The Nabedache Tribe and the Mission of San Francisco

The westernmost tribe of the group was the Nabedache. The main village was a short distance perhaps six miles west of the Neches River, above the crossing, near a stream that early became known as San Pedro, and at a site that took the name San Pedro de los Nabedachos. It is this name San Pedro, in part, that has caused some persons to think, groundlessly, that the first mission of San Francisco was founded at San Antonio.

The exact point at which the main Nabedache village stood I can not say, not having examined the locality in person, but certain data enable us to approximate its location pretty closely.

First is the testimony of the diaries and other early documents. De Leon reported in his itinerary (1690) that from the camp half a league from the Nabedache chief’s house to the Neches River, going northeast, it was three leagues. 1 The site examined on the river at this point was deemed unsuitable for the mission be-cause it was so far out of the way of the Indians”; consequently the mission was established close to the camp “in the middle” of the village. 2 In their reports to the home government Massanet and De León seem to have stated that the mission was some two leagues from the Neches; 3 while Terán in 1691 reported it to be only a league and a half from the Mission of Santíssimo Nombre de Maria, which was evidently close to the Neches. Jesus Maria and Espinosa said that the village was about three leagues from this river, the former adding that it was right across the stream from the Neche tribe. 4 Joutel and Ramón called the distance from center to center of the two villages about five leagues. 5 In comparing these estimates with those that follow we must remember that it was somewhat further from the village to the crossing of the river than to the river at its nearest point, for as early as 1691 it was found that the best crossing was down stream a league or more. 6 Keeping these things in mind, it may be noted that Pena’s diary makes the distance from San Pedro to the crossing four leagues. In his entry for July 27, 1721, he says, “The Father President F. Ysidro Felix de Espinosa went ahead with the chief of the Texas, who wished to go to arrange beforehand the reception in the place where the first mission had been” In his entry for the next day he says, “Following the same direction of east-northeast, the journey was continued to the place of S. Pedro where the Presidio and Mission had been placed (for the Spaniards did not go beyond this point) in the year ’90.” Here the reception was held, and presents were made to Aguayo by the Indians of the “ranches which are near by,” the point being, according to Pena’s diary, fifteen leagues northeast from the crossing of the Trinity, 7 and four from the crossing of “the Neches, passing by the site of the presidio as it was first established in 1716. Rivera’s diary makes the distance from San Pedro to the crossing something over four leagues, or six to the mission on the other side. His record is interesting. He writes, on August 5, “I camped this day near a prairie which they call San Pedro de los Nabidachos, formerly occupied by Indians of the tribe of this name, but at present by the Neches tribe, of the group of the Aynays, head tribe of the Province of Texas.” His next entry begins, “This day, the sixth, continuing the march in the same direction [east-one-fourth-northeast] I traveled six leagues, crossing the Rio de los Neches. At more than a league’s distance from it I found some huts where a religious of the Cross of Querétaro resides, destined to minister to these Indians with the name of San Francisco de Nechas,” that is, the mission having this name. 8 Soils, going northeast in 1767, tells us that San Pedro de los Nabedachos was beyond the San Pedro River. He may possibly have meant that it was on the north side, but I am inclined to think that he meant that it was east of one of the southern branches. 8

Our inference from the diaries would thus be that the first site of the mission of San Francisco, in the village of the Nabedache, was from one and a half to three leagues from three to six miles distant from the Neches River at its nearest point, a league or more farther from the crossing, and still another league in all some ten miles from the Neches village on the other side of the river.

The information of the diaries is here supplemented by geo-graphical names and the old surveys of the Camino Real or the San Antonio Road. San Pedro Creek, which joins the Neches River in the northern part of Houston County, still bears the name that was early given to the vicinity of the Nabedache village and the first mission of San Francisco. This occurred as early as 1716 from the fact that Espinosa and Ramon celebrated the feast of San Pedro there. The celebration took place at a spot, which, according to both Ramon and Espinosa was thirteen leagues northeast of the crossing of the Trinity. 9 That the name was continuously applied to the place until after the middle of the eighteenth century is sufficiently established by the citations already made. To show its continued use thereafter there is an abundance of evidence. 10

Next comes the testimony of the Camino Real, or the Old San Antonio Road. There seems to he no good topographical reason why this old highway should not have run directly from Crockett to the Neches at Williams’s Ferry, and the long curve to the north between these points must be explained as a detour to the Nabedache village and the missions located nearby. The surveys represent this highway as running always south of San Pedro Creek, never crossing it, but definitely directed toward it at a point some six or eight miles west of the Neches crossing. 11 The point corresponds closely to that designated in the diaries. Near here, quite certainly, were the Nabedache village and the first mission of San Francisco, while not far away, but nearer the Neches, was the second mission established in that region, that of El Santíssimo Nombre de Maria, founded about October 1690. 12Citations:

  1. Entry for May 26. He recorded the distance going and coming as six leagues.[]
  2. De Leon, Derrotero, entry for May 27; Massanet, Letter, in The Quarterly, II, 305.[]
  3. This is an inference from the instructions given in 1691 to Terán and Salinas, which required them to examine the large stream two leagues, more or less, from the village where the mission of San Francisco had been established the year before. (Ynstrucción dadas, etc., January 23, 1691, in Mem. de Nueva España, XXVII, 19; Ynstrucción que ban de observar el Capp. D. Gregorio Salinas, etc., April 13, 1691. Archive General, Provincias Internas, Vol. 182. This document has not before been used.[]
  4. Relación, 2, 6.[]
  5. Relation, in Margry, Découvertes, III, 341-344; Ramon, Derrotero, op. cit.[]
  6. Terán, Descripción y Diaria Demarcación. Mem. de Nueva España, XXVII, 47, 61.[]
  7. Diario, in Mem. de Nueva España, XXVIII, 34-35. The Italics are mine. It may be noted that Peña and Rivera give quite commonly shorter leagues than the others.[]
  8. Diario, in Mem. de Nueva España, XXVIII, 279.[][]
  9. Ramon, Representaci6n, in Mem. de Nueva España, XXVII, 159. Ram6n and Espinosa, Diaries, entries for June 29-30.[]
  10. See Ramon, Derrotero, and Espinosa, Diario (1716), entries for June 29-30; Peña, Diario (1721), in Mem. de. Nueva España, XXVIII, 34; Rivera, Diario (1727), leg. 2140; Ereción de San Xavier, 5 (1746); De Soto Vermudez, Investigation (1752); Soils, Diario, in Mem. de Nueva Espana, XXVII, 279; Mezières, Cartas (1778-1779), in Mem. de Nueva Espana, XXVIII, 270; Cordoba to Munoz, December 8, 1793. Béxar Archives, Nacogdoches, 1758-1793. It may be noted that while the post-office village of San Pedro preserves the name of the general locality, it is too far west to answer to the site of the mission of San Francisco and the Nabedache village.[]
  11. See Upshur’s map, cited above.[]
  12. This mission was close to or on the bank of the Neches River. According to Terán’s itinerary (1691) it was a league up stream from the crossing and a league and a half northeast of the mission of San Francisco (Descripción, in Mem. de Nueva España, 45, 47, 61; Jesus Maria said that it was on the bank of the river (Relación, 104).[]


Bolton, Herbert E. The Native Tribes About The East Texas Mission's, Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, April 1908.

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