procured an order from the Audience of Guadalajara that his neophytes should not be apportioned out to work in the mines. Father Kino established several missions among the Pimas, who made rapid progress in civilization under the parental care of the humane priest. In 1720 there were nine missions in a flourishing condition within the Territory now known as Arizona. They were Tubac, San Xavier del Bac, Joseph de Tumacacori, San Miguel, Guavavi, Calabasas, Arivaca and Santa Ana. They were rich in flocks and herds, and in the products of the silver mines, which they worked extensively.
In 1744, Father Jacob Sedel made an attempt to reach the Moquis and re-establish the missions, but got no further than the country of the Pimas on the Gila, who dissuaded him from the enterprise. He explored the newly discovered river of Asumpciou (Salado) and the Verde. He also followed the Gila to its sources, and encountered the Apaches. In 1727, the Bishop of Durango, Don Benito Crespo, visited the missions of Arizona, and wrote to Philip V. in their behalf. That monarch ordered that they should be protected and assisted out of the royal treasury. In 1751 there was an outbreak of the Pimas, most of the priests killed, and the missions in the northern part of the province destroyed. The revolt was instigated ‘‘by one Luis, from Saric (Sonora), who pretended to be a wizard, and made the Indians consider as a disadvantage to them what he intended for his own benefit.’’ In 1765, the prosperity of the missions received a heavy blow from the decree ordering the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain and her colonies. In May, 1768, fourteen Franciscan fathers, from the college of Santa Cruz of Queretaro, arrived at Guaymas, destined to take the place of the Jesuits who had been killed by the Indians, and expelled by order of the government. They found the missions which had escaped the fury of the Indian revolt in a declining condition. Life and energy had fled with the Jesuits; the Apache, till then but little known, had swooped down on the flocks and herds, and the missions seemed to be on the brink of ruin. But, under the unremitting care of the Franciscans, they soon recovered their former flourishing condition.
Captain Bautista Ainsa, under orders from the Viceroy, undertook to open communication by land from Sonora to Upper California in January, 1774. He was accompanied by Fathers Garcez, Pedro and Elrarch, who penetrated the country of the Yavapais and explored the central portion of Arizona. Captain Ainsa returned from California in 1776, bringing with him chief Palma and others of the Yuma tribe, praying for the establishment of missions among them. Three missions were established
Among the adventurous pioneers of the cross who traversed Arizona from 1773 to 1776, were Fathers Pedro Font, Francisco Garcia, Silvestre Escalante and Francisco Dominguez. They explored the Casa Grande ruins and the Moquis villages. Father Escalante's party went as far north as the Uintah mountains in Utah, and as far south as Moro, New Mexico. They crossed the Colorado somewhere in the neighborhood of latitude 37° north, and between longitude 111° and 112°, west of Greenwich. Escalante appears to have been the last of the adventurous missionaries who journeyed through the wilds of Arizona for nearly two hundred and fifty years subsequent to the expedition to the Seven Cities. Notwithstanding the raids of the Apache, the missions of Southern Arizona continued in a high state of prosperity until the Mexican war of independence. After that they lost the support and protection of the vice-regal Government, languished and declined, and were finally suppressed and abandoned by a decree of the Mexican Government, in 1827.
Of all the mission churches built by the Franciscans and Jesuits, but one remains in a state of preservation—that of San Xavier del Bac, nine miles south of Tucson. This, the most important mission in the Territory, was established in 1694, but the present building was not commenced until 1768. On the abandonment of the missions in 1827, the Papago Indians, who resided at San Xavier, took charge of the church, and preserved it from destruction by the Apaches. The style of architecture of San Xavier is a mingling of the Moorish and the Spanish. It is built of stone and brick, with a fine coating of cement. It has a length of 105 and a width of 27 feet, inside the walls. It is in the form of a cross. The nave is divided into six parts, marked by as many arches. The building is surmounted by a dome and two towers, one of which remains unfinished. The church faces to the south, the façade being ornamented with scroll-work and the coat of arms of the Franciscan order. Around the roof is a brick balustrade, covered with cement, and with griffins' heads, also in cement, at each angle and corner. The interior is a mass of elaborate gilding, painting, and fresco-work. On the right-hand side, between the front door and the main altar, there is a fresco representing the "Coming of the Holy Ghost," and on the left, a picture of the "Last Supper." The main altar is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. The frescoes near the altar are the "Adoration of the Wise Men," the "Flight into Egypt," the "Adoration of the Shepherds," and the "Annunciation," still in a good state of
Near the front door are two small openings communicating with the towers; from these rooms commence the stairs, cut into the thickness of the walls. The second flight brings the visitor to the choir of the church. There are some fine frescoes here. Two flights more lead to the belfry, where hang four home-made bells of small size. Twenty-two steps more lead to the little dome, covering the tower, about seventy-five feet above the ground. From this point a fine view can be had of the beautiful Santa Cruz valley, and the peaks and mountain ranges which surround it in every direction. On the west side of the church is an inclosure and a small chapel. This was formerly used as a cemetery, the bodies being kept in the chapel until the ceremony of burial was performed.
When we remember the age in which it was built, and the facilities at hand for its construction, the church of San Xavier must be considered a remarkable structure. The traveler who first beholds its perfect outlines, standing in solitary grandeur on the edge of the desert plain, is astonished to find in this mote region a building which would adorn any capital in Christendom. It stands an impressive monument to the untiring zeal, energy, and self-sacrificing devotion of the mission fathers, who penetrated the unknown wilds of the south-west, and were the first to open to settlement and civilization, what is now the Territory of Arizona. The effects of their early labors are yet seen in the tribes they redeemed from barbarism and taught the arts of civilization, peace, and industry. The only other relic of the missions found in the Territory is the ruins of St. Joseph at Tumacacori, three miles below Tubac, on the Santa Cruz river. This mission was destroyed by the Apaches in 1820, and the occupants massacred. The building was smaller and of ruder construction than San Xavier. The form was that of a Greek cross with a basilica. The latter is still standing, crowned by the emblem of Christianity. Two towers yet remain in a fair state of preservation. The church was built of adobe, plastered with cement, and coped with burnt brick. The roof was flat and covered with tiles. The valley adjacent to this mission was brought under a high state of cultivation. Tumacacori was at one time the richest of the Arizona missions, and was the scene of an active and prosperous mining industry, but the Apache spoiler "came down like a wolf on the fold," and nothing remains to tell of Jesuit energy and endeavor, save the crumbling ruin of the old church and the abandoned shafts and tunnels, overgrown with brush and filled with debris, which are frequently met with in the surrounding mountains.