The Jesuits.—The occupation of Texas was contemporaneous with the advance into Pimería Alta (northern Sonora and southern Arizona) and Lower California. The work of the indefatigable Jesuits on the northern frontier of New Spain is admirably illustrated by that of Father Kino and his companions in this region.
Kino.—After the failure of Atondo's enterprise in California in 1685, Father Eusebio Kino entered northern Sonora, arriving in March, 1687, just at the time of La Salle's death in Texas. Mission Dolores, founded by him in the upper Sonora Valley, became his headquarters for twenty-four years of exploration, ranching, and missionary work among the upper Pimas, between the Altar and Gila Rivers.
Explorations in Arizona.—In the Altar Valley Kino and his companions founded a number of missions, which were destroyed during the revolt in 1695 and then rebuilt. In 1691, accompanied by Father Salvatierra, who later went to California, Kino descended the Santa Cruz River to the village of Tumacácori. Three years later, by the same route, he reached the Casa Grande on the Gila. In 1697, with a military escort from Fronteras (Corodéguachi), he again went to the Casa Grande, this time by way of the San Pedro River. In the following year he was again on the Gila, whence he returned across the Papaguería (the country of the Pápagos) by way of Sonóita, Caborca, and the Altar Valley. In 1699 he went to the Gila by way of Sonóita and the Gila Range, and then ascended the Gila.
A land route to California.—The current view still was that California was an island, but during the last journey Kino returned to the peninsular theory. If this were true, he reasoned, it would be possible to find a land route over which to send supplies to Salvatierra's struggling missions just established in Lower California. To test his views he made several more journeys, crossing the lower Colorado in 1701 and reaching its mouth in 1702. He was now convinced that California was a peninsula. In 1705 was published his map of Pimería Alta, setting forth this view.
Missions and ranches in Arizona.—Meanwhile Kino and his companions had pushed the missionary frontier to the Gila and the Colorado. Kino's exploring tours were also itinerant missions, in the course of which he baptized and taught in numerous villages. During his career in Pimería Alta he alone baptized 4000 Indians. In 1700 he founded the mission of San Xavier del Bac, and within the next two years those of Guebavi and Tumacácori, all in the valley of the Santa Cruz River, and within the present Arizona. To support his missions, near them he established flourishing stock ranches, thus making the beginnings of stock raising in at least twenty places still existing in northern Sonora and southern Arizona.
Father Kino's Map of Pimería Alta (Bancroft, Arizona and New Mexico, p. 360).
Decline of the missions.—The power of Spain was now at its lowest ebb, funds were scarce, and Kino's last days were to him a time of stagnation and disappointment. To a certain extent royal support was transferred for the time being to the missions in Lower California. After Kino's death in 1711 stagnation became decline, few new missionaries were sent, and northern tours became infrequent or ceased altogether. Officials and frontier leaders often planned to advance the frontier of settlement to the Colorado River, but other interests interfered.
Revival after 1732.—A visit by the bishop of Durango in 1725, the military inspection of that frontier by Rivera in 1726, and a royal decree of 1728 gave new life to the moribund missions. New missionaries arrived in 1732, the northern missions were reoccupied, and journeys to the Gila were renewed after 1736 by Fathers Keller and Sedelmayr.
The Arizonac mines.—Interest in the northern frontier was accentuated at this time by a temporary mining excitement at Arizonac in the upper Altar Valley, where in 1736 silver nuggets of astonishing size were discovered. There was a "rush" to the place, and considerable wealth was found, but in 1741 the surface veins were exhausted and the camp was abandoned. The mining incident furnished an occasion for new plans to advance to the Gila. But Indian troubles in Sinaloa and Sonora interfered. These troubles, on the other hand, served to advance the military frontier by the founding of two presidios at Pitiqui (Hermosillo) and Terrenate in 1741.
Keller and Sedelmayr.—After much discussion, in 1741 the Moqui district was assigned to the Jesuits, who now tried to reach that region. In 1743 Keller crossed the Gila, but was driven back by the Apaches. In 1744 Sedelmayr ascended the Colorado to Bill Williams Fork. In the following year the Moquis were again assigned to the Franciscans.
Plans to occupy the Gila and Colorado.—Sedelmayr now turned his attention to exploring the lower Gila and Colorado Rivers, and his Order, particularly Father Escobar, the provincial, urged the occupation of these valleys, both as a means of support for Lower California, and as a base for advance to Moqui and Alta California. In 1748 Father Consag of California explored the Gulf to its head in the interest of this plan. Royal interest was aroused also by the entry of the French of Louisiana into New Mexico and the need of protecting California. In 1744 and 1747, therefore, the king approved advancing to the Gila. Five years later, especially because of emphatic reports of the French advance toward the Pacific Ocean, the king seriously considered occupying the Bay of Monterey.
The Pima Revolt.—The new viceroy, Revillagigedo, was occupied with founding Nuevo Santander and other absorbing tasks, while new Indian wars in Sonora made advance impossible. In 1750 a war of extermination, led by Governor Diego Parrilla, was begun on the Seris and lasted several years. In 1751 a revolt occurred among the northern Pimas. At Caborca and Sonóita the missionaries were slain, over one hundred settlers were killed on the Arizona border, and missions and ranches were abandoned. The uprising was suppressed by Parrilla without great difficulty; most of the missions were reoccupied; and for greater security two new presidios were founded, at Altar, near Caborca, and at Tubac near San Xavier del Bac. Thus, each uprising helped to advance the military frontier.
Continued obstacles to advance.—For twenty years more the question of advance to the Colorado was subordinate to that of good order and settled conditions in Sonora, necessary preliminaries to advance. The Pima War was followed by a bitter quarrel between Governor Parrilla and the Jesuits. The Seris made constant trouble, and when attacked retreated safely to Cerro Prieto. Apache wars on the northern border were even more severe, and many settlements in Sonora and Nueva Vizcaya were destroyed by them. Nevertheless, within the protection of the presidios several small Spanish settlements grew up, as at Terrenate, Guebavi, Santa Bárbara, Buenavista, Tubac, Saric, Altar, and San Ignacio. The Jesuits continued to appeal, and others, pointing out the danger from advancing Russians, English, and French, urged the settlement of Alta California. But Spain was occupied elsewhere.
The northwestern frontier in 1763.—Sinaloa and Sonora had been detached from Nueva Vizcaya in 1734, when the province of Sinaloa was erected. Both were still within the diocese of Durango. By 1763 Sinaloa and Ostimuri (southern Sonora) had ceased to be frontier regions. Most of the missions had been secularized, the Indians had become assimilated, and there was a considerable white population. In Sinaloa there were six towns with white and mixed populations ranging from 1000 to 3500 each. In Ostimuri, the part of Sonora south of Yaqui River, there were five towns with populations ranging from 300 to 3400. In the Sonora Valley there was a string of mining towns and small Spanish settlements extending as far north as Fronteras. In Pimería Alta there were eight missions and several Spanish settlements, the latter aggregating, with the garrisons, nearly 1500 persons. In all of the frontier settlements there was a large element of mulattoes and mestizoes.
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