Tumacacori National Historic Park

Tumacácori National Historical Park is 45 miles south of Tucson and 19 miles north of Nogales, off I-19.  The remains of the mission church San José de Tumacácori are the focal point of a visit to this park.  The original mission on the east bank of the Santa Cruz River at Tumacácori (1691) was one of many founded by Father Kino, a Jesuit, among the Pima.  After the Pima uprising of 1751, a presidio was built at Tubac, and the mission was resettled on the west bank.  After the Jesuits were banned from Spanish lands in 1767, the Franciscans took over, and a resident priest was assigned to Tumacácori in 1771.  Support from the government dwindled, the garrison was transferred to Tucson in 1776, and by 1786, only a hundred Indians remained at Tumacácori. 


Despite the lack of support and resources, Fray Narciso Gutiérrez began building a large church to replace the old Jesuit structure around 1800.  Designed to rival San Xavier del Bac, work proceeded as funds were available.  By 1821, the walls were only 7-feet high, but the sale of 4,000 head of the mission’s cattle enabled the walls to be raised to 14 feet before the rancher stalled on his payments and work had to cease.  When several years later, he was persuaded to complete his payments, work resumed, and the church was nearly completed—except for the bell tower.  The mission lost its last resident priest when in 1828 all Spanish-born residents were forced to leave the country.  Native-born Mexican priests serviced the mission on a visiting basis for the next 20 years, but the last residents left after increased Apache attacks cut off their supply lines during the hard winter of 1848.  Abandoned, scavengers looted the building of wood, including the ceiling, which left the building open to the elements.  It became a National Monument in 1908.








Trails and Treasures Home Page   Journey to the American Southwest 2003