Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá, founded for the eastern Apaches in April 1757, near presentday Menard, Texas, was sacked and burned on March 16, 1758, by an allied Native American force of about 2,000 Comanches, Tejas, Tonkawas, and others. At least eight persons, including two of the three Franciscan missionaries present, were slain during the attack. The nearby presidio, San Luis de las Amarillas, four miles farther up the San Saba River, was powerless to intervene. Although the Spanish Franciscan friars, headed by Fray Alonso Giraldo de Terreros, had failed to congregate the Apaches for religious instruction, the allied northern tribes had been alarmed at the prospect of a Spanish-Apache alliance.

The attack represented the first major conflict between Comanches and European American settlers in Texas. Combined with the failed Spanish punitive military expedition to a Wichita (Taovaya) village on the Red River a year later, it demonstrated that the Spanish faced a new type of enemy with greatly expanded capabilities. French firearms had replaced bows and arrows, and the allied Indians had vastly superior numbers. No longer was a ragged Spanish militia, drawn randomly from untrained civilian settlers, capable of holding the frontier. The Spanish advance from Texas toward the Great Plains was halted.

Robert S. Weddle Bonham, Texas

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

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