Excavations at the Alamo Shrine [page 3]

II. Historical Background

The history of the Alamo has been long and involved, spanning more than 250 years and it has shaped the lives of many peoples with differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds through a series of turbulent historical events. The Alamo Shrine, originally a mission church, dates from 1744, when the cornerstone was laid; but it is the end product of earlier developments which began in 1700 in what is now the State of Coahuila in northeastern Mexico.

Expansion of the northeastern frontier of New Spain in the 17th century principally began with military expeditions. These were followed by the coming of the missionaries and miners, and eventually the ranchers and sttlers. The Indian mission, and the military presidio often established nearby to protect the mission, were important institutions of Spanish frontier policy. The imperial policy was aimed at controlling the region and its inhabitants by a peculiar combination of armed force and gentle persuasion (Almaraz, 1979).

Although the secular clergy generally looked after the spiritual needs of the Spanish soldiers and settlers, the mendicant friars were given the task of instructing and converting the native Americans in a plan designed to eventually produce useful Christian citizens. The establishment of Indian missions on the frontier was therefore the responsibility of the Mendicant Orders, notably the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and the Jesuits (Jones, 1974).

The Franciscans were the first-mission builders (McAndrew 1969:134), and one of the areas where they ventured in search of needy souls and to establish missions was in northeastern Mexico and Texas.- After establishing the Franciscan Apostolic College of Santa Cruz de Queretaro in 1683, where missionaries were trained for frontier service, the friars began venturing northward.

The appearance of French interlopers on the Texas coast in the 1680s stimulated the Spanish authorities to send military expeditions into eastern Texas (then claimed by Spain), to investigate and evict any French intruders found. Accompanying the military forays were Franciscan friars Damian Massanet and Francisco Hidalgo, who would establish Mission San Francisco de los Tejas and other east Texas missions on the Neches, Guadalupe, and Red Rivers in the 1690s (Yoakum 1855:45-46). Those making the long and strenuous journey from Queretaro to east Texas crossed changing terrain and many rivers and creeks, but there were two places along the way that the missionaries noted with special enthusiasm as favored locations to establish missions. One was near the Paso de Francia crossing the Rio Grande del Norte, and the other was farther to the north on the Rio San Antonio. Both of these locations would eventually become the sites of important missions and Spanish settlement. It was near the Rio Grande that the history of the Alamo began.

In 1699, after a short and unsuccessful attempt to operate the newly founded mission San Juan Bautista on the Rio de Sabinas north of Monclova, Mexico, Franciscan friars Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares, Marcos de Guerena, and Francisco Hidalgo, moved their new mission farther to the north to locate it in the Valle de la Circumcision, where there were freshwater springs and preferred

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