Francisco Xavier Pauer

San Xavier del Bac
San Xavier del Bac


Ginny Sphar

Father Pauer was born on January 6, 1721, in the town of Brno in Moravia. He was baptized Franz Bauer. When he was 16, he entered the Jesuit novitiate. After nearly a dozen years of study, he set out on February 1, 1749, from the college at nearby Olomouc. He reached the hospice at the Bay of Cádiz on May 12, 1749. By Spanish authorities, Father Francisco was described as “not well proportioned (de mal cuerpo), having clear swarthy skin, a thick nose and brown hair.”[1]

On January 16, 1750, he had passage aboard either the Corazón de Jesús or the Condé, a French trading ship flying the Spanish flag. Pauer and his companions disembarked at Vera Cruz on August 23, 1750. After a hasty Te Deum of Thanksgiving in the Jesuit church, they made directly for Mexico City

In the fall of 1750 ten Jesuits, including Father Francisco, set out for the northwest. They followed the west-coast corridor, traveling the entire length of the Jesuit’s northwest missionary empire.

From Guadalajara they rode mules over roads that one of Pauer’s companions believed were in general “still as they were in the year one after the creation of the world.”[2]

By late May 1751, Father Francisco had reached San Ignacio. After a briefing by Father Stiger he rode still farther north to San Xavier del Bac. When he had been missionary there for no more than a few months, he had to run for his life, because his Indians had caught the fever of the great rebellion. Since then he had been spurned by the natives of Guevavi. Yet later in 1753, for whatever reason, he wanted another chance with these Pimas and came to Guevavi.

Eagerly Father Pauer, on New Year’s Day 1754, embarked on a brief but productive visitation of his territory. He first baptized 34 Pima children at Tubac, 29 of them were brought by their parents from San Xavier del Bac. Riding beside Captain Beldarrain at the head of a column of Tubac soldiers, he returned to San Xavier almost as a conqueror. The people from whom he had fled two years before now swore obedience. He christened another 28 at Tucson, where Captain Beldarrain told the natives that their best course was “to live as Christians in peace and tranquility. Likewise in these places all of them demonstrated a true and loyal intention”[3]

Back in Tubac on January 6, 1754, the Padre added four more baptisms, and the next day another ten at Guevavi. In one week he had baptized 99 heathens, two fewer than had Garrucho in his first three years.

In a letter to Governor Arce y Arroyo, dated at Tubac January 6, 1754, Captain Beldarrain described his part in the successful renewal of missionary activity in Northern Pimería. So far he had not committed himself to having a military guard at Guevavi to protect the missionaries.

It was about this time that Father Pauer was on his way to Arizpe to reclaim certain of the Guevavi church furnishings that had been stored there during the troubles. As soon as the Padre returned, Beldarrain assured the Governor, he would provide as many soldiers as necessary for the Padre’s safety.[4]

In mid-February, Father Francisco returned, presumably bringing back, on pack mules, santos and vestments that had been taken there during the 1751 revolt.

Except for the patching and renovating made necessary by the revolt, his first months at Guevavi were routine and the Indians seemed to have resigned themselves to his presence.

Then one day in the spring of 1754 he got an urgent call to report to San Ignacio. The native revolt in Pimería Alta was far from dead. Luis Oacpicagigua was fanning the flame again. Bands of Pimas wearing Apache war caps were making a mockery of Ortiz Parrilla’s peace. They were stealing stock and even murdering vecinos. Immediate action was called for.

Governor Arce y Arroyo and Father Visitor Roxas came north to assess the threat, arriving at San Ignacio on April 24 and 26, 1754, respectively. To San Ignacio they summoned all the Padres of the Pimería—Pauer from Guevavi, Keller from Suamca and Vivas from Tubutama. Also present were Father Rector Stiger from San Ignacio and a new man on his way to Caborca, Father Alonso Espinosa.[5]

The frontier Captains of Sonora—Beldarrain of Tubac, Elías of Terrenate and Vildósola of Fronteras—joined the group. Only Captain Bernardo de Urrea of the presidio of Sinaloa, serving temporarily as Beldarrain’s replacement at nearby Santa Ana, was absent.[6] He was chasing malicious Indians.

