" / > " / > Wanderlist: Missions of Mercy|December 2019| TPW magazine
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Missions of Mercy

By Justin Wood and Mary Schmidt


Texas’ missions were built to join indigenous communities with the Spanish church and state. The missions established autonomous Christian towns with communal property, labor, worship and political life. The dozen remaining missions feature beautiful, simple Spanish-American architecture; others have been lost to time, so the location can be indicated only by a historical marker. Travel back to the 17th and 18th centuries and view iconic Texas missions for yourself.
Photo by Chase Fountain / TPWD

SOCORRO MISSION • SOCORRO

 328 S Nevarez Road | Socorro, TX

Following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, refugees from New Mexico established a new home in Socorro, a name dedicated to the place they had fled. The original structure was finished in 1682 but was relocated several times because of the Rio Grande’s frequent flooding. Over the years Socorro grew into a successful agricultural community, mostly focusing on cotton. Still an active Roman Catholic Church, Socorro has had an expansive restoration, including a repaired bell tower and interior.

Photo by Chase Fountain / TPWD

MISSION SAN ANTONIO DE VALERO (THE ALAMO) • SAN ANTONIO

 300 Alamo Plaza | San Antonio, TX

Established by Franciscan missionaries in 1718, the Alamo was the first of many missions constructed along the San Antonio River. After moving twice, the Alamo found a permanent home in 1724. The mission remained active until 1793. Twenty years later, 100 Spanish soldiers arrived to reinforce Spain’s San Antonio garrison. Nicknamed “The Alamo Company” because of their former station at Alamo de Parra, they provided the mission with its name. Over the next three decades, the Alamo was occupied by a multitude of groups, including commander William Travis and his small group of Texas revolutionaries who defended the Alamo in Texas’ most famous battle.

Photo by Chase Fountain / TPWD

MISSION CONCEPCIÓN • SAN ANTONIO

 807 Mission Road | San Antonio, TX

Originally established in East Texas in 1716, Mission Concepción moved to its present site in 1731. Intended as a buffer against the French, the mission became home to a Native American population and was eventually occupied by Texas revolutionary forces. Texian Col. James Bowie and his men won an important victory over Mexican troops in the 1835 Battle of Concepción. Relatively unchanged in appearance, Mission Concepción now stands as the oldest unrestored church in the United States, a perfect example of Spanish Colonial-era architecture.

Photo © Al Braden

YSLETA MISSION • EL PASO COUNTY

 131 S Zaragoza Rd | El Paso, TX

Like the nearby Socorro Mission, the Ysleta Mission was founded by refugees from the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The Franciscans and Tigua Indians settled on a spot on the Rio Grande that was, unfortunately, prone to flooding. After a major 1829 flood that damaged almost all El Paso missions, the Rio Grande essentially changed its course — missions previously south of the Rio Grande now found themselves north of the river’s bank. Ysleta remodeling began in 1897; more followed a 1907 fire. Ysleta continues operations today.

Photo by Sonja Sommerfeld / TPWD

MISSION ESPÍRITU SANTO • GOLIAD

 108 Park Road 6 | Goliad, TX

Mission Espíritu Santo was constructed in 1722 on Matagorda Bay. Several relocations later, the mission found its permanent home near Goliad, where it is now part of Goliad State Park and Historic Site. The mission was home to many Native American groups, mostly for protection from the raids of other tribes, and became one of the first large-scale cattle ranches in the Texas area. Raids began to wear the mission’s residents down, and in 1794 the mission was ordered to secularize. TPWD gained control of the site in 1931 and began restoration efforts.


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