2. Continued Jesuit Proselytizing, 1756–1767

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WHEN FATHER ALONSO I. B. ESPINOSA took up his duties as resident missionary at San Xavier del Bac Mission in 1756, he became the sixth Jesuit actually to reside there. The expansion of Jesuit missionary effort since Gonzalvo entered Bac in 1702 augered well for Espinosa's finally establishing San Xavier as a continuously operating Christian mission with Tucson as its principal branch. Evidently Father Espinosa himself felt that the time had come to alter quickly the traditional behavior of the Native Americans of Bac and presumably Tucson.

More Native Resistance

One might be tempted to assume that Espinosa's Hispanic culture predisposed him toward poor personal relationships with the Northern Piman Indians. Yet that assumption would not be correct. The evidence of the 1751 Northern Piman Revolt makes clear that the Middle-European culture of German Jesuits also set up extreme Native American resistance to clerics wielding great temporal authority. A more reasonable explanation of nativistic movements in both 1751 and 1756 seems to be the inference that the structure of the frontier Christian mission fostered native resistance to forced cultural change.1 Possibly Espinosa had not been adequately trained to carry out independent proselytization so as to avoid generating a violent reaction.

However lukewarm the Native Americans of Bac may have been about the Northern Piman Revolt in 1751, Father Espinosa goaded them into their own nativistic movement in the fall of 1756. The Native Americans of Bac apparently resorted to violence when Espinosa directly challenged their aboriginal religious beliefs and practices.2

The Northern Piman Indians dwelling along the banks of permanent streams in what became the Spanish colonial Province of Sonora had apparently developed in aboriginal times a very important fall harvest festival which they celebrated on a fixed date on or near October fourth.3 Following long-established Roman Catholic Church policy,4 Jesuit missionaries set out to capture this native ceremony and integrate it into the Church calendar as a Christian celebration.5

Espinosa evidently tried to terminate native ritual elements and “purify”

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the October fourth observance at Bac in 1756. He restrained the Native Americans from holding their customary dances and festivities.6 These included ritual intoxication earlier in the year to bring rain through a form of compulsive magic,7 perhaps also a harvest festival practice of that period.

Judging from the relative sizes of Tucson and Bac at that time, and participation of Tucson Indians in the Bac and Magdalena October fourth festival ever since, there can be little doubt that the Tucson populace assembled at Bac for the 1756 ritual and shared in the bitter native reaction against Espinosa's attempt to change too rapidly centuries-old aboriginal religious rites and beliefs. As another Jesuit put it, the Native Americans went to war thinking “to sate their savage rage by killing Father Alphonso Espinosa and thought to wipe out in deadly destruction the Mission of San Xavier.”8

When the Northern Pimans of Bac and the area north of it resorted to violence in 1756, Spanish accounts attributed leadership of the Native American fighters to the Gila River Chief Crow's Head (Havañ mau'au or as rendered in Spanish orthography, Jabanimó).9 Referring to San Xavier del Bac Mission, one report stated that “Jabanimó assaulted it with his band of rebel Pimas the year 1756, and aided by the Indians of the Pueblo itself, sacked the Missionary Father's house and the loyal Indians' huts. While they were so engaged, the ensign of the Royal Presidio of Tubac10 arrived with 15 soldiers in relief. Although the rebels received them with the greatest resistance, the latter were defeated with 15 dead and many wounded. They fled precipitously inland, leaving only three soldiers slightly wounded.”11

Sonoran Governor Juan Antonio de Mendoza12 quickly collected a punitive expedition. Evidently he passed through Mission San Ignacio, for he enlisted the newly arrived Jesuit Bernhard Middendorff as military chaplain.

Middendorff belonged to a large reinforcement of 42 Jesuits who left Spain on Christmas Day of 1755 and arrived in New Spain on 19 March 1756.13 Shortly after reaching New Spain, Middendorff rode to Mexico City. He set out from the capital on 11 May14 and spent four months on the road to Sonora, reaching Mátape in September.15 Like many later travelers in Mexico, members of Middendorff's party suffered painful diarrhea, so they halted for three weeks at Mátape to recover. Then they proceeded to Ures, and Middendorff continued to Mission San Ignacio, with a large escort for protection against Seri attack.16 By his own account, Middendorff spent November and December as chaplain with Mendoza's expedition.

