Agustín de Campos

San Ignacio de Cabúrica
San Ignacio

Ginny Sphar

The lean years following the death of Padre Kino might have been lost years had it not been for the labors of one man, a man whose ministry to the Pimas lasted nearly twice as long as Kino’s. Augustín de Campos operated effectively from mission San Ignacio, 25 leagues south of Guevavi.
He was born in 1669 in Sijena, province of Huesca, Spain, and had been a Jesuit since he was 15. Father Augustín sailed for the New World at age 23 and began his ministry at San Ignacio in 1693 at age 24. After 18 years in the field he was only 42 when he buried Kino.
That many of the Pimas did maintain contact with Christianity during the difficult years after Kino’s death was due to the constant efforts of Father Augustín de Campos. Almost annually, he organized expeditions, similar to Kino’s, first to the west and then to the north. He was apparently neither geographer nor cartographer and didn’t accept Kino’s proof that Baja California was not an island.
Nonetheless, according to his co-worker Luis Xavier Velarde, he was well prepared to save souls. One needed only to consider “his command of the native language, his saintly industry, the love and respect which the Pimas have for him, the various other means of conversion dictated by his prudence, zeal and experience and the knowledge he has of the Indians.”
After Kino’s death, when the people of Guevavi felt the urge for a change of scene or were hungry, they came to Campos at San Ignacio and were baptized, married and fed.
In Spain dynastic wars were costing mighty sums of money. When the Spanish treasury suffered, missionary reinforcements for the non-strategic areas were a long time coming. Campos carried on without them.
Between 1716 and 1720 he baptized 1,004 souls. During the same period, Father Velarde, who succeeded Kino at Dolores, Remedios and Cocóspera welcomed his share of visitors from the north. So few Padres and so many heathens. Campos did admit that the native population of the Pimería was being lessened because of killing Old-World diseases.
Campos and Velarde dutifully concentrated on the spiritual salvation of the young and the infirm. There simply was not enough time to catechize healthy adults. “May God Our Lord favor us with the needed workers,” prayed Father Augustín, “and me, now at age 51, with the needed strength, mine having been somewhat broken by 27 years in the Pimería.
At Ímuris, near San Ignacio, on January 17, 1722, Father Augustín first baptized and then married a couple from Guevavi. When the Padre felt up to it he went north to carry out these services to them. He was at the head of an entourage of native officials and other helpers, and accompanied by Fray Joseph Durán de la Pena “a lay brother of the Order of Saint Hippolytus.”
Campos rode into Guevavi on March 5, 1722, and baptized 18 children. The next day the group trooped to San Cayetano de Tumacácori. There 27 more infants were baptized. At San Xavier del Bac people were gathering. They came from San Augustín de Tucson and from Casa Grande. Nearly 100 children lined up to be baptized. Next the caravan doubled back and they went to the southeast through Sópori and Arivaca to Tucubavia.
“Because of the sicknesses which are spreading and the smallpox which is already on its way” wrote Campos in the San Ignacio book of baptisms, “I left this mission of San Ignacio on February 24 to visit my children of the north. . . .” Four days later he was at Guevavi, apparently ahead of the scourge. Through holy baptism he insured 19 more children against death without hope. The year was 1724.
Since his last visit, father Campos, like Kino, had ridden the 600 leagues to Mexico City and back again, 3,000 miles in all, to explain certain rash and “intemperate” letters he had written to his Father Visitor and, while there, to further as best he could the cause of Pimería Alta.
He had explained to his superiors the need for more Padres, and he listened to their excuses. He wanted a 100-man presidio on the lower Gila which would serve as a link with California. To secure the Gila would be to secure the northern Pimería, and from there they could more easily reach the Moqui or Hopi pueblos. Kino would have been pleased.
The early years of the 1720s were years of strife in Sonora. The Jesuits and an element of the military and civilian populace were at it again. Chief detractor of the Padres, and consequently their chief target, was the grafter, Don Gregorio Álvarez Tuñón y Quirós, Captain of the garrison at Fronteras. He and his associates, hopeful of a massive land grab and cheap Indian labor, petitioned to have the Jesuits removed and their missions secularized.
Other men of Sonoran affairs came to the Jesuits defense and an uneasy impasse resulted. Not until late 1726 when the military Inspector General, Don Pedro de Rivera, reformed the presidio of Fronteras and ousted Don Gregorio did the missionaries breathe easier. The presidio’s new Captain, Don Juan Bautista de Anza, was a staunch friend of the frontier Padres, as was his more famous son and namesake after him.
In higher circles the Inspector General’s praise of the Jesuit missionary effort in Sonora both scotched the talk of secularization and lent weight to the pleas for more Padres. Bishop Crespo urged the Viceroy and the Father Provincial to send three more ministers to Pimería Alta. When they didn’t move fast enough, he wrote to the King. Apparently the Bishop was convincing.
While the case for more missionaries was considered by the King’s ministers, Fathers Campos and Velarde carried on. During Holy Week of 1726, Campos on his way to the Gila paused to christen 25 natives at Tumacácori. Just north of San Cayetano near the river, Campos and his following took a siesta. Here, because another baby was brought forward for baptism, Father Campos recorded the name of the ranchería, perhaps for the first time. Tubac it was called.
After April of 1730, 26 Jesuits set sail for New Spain. On February 2, 1731, they landed at Havana Harbor. In April they crossed to Vera Cruz. Then they set out by muleback to Mexico City. From there three of the Jesuits, one Swiss, one Moravian and an Austrian, were slated for duty in the Pimería. The three rode north in mid-June of 1731 (Fathers Segesser, Keller and Grazhoffer). On October 7, 1731, they met, among others, the two oldest missionaries, doubtless Spaniards Campos and Velarde, at the Ópata mission of Cuquiárachi. They were matched with the three vacant missions, Guevavi, San Xavier and Santa Maria Suamca.
Nearly three decades without resident Padres had gone far toward obliterating the beginnings so carefully nurtured in those places by Father Kino.
Because the dwellings built in his time were so dilapidated, it was decided that each newcomer should spend several months at the mission of a veteran learning Piman and their ways. At the same time Captain Anza would personally supervise the building of a small house and the planting of a plot of wheat at each of their assigned posts.
Father Johann Baptist Grazhoffer came to Guevavi finally to take over the ministry that Campos was doing from San Ignacio.
On July 31, 1732, the three new missionaries were the guests of Father Campos at San Ignacio in observing the Feast Day of Ignatius Loyola. They also gave an account of their progress to date.
Felipe Segesser stayed on to look after Campos, who was suffering from a “persistent kind of dysentery.” For the next several months, Segesser seemed to divide his time between San Ignacio and San Xavier, passing back and forth through Guevavi.
When the elderly Campos, whose mind had begun to cloud, was finally dislodged from San Ignacio by order of his superiors, Father Gaspar Stiger rode down from Bac to replace him.
Father Campos died on July 24, 1737, at the Opata mission of Santa María de Baseraca.


To learn more about Padre Campos go to Mission 2000 by clicking (here) and following the blue ID numbers. To return to Jesuit Missionaries, click (here).

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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