The Road to 65, Mile 81, Part 3: Capistrano in Texas

February 17, 2015- San Antonio 

The justly famed Mission San Juan Capistrano, in southern California. has a Texas twin.  This Mission San Juan was established in 1731, on the east bank of the San Antonio River, using the remnants of a previous mission near present-day Lufkin,which fell on hard times and the deaf ears of the Nazonis people.

The Coahuiltecans were, on the other hand, more than glad to have Spanish assistance, owing to the severe drought.  The Spanish taught the people near Mission San Juan, how to build and use acequias and to domesticate cattle.  Some of the first longhorn ranches were near this mission.


The principal acequia for this mission came from the Yanaguana, the Coahuiltecan name for the San Antonio River.  A short nature trail allows the visitor a semblance of what was available to the residents of that time.


The water level was a bit higher then, than now.  The present water supply is low, and sullied with clay.



Still, it allowed the populace to be fairly productive, botanically, as well as in animal husbandry.  A replica of the main garden still produces herbs and legumes.


This is the site of the mission’s granary.


There are preserved foundations of the small presidio and of the old church.  A campaign to enlarge the mission church ultimately failed, owing to scant manpower.




A section of the old church remains in use as a friary.


On the east side of the grounds, a post-colonial tufa house remains intact.


San Juan is still an active mission community, with Coahuiltecan people comprising a large percentage of the neighbouring community.  The present-day church was last renovated in 2012.  Good thing I waited until now, to visit.




This corner is a favourite outdoor gathering spot, for the parishioners, after Sunday Mass.


Having learned of the extensive ranching and farming at three of the four southern missions, I headed for the place where the Coahuiltecans themselves were taught academics and trades:  Espada.

6 thoughts on “The Road to 65, Mile 81, Part 3: Capistrano in Texas

  1. It is similar to the mission at San Juan Capistrano, which has also run to ruin. Here, though, there is a new church just behind the Mission, very active, and probably somewhat similar to the one in TX! What’s missing here is a river, though there are streams not too far away.


      • I think they’ve made a little more progress on the restoration — but much of that has been on the outside wall, the mission store, etc. It’s a neat building, and fun to wander through it — one of these days I’ll go into the new church too.


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