Earlier, Luis Oacpicagigua and Luis of Pitic were brought in for questioning. On May 15 they removed Luis O. from the public jail to the “Casas de Communidad” where he was questioned by the three Captains. Luis Oacpicagigua claimed none of this was his doing. Next, they questioned Luis of Pitic. He said the original revolt was Luis Oacpicagigua’s fault, he merely followed orders. Since then he had been a good Indian. On May 16, the Captains suspended the interrogation until the next day. They had taken care to separate the two Indians.

Suddenly the soldier standing guard heard a commotion coming from Luis of Pitic’s cell. He had tried to hang himself and nearly succeeded. He said his crimes were so bad that he deserved death. He admitted that he bore some of the blame for the revolt of 1751. He knew it was wrong but he had gone with his relatives and killed the Padre at Caborca. The Captains asked why Luis Oacpicagigua of Sáric had called for the death of the Padre. Luis of Pitic recalled a harmless conversation with Luis of Saric. One that, in retrospect, took on ominous significance.

The two Luises were on the way home from a Seri campaign. They stopped to rest at El Tupo. There Luis of Saric asked Luis of Pitic if he knew how their relatives had killed the Padre of Caborca many years ago. Luis of Pitic said he did not, but Luis of Saric kept on asking questions. Now Luis of Pitic realized those questions were indicative of the Pima captain’s malice toward the missionaries. From that time on, Luis Oacpicagigua was plotting revolt and murder of the Padres.[7]

Luis of Pitic said Luis of Saric was planning another revolt, but was not going to include him because he was getting too friendly with Beldarrain. The Governor decided the best place for the two was in jail at Horcasitas. Fathers Pauer and Keller were the first to return to their missions.

Then, on May 20, 1754, the Governor and Roxas, along with 50 soldiers, set out to assess the state of Pimería Alta for themselves. They rode first to Caborca and found the Indians restless. They were telling the Indians that a new unity prevailed between the representatives of the King and God. As they traveled up the Altar Valley they saw charred ruins. They traveled south to Guevavi’s abandoned visita of Arivaca and east through the ranchería of Sópori, whose people “went to live at Guevavi.” On June 4, they arrived at the “new presidio” of Tubac.

The justicias of the villages of San Xavier and Tucson came to Tubac to swear allegiance and ask for a Padre. The Governor entrusted them with new sacred vessels and vestments for San Xavier mission, “where all was lost.” He told them a Padre was on the way but late the Father Visitor admitted that was doubtful. On June 7 and 8, 1754, the Governor and Father Visitor conducted an inspection of Guevavi. Neither house nor church was burned.

In August 1754, Father Francisco went to San Xavier and Tucson to preach and baptize. In October he fell ill and was taken to Suamca. Father Visitor General Utrera found him suffering from chills. Because of the difficulty of getting to Guevavi and Bac, Father Visitor accepted what Pauer told him about the two missions. Pauer recovered and once again was at Guevavi and Father Espinosa stayed with him while the Indians were building him a house at Bac.[8]

Early in 1755 Father Francisco journeyed to Arizpe. It was a special occasion. On February 2, 1755, he professed his final vows before Father Visitor Roxas.[9] He then traveled back to Guevavi. Then he was off to Bac to baptize more children and he may have told them of their new Padre’s coming. Then back to Guevavi.

For nearly 20 years, broken only by Pauer’s own brief stay in 1751 and the revolt, the more populous mission of San Xavier del Bac was administered as a visita of Guevavi. Now late in 1755 it stood a good chance of getting a resident Padre.

