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F. 3. Captain Juan Thomas de Beldarrain

The commanding officer of a Royal Spanish frontier fort was the single most important person in the garrison, and indeed in the whole settlement. His powers of command were nearly absolute, his social prestige was paramount and his economic powers were far-reaching prior to promulgation of the New Regulations of 1772.

The first commander of the Royal Fort of St. Ignatius at Tubac, Captain Juan Thomas de Beldarrain, was an experienced company commander when he was posted to the new Upper Pimería outfit in 1752. He was at that time commander of the Company of Sinaloa which had reached Sonora shortly before in the entourage of the interim governor of Sonora and Sinaloa, Colonel Diego Ortiz Parrilla.

Some time during the previous decade Captain Beldarrain had attracted favorable notice from the then-Visitor of Jesuit Missions, Father Juan Antonio Balthasar. So when the viceroy asked the latter, since become Provincial, for advice on the Pima Revolt emergency, the Jesuit recommended raising a new company and putting Beldarrain in command of it (Balthasar Jan. 18, 1752:9-10v). When the viceroy approved, Beldarrain's new job was assured.

Actually Beldarrain seems to have been something of a favorite of Governor Diego Ortiz Parrilla's so he might well have received the accolade anyhow, although he had a close rival in Lieutenant Bernardo de Urrea, militia officer from the San Miguel River Valley who was the first Spanish officer 235to reach San Ignacio Mission from the south after the revolt (Ewing 1945:265), the most efficient and active leader in the critical early days of the revolt and the hero of the Spanish victory at Aribaca (ibid., p. 273). Urrea received the command of the next company established, that at Altar.

As already indicated, Beldarrain's appointment as Comandant of the new Upper Pimería company was a temporary one until approved by the viceroy. Governor Diego Ortiz Parilla possessed only raised the fifty-man company:

today proceeding to the election of the captain who should command it, and who should be a respectable subject of known loyalty and obedience of conduct, valor, zeal and application to the royal service, whereas these and other commendable qualities and merits are united in the person of Don Juan Thomas de Beldarrayn, Captain of the Company of Sina-loa, I have found it well in the use and exercise of the superior aforesaid faculty to elect him for the present, in the royal name of His Majesty (whom God preserve):

I elect and name him as captain of said new company in order that he may use and exercise in all cases and matters the benefits and services according to the form that the other captains of forts of this government and Captaincy-General have and are entitled to, as much in whatsoever invasion by European enemies as by heathen or apostate Indians, disciplining said company and exercising in the management of arms, I order the lieutenant, ensign, sergeant, corporals of 236squads and soldiers of said company to have and hold said Don Juan Thomas de Beldarrayn for their captain, to revere, respect, obey and guard him, comply with and execute all orders he may give them orally as well as written, under the penalties which he may impose on those who are disobedient...for which I give him and confirm to him the necessary power and faculty (Ortiz Parrilla, Mar. 26, 1752a:50-51v.).

Since the viceroy's delegation of power to the governor specified that the captain chosen would have to repair to the City of Mexico for approval of his commission, Beldarrain soon had an agent intercede for him at the viceregal court to obtain confirmation of his title (Sanchez de Sierra Tagle 1752). This petition reached the viceroy early in August and the auditor reported favorably on confirmation on the twelfth (Altamira Aug. 12, 1752). Then the viceroy approved the commission withthat date (Revilla Gigedo Aug. 12, 1752).

News of this action probably did not reach Captain Beldarrain for at least a couple of months. Meanwhile the governor had ordered him out on an Apache campaign which he undertook in September, stopping at Fronteras to execute another errand for the governor. He collected additional testimony from Lieutenant Francisco Xavier de Escalante and Ensign Joséph de Moraga in regard to events during the Pima Revolt emergency (Beldarrain Sept. 11, 1752:121).

Beldarrain probably knew that the viceroy had confirmed his appointment by November 23 when he was at San Miguel de Horcasitas. He and an interpreter from Tubac sat in with 237the governor during the interrogation of a northern Piman leader testifying further on the causes of the recent rebellion (Oyctaitonic Nov. 23, 1752:244).

Governor Ortiz Parrilia's assiduous collection of information about the northern Piman rebellion continued into the following year and again on January 23, 1753, Captain Beldarrain participated in one of his sessions (Ortiz Parrilla Jan. 23, 1752). Stung into action by the governor's reports of Jesuit responsibility for goading the northern Pimans into revolt, the Visitor General of the Society of Jesus traveled about the church strongholds at the southeastern margin of Upper Pimería collecting testimonials favorable to his order. Captain Beldarrain made the trip to the mission at Santa María Soamca to appear before this worthy, Joséph de Utrera (Beldarrain Oct, 11, 1754) in October of 1754, the governor having ordered his subordinates to give the Jesuit official every requested assistance.

