Donald E. Chipman

GANZABAL, JUAN JOSÉ DE (?–1752). Juan José de Ganzabal, a missionary priest in Spanish Texas, was assigned to the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro, a Franciscan institution in Mexico. He and Father Mariano Francisco de los Dolores y Viana were staunch advocates of the San Xavier missions, on the San Gabriel River near the site of present Rockdale, Texas. It fell to Father Ganzabal to make special pleadings with the auditor de guerra for crown support of the missions and a presidio to guard them. That task occupied him in Mexico City for eight months in 1748. Despite opposition in Texas from Governor Pedro del Barrio Junco y Espriellaqv, by July 1749 three missions had been established on the San Gabriel River. Ganzabal was the first regular missionary at San Ildefonso Mission, where he directed his initial efforts toward the recruitment of several bands of Orcoquiza Indians. In May 1750 a horrible smallpox epidemic spread through neophytes of the mission, and Father Ganzabal could do little other than minister to the needs of the dying.

After the establishment of San Francisco Xavier de Gigedo Presidio in 1751 and appointment of Capt. Felipe de Rábago y Terán as its commander, the status of the missions deteriorated rapidly under the influence of the roguish captain. When matters came to a head over an adulterous affair between Rábago and the wife of soldier Juan José Ceballos and the immoral conduct of the garrison, Ganzabal delivered Father Miguel de Pinilla's decree of excommunication and posted it at the gate of the presidio. But within a few days, Ganzabal granted absolution and penance to the repentant soldiers.

Matters, however, continued to worsen at the San Gabriel outposts. On May 11, 1752, Ceballos and Ganzabal died, respectively, of gunshot and arrow wounds at Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria Mission. The attack was almost certainly instigated by Rábago but was blamed on Coco Indians. Ganzabal was one of only a few Franciscans to suffer violent death in Texas. His murder stands alone as the extreme expression of marred relations between the missionary clergy and presidial soldiers on the frontier of Spain in America.

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Gary B. Starnes, The San Gabriel Missions, 1746–1756 (Madrid: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1969).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Donald E. Chipman, "GANZABAL, JUAN JOSE DE," accessed August 25, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox