Texas Heritage, Fall 1983

Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepci6n kept its name but
San Jose de los Nazonis became San Juan Capistrano and San Francisco
de los Neches was re-named San Francisco de la Espada.
The principal work of the missionaries was to spread the Faith, but
mission-settlements, which were independent townships, were also agents
of government, supported by the State to serve its purpose. In addition to
their duties of converting the heathens, the friars were to discipline the natives
teaching them how to live in organized "pueblos."
To carry out the task, the missions were designed not only as religious
teaching centers but also as industrial and agricultural schools, the
first in North America.
Inside 8-foot fortified walls, each mission had a convento (monastery),
with cells for the friars, and cloisters (covered walkways) adjacent
to the church. There was a porter's lodge, refectory, kitchen, offices and
workshops, all connected under a common roof and arranged around a
patio.
After the housing for the friars and Indians was completed, planting
was begun and irrigation ditches dug, with a main acequia that channelled
water through the compound.
The granary was built soon after the shelters were up. Later a stable
was added. The church was the last to be built, allowing greater time for 1850 photograph of Alamo Plaza.
decorative sculptures and ornaments, woodwork and ironwork.
In learning how to tend cattle on horseback the mission Indians became
Texas' first vaqueros, the first cowboys.
Every mission at San Antonio had its own ranch. Cattle - hoof,
horn, meat and leather - became the economic base and the coinage of
the missions. But horses werethe most wanted thing that the Spaniards
had, and the missions had constantly to guard against raids by Comanches
and Apaches.
San Jos6's Atascosa Ranch, located 30 miles south of the compound,
had at one counting 1,000 head of branded cattle in the corral (the
Apaches had run off over 2,000), 3,276 head of sheep, 103 horses for the
cowboys and shepherds, 80 mares and 30 yoke of oxen, along with farming
equipment. Mostly because of the large mission herds, the region between
San Antonio and Goliad became the first major ranching area in
Texas.
By 1749 Mission San Jos6 had entered into a period of great achievement,
and its church became, in the words of Juan Augustin Morfi, the
A still-existing portion of the acequia water system. Courtesy Daughters of
the Republic of Texas Alamo Library.
As missionary life progressed, vegetable gardens, orchards, grape
vines, flowering plants and herbs were cultivated along the banks of the
acequias, and there were bathing pools.
Daily life in the mission compound was orderly. At school children
learned the Spanish language, which was the law, as well as music, singing
and dancing. Both adults and children learned to play the guitar, violin
and harp. Some Indians even devised their own stringed instruments from
gourds. And they learned to say and sing the Mass in Latin.
On Feast Days and holidays, life within the compound took on a festive
air. At harvest time the Indians would decorate the last cart in from
the field with banners and ribbons, and accompany it in a procession with
music. They would go to the missionary's cell where they would be
served a refreshment ... usually a bottle of wine. On Christmas Day the
Indians would "do the dance of the Matachines (masked dancers) at the
presidio, the governor's house and other places. On Sundays distribution
of tobacco took place right from the doorway of the church, and sometimes
there were bars of chocolate or piloncillo (mission-made brown
sugar).
In the workshops women were taught to cook, sew, spin and weave.
The men were taught how to fell trees, to build, run the forge, tan leather,
make ditches, and care for and use arms.

Entrance to Mission Concepci6n. Photograph by Carolyn Peterson.

Insert to Texas Heritage

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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Fall 1983. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45449/. Accessed August 23, 2014.