Juan Thomas Beldarrain shared the concern of most frontier fort commanders to enhance his personal financial position during his tenure as post commander. He acquired a number of Níxora and Apache slaves during his seven years at Tubac (Libro de Bautismos, Santos Angeles de Guebavi, p. 97, 98).

Captain Beldarrain built the commander's quarters at the fort of Tubac during his years in command (Croix Dec. 23, 1780:1). The original troops' quarters and headquarters building were also built or begun under his direction.

238There is little or no available documentation of Beldarrain's military activities during the later years of his command at Tubac. His career closed at Guebavi Mission on September 7, 1759, when he died after having received all of the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church from the Jesuit missionary, Francisco Pauer, who was twice his compadre, and who buried him at the foot of the altar in the church there (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros, p. 95 & Stoner 1937:37).

Captain Beldarrain married the daughter of a frontier provincial governor of the previous generation who was apparently a German but part of the fairly close-knit social elite which supplied the bulk of the officers for the frontier posts during the eighteenth century. His father-in-law had not onlygoverned Sonora from 1727 to 1735 (Rowland 1932:163), but had also led the formation of the mine camp at the rich Planchas de Plata silver strike the following year. That Beldarrain could marry such a man's daughter proves his own social credentials were of the highest.

Captain Beldarrain had at least one son, Phelipe, who chose a military career. Phelipe was born in 1750 and his father made an excellent choice of godfather for him-Juan Bautista de Anza (Bolton 1930:IV:511) who launched the youth in the officer corps after his father's death. Phelipe unfortunately proved unequal to the intricacies of accounting and was cashiered for financial mismanagement by Inspector General Hugo O'Conor (ibid. & O'Conor Aug. 18, 1775 & King 239Aug. 31, 1776). He later served in the ranks of the Tucson company and eventually won promotion to an ensign's rank again (King Aug. 11, 1790). Another son of Captain Beldarrain may have been a Franciscan missionary, although this is a possibility and no evidence of relationship other than surname has been found. At any rate Fray Juan Baptista Beldarrain was the Franciscan at St. Francis Xavier at Bac from 1781 or 1782 (Franco 1782:1) until 1790, and initiator of construction on the present beautiful church building there (Yturralde Apr. 3. 1798:6v).

Several of Captain Beldarrain's daughters and sons contracted advantageous marriages with other families in the governing elite at Santa Ana where Beldarrain's widow moved her brood and her servants and slaves after his death in 1759 (Libro que contiene los de la administracion del Pueblo o Real de Santa Ana...Bautismos f. 2v, 3 & Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San Ygnacio...desde 1697, f. 6v).

The years at Tubac had not been without their heartache for the Captain and his lady. A son born to them in December of 1753 (Libro de Bautismos y Casamientos de los Pueblos de Visita ... de Santa María Soamca, f. 9) died shortly thereafter, for another son born March 6, 1755, was christened with the same name, Joséph Antonio (ibid., f. 17v). The crusty Jesuit Ygnacio Xavier Keller baptized him and Father Francisco Pauer became his godfather-and Beldarrain's compadre. Later Beldarrain's widow was to watch one of her daughters die at Santa Ana. This María Ignacia was the 240youngest of the couple's children, born August 3, 1759 at Tubac (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Bautismos p. 117) a little more than a month before her father's death, and she died at the age of eight (Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San Ygnacio... desde 1697, f. 71-71v).


1. Juan Phelipe Beldarrain, born 1750 (Oliva Aug. 13, 1775). Ensign at Tubac 1771-76; at Tucson 1776-77; cashiered. Re-entered service as soldier 1781; ensign 1790.

2. Luís María Beldarrain (relationship inferred), important land magnate at Fronteras (Archivo Historico de Sonora 411.11/2 folio 1.

3. Loreta de Ansa (Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San Ygnacio desde 1697, f. 6v).

4. Ygnacio Perez Serrana, Justicia of Santa Ana.

5. María Guadalupe de Beldarrain, died in childbirth on December 18, 1782 (Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San Ygnacio de 1697, f. 25) aged 36.

6. Joséph Antonio, born March 19, 1755 (Libro de Bautismos..de Santa María Soamca, f. 17v).

7. Juan Thomas de Beldarrain (the younger) citizen of Santa Ana.

8. Anna Gertrudis Cortés Monrroy, his wife.

9. Phelipe Salazar, citizen of Santa Ana.

10. Joséfa (María Joséfa Antonia Rita) de Beldarrain, born April 12, 1758 at Tubac (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Bautismos, p. 113).

11. Died at Santa Ana on Sept. 11, 1772 (Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San Ygnacio desde 1697, f. 6v).

12. Born August 21, 1762 (Libro de Bautismos del Partido de San Ygnacio de Caburica p. 231).

13. Born at Santa Ana on April 12, 1779 (Libro que contiene los de la administration del Pueblo de Santa Ana, Libro de Bautismos, f. 3).

14. Born January 24, 1779, at Santa Ana (ibid., f. 2v).