Decline continues as Spanish officer leaves San Xavier missions
August 11th, 1754
On this day in 1754, Pedro de Rábago y Terán took over as commander of San Francisco Xavier de Gigedo Presidio, the military post at the San Xavier missions. He replaced José Joaquín de Ecay Múzquiz, who had been sent in 1753 to assist Capt. Miguel de la Garza Falcón in investigating the murder of a priest and a soldier at Candelaria Mission. Nothing better illustrates the animosity that often existed between missionaries and soldiers than events at the San Xavier missions.
Felipe de Rábago y Terán, Pedro's nephew, had served so poorly that conditions at the missions were deplorable when Ecay Múzquiz arrived. The nadir had come with the murder of Father Juan José Ganzabal and the soldier Juan José Ceballos, on May 11, 1752.
Commandant Felipe, who had debauched Ceballos's wife, blamed the violence on the Coco Indians.
But evidence uncovered by Ecay Múzquiz and others strongly suggested that Felipe himself was behind the murders. When the elder Rábago y Terán replaced Ecay Múzquiz, he was unable to reverse the general decline. The San Xavier missions were abandoned in 1756, and their property was moved to Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission, which was itself destroyed by Indians in 1758.
SAN XAVIER MISSIONS. Three missions along the San Gabriel (known at the time as the San Xavier) River, near the site of present-day Rockdale, Milam County, served the Indians of Central Texas from approximately 1746 to 1755. The missions, which included San Francisco Xavier de Horcasitas, San Ildefonso, and Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, were founded under the sponsorship of the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro, a Franciscan college in Mexico. The project began in 1745 when a group of Indians visited Mariano Francisco de los Dolores y Viana of the San Antonio missions and asked him to establish a mission for them in their own territory. Indians from the Yojuane, Deadose, Mayeye, and Ervipiame groups agreed to wait for Father Dolores at a site they had chosen for the mission. In the fall, Dolores and the commissary visitor from Querétaro, Father Francisco Xavier Ortiz, met the Indians near the San Gabriel River. Ortiz took the mission proposal to the college while Dolores began converting and teaching the Indians. The college approved the project because the Indians had already congregated, and a new mission would replace the recently secularized Mission Santa María de los Dolores de la Punta at Lampazos, Nuevo León. The college kept Father Dolores's temporary mission, known as Nuestra Señora de los Dolores del Río de San Xavier, supplied while Father Francisco traveled to Mexico City to secure viceregal approval and financial support for the missions. It took several years for the college to get royal sanction for the San Xavier missions. Advocates of the project in Mexico City argued that the missions would form a barrier between hostile Lipan Apaches and the coast, and would discourage trade between the Indians and the French. Opponents claimed that the location was unsuitable for irrigation and difficult to defend against Apache attacks. Moreover, José de Escandón's expedition to the Gulf Coast had already strained Texas defenses. Finding soldiers to protect new settlements would be problematic. Despite such arguments, the college persisted in pressing for approval. Viceroy Francisco de Güemes y Horcasitas, Conde de Revilla Gigedo, finally authorized the college to assign six missionaries to three new missions along the San Gabriel River in December 1747.