Mendoza re-installed Espinosa, a refugee at Tubac, at San Xavier del Bac Mission on his way to the Gila River.17 Middendorff identified the rebels as “Papagos and Cocomaricopas.” That Gila River Yumans formed part of the force seems confirmed by Governor Mendoza's pursuit of hostiles into Coco-Maric-Oopa territory at the Salt and Gila River confluence.18

Once Spanish military force had dispersed Northern Piman and Cocomaricopa19 resistance to forced religious change at Bac, Middendorff felt free to leave. He returned to San Ignacio Mission by a short cut20 and thus probably missed seeing Governor Mendoza lay the first brick for a new church at Bac on his way south from the Gila River battle.21

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A Priest for Tucson

Middendorff could have stayed at San Ignacio but a few days, because he soon became the first priest to live north of Bac, starting on 5 January 1757.22 Rector Carlos de Rojas reported to the provincial in mid-March of 1757 that Middendorff was then “in the Tucson with two pueblos” as mission branches.23 Inasmuch as Espinosa at Bac also had two branches, Middendorff's would most likely have lain farther north at Oiaur and Santa Catalina Kuitoakbagum. Such a situation would account for another Jesuit's memory that Middendorff worked at Santa Catalina. Certainly Middendorff established the northermost mission on this particular rim of Christendom.

The role of the colonial military forces in making the Christian mission function as a frontier institution extending imperial control over Native American populations appeared very clearly in this mission foundation. No less than ten soldiers accompanied Middendorff to provide him security! Small wonder, therefore, that the prospective Christians whom Middendorff lured to his establishment placated him with gifts of wild fruits and birds' eggs!

The German Jesuit encountered the Northern Piman Indians living in the area “scattered in the brush and hills.” In other words, they lived in traditional ranchería style with houses barely within sight of each other. Middendorff attracted approximately 70 families to his new mission with gifts of dried meat. The prospective converts included a few “jerky Christians” who had been baptized at Bac by Alonso Espinosa, but sought temporal rather than spiritual rewards.

Middendorff had “to sleep under the open sky” until he could set up a hut made from willow and brush. He celebrated Mass under a typical Sonora-style ramada or shade — four posts that supported a reed-and-rush roof.24

At the beginning of March, Middendorff was very short on supplies, lacking wine with which to celebrate Mass, and subsisting on grain. He could not taste meat without suffering nausea, he reported to Father Rector Juan Antonio Balthasar. Middendorff remained quite dependent upon Father Gaspar Stiger at Mission San Ignacio for those commodities he did not have.25

Even worse, as far as proselytizing success was concerned, Middendorff could not communicate directly with prospective converts. German priests assigned earlier to this mission field were required to learn Northern Piman before receiving independent assignments. For whatever reasons, Middendorff did not spend a year at San Ignacio learning the language before launching his Tucson effort. Consequently, he had to attempt to communicate with his prospective converts through an interpreter. “I had at first to instruct” the natives through an interpreter, Middendorff himself admitted in reporting his relationship to them.

Quite possibly Middendorff alone was surprised one night in May when what he reported as 500 heathen savages attacked his mission. The priest and his military escort fled to San Xavier del Bac Mission with some native Piman families.

Thus ended Middendorff's abortive attempt at proselytizing in the

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Tucson area.26 From Bac, Middendorff soon moved on south to another already-established mission, Saric,27 leaving Espinosa the entire responsibility for both Bac and Tucson. In other words, Tucson quickly reverted to the status of a branch of the San Xavier del Bac Mission28 after Middendorff's brief pioneering attempt to found a Christian mission there.

Notwithstanding the brevity of Middendorff's effort, its impact upon the Tucson population should not be underestimated. The five-month mission brought the Tucson people into direct daily contact with Spanish soldiery as well as with a Jesuit missionary. It taught the local Northern Pimans to look to the missionary for food subsidies, as well as to make reciprocal gifts in good Northern Piman fashion. It placed daily Mass on public view and almost certainly brought a fuller perception of baptism, marriage and interment in physical form if not in ritual meaning. It also fostered factionalism by creating a group loyal to the missionary and a group oriented toward aboriginal values.

