May 1, 2022

Daily Dose of Texas History - May 1, 1718 San Antonio is founded

Daily Dose of Texas History - May 1, 1718 San Antonio is founded

We celebrate May 1, 1718 as the day that San Antonio had its beginnings.

The site had already been a very important one for a very long time. For the Coahuiltecans it was home and a sacred site. San Pedro Springs and the San Antonio river were sacred waters for the Coahuiltecans.

Spanish explorers had visited the area several times before, but it was in 1718 that the governor of Coahuila y Tejas, Martín de Alarcón, received instructions to found a mission, presidio, and settlement on the San Antonio River. He set out from San Juan Bautista in April.

Andalusian Spain born Father Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares was supposed to have traveled with Alarcon but due to some kind of disagreement and chose to travel separately.

 Olivares had already been to the area in 1709 when he accompanied Pedro de Aguirre’s expedition north as chaplain. On that trip they reached the site of San Antonio which was the location of a Payaya Indian village at San Pedro Springs known as Yanaguana. He worked for years to get permission to return to Yanaguana to set up a mission. And in 1718 it happened.

Father Olivares arrived on May 1, 1718, the day that Governor Martin de Alarcon formally founded Mission San Antonio de Valero. Two different witnesses give different locations. One says that it was about three quarters of a league down the creek from San Pedro Springs, about two miles. Another says it was only about a mile down the creek. Both agree that it was on the west bank. It would be moved a few times until reaching its current location.

The Mission was named after Portuguese Catholic priest Fernando Martins de Bulhões who lived between 1195-1231 and was canonized as Saint Antonio (Anthony) of Padua by Pope Gregory IX on May 30, 1232. 

Father Olivares began his mission work his missionary work on the banks of the San Antonio River in a jacal or thatched hut, with three or four converted Indians. A diarist wrote that wrote that “The place in which we find ourselves is very pretty because of the woods near the spring.”

Writing in 1785, Fray Jose Francisco Lopez wrote that the mission was “founded with Indians of various nations, such as the Hierbipiames, Pataguas, Scipxames, Xaranames, Samas, Payatas (these last two were the principal ones), Yutas, Kiowas, Tovs, and Tamiques; but all these may be considered as Samas and Payas, whose language is in general use.”

The Mission relocated three times until it ultimately arrived at its current location in 1724. Four days later, on May 5, 1718, marks the founding of four days later by the nearby San Antonio de Béxar Presidio and the civil settlement, Villa de Béxar.

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