A new Governor had taken office in Sonora. He was Colonel Don Juan Antonio de Mendoza. He planned to rout the Seris, Apaches and rebel Pimas and at the same time push north the rim of Christendom.[10] Like his predecessors he toured the Pimería. Evidently Mendoza and entourage passed through Guevavi on their way to Bac. At the invitation of Father Pauer, Espinosa baptized a native boy and signed the mission book on the last day of 1757.[11]

Father Pauer may have joined the Governor’s caravan and taken part in the installation of Espinosa at Bac. This relieved Father Pauer’s duties enormously.

To maintain the population of Guevavi, Father Pauer, like those who served at Guevavi before him, had been actively recruiting Papagos.

Luis Oacpicagigua died in jail at the beginning of Mendoza’s administration, but his sons refused to let the rebellion die with him. As the 1750s wore on, the diehard Pimas, far more than the Apaches, gave Father Francisco of Guevavi nearly constant cause for alarm. Time and time again they struck, driving off livestock from the mission and the garrison at Tubac.

For nearly a decade after the rebellion of 1751, the settler in the valley suffered its aftermath, and some thought of leaving. For Father Francisco there was no escape; he resolved to stay. In spite of all the harassment, he made Guevavi grow. He brought in and baptized more heathens than had his predecessors. Possibly the largest contingent of natives ever reduced by a Guevavi Padre, 78 in all, was moved from the ranchería of Doacuquita, or Toacuquita to a place called Las Calabazas south of Guevavi. The name and patronage of San Cayetano, formerly associated with the east bank village of Tumacácori, soon was applied to Calabazas, as it was to the large mountain just north of the village. Because the 78 Indians had received instruction before, Father Francisco was able to baptize and marry them all according to the precepts of the Holy Council of Trent on the day they arrived, November 1, 1756.[12]

Now the visitas of Guevavi were San Cayetano de Calabazas, San Ignacio de Sonoitac and San José de Tumacácori. Tubac was now a presidio, and Arivaca, consumed by the rebellion of 1751, never recovered.

At two of his visitas, Father Pauer found the time and means to build churches -- a new church to replace the old one at Sonoitac and the first church at Tumacácori.

Before July 7, 1757, there had been no mention of a church at Tumacácori. On that day, however, Lorenzo, native alcalde of the village, was buried beneath the earth floor of “Aquella Yglesia.” When a horrible epidemic hit Tumacácori in the spring of 1758, Father Francisco wrote a single entry in the book of burials for 36 dead, 21 of whom were buried in the village church.[13]

During the 1960s the National Park Service outlined the foundation of what appears to be Father Pauer’s adobe church.

In 1756 Father Gerstner joined Pauer for a few weeks after he had been rejected by the Sobaípuris. In August 1756 another rejected missionary, Father Bernardo Middendorf, stopped to rest at Guevavi for a few weeks.

The loss of his two close associates marred Father Pauer’s last months at Guevavi. Father Keller of Suamca died. Don Juan Thomás Beldarrain of Tubac died at Guevavi. Wounded by a Seri arrow, as his life ebbed away, he was brought to the mission.[14] Father Francisco was probably more skilled in the limited science of frontier medicine than anyone within several days’ ride. Beldarrain was laid to rest in a place of honor beneath the steps of the church at Guevavi.[15] The support of those two had contributed much to the success of Father Pauer but there was little doubt he could carry on without them.

After being named Father Rector of Pimería Alta, Pauer was re-assigned to san Ignacio in mid-January 1760, replacing Father Stiger. Before Pauer left Guevavi, he turned over the mission books to Father Miguel Gerstner.

Father Pauer arrived at Guevavi after the worst revolt in the history of Pimería Alta. He labored at reconstruction for six years. He managed to endure among Indians who at first did not want him. He had baptized more of them than any other Jesuit. He built churches at Tumacácori and Sonoita. He left Guevavi more prosperous than he found it.

After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, those who survived the death march across Mexico to Vera Cruz were put on board the Princess Ulrica on November 10, 1768. Among those was Father Pauer.[16] The beautiful hospice near Cádiz, from which they departed to the New World full of hope, was now their prison. There on his forty-ninth birthday, January 6, 1770, Father Pauer died.

