Secularizatiot of the Ca kahia
PAUL H. WALTERS
T HE establishment and operation of the three missions in
the La Bahia area in South Central Texas generally fol-
lowed the basic pattern of the Spanish mission system.
Their secularization, the formal termination of their activities,
however, was unique in several respects. The three missions--
Espiritu Santo, Rosario, and Refugio2-were among the last with-
in the present limits of the United States to be secularized, and
efforts to remove them from the jurisdiction of the regular clergy
resulted in an intricate contest among the missionaries, the civil
authorities, and the secular ecclesiastics.
The first movement toward ending the Spanish mission system
in the La Bahia area was Commandant General Don Pedro
Nava's decree of April lo, 1794, calling for the secularization of
all Texas missions which had been in existence for ten years.
Although its provisions were applied at this time to the missions
near San Antonio de Bexar, those establishments in the vicinity
of La Bahia were eventually exempted from its execution after
an investigation of their condition by the governor of Texas.
Governor Manuel Mufioz found that the Indians from the mis-
sions Espiritu Santo and Rosario had not been sufficiently civil-
ized to prepare them for citizenship and recommended that secu-
larization of these missions be postponed. When this recommen-
dation was given official approval, the La Bahia missions were
temporarily exempted from the effects of the original decree.8
During the last years of Spanish dominion in Texas, the mis-
sion Rosario steadily deteriorated until, early in 18o6, its Indian
IFor discussions of the founding and general operation of these missions, see
H. E. Bolton, Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century (Berkeley, 1915) and
C. E. Castafieda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, 1z59-I936 (6 vols.; Austin,
2The complete names of these three missions were Nuestra Sefiora del Espiritu
Santo de Zdniga, Nuestra Sefiora del Rosario, and Nuestra Sefiora del Retugio.
8Castafieda, Our Catholic Heritage, V, 64-65.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 54, July 1950 - April, 1951. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101133/. Accessed March 3, 2015.