San Clemente Mission

By: Mary M. Standifer

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 19, 2017

San Clemente was a temporary mission established by the expedition of Juan Domínguez de Mendoza while it was camped on a river named the "Glorious San Clemente," from March 16 to May 1, 1684. Interpretations of Mendoza's route have placed the mission variously on the Colorado River west of Ballinger (Herbert Eugene Bolton), near the confluence of the Concho and Colorado rivers (Carlos E. Castañeda), and on the South Llano River (Jesse W. Williams). The most recent study, by Seymour V. Connor, locates the mission on the San Saba River west of Menard. After calculating the approximate location of the mission, Connor discovered in the vicinity the remains of a massive stone ruin that matched Mendoza's description. Excavation in 1968 uncovered remarkably few items, suggesting that the site, although requiring significant manpower for its construction, was occupied only briefly. During their six-week stay at San Clemente the Spaniards were joined by 2,000 to 3,000 Indians, most of whom were baptized by the two priests accompanying Mendoza. After several attacks by the Apaches from the north and the Salineros from Nueva Vizcaya, the Spaniards abandoned the mission. Despite the desire of Mendoza and Father Nicolás López to return and establish a permanent mission, the appearance of the La Salle expedition on the Texas coast in 1685 persuaded the Spanish government to concentrate its energies in East Texas instead.

Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542–1706 (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Seymour V. Connor, "The Mendoza-López Expedition and the Location of San Clemente," West Texas Historical Association Yearbook 45 (1969). Juan Domínguez de Mendoza, Diary (transcript, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin). J. W. Williams, "New Conclusions on the Route of Mendoza, 1683–1684," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 38 (1962).

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

Mary M. Standifer, “San Clemente Mission,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 19, 2017

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