Whatever broadened perspectives Bernhard Middendorff brought to the inhabitants of Tucson, those Northern Pimans could settle into a more relaxed frame of mind with his departure. The nearest Christian missionary then lived at Bac, and the Indians in and around Tucson still did not see him often enough to remain unduly concerned over the rapidity of cultural change being urged upon them. They could pick and choose what Hispanic behaviors to borrow, and which ones to ignore.

Little of record actually occurred for several years as a consequence of missionary efforts to convert the Northern Pimans. Father Espinosa continued his ministrations despite serious illness, so that in 1761 one of his missionary colleagues labeled him “the Job of the missions.”29

Forced Northern Piman Migration

The year 1761 proved to be crucial in altering the biological and cultural situation of Native American Tucson. Colonial officials decided on a policy of Northern Piman migration westward from the Apachean frontier.

Apparently the San Pedro River Sobaipuris were disposed to abandon their aboriginal range by progressive loss of manpower and military pressure exerted by hostile Western Apaches. Both of those forces had been set in motion by the colonial activities of Spain. Then, in 1761, Spanish authorities decided on migration as a move to strengthen the frontier of New Spain.

Jesuit Visitor General30 Ignacio Lizasoaín31 met Governor of Sonora Joseph Tienda del Cuervo,32 at San Miguel early in December. They decided to use colonial troops to force Sobaipuris to resettle at existing Jesuit missions.33

However pious or however desperate that decision may have been, it actually weakened frontier defense, as Sonorans quickly discovered. The Sobaipuri migration of 1762 did help to assure the eventual biological survival of an aboriginal population in the Tucson area. Sobaipuri migration to Tucson also fostered cultural Westernization by further diversifying the social structure of the settlement.

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When retreating Sobaipuris reinforced Tucson, they also brought about the renaming of the place as “San José” by the Spaniards. A report from the colonial officer in charge of the forced Sobaipuri migration related the circumstances:

Sir Governor Don Joseph Tienda de Cuerbo

My Dear Sir,

I reply to Your Lordship's dispatch dated March tenth which my Lieutenant Don Ygnacio delivered to me on his return to this post. Seeing in it that Your Lordship would send to this post with the aforesaid Lieutenant six adult Pima women and an infant at the breast, I ought to say that they remain in my charge so that I may practice toward them that which Your Lordship expresses to me in it.

In regard to what Your Lordship wrote me of the Sobaipuris, I notify Your Lordship that I have just arrived from settling them in the town of Tucson. Their number reaches 250, although the missionary and justices informed me that they numbered 400 souls. The place where they are settled offers them appropriate conditions for their labors. They have adequate fields and water assigned to them. They have at no time differed from the natives of that town. The question was raised as to whether they had been prejudiced in the assignment of lands which they had made to the new ones. I asked the Reverend Father Missionary as well as the native inhabitants if they had been prejudiced in any manner.

To this question the Father Minister himself responded as they replied, that they were content. The thought that they had been harmed by the assignment of fields was not to be dignified by belief. The fields allocated to the Sobaipuris were always previously idle. Thus, the migrants as well as the natives, are satisfied with the distribution. This is what I have wished to bring to Your Lordship's notice.

Among them, the first proposition that was mentioned, as Your Lordship knows, did not win their support. It has been most difficult to attain this settlement, because previously they were not inclined to settle in a town, but rather to live always in their native haunts. It was necessary, therefore, to utilize friendly presents and gifts. This does not excuse, nor do I excuse. At present I am proceeding to send them provisions for their maintenance in order to be able to reinforce their choice. Thanks to the presents and affection, I have attained the settlement at Santa María of those about whom I notified Your Lordship, and at Tucson the 250 to whom I have referred. They were enumerated, although as I already told Your Lordship, they reached 400 in number according to the tallies which the justices who govern them brought the Father Minister. Those who were not enumerated roam in the surrounding towns. Only His Divine Majesty knows whether there be the souls they say there are and if Your Lordship shall see them always obedient to the law of God and His Catholic Majesty.

I applied the name of Señor San José to Tucson, because the Sobaipuri settlement occurred on the Feast of the Holy Patriarch.

In regard to that which Your Lordship communicated to me of his departure, I am very happy inasmuch as it will be of much good to the land. At the same time, I shall fulfill the desires I have of serving you

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in this, your house. The order which Your Lordship gave, I executed. While awaiting Your Lordship, I shall act as the exigencies and time allow. I desire the health of Your Lordship to be of the best, and pray to God for your prosperity for many years.

