San Francisco de la Junta Pueblo

By: Rosalind Z. Rock

Type: General Entry

Published: January 1, 1996

The Indian pueblo at the junction of the Río Conchos and Rio Grande near the site of present-day Ojinaga, Chihuahua, and Presidio, Texas, was first named Santo Tomás when it was described by Antonio de Espejo in 1582. At that time 600 people of the Abriache nation are believed to have lived there. The pueblo was located across the Río Conchos from the pueblo of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. The pueblo was first referred to as San Francisco at the time of the 1683–84 entrada by Friar Nicolás López and Juan Domínguez de Mendoza, who came with their retinue in answer to the petition of Indians at La Junta de los Ríos asking for missionaries. Domínguez de Mendoza, in his account of the expedition into the La Junta region, described the area at San Francisco as less than conducive to a mission, there not being even enough wood to build a cross. Presumably a crude church had been erected there in anticipation of the missionaries' arrival, for López had made the building of churches and houses for the missionaries a condition of his coming. San Francisco, one of the larger pueblos at La Junta, would have been among the first to have such accommodations. The expedition, however, moved on and found Apostol Santiago more to their liking.

When Sargento Mayor Juan Antonio de Trasviña Retis visited the area in 1715 the pueblo was called San Francisco de la Junta. It was located at the river junction southwest of the Rio Grande and northwest of the Río Conchos. Trasviña Retis described it as composed of three settlements, each about 300 yards from its neighbor. A church constructed of reeds and mud was located outside the pueblo. It needed repair and lacked a friary and cells for the missionaries. The pueblo had a population of 180, Fray Gregorio Osorio and Fray Juan Antonio García wrote to their superior from their station at San Francisco; they reported that the missionaries were installed at La Junta with help and supplies from Trasviña Retis. A report dated June 1, 1715, recorded that a number of Indians came to San Francisco to hear Mass. Trasviña Retis had used the rundown church and urged the missionaries and Indians to work together to build a more permanent adobe structure, along with buildings to house the missionaries. By the following year six more missionaries were at La Junta. Indian hostilities led to the abandonment of the missions in 1717, but they were reoccupied shortly thereafter and not abandoned again until 1725. During this time missionaries to La Junta served in the area seasonally, spending the rest of the year in Chihuahua. This practice later gave rise to accusations that missionaries sent to proselytize at La Junta were not fulfilling their calling, although the effort continued into the 1740s, when various entradas recorded that the missions in the area had been abandoned.

In 1747 three expeditions, led by Capt. Joseph de Ydoiaga, Pedro de Rábago y Terán, and Capt. Fermín Vidaurre, came to La Junta. When Ydoiaga arrived on November 24, 1747, he found only two priests serving the Indians of the area. According to a census of remaining missions, San Francisco de la Junta had a population of 217. Most of these Indians were Julimes or Oposmes, though fifty were Tecolotes from farther up the Rio Grande. In 1759 Capt. Alonso Rubín de Celis, in his expedition to build the long-awaited presidio at La Junta, located San Francisco three leagues down the Rio Grande from the Río Conchos. Like earlier explorers in the area, Rubín de Celis claimed to be able to see the pueblo of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe located on another hill across the Río Conchos, yet neither river was crossed. Therefore, it may be concluded that San Francisco lay southwest of the Rio Grande and northwest of the Río Conchos near their junction. Bishop Pedro Tamarón y Romeral, reporting his visitation to La Junta in 1765, placed San Francisco at the river junction but closer to the Conchos than to the Rio Grande. He located it on the west bank of the Conchos about a half league across that river from Guadalupe. In his census of San Francisco, Tamarón listed forty-two families resident, for a total of 167 people. In 1771 Nicolás de Lafora placed San Francisco at the site of the present-day settlement of San Francisco de la Junta. Debris and other signs of early occupation have been found near this modern site, where residents believe a church once stood.

In the Spanish historical record the pueblo of San Francisco is sometimes confused with the village and presidio of San Francisco de los Conchos located some fifty-eight leagues further south along the Río Conchos. The confusion is compounded by the fact that the presidio there for years was supposed to help maintain the peace in a vast stretch along the Conchos, including the settlements at La Junta. The presidio of San Francisco de los Conchos, albeit a considerable distance from La Junta, did aid in the protection of the area, allowing what missionary activity there was, until the establishment of a presidio at La Junta on the south side of the Rio Grande in 1760 and its reestablishment there in the 1770s. Archeological investigations by J. Charles Kelley have demonstrated that Indians of La Junta occupied the site of San Francisco from A.D. 1200 to the 1760s. In 1761 about half the Indians living at La Junta fled to escape harsh government by officials associated with the presidio. This loss of population may have led to the abandonment of the presidio in 1767. After Hugo Oconór's inspection of the area in the early 1770s the presidio was again occupied. By the 1790s Spanish policy on the frontier emphasized secularization of missions. Those remaining at La Junta complied. The fate of the Indians of San Francisco was the same as that of the inhabitants of other pueblos at La Junta. Perhaps some joined the Apaches or fled to live with kindred tribes further south along the Conchos. A majority may have mingled with the Spanish settlers and been assimilated to make up part of the population of La Junta today. See also LOMA ALTA SITE, MILLINGTON SITE.

Howard G. Applegate and C. Wayne Hanselka, La Junta de los Ríos del Norte y Conchos (Southwestern Studies 41, El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1974). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). J. Charles Kelley, "The Historic Indian Pueblos of La Junta de Los Rios," New Mexico Historical Review 27, 28 (October 1952, January 1953).

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

Rosalind Z. Rock, “San Francisco de la Junta Pueblo,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996

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