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Last Franciscan in early Texas relinquishes missions


On this day in 1830, José Antonio Díaz de León, the last Franciscan missionary in prerepublic Texas, reluctantly complied with the Mexican state government decree that missions be secularized--that is, turned over to diocesan authorities. Díaz de León had been appointed ad interim president of all the Texas missions in 1820, three years before the Mexican government ordered their final secularization. Díaz de León declined to comply without instructions from his superiors in Zacatecas, the first in a series of delays that lasted seven years. Díaz de León surrendered the San Antonio missions to the Diocese of Monterrey in 1824. In 1826 he was officially named president of the Texas missions. But Anglo settlers wanted the mission properties, and in 1829 the town of Goliad (formerly La Bahía) obtained a new decree to enforce secularization. Díaz de León continued to resist, but on February 8, 1830, he finally surrendered the last remaining missions. The mission lands, as he had expected, were soon made available to colonists. The bishop of Monterrey assigned him a parish post in Nacogdoches. Díaz de León was murdered on November 4, 1834. He was the thirty-first, and last, Zacatecan missionary to die in Texas. In 1926 the German author Robert Streit published a historical novel about Díaz de León; the work remains untranslated.

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