On the Trail of a Spanish Pioneer: The Diary and Itinerary of Francisco Garces (Missionary Priest) in his Travels Through Sonora, Arizona, and California 1775 - 1776

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Author: Francisco Hermenegildo Tomás Garcés (1738-1781) edited by Elliot Coues

Year: 1900

Publisher: Francis P. Harper

Place: New York


2 volumes. xxx+312 pages with frontispiece folding map, plates, facsimiles and maps; vii+[313]-608 pages with frontispiece, facsimiles, map, plates and index. Royal octavo (9 1/4" x 6 1/2) bound in original publisher's blue cloth with gilt lettering to spine and blind stamped ruled edges to cover. Deckled edges.  American explorer series number III. Limited to 950 copies of which this is 258. First edition.

The final work of editor Coues. Francisco Garcés was a Spanish Franciscan friar who served as a missionary and explorer in the colonial Viceroyalty of New Spain. He explored much of the southwestern region of North America, including present day Sonora and Baja California in Mexico, and what became the U.S. states of Arizona and California. He was killed along with his companion friars during an uprising by the Native American population, and they have been declared martyrs for the faith by the Catholic Church. The cause for his canonization was opened by the Church.

Garcés was sent to a mission near Tucson (now in Arizona) and began serving the Pima Native Americans in the area. Around 1770 he wanted to minister to more native peoples, so he traveled along the Gila River. He baptized children and made contact with different tribes. Garcés eventually reached the Colorado River and followed it to its mouth at the Gulf of California. Garcés's report of this journey interested the Spanish government. They put Juan Bautista de Anza in command of an expedition to find an overland route between Sonora and California.

Garcés joined Anza's journey to California in 1774. They traveled along the Gila and Colorado rivers, across the Colorado Desert, and over the mountains to Mission San Gabriel near what is now Los Angeles, California. Garcés traveled with Anza for part of Anza's second expedition to California in 1775, but in January 1776 Garcés struck out on his own. He journeyed north along the Colorado River for about 180 miles (290 kilometers). He then advanced across the Mojave Desert. He was the first European to travel through that desert.

In 1780 Garcés established the Mission La Purísima Concepción (now in Winterhaven, California). The mission was meant to be a stopping place for settlers on their way to California. After a group of whites destroyed Yuma crops, the Yuma revolted. They destroyed the mission and killed the settlers and missionaries, including Garcés.


Some rubbing to extremities and light scuffing to covers; bookplates on pastedowns else very good.


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