[1] AGI, Contratación, 5550. Zelis, Catálogo, pp. 32-33. Pauer’s name was variously spelled Pauer, Paver, Paber, Pauver, etc. in New Spain.

[2] Johann Jakob Baegert, s.j., Observations in Lower California, ed. and trans. M. M. Brandenberg and Carl L. Bauman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1952), pp. xiii-xv. For an excellent description of their journey from Spain to Mexico City and from there to the frontier, see Dunne and Burrus, “Four Unpublished Letters of Anton Maria Benz, Eighteenth Century Missionary to Mexico,” Archivum Historicum Societatis Jesu, Vol. XXIV (1955) pp. 338-39, 342-69 (introduction and most of the notes in English, text of the letters in German). For a particularly damning description of the road from Guadalajara to Sinaloa, written during Kino’s time by a government official, see Navarro García, Sonora y Sinaloa, pp. 40-41.

[3] Beldarrain to Arce y Arroyo, January 6, 1754.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Roxas to Calderón, Arizpe, July 3, 1754; AHH, Temp., 17.

[6] The following year, 1755, Captain Urrea and his men would also leave their temporary quarters in Santa Anna to found a permanent presidio, the Pimería’s third, at Altar to the west, a move that Father Sedelmayr had been advocating since the revolt of 1751. Sedelmayr, Guásavas, December 1753; WBS, 1708.

[7] Proceedings at San Ignacio, May 15-17, 1754, including the testimonies of Luis Oacpicagigua, May 15-16, and Luis of Pitic, May 16-17, certified copies prepared for Father Visitor General Utrera, Horcasitas, November 22, 1754; BNMex, 40/718. Relating the story of the suicide attempt six years after it took place, Father Peña claimed that both Luises were actively involved. By tying themselves together with the cotton sash and then pulling mightily they had nearly succeeded in committing double suicide. Both of them were spared, Oacpicagigua so that later that same year he might personally confess his perfidy and ask for mercy before the Father Visitor General. Peña, “Convite Evangelico,” 12.

[8] Mendoza did tour the Pimería in January 1756. Donohue, “Jesuit Missions,” p. 281. Whether he saw to Father Espinosa’s installation personally at San Xavier is not certain. Later that spring, Father Roxas reported that Espinosa was indeed serving there. Roxas to Calderón, Arizpe, May 30, 1756; AHH, Temp., 17.

[9]Roxas to Calderón, San Ignacio, October 24, 1755; ibid.

[10]Almada, Diccionario, pp. 463-64.

[11] Mendoza did tour the Pimería in January 1756. Donohue, “Jesuit Missions,” p. 281. Whether he saw to Father Espinosa’s installation personally at San Xavier is not certain. Later that spring, Father Roxas reported that Espinosa was indeed serving there. Roxas to Calderón, Arizpe, May 30, 1756; AHH, Temp., 17.

[12] Although Pauer had mentioned Calabazas earlier that year (in baptismal entry, April 20), the village seems to have been considered a visita of Guevavi from the day the 78 natives of Doacuquita were moved there.

[13] Guevavi, “Tubaca y Otros.”

[14] See Treutlein, “The Jesuit Missionary in the Role of Physician,” MA, XXII (1940), pp. 120-41, which is based largely on the writings of Father Pfefferkorn, one of Pauer’s successors at Guevavi.

[15]Guevavi, “Tubaca y Otros.”

[16]“Nota de los 20 Regulares de la Comp.a embarcados p.a Espana en la Urca Sueca nombrada la Princesa Ulrica,” Vera Cruz, November 10, 1768; WBS, 1745, ff. 461-62. “PP. Jesuitas que se embarcaron para Cádiz en el Verg.n frances el Aventurero. Su Cap.n d. Pedro Lavant, que salió en 9, de Abril de 1769”; ibid., ff. 465-66.

To learn more about Padre Pauer 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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