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CHAPTER VIII:
THE ROYAL FORT OF ST. RAFAEL AT TUBAC

C. The Pima Company at Tubac, continues

3. Commanders of the St. Rafael Post, 1787-1821

The commanders of Spanish frontier forts continued to enjoy many of the same autocratic powers described at the royal fort of St. Ignatius at Tubac. The termination of the commercial monopoly of post commandants by the New Regulations of 1772 greatly reduced the commander's opportunities to enrich himself and his family. It would seem that not all of the St. Rafael commanders belonged to the provincial elite, perhaps because the Indian garrisons were considered and treated as rather second class posts and their officers somewhat 446as exiles. The Indian garrisons were commanded by officers with the permanent rank of lieutenant normally, although ensigns sometimes became acting commanders.

The Tubac post commanders not only held this military title and their army rank, but also held the post of political and military judge of the settlement (García Conde Jan. 26, 1807:2-3).

a. Lt. Pedro Sebastian de Villaescusa. The original commanding officer of the St. Rafael Pima Company who moved this outfit to Tubac was Lieutenant Pedro Sebastian de Villaescusa. He evidently formed the Pima Company, since he took command on September 13, 1782 (Villaescusa 1794). He was the commanding lieutenant in November of 1785 when the Pima Company was holding the fort-literally-at Buenavista while the non-Indian troops there fought Seris (Medina Nov. 26, 1785). The then-lieutenant was not promoted until February of 1789 (King Feb. 22,1789). Meanwhile, on March 29, 1788, he had been transferred from Tubac back to the Company of San Carlos at the royal fort at Buenavista as captain and commandant (Villaescusa 1794). His formal commissions lagged woefully behind his actual assignments. By 1794 Villaescusa had made thirteen Apache campaigns and been wounded four times by lances and twice by arrows.

Villaescusa was born about 1744 in the Villa of Alpera of noble stock. He had served in the Granada Infantry as a soldier, corporal and sergeant for twelve and a half years 447beginning on July 26, 1762 (Villaescusa 1794). He had first been picked out for commissioning in the fall of 1774 by Commandant Inspector Hugo O'Conor, who recommended him for ensign at Terrenate (Chapman 1919:365). The viceroy concurring (ibid., p. 369), the King commissioned him in April of 1775 (ibid., p. 379). Then he spent seven and a half years at Santa Cruz as a first ensign before winning promotion to commanding lieutenant of the Pima Company in 1782 (Villaescusa 1794).

From Buenavista, Villaescusa apparently moved south again to Rosario in Sinaloa, where he was in command as a colonel when the popular revolt against Spanish rule broke out in 1810. In the final days of that year Villaescusa led his royal troops out to meet the revolutionary commander Gonzalez Hermosillo, but was defeated on December 18th. The rebel commander gave Villaescusa a safe-conduct to join his family, but the royal officer used this freedom to take some seventy of his men out of the town and marched north recruiting as many men as he could until he reached San Ignacio de Piastla.  He got word to Intendent-General Alexo García Conde at Arizpe of the rebel invasion, and García Conde rushed Opata and other presidial troops south to ambush Gonzalez Hermosillo's command as it crossed the river at Piastla (Bancroft 1885:IV:238). Villaescusa's act in abusing the safe-conduct granted him is, of course, considered a dishonorable incident in Mexican history (ibid., IV:239).

448b. Lt. Nicolás de la Errán. The second commander of the Pima Company of St. Rafael at Tubac was Lieutenant Nicolás de la Errán. He was of noble birth, a native of the Valley of Samano born about 1752. He began his military career as a "distinguished soldier" on November 10, 1779, in the Fronteras presidial company. After a little over two years he won a commission as second ensign in the San Carlos de Buenavista garrison. He served in that unit only eight months before he transferred to the new St. Rafael Pima Company as first ensign on September 19, 1782 (Errán 1794a). With Villaescusa he held the fort at San Carlos while the regular garrison of that post campaigned against the Seris (Medina Nov. 26, 1785).

After Villaescusa moved up to command the Buenavista company at the end of March in 1788, Errán became commanding lieutenant of the St. Rafael Pima Company as of November 8, that same year (Errán 1794a).

By the middle 1790's Lt. Errán had made a dozen campaigns against Apaches which he commanded himself. In one of them he attacked eighteen enemy warriors at Calabazas and recovered the meat which they were stealing. Another time he recovered fifteen riding animals. Nevertheless, his superiors rated his capacity as "scant."

Errán apparently remained a resident of Tubac for the rest of his life. On March 23, 1799, he was referred to as a citizen of that fort when he and his wife, Doña Loreta 449Marquéz, acted as godparents of baptism to a Yuma Indian boy of some four or five years of age (San José de Tumacácori, Libro de Bautismos, f. 32v). In the years around the turn of the century Doña Loreta with or without Don Nicolás acted as godparent very frequently. Two days after the baptism just referred to she became a godparent of another Indian child, daughter of mission Indians at Tumacácori (ibid., f. 32v). On October 23 the couple stood as godparents to a Mojave woman (ibid., f. 33v). On May 25, 1802, these citizens of the fort again became godparents of a Tumacácori Mission Indian infant (ibid., f. 35). On June 5 they acquired two more Yuma godchildren (ibid., f. 35-35v). On December 7th they added a son of the Mohave woman baptized in 1799. On April 9, 1803, Doña Loreta became godmother of an Apache girl born to converted parents living at Tumacácori Mission and to a Yuma girl brought from her tribe (ibid., f. 36), very likely