The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

The system of irrigation was a significant part of the farming
activities, and the availability of water often determined the selec-
tion of a mission site. By a series of connected acequias, or irriga-
tion canals, settlers and Indians watered their crops and cattle.
Through a system of levels and dams, the water flowed past the
missions and villa and joined the San Antonio River. Indian labor
under the direction of the padres probably built the ditches and
dams. Concepci6n or Pajalache ditch was constructed in 1729,
and between 1718 and 1744 the Indians dug the Alamo Madre
ditch, which was six miles long and irrigated nine hundred acres
of Alamo land. The San Juan canal, built in 1731, served five
hundred acres, and the San Jos6 acequia, built around 1730,
served six hundred acres.25 In 1768 Father Solis found at San Jose
"an irrigation ditch so large and carrying so much water that it
seems like a small river, and it has a great number of fish in it.
The canal waters many fertile fields, all of which are fenced in
for more than a league."" One author wrote that San Antonio
had the "best works of Spanish irrigation engineers in Texas.
They seem to have exhausted the possibilities of the region.""'2
The success of mission crops was in a large measure dependent
upon the efficiency of the irrigation system.
The chief crops were corn, beans, chile, and cotton.28 In 1745
the four Queretaran missions had 8,ooo bushels of maize, or
Indian corn.29 In 1762 the five mission granaries had a total of
g,goo bushels of corn and over 700 bushels of beans.s0 Other crops
included watermelon, lentils, calabashes, potatoes, sugar cane, and
pumpkins. Historian Frederick Chabot, who unfortunately dis-
dained the use of footnotes, added "olives superior to those of
France."31 Most of the missions had orchards with a variety of
25Edwin P. Arneson, "Early Irrigation in Texas," Southwestern Historical
Quarterly, XXV, 121-131.
2eKress, "Dairy of Fray Solis," ibid., XXXV, 50-51.
27Arneson, "Early Irrigation in Texas," ibid., XXV, 123.
2sDabbs, "Texas Missions in 1785," Preliminary Studies of the Texas Catholic
Historical Society, III, 18; Morfi (Castafieda, trans.), History of Texas, I, 97; Chabot,
Morfi Excerpts, 64; Castafieda, Our Catholic Heritage, IV, 5, 9, 14; Bolton, Texas
in the Middle Eighteenth Century, 91.
29Ibid.
soCastafieda, Our Catholic Heritage, IV, 15.
81Frederick C. Chabot, San Antonio and Its Beginnings (San Antonio, 1936), 53*

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101173/. Accessed December 18, 2014.