Nuestra Señora del Rosario Mission

By: Kathleen Kirk Gilmore

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: August 11, 2020

Nuestra Señora del Rosario Mission, Goliad County, so named by Capt. Manuel Ramírez de la Piscina of nearby Presidio La Bahía for the church in his native town in Spain, was also known as Nuestra Señora del Rosario de los Cujanes, Misión del Santísimo Rosario, and Misión del Rosario. It was established in November 1754 by Father Juan de Dios Camberos of the College of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas in an attempt to make peace with the various Karankawan tribes-the Cujanes, Copanes, Guapites, and Karankawas proper-who did not get along with the other Indians at the already existing missions. The site on the San Antonio River four miles west of Goliad was given to the Goliad State Park Commission by W. J. O'Connor in 1935. It is not open to the public.

The Karankawa group had been troublesome to the Spaniards since the early eighteenth century, and there was the constant fear that the French would control them and their lands. Captain Ramírez loaned nine soldiers as guard and for assistance in construction. The first buildings were made of timber and whitewashed clay; later, stone and mortar were used. Indians came to the mission from time to time but were reluctant to stay, especially when supplies gave out. They were difficult to control, and the fathers complained of their indolence. As of 1758 only twenty-one had been baptized. By 1768, at Father Gaspar José de Solís's visit, 200 Indians had been baptized, 100 buried, and thirty-five couples married. After an unsuccessful attempt at agriculture, the mission had developed a ranch with 5,000 cattle, 400 milk cows, and 700 sheep and goats by 1768. In 1780 the number of cattle reached 30,000. The Indians came to the mission in the winter, but most left when spring came and they could produce their own food. In 1778 the Karankawas massacred a group of Spanish sailors and fled but were pardoned by the authorities soon after, with the exception of the leaders of the assault force, who subsequently proceeded to cause further trouble at the mission by abducting other Indians and setting fires. By 1781 the mission was virtually abandoned, and the ornaments and cattle were turned over to Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga Mission. Father José Mariano Reyes reopened the mission in 1789; that year he reported 50,000 cattle. He built a small hut for himself and a log chapel among the mission ruins. In 1791 he was replaced by Father José Francisco Juadenes, who began rebuilding the mission structures. A new church of stone and plaster was completed that year. The Indians had argued for a mission closer to their homes, and as a result Nuestra Señora del Refugio Mission was established in 1792. In 1797 all the Cocos at Rosario went to Refugio. By 1804 the buildings were in need of repair, especially after heavy rains caused part of the front to collapse. After failing to obtain money for repairs, Father Huerta, the missionary in charge, took the remaining Indians and went to Refugio. On February 7, 1807, Rosario was formally combined with Refugio. Since the secularization order of 1794 exempted missions Rosario, Refugio, and Espíritu Santo, Rosario was not secularized until 1828, the order being executed in 1831.

Large-scale archeological work was done for nine months in 1940–41 under National Park Service auspices. Most records of this work cannot be found. Some of the artifacts from the excavations are stored at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at the J. J. Pickle Research Campus of the University of Texas at Austin. A few artifacts, including two sand molds for casting metal, are at Goliad State Historical Park. In 1972–73 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department sponsored excavations for twenty-four weeks. Evidence was found of four building phases. Numerous grave outlines were recorded. Artifacts found were aboriginal pottery (some of which are Rockport ware and Goliad ware), stone artifacts (mainly tools), Spanish Colonial blue-on-white and polychrome majolica, gun parts, gun flints, trade beads, and metal objects. Bones recovered indicate the use of deer, antelope, and fish as well as cattle. Large and medium-size adult cattle bones may represent the early development of the Longhorn breed. These are stored at the University of North Texas. In addition, a section of wall with polychrome murals was found; it is on display at Goliad State Historical Park.

Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed. and trans., Athanase de Mézières and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1768–1780 (2 vols., Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark, 1914). Herbert Eugene Bolton, Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1915; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Kathleen Gilmore, Mission Rosario: Archeological Investigation (Austin: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 1974). Lawrence Kinnaird, The Frontiers of New Spain: Nicolas de Lafora's Description (Berkeley, California: Quivira Society, 1958). Lawrence Kinnaird, Spain in the Mississippi Valley, 1765–1794 (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1949). Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673–1779 (2 vols., Albuquerque: Quivira Society, 1935; rpt., New York: Arno, 1967). Kathryn Stoner O'Connor, The Presidio La Bahía del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, 1721 to 1846 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1966). Gaspar José de Solís, "Diary," trans. Margaret Kenny Kress, Southwestern Historical Quarterly 35 (July 1931). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968). Robert S. Weddle and Robert H. Thonhoff, Drama and Conflict: The Texas Saga of 1776 (Austin: Madrona, 1976).

  • Exploration
  • Missions, Presidios, and Camps
  • Religion
  • Catholic
  • Architecture
  • Missions
  • Presidios
  • Pueblos
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

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

Kathleen Kirk Gilmore, “Nuestra Señora del Rosario Mission,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 11, 2020

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