San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz Mission

By: Donald E. Chipman

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: February 12, 2019

After the destruction of Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission in March 1758, Spanish presence at the site of the future Menard, Texas, was reduced to the military outpost of San Luis de las Amarillas. The presidio commander, Col. Diego Ortiz Parrilla, was relieved of command in 1760, after his defeat in the disastrous Red River campaign of the previous year. His replacement was Felipe de Rábago y Terán, the infamous former captain of the San Gabriel presidio, who had languished in prison over the previous eight years. Rábago carried instructions from Viceroy Marqués de Cruillas to explore lands between the San Saba River and New Mexico, with the objective of establishing Spanish presence in a region that was threatened by the French. But results of the new commander's reconnaissances, coupled with the entreaties of Lipan Apache chieftains, persuaded him to ignore the viceroy's directive and to found a settlement on the upper Nueces River. Therein lay a serious problem that plagued the undertaking, for the viceroy steadfastly refused to provide badly needed financial support. The agreed-upon site, situated about halfway between San Sabá and San Juan Bautista, was called El Cañón. Initially, the settlement of San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz was founded, and a mission with the same name was set up on January 23, 1762. Stationed at the religious outpost were fathers Diego Jiménez and Joaquín de Baños, as well as a garrison of twenty soldiers detached from the presidio at San Sabá. Although the mission attracted 400 Indians within a week, the priests soon perceived that the Apaches had no real interest in conversion. Rather, the natives viewed the site as a haven from their enemies, for the Spaniards would serve as their defenders. The mission complex itself included a square plaza of seventy varas (sixty-four yards) on each side, which was surrounded by poorly constructed walls that provided some security. The mission came under attack by 300 Comanches and their allies in October 1766, followed by a second assault in the following month, but both were repulsed. When the Marqués de Rubí visited San Lorenzo in July 1767, he was highly critical of it and the nearby mission, Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria del Cañón. In Rubí's judgment, there was no hope for converting the Apaches, and he recommended that both missions be abandoned. That sentiment was echoed by Jacobo de Ugarte y Loyola, governor of Coahuila, in April 1770. The official date of closure for the El Cañón missions was set at June 21, 1771, but in actuality they had been abandoned before that date. The remains of mission San Lorenzo have been excavated by Curtis D. Tunnell. They are located at the north edge of Camp Wood "on a low ridge which runs parallel to the east bank of the Nueces River" in Real County.

Hons Coleman Richards, The Establishment of the Candelaria and San Lorenzo Missions on the Upper Nueces (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1936). Curtis D. Tunnell and William W. Newcomb, A Lipan Apache Mission: San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz (Austin: Texas Memorial Museum, 1969). Robert S. Weddle, The San Sabá Mission (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964).

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

Donald E. Chipman, “San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz Mission,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 12, 2019

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