Founded as San Franciso de Los Tejas in 1690, the oldest of the East Texas missions was moved to the San Antonio River in 1731 and renamed San Francisco de La Espada. The southernmost of the San Antonio chain of missions, Mission Espada appears almost as remote today as it did in the mid-1700’s.
The missionaries strove to make life in the mission communities closely resemble that of Spanish villages. They taught mission Indians specific vocations – men learned carpentry, masonry, and stonecutting to construct elaborate buildings. Espada was the only mission to make brick, which is still visible. The influence of these mission artisans is evident throughout the city today.
In its last years as an active mission, Espada suffered epidemics and fire, along with never-ceasing raids. In September 1831, the governor of Coahuila and Texas sent orders to the political chief of Texas that all mission property, except the churches, should be sold at auction.
The mission was partially returned to usage in 1858 with the arrival of a French priest, The Reverend Francis Bouchu.
Father Bouchu made records of everything still standing, including all the painted artwork still visible. He established Mission Espada as his home and was initially responsible for the rebuilding of the church.
Without Father Bouchu, there might not have been anything left to “save” or restore in the 20th century.