0% Complete
0/87 Steps

The First Missions in Texas (CEC)

Lesson Progress
0% Complete


The first time the Spanish establishing a mission in present-day Texas was actually long before the French arrived. In 1629, Franciscans from New Mexico headed into the region to work among the Jumanos and to investigate Indian claims that a mysterious “woman in blue” had worked among them and taught them the rudiments of the Christian faith. The exact location of this first missionary encounter is unknown, with some placing the first contact near the confluence of the Concho and Colorado rivers while others place it nearer the Red River in Palo Duro Canyon. Spanish religious authorities investigating the rumored female missionary settled on the cloistered Sister Maria de Agreda as the probable culprit, and that a miraculous bi-location (she was, literally, in two places at the same time) had occurred.

By 1632 the priests returned and erected a log chapel somewhere southeast of present-day San Angelo and baptized some 3,000 of the people in the region who came to learn about these strange visitors and their God. The missionaries left after six months and did not return, but what would become West Texas became the first place the Spanish introduced Christianity to the natives.

Other efforts followed. Primitive Mansos Indians lived the area of El Paso del Norte but efforts in 1630 and 1652 failed to yield results. In 1674 and 1675, missionaries from Monclova made short-lived efforts in the area near present-day Eagle Pass and Del Rio but explored as far as present-day Edwards County, Texas, before returning to Mexico.

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 redirected Spanish efforts. Refugees from New Mexico relocated a cluster of missions to around present-day El Paso. In 1683, Juan Domínguez de Mendoza, a veteran New Mexico soldier and explorer, help the Franciscans plant outposts among the Jumanos at the Junta de los Rios near present-day Presidio, Texas before venturing north and east onto plains that he had first explored in the 1650s. He aided fathers Nicolás Lopez and Juan de Zavaleta in establishing Mission San Clemente southwest of present-day San Angelo in the same region contacted five decades before. Once again the Jumanos responded by the thousands over the course of two months in early 1684, but the gatherings also attracted unwelcomed attention from hostile Plains Apaches. The Spaniards returned to El Paso intending to gather reinforcements and supplied t establish a more permanent presence in the region.

Complications from the Pueblo Revolt, as well as rumors arriving in the frontier missions via Indian traders Frenchmen on the coast convinced the Spanish to check their efforts along the Rio Grande until the situation clarified.