Entertainment Magazine: Tucson: Santa Catalina Mission

The Lost Santa Catalina Mission, somewhere north of San Xavier

This is an excerpt from the book "Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains" by Robert E. Zucker. Download a free PDF sample of the book and purchase on Amazon.com.

Santa Catalina Mountains by R Zucker

1757, January 5: Father Bernardo Middendorf founds mission of Santa Catalina de Cuitabagu, or Kuitoakbagum. 8 or 10 miles north of Black Mountain, the northernmost mission at the time. With 10 soldier and gifts of dried meat, he attracted about 70 families. He had “to sleep under the open sky” until he could make a hut. He couldn’t speak the native language. (Tumacacori National Historic Park, NPS)

Middendorf is the first Jesuit priest and soldier to live north of del Bac with direct daily contact (“Spanish Colonial Tucson,” Dobyns, 18). “Rector Carlos de Rojas reported to the provincial in mid-March of 1757 that Middendorff was then “in the Tucson with two pueblos” as mission branches, Inasmuch as Espinosa at Bac also had two branches, Middendorff's would most likely have lain farther north at Oiaur and Santa Catalina Kuitoakbagum.” (“Spanish Colonial Tucson, 2.18)

1757, May: Middendorf’s mission is attacked by 500 Indians who are upset at the mission’s restrictions against them for nightly dancing and carousing. He flees with his military escort and some families to San Xavier del Bac. “Sedelmayr to Balthasar, Mátape, December 6, 1756; quoted in Arthur D. Gardiner, “Letter of Father Middendorf, s.j., dated from Tucson, 3 March 1757,” The Kiva, Vol. XXII (1957), p. 1. At the base of this confusion seems to be a statement by Father Och: “Father Middendorf established a new mission among the Pápagos in Santa Catalina but the Indians were soon tired of it because they were barred from their vices, nightly dances and carousing. . . .” Treutlein, Travel Reports of Joseph Och, pp. 43-44. It was not until early in January 1757 that Middendorf went among the Indians of the Santa Catalina-Tucson area to found his ill-fated mission.” (Tumacacori National Historic Park, NPS).

1762, general exodus of Sobaipuris from the exposed eastern frontier along the San Pedro River to refuge with relatives at Santa María Suamca and Tucson and the other Santa Cruz River Valley settlements (Elias Gonzalez, Mar. 22, 1762) (“Tubac Through Four Centuries, xi).

1764, “Rector Manuel Aguirre advocated colonizing Santa Catalina and Buenavista with Papagos” as part of the plan to “to remove the Sobaipuris from the San Pedro River Valley” (“Spanish Colonial Tucson, 2. 23)

1767, February 27, Jesuits expelled from Pimeria Alta. After 1768 San Cosmé del Tucson mission and industrial school, near San Xavier building planned by Father Garces with Captain de Anza.