Massanet, Damian (unknown–unknown)

By: Donald E. Chipman

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 1, 1995

Damián Massanet, founder of the first Spanish mission in East Texas, was born in Spain, most likely in Majorca. Information concerning his place of birth, family, and early life is not available. After ordination, Massanet was among twenty-four Franciscan priests who crossed the Atlantic in 1683 to help found the missionary College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro. By the late 1680s he had moved to the mining and cattle frontier of northern New Spain. Between Monclova and a mining camp known as Boca de Leones, Massanet had set up Mission San Bernardino de la Caldera near the border of Nuevo León. In 1689 he accompanied Gov. Alonso De León in the successful search for René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle's Fort St. Louis, and the next year he assisted in the establishment of San Francisco de los Tejas mission. Massanet, although placed in charge of missionary work in East Texas, did not remain there. He differed with De León over the size of the military guard left at Mission San Francisco, and from Mexico filed a report that was critical of the veteran commander. Massanet returned to East Texas with Domingo Terán de los Ríos in 1691, and he quarreled once again with civil authority. In this instance, Massanet refused to release horses from San Francisco de los Tejas Mission that were needed by Governor Terán for the return trip to Mexico, and the animals had to be commandeered. Difficulties with the Tejas Indians as well as problems with floods, failed crops, and shortages of necessary supplies, doomed the first missions in East Texas. On October 25, 1693, Massanet and the surviving priests set fire to the remaining mission, San Francisco de los Tejas, and left for Coahuila. The small party lost its bearings for several weeks and did not reach Monclova until February 17, 1694. At that juncture, the viceroy of New Spain requested that Father Massanet suggest additional mission sites to be developed in northern Coahuila, but the padre declined-arguing that he had recommended sites on other occasions, only to see that without necessary supplies and governmental support such plans were futile. Massanet, along with the other missionaries from East Texas, returned to his missionary college in Querétaro, and it seems probable that he spent his remaining years at the College of Santa Cruz.

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–1958; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519–1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).
  • Exploration
  • Explorers (Spanish)
  • Religion
  • Catholic
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

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

Donald E. Chipman, “Massanet, Damian,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995

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