Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990 Page: 31
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to San Juan Bautista as the " mother of
Texas missions." When we arrived at the
purported location of the mission, we were
initially very discouraged. It appeared as a
mesquite and cactus-covered hill, with a
thin scattering of Spanish artifacts in the
vicinity. However, test excavations
quickly showed that the hill was the
mission church. While we did not have
time or funds to excavate the whole
church, our testing did locate major architectural
features, including the front door,
the baptistry/bell tower, the sacristy, altars
on both sides of the church, and a main
altar at the east end. All of this was buried
under three to four feet of fill, debris from
the stone-robbing and subsequent collapse
of the church. One intriguing find during
the excavation of the church was at the
main altar. A niche had been cut into the
altar and the burial of a juvenile girl had
been made. The head rested in the niche
and the body extended out atop the tile
floor in front of the altar. This was clearly
a burial made long after the church had
been abandoned. However, someone
knew where the altar was, and likely considered
the location within the church as a
sacred spot (in the tradition of the time,
numerous burials were made beneath the
floor of the church; we did not excavate
any of these). Our hunch is that the burial
represents a member of a former mission
Indian family who lived nearby after the
mission was finally closed.
At San Juan Bautista, we expanded
our excavations to the south and southwest,
finding the remains of the monastery
quadrangle, some workshops, and a row of
Indian apartments with a circular bastion,
for defensive purposes, at the west end.
Mission San Juan Bautista lies entirely
on private property. We were kindly permitted
to dig in one area, but the ranch
owner to the west did not want excavation
done there. In hindsight, we see this as
a wise decision on his part! Though we
carefully covered all exposed features with
sheets of black plastic and then backfilled
all excavation units (per the terms of our
permit), the story of our work was common
knowledge to all in the area. In the
late 1970s, a Pemex employee used a
bulldozer to search for gold and tunnels in
the excavation area, effectively destroying
the eastern, and major, part of San Juan
Bautista. While he was apprehended and
jailed, the damage had already been done.
Fortunately, our excavations had been
fully mapped, providing the only record of
the mission complex, since here again, no
Spanish map of San Juan Bautista had ever
been located. Due to the protection of the
western part of the mission locality, it may
be possible at some future date to complete
the study of this mission.
The artifacts from the mission Indian
quarters at both San Bernardo and San
Juan Bautista provide interesting insights
into the life ways of the time. We were
particularly intrigued by the mission
Indian materials-small crucifixes,
fragments of Spanish pottery, worn out
knives and scissors, pieces of copper
kettles, and quite a few stone tools. The
extensive use of stone tools by the mission
Indians represents the technological
continuity of thousands of years of
tradition-and it probably also reflects the
scarcity of metal cutting implements on
the Spanish frontier.
While we believe we located the
remains of mission San Francisco de
Solano, there was not time to do any field
work there. It was used only briefly and
there may not been much of an archaeological
record left intact.
The buildings in Guerrero, still homes
for its citizens today, provide a flavor of the
Spanish Colonial era. One of the oldest
buildings, the Casa del Capitan-the
residence of the presidio captain-was still
standing at the time of our research. The
town and the area around it are worth the
visit of anyone interested in Texas
history-indeed, the origins of Texas.
Keep in mind, however, that only mission
San Bernardo has ruins that can be inspected.
All of the other areas where we
worked are on private property. Collecting
artifacts and the importing them back into
Texas is against the law..
HERITAGE SPRING 1990 3 1
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990, periodical, Spring 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45428/m1/31/: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.