Mission, Presidio, and Settlement Expansion, 1746-1762
EXPANSION BEYOND SAN ANTONIO AND THE STRUGGLING settlements in East Texas characterized the nearly two decades that preceded the Peace of Paris (1763). Plans to spread the Gospel and secure the broader foundations of Spanish presence in Texas were presented to viceregal authorities in Mexico City between 1746 and 1749. Targeted areas included the San Gabriel River to the northeast of San Antonio, the San Saba River in central Texas, the coastal area between the second site of La Bahía and the lower Trinity River, and the lower Río Grande and coastal region of extreme south Texas. The majority of those undertakings resulted in failures. This chapter examines the circumstances that surrounded three unsuccessful enterprises and a single successful one (see Figure 20). The chronology spans only a brief period, with the events and participants often related.
MARIANO FRANCISCO DE LOS DOLORES Y VIANA WAS PRIMARILY responsible for selecting the site for missions established on the San Gabriel River, near present-day Rockdale, Texas. The river itself was reasonably well known to Spaniards in Texas. In 1716 the Domingo Ramón expedition had discovered the stream and named it San Xavier. The San Gabriel valley was traversed by the Aguayo expedition in 1721, and in the early 1730s it was penetrated by Governor Bustillo in a campaign against the Apaches. 1
Father Dolores had arrived in Texas in 1733, and in the following year, while pursuing deserters from mission San Antonio de Valero, he first came into contact with future tribes of the San Gabriel missions. In 1741 he had also accompanied Governor Tomás Winthuysen on an expedition to the Trinity River, where the friar unsuccessfully implored the Deadose and Mayeye Indians to take up mission life. His efforts finally paid dividends in 1745. 2