I kiss Your Lordship's hand.

Your most attentive and surest servant,


Guebavi. March 22, 1762.

Captain Francisco Elías Gonzáles was at that time commander of the Spanish military post at Terrenate. Governor Tienda del Cuervo had ordered him to carry out the colonial decision to force the Sobaipuris to live at established Jesuit missions.35 The Sobaipuri migrants had only a limited choice of new homes, settling where Captain Elías would allow them within their preferred band territories. About 30 refugee Sobaipuris settled at Santa María Suamca Mission at that period.36 Others concentrated their forces as near their aboriginal lands as possible at Sonoita in the highlands west of the San Pedro River. The Jesuit missionary at Guebavi ministered to them as a branch of his mission.37 In addition, of course, there was the group that relocated at Tucson.

Such dispersion of the San Pedro River Valley natives to various refuge areas seemingly reflected the natives' own social divisions, even though the relocation was carried out under Captain Elías' commands. Possibly these Sobaipuris had not yet developed the kind of integrated war-making organization that later enabled the Gila River Pima Indians to hold their equally exposed riverine frontier against Yavapai and Southern Athapascan aggression.38 Considering how well the Sobaipuris resisted the Apaches, however, they probably were fairly well coordinated, and Spanish colonial forced migration policy must be awarded the blame for their abandoning the San Pedro River Valley bastion.

The resident missionary at Bac, Father Alonso I. B. Espinosa, became the primary advocate of cultural change for the San Pedro River Valley Sobaipuris settled at Tucson. Espinosa influenced the final outcome of Sobaipuri resettlement, and essayed to incorporate these bellicose frontiersmen into the Jesuit mission model of Christian civilization.

Espinosa was evidently quite ambitious. Yet ambition combined with limited perception of Piman culture has led many an individual attempting to alter the customs of Piman-speaking Native Americans to fail. This priest evidently had become, however, more perceptive of cultural dynamics since his 1756 experience with nativistic rebellion.

In 1763, Father Espinosa tried to change the economic base of the amalgamated native settlement at Tucson by introducing sheep and cattle husbandry. He secured the approval of the leader of the community in the best agricultural-extension-agent style, but the people would have nothing to do with his strange stock.

Espinosa had other matters to attend to in addition to Tucson. On

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18 September 1763, Jesuit superiors approved his advancement another step in his status in the Society.39 Perhaps study for the Order diverted his mind from the hot climate at Bac and Tucson that militated against successful sheep growing there.

The following year Apaches made off with the priest's surplus livestock at Bac. Then he reported “it is necessary to reflect a long time to kill an animal to eat.” The rector reported to the provincial that Espinosa built his herds up from a few calves to nearly 1,000 head before Apache raids reduced them to 200.40 The rector admitted within the Society that what was going on at Tucson occurred in any mission without a resident priest. The Indians wandered everywhere, as “idle” as they wished.41 In other words, they farmed little, hunted and gathered much.

Some of the wiles of the Northern Pimans employed in fending off missionary control appear in Espinosa's reports:

There is enough arable land for said town's people and the Sobaipuris. As for water, all these years the neophytes have said that their grain fields dry up for lack of water, and now that they have conceived that they desire to change, they say that there is surplus water. I can only say that before the Sobaipuris came they used to complain about the scantiness of water … and the Governor of Tucson asked that I free him from the obligation of cultivating a maize field for the church so that there might be that much more water.42

Military Consequences of Sobaipuri Relocation

Espinosa's stock losses illustrate the main strategic defect in the colonial decision to move the San Pedro River Valley Sobaipuris to established missions farther west. As long as the Sobaipuris lived along the San Pedro River, they formed the first line of defense against hostile Apache penetration into Sonora, and an effective defensive line it was. A Jesuit in the frontier missions characterized the Sobaipuris as “the most warlike among all the Pimas.”43

Sobaipuri resettlement on the Santa Cruz River both converted it into the front line of hostilities and attracted Apache attackers to that previously protected valley. Moreover, the Sobaipuri retreat opened up the San Pedro Valley as a new corridor for Apache raiding south into central Sonora.

