San Ildefonso Mission

By: Kathleen Kirk Gilmore

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: February 12, 2019

The second of three San Xavier missions, which also included Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria and San Francisco Xavier de Horcasitas, was founded by the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro through the work of Father Mariano Francisco de los Dolores y Viana. It was begun on December 27, 1748, and formally established on February 25, 1749. It was located on the south bank of the San Gabriel River (then known as the San Xavier River) near the mouth of Brushy Creek (Arroyo de las Animas) about five miles from the site of present-day Rockdale in Milam County. Gathered at this site were Akokisa (Orocquisa), Bidai, and Deadose Indians, who spoke a similar dialect and intermarried. These Indians had extensive trading contacts with the French, and when the mission ran out of food the soldiers and missionaries were forced to trade with the Indians for supplies. Missionaries claimed this undermined their authority with their neophytes. A group of Coco Indians was also gathered here awaiting establishment of a separate mission (Candelaria), but they fled in March 1749 because of harassment from soldiers sent to protect the missions. The remaining Indian groups, unable to adjust to sedentary mission life, left the mission in October 1749. Missionaries managed to recongregate the Indians by the time of Capt. José Joaquín de Ecay Múzquiz's visit in 1750. They also reported baptizing 150 souls. Shortly after the captain's inspection the Indians abandoned this mission to join their allies in a campaign against the Apaches. The missionary in charge of San Ildefonso, Father Juan José Ganzabal, was killed at Mission Candelaria in 1752. This incident did much to destroy the morale of both the missionaries and the soldiers of the San Xavier missions. When the Bidais tried to return to the mission in 1753, the fathers sent them back to their lands because the mission lacked supplies to keep them. In August 1755 unsalubrious conditions at the site forced the missions and the presidio to withdraw to the San Marcos River. In 1756 the property of San Ildefonso Mission was transfered to Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission. A historical marker in Milam County commemorates the mission.

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). K. K. Gilmore, The San Xavier Missions: A Study in Historical Site Identification (State Building Commission Report 16, Austin, 1969). Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673–1779 (2 vols., Albuquerque: Quivira Society, 1935; rpt., New York: Arno, 1967). Robert S. Weddle, The San Sabá Mission (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964).

  • 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, “San Ildefonso Mission,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 12, 2019

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