Printable Version

A Glimpse of San Antonio in 1778
Digital History ID 3652

Author:   Juan Agustin Morfi

Annotation: In 1777 and 1778, a Franciscan father, Juan Agustín Morfi, traveled into northern New Spain, and offered the following description of San Antonio.

Document: On the west bank of the San Antonio river, about a league from its source, above the point where San Pedro creek joins the river, is situated the villa of San Fernando and the presidio of San Antonio de Béxar, with no other division between them than the parochial church. To the west of the presidio is San Pedro creek, in such a manner that the villa and the presidio are both situated within the angle formed by the juncture of the two streams. The church building is spacious and has a vaulted roof, but the whole is so poorly constructed that it promises but a short life. The town consists of fifty-nine houses of stone and mud and seventy-nine of wood, but all poorly built, without any preconceived plan, so that the whole resembles more a poor village than a villa, capital of so pleasing a province. Its population is made up of islanders [Spaniards from the Canary Islands, who had originally arrived in 1731] and families from the country [New Spain]. The former have acquired control of practically the whole city government. They are indolent and given to vice, and do not deserve the blessings of the land. The soldiers' quarters, originally built of stone and adobe, are almost in ruins. The establishment of this villa, independently of the presidio, has cost the king more than eighty thousand pesos. The streets are tortuous and are filled with mud the minute it rains. The presidio is surrounded by a poor stockade on which are mounted a few swivel guns, without shelter or defense, that can be used only for firing a salvo. There is no other trade than that required to supply the needs of the commissary for the garrison and the meager wants of the wretched settlers. The parish priest looks after the presidio, there being no chaplain, and receives a small pension for his services. The governor used to live in what was the jail or guard house, which afforded a poor residence at best.

Source: History of Texas, 1673-1779 [1778], trans. and ed. Carlos Eduardo Castañeda (Albuquerque: 1935), pp. 92-94.

Copyright 2021 Digital History