SAN FRANCISCO SOLANO MISSION
SAN FRANCISCO SOLANO MISSION. San Francisco Solano, the forerunner of San Antonio de Valero Mission, was founded two leagues (five miles) from the Rio Grande at the site of present-day Guerrero, Coahuila, on March 1, 1700. It was the second mission at this location, San Juan Bautista having been established two months previously. The founding official was the sargento mayor, Diego Ramón, who later served as commandant of Presidio de San Juan Bautista. Missionaries present were Fray Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares and Fray Francisco Hidalgo. Mission neophytes had been gathered from various Coahuiltecan bands including the Jaram, Papanac, Payaguán, and Ysiaguán Indians. Through an interpreter, Ramón informed them that "His Majesty...would favor, protect, and succor them only with the motive of converting them to the Catholic faith and to obedience to him and for the usefulness that will follow the salvation of their souls...so that they may enjoy the benefits of eternal life." After Ramón had given them possession of their village and adjacent lands, Father Olivares began their instruction by celebrating Mass. Scarcely two months later, the minister complained that the neophytes were ungrateful for the benefits they received and easily came under the evil influence of their kinsmen from the wilds. The following December Olivares reported that the Indians had fled for want of food and protection from their enemies. At the year's end Olivares was delegated to go to Mexico City to plead for relief. The visit resulted in the assignment of a flying company commanded by Ramón-later made the garrison of the permanent presidio-to protect the northern missions. Before returning, Olivares obtained two additional missionaries, fathers Jorge de Puga and Alonso González, who accompanied him back to the Rio Grande. Bolstered by military protection and additional missionaries, Olivares soon was giving instruction to more than 300 Indians of the Jaram, Siabán, and Payaguán groups. More than 150 were baptized, and many were married in church ceremonies. The Indians received instruction each morning and evening and worked industriously in the cornfields. Addition to the settlement of a third mission and the permanent presidio, however, brought unforeseen difficulties, as both arable land and water supplies proved inadequate. As a result, the natives fled from San Francisco Solano. Father Olivares, joined by Father Hidalgo, moved the mission to a new site sixteen leagues west, near the locale of present-day Zaragosa, Coahuila, where it was known as San Ildefonso.
Because of the hostility of the natives in that area, few of the Indians from the previous site settled there. The two priests nevertheless succeeded in gathering some 400 subjects, including Terocodames, Ticmamares, Tripas Blancas, Piedras Chiquitas, Julimes, Dédepos, and Gavilanes. Before the year was out, raids by the Tobosos caused them to flee. Persistent effort at last brought them back. A solitary friar continued to minister to them until 1708, when the missionary college called for a move back to the Rio Grande. At a new site, called San José, five leagues north of San Juan Bautista, a capacious church and a village were built. There San Francisco Solano remained until 1718, when Father Olivares moved it to San Antonio, Texas, to become a way station on the road to the East Texas missions founded two years previously. Olivares had seen and instantly loved the area of the San Antonio River headwaters in 1709, when he journeyed across the Rio Grande with the Espinosa-Olivares-Aguirre expedition. Hardly had the 1716 missionary-founding entrada led by Domingo Ramón had time to reach its destination when he set out for Mexico City to propose occupation of the site to the viceroy, the Marqués de Valero. Few natives remained at San Francisco Solano. The missionary friar envisioned removing the mission to the San Antonio River, where he hoped to gather the Jarames, Payayas, Sanas, Pampopas, and other Coahuiltecans. Although the plan was approved in December 1716, when Martín de Alarcón was appointed governor of Texas, delay resulted from Alarcón's protracted investigation of a contraband trade operation involving the Ramón family and the Frenchman Louis Juchereau de Saint Denis. Growing impatient, Olivares at last left San José with a handful of Indians and a lay brother, Fray Pedro Maleta, on April 18, 1718. With the property that had belonged to San Francisco Solano, the party reached the San Antonio on May 1. Alarcón was on hand to give immediate possession of the site of Mission San Antonio de Valero.
Herbert E. Bolton, "Spanish Mission Records at San Antonio," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 10 (April 1907). Isidro Félix de Espinosa, Chrónica apostólica y seráphica de todos los colegios de propaganda fide de esta Nueva España, parte primera (Mexico, 1746; new ed., Crónica de los colegios de propaganda fide de la Nueva España, ed. Lino G. Caneda, Washington: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1964). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 18, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.