Retrenchment, Islanders, and
The marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo had anchored Spanish Texas at three vital points: Los Adaes, Garcitas Creek, and San Antonio. The first monitored French activities at Natchitoches and countered the further ambitions of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. The second defended Matagorda Bay by erecting a presidio at the exact location of La Salle’s ill-fated Garcitas Creek settlement. The third secured a vital way station to East Texas with the reconstructed presidio at Béxar.
The next two decades, however, did not signal years of uninterrupted progress. In that time span, Spanish Texas failed to experience a “multiplication of new settlements,” and even those that existed faced serious challenges. Death, reassignment, and retirement thinned the ranks of pioneer soldiery and clergy and led to changes in key personnel; eased relations with France prompted retrenchment in government spending, which resulted in the closing of Presidio de los Tejas and the removal to San Antonio of three missions in East Texas; the presidio and mission on Garcitas Creek were scarcely four years old when they had to be moved to a more favorable location on the Guadalupe River; military clashes with the Eastern Apaches began in the 1720s and greatly intensified in the 1730s; civilian settlers recruited in the Canary Islands founded the first formal municipality in San Antonio, but their coming spawned serious internal troubles at Béxar; a martinet governor and a terrible epidemic in 1739 brought near disasters to the San Antonio missions; and by the early 1740s the remaining settlements in East Texas could best be described as beggarly.1
The marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo’s retirement to private life was also symptomatic of changes sweeping through the ranks of those individuals most responsible for laying the foundations of Spanish Texas. Fray Antonio de Olivares, aged and in bad health, had retired from Mission San Antonio de Valero on September 8, 1720. He was succeeded there by fray Francisco Hidalgo. By 1721 fray Isidro Félix de Espinosa had left Mission Concepción