Ghosts of Highways Past: El Camino Real
Mission San Francisco de los Tejas
Photographed at Mission Tejas, Weches, Texas
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The mission was established in response to French intrusion on the
Spanish frontier. In 1690, Alonso de Leon and 110 soliders escorted three
priests to a location a few miles west of the Neches River on San Pedro Creek.
It was in the main village of the Nabedache Indians, one of many tribes
belonging to the Hasinais in East Texas. The Nabedache were sucessful
farmers, living in thatched huts, and raising corn, beans, melons, squash,
sunflowers, and tobacco. They, also, hunted and fished in the forests and
streams of the area.
The Spaniards, at first unfamiliar with the Nabedache language called them
"Tejas", a Hasinai word meaning friend. When the mission was dedicated it was
called Saint Francis of the Tejas.
The mission was dedicated on the June 1, 1690. The church and living
quarters consisted of a cluster of crude wooden buildings built in four or five
days. Three priests, Fray Miguel de Fontculberta, Fray Antonio Bordoy, Fray
Francisco de Jesus Maria Casanas and three soliders were left behind to
operate the new mission.
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2 yoke of oxen
26 loads of flour
chocolate and sugar
gifts for the Indians
church robes, ornaments, and bells
The priests were left with enough provisions to get the mission
started and to last them until the next year. Their supplies included:
Mission Tejas Timeline
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March 1690- An expedition under Captain Alonso leaves
Monclova, Mexico to establish a mission among the Hasinai Indians.
May 1690- The expedition reaches the village of the Nabedache Indians. The church and houses are built, and a wooden cross is erected.
June 1, 1690- The mission is dedicated. Three priests and three soldiers are left to operate the mission.
October 1690- A second mission, Santisimo Nombre de Maria, is established by the Neches River, closer to the Neches Indians.
Winter 1690/1691- An epedemic, probably of smallpox, kills
nearly 300 natives living near the missions, and another 3,000 died in the surrounding area. One of the priests died as well.
Summer 1691- Drought destroys crops grown in the region. An expedition sent to bring supplies and explore the area reaches the missions. The chief of the Nabedache Indians warns the missionaries to leave.
Winter 1691/1692 - The expedition is running short of supplies and takes many of the cattle and horses from the mission. Nine soldiers are left at the mission for protection and another priest is left to replace the one who has died.
Summer 1692 - Another drought destroys the crops and most of the missions cattle die as a result.
Spring 1693 - The Mission Santisimo Nombre de Maria is destroyed by flood.
Summer 1693 - Yet another drought kills the crops. The Indians and the Spaniards alike are suffering from disease and starvation. Just as the missionaries have given up all hope, an expedition arrives in June.
Fall 1693 - The Indians again warn the missionaries to leave or be killed. They finally abandon the mission on October 25, 1693. Before leaving, they bury the bells and cannon and burn the buildings behind them.
Second Mission Period
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The abandonment of Mission Tejas in 1693 was not the end of Spanish activity in East Texas. Six missions, two presidios, and a civilian settlement were established between 1716 and 1721. In 1716, the Tejas mission was re-established as Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas. French hostilities caused a temporary abandonment of the East
Texas missions. The mission was re-dedicated as San Francisco de los Neches. By 1729, three missions, including mission San Francisco, and one presidio were declared unnecessary and were ordered to relocate. In 1730, the mission was temporarily located on the Brazos River. In 1762, France was forced to surrender Louisiana to Spain. The remainder of Spain's outposts were closed with the French threat gone from the region.