Apache thefts during 1763 merely heralded many more and fiercer raids to come. Still, Tubac presidio commander Juan Bautista de Anza44 detailed only two troopers, on two-week rotation, to protect Father Espinosa at Bac.45

Apparently Anza at that time looked south, rather than northward toward his destiny. He sought early in 1764 permission to move the Sobaipuris at Tucson once again. Not long before, Apaches killed three citizens in Buenavista, on the upper Santa Cruz south of Tubac. The remaining citizens petitioned Anza for permission to abandon the valley, which he granted to them.

The new Sonoran Governor Juan de Pineda46 was not happy with that action. The departure of the citizens left the frontier that much more open to Apache raiding. In an attempt to remedy the weakening frontier defenses, Anza then asked the governor to authorize him to relocate the Sobaipuris at

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Tucson in the Buenavista Valley. Anza argued that they lacked adequate irrigation water and fields at Tucson. Anza also charged that Father Espinosa was not able to minister to them, not having been able to collect them together to hear their confessions. Given Espinosa's record of poor health, Anza probably was correct on that score.

When Governor Pineda asked Jesuit officials for their advice, Rector Manuel Aguirre47 opposed moving these Native Americans again. He pointed out that Tucson had for many years been considered a good spot for settlement. He reported that he had asked his provincial to send a missionary to minister to the people of Tucson.

Aguirre advocated colonizing Santa Catalina and Buenavista with Papagos. He claimed that they had no fields on which to raise food, and not even enough water to drink — something of an exaggeration. Aguirre also predicted that the citizens who abandoned Buenavista Valley would reappear to reclaim their lands as soon as the Sobaipuris might make the area secure. He suggested, therefore, that formal cession of land rights by these citizens to the Native Americans should be a pre-condition for moving Sobaipuris there. Aguirre may well have known or suspected that Anza had ranching interests in the area.

Aguirre criticized the original decision to remove the Sobaipuris from the San Pedro River Valley by emphasizing the degree to which Apache raids increased thereafter. He commented that the colonial authorities should have moved the Tubac garrison to the San Pedro to reinforce its valiant Native American defenders instead of removing the Sobaipuris to the Santa Cruz River Valley.

Missionary Travail

The Jesuit provincial responded to Aguirre's plea for more missionaries. He notified the rector that he would dispatch three more priests for the Sonora-Pimería Province. Aguirre knew from sad experience that most of the missionaries sent to Sonora were intercepted by other manpower-hungry Jesuit officials in the Tarahumara Indian missions or Sinaloa. Nonetheless, Aguirre planned to assign to Tucson a priest (Father Diego Batres) the provincial promised to send.48

While Rector Aguirre waited and chafed under Pineda's criticism that the Jesuits collected too many royal stipends for missions without missionaries, his northern staff weakened. Father Alonso Espinosa fell so seriously ill in 1764 that he went to San Ignacio for treatment in the winter. Somewhat improved, Espinosa returned to Bac on 7 January 1765. At that time the native population of Tucson totaled about 220, 70 of the number still learning the catechism, few receiving any sacrament.49

Rector Aguirre kept trying to staff a Tucson mission. Once when the ailing German Father Joseph Och recovered sufficiently to leave Baserac to recuperate at Guasave, he reported that he needed no more medicine. Aguirre, always optimistic, then offered Och his choice of Onapa, Atí or Tucson. Och rejected all of these assignments, and Visitor General Roxas then ordered him to Chihuahua to await reassignment by the provincial. Och went on south

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to a Jesuit institution in Mexico City, where he witnessed the expulsion, still bed-ridden.50 The rector probably realized he was grasping at straws when he offered Och the Tucson mission.

In 1765, Espinosa relapsed and by mid-May if not earlier was so incapacitated that Rector Aguirre sent another Jesuit missionary to assist him.51 This replacement-nurse, José Neve, was a native of Calpulalpan in the Province of Tlaxcala, born 10 June 1739. He entered the Society in 1755, and reached Sonora early in 1765. The rector promptly assigned Neve to Atí, which had long been vacant.52 Hardly had the newcomer to frontier mission work begun to learn his task at Atí when Father Aguirre sent him to Espinosa's assistance.

Neve found Espinosa paralyzed in his bed.53 The younger priest evidently nursed Espinosa back to enough strength for him to be taken to San Ignacio as ordered by the rector.54 Espinosa suffered from “one leg already desiccated and continual pains,” however, so it was some time before Neve could move him.55 By October, Espinosa had improved. Neve probably moved him to San Ignacio then, inasmuch as Neve substituted that month for Bauer, who had transferred to San Ignacio in 1760.56

Once again, Espinosa improved, and in February of 1766 he transferred west to Caborca Mission,57 where he remained until the Jesuit expulsion in 1767.58

Neve meanwhile returned to Bac. There he was arrested in the summer of 1767 and taken to Mátape to hear read the royal decree of banishment of his Society from New Spain.59 The Real Pragmatica Sanción Charles III issued on 27 February 1767 expelled the Society from his dominions for reasons known but to him. Almost a year before, mobs in Madrid had clashed with royal Waloon guards in protest against the King's Italian ministers, Esquilache and Grimaldi. Then in only his sixth year of rule, Charles left Madrid until its tranquility was assured. Spanish historians tend to credit the new minister, the Count of Aranda, with persuading Charles III to expel the Jesuits, on grounds that they inspired the 1766 riots. Yet, the Order had already been banned from the Portuguese and French empires for what appeared to their sovereigns sufficient reasons. Charles sent Joseph de Gálvez to carry the top-secret decree to New Spain and see that it was executed. In Sonora, Captain Bernardo de Urrea of Altar received the order to round up the Jesuits of Pimería Alta and send them to Mexico City under arrest.60

Jesuit Cultural Impact

At the end of the Jesuit ministry, the labors of a resident missionary at Bac were finally beginning to take effect in the native and immigrant population of Tucson. Still, that settlement remained little more than a “field village”61 where the Native Americans lived during the summer and fall while tending and harvesting their crops. After harvest, these Northern Pimans moved to desert mountains to gather wild foods and hunt. They ranged eastward to collect acorns and roast agave hearts. Some surely ventured to the Gulf of California coast on salt-collecting expeditions.

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Such transhumance long confused Europeans who failed to understand Northern Piman Indian cultural adjustment to life in a harsh semi-arid environment. It was most frustrating to Roman Catholic missionaries who viewed such geographic mobility as heathen vagabondage rather than a functional ecological adjustment. As Father Espinosa had put it on 22 July 1764:

All of them are an unsettled ranchería. At this time they live in their fields, and at the termination of what they have, in other towns in the mountains. Perhaps with the coming of the priest, supported by a good escort, they may be able to confine themselves to living like Christians in their town, which I have never been able to attain with all my diligence.62

In other words, Espinosa believed that Northern Pimans had to live in a compact settlement and subsist off their garden produce to be good Christians in Jesuit eyes. Northern Pimans who camped in the giant cactus groves on the south slopes of desert mountains during fruiting season impressed the missionaries as stubborn heathens. The religiosity of the times did not encourage clerical perception of the ecological adjustment to a semi-arid region inherent in movement between areas affording different resources.

The persistence of Northern Piman transhumance in the face of the priests' determination to end it indicates that the Jesuit missionary effort at Tucson was too sporadic and intermittent to have much effect on the Native Americans there beyond nominal compliance with the most outward forms of Catholicism. Even though the settlement had been visited irregularly for nearly 70 years by relays of missionary priests pioneering the Gospel, just one Jesuit priest ever lived at or very near Tucson, and he for only a five-month ministry.

Only seven Jesuit missionaries actually resided at Bac, near enough to Tucson to visit it frequently. Of these seven, only Espinosa, who started off on the wrong foot with the native population, stayed a decade, and during his last couple of years there he was either too ill or in fact absent recovering from severe illness, to minister to the Tucson people.

Before Espinosa, only Stiger stayed more than a few months, and he had Guebavi to minister to, so that his efforts were not channeled north toward Tucson. He barely survived the psychological warfare mounted against him by the Bac native religious leaders, or perhaps their poisons were as effective as their spells. Neve's stay was cut short by Jesuit expulsion, and his early months at Bac must have been devoted largely to Espinosa and the Bac populace.

Thus, Jesuit proselytizing at Tucson provided a prelude to conversion rather than real Christianization. The Society failed to deliver to this rim of Christendom the missionary manpower required to establish a true mission at Tucson.

Up: Contents Previous: 1. Founding a Jesuit Mission Near Tucson, 1694–1756 Next: 3. Garcés' Franciscan Mission Branch, 1768–1779

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