Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Franciscan missionaries and Spanish soldiers established Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá and Presidio de San Luis de las Amarillas on the San Saba River near present-day Menard, Texas, in 1757 to Christianize the eastern (Lipan) Apaches. Though failing to win Apache converts in significant numbers, the attempt brought the Spaniards into conflict with the Comanches and allied "northern tribes." Less than a year after its founding, on March 16, 1758, an estimated 2,000 Indians sacked and burned the log mission. The "protecting" presidio was powerless to intervene. The mission president, Fray Alonso Giraldo de Terreros, Fray José de Santiesteban, and at least six other mission occupants were slain. The mission was never rebuilt.

The presidio commander, Col. Diego Ortiz Parrilla, led a 600-man expedition to punish the attacking Indians in 1759 but was repulsed at the fortified Taovaya (Wichita) village on the Red River. Nineteen Spaniards died and many others were wounded. His failure, added to the mission attack, emphasized the Native American's enhanced warfare capabilities, with Spanish horses and French firearms. Participants in the mission attack included not only Comanches of the Texas High Plains but also members of the Caddoan confederacies of eastern Texas and western Louisiana and the intervening Wichita groups.

Ortiz Parrilla, going to Mexico to report, offered recommendations for dealing with the changes, but he was replaced as the commander. In his stead, Felipe de Rábago y Terán was sent to hold the post and maintain Spanish prestige. The presidio was temporarily abandoned in 1768 and closed for good in 1770. The San Sabá Mission episode signaled Spain's retreat from its northernmost Texas outpost and the reshaping of its entire northern defense system.

See also WAR: San Sabá Mission, Destruction of.

Robert S. Weddle Bonham, Texas

Weddle, Robert S. The San Sabá Mission: Spanish Pivot in Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964.

Previous: Romero, Casimero | Contents | Next: South Americans

XML: egp.ha.039.xml