The Spanish Occupation
of Texas, 1714–1722
Although Texas was unoccupied by Spaniards for more than two decades (1694–1715), it was not entirely forgotten or unvisited. The province especially remained on the mind of fray Francisco Hidalgo, who made unfinished work among the Hasinai a consuming passion. After his sojourn in Texas, Hidalgo labored in small villages near his college of Santa Cruz in Querétaro. In 1697 one of the college’s founders, fray Antonio Margil de Jesús, returned there as guardian. Margil, perhaps the most famous Franciscan missionary to enter Spanish Texas, had gained wide experience among Indians in Central America and Yucatán.1
During Margil’s thirteen-year absence from the college, its field of apostolic work had extended northward from Querétaro to include New Mexico. However, little religious activity had recently taken place in Coahuila. Determined to correct this, Margil in 1698 dispatched friars Francisco Hidalgo and Diego de Salazar to those regions. For Hidalgo, arguably the most important Franciscan missionary in colonial Texas, “it was the first big step on the road back to the Tejas.”2
With the support of the governor of Coahuila, the two priests began work on Mission Santa María de los Dolores, and from those meager beginnings founded a second mission to the north on the Río Sabinas. The latter was the first religious outpost to be named San Juan Bautista, and it represented another milestone in Hidalgo’s master plan of returning to Texas. Margil encouraged those initial efforts by assigning two more Franciscans to the area, friars Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares and Marcos de Guereña. For unrecorded reasons, the first San Juan Bautista did not thrive. It was soon replaced by a mission of the same name located nearer the Río Grande.3
Aiding in the construction of this gateway to Texas, which was begun on January 1, 1700, was Diego Ramón, who would be associated with the mission and a soon-to-be-built presidio until his death in 1724 (see Figure 16).