Chaves, Francisco Xavier (ca. 1760–1832)

By: Elizabeth A.H. John and Jesús "Frank" de la Teja

Type: Biography

Published: January 27, 2016

Soldier–interpreter and explorer Francisco Xavier Chaves played a prominent role in bringing about peace agreements with the Comanches and Norteños in the latter half of the 1780s and served as envoy and intermediary between the Spanish and Mexican governments and various Indian groups in the decades that followed. Chaves was born in the Atrisco Valley near Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Ignacio Chaves and Gregoria Maese in about 1760. Captured by Comanches before the age of ten, he was sold to Taovayas in the 1770s after his adoptive mother died. Chaves spent the remainder of his formative years living among the Taovayas along the banks of the Red River near present-day Montague County.

In 1784, while participating in a raid by a large party of young warriors in the San Antonio area, he abandoned the Taovayas and presented himself to Governor Domingo Cabello y Robles. His fluency in the Comanche and Wichita languages made him immediately valuable to the governor, who was attempting to forge peace with the Comanches. Chaves assisted Pedro Vial in a mission to the eastern Comanches in 1785 that succeeded in pledges of peace, and he helped translate between Cabello and three Comanche chiefs assigned to negotiate the critically important Spanish-Comanche Treaty of 1785 (see INDIAN RELATIONS). He continued serving as a hired intermediary with Native American groups until 1788, when a billet opened in the presidio company of Béxar and he was able to enlist.

Chaves performed most of his military service, which lasted from 1788 until 1829, at San Antonio, with the exception of a six-year assignment to Presidio de San Juan Bautista del Río Grande between 1794 and 1800. In 1814 he was officially transferred to Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía, but soon was detached to San Antonio, where he continued serving until retirement. Although illiterate at the time of his enlistment, he must have acquired sufficient education to make him eligible for promotion to second lieutenant in 1828 retroactive to 1822, the year he accompanied a Tonkawa delegation to Saltillo to meet with Gaspar López, commandant general of the Eastern Internal Provinces. He retired as a first lieutenant the following year. The absence of evidence to the contrary, Chaves appears to have remained loyal to the Crown during the revolutionary episodes that engulfed Texas between 1811 and 1813 (see CASAS REVOLT and GUTIÉRREZ-MAGEE EXPEDITION).

Chaves married first Juana Padrón, by whom he had at least six children, including Ignacio, who served as a local public official in San Antonio during the Mexican period. Juana Padron died in 1817, and Chaves married Micaela Fragoso, by whom he fathered five children. Francisco Xavier Chaves died in his home in San Antonio in 1832.

Bexar Archives, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Ty Cashion and Jesús F. de la Teja, eds., The Human Tradition in Texas (Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 2001). Donald E. Chipman and Harriett Denise Joseph, Notable Men and Women of Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999). 

  • Exploration
  • Explorers (Spanish)
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Guides, Scouts, and Interpreters
  • Military
  • Soldiers
  • Mexican Americans
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Elizabeth A.H. John and Jesús "Frank" de la Teja, “Chaves, Francisco Xavier,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 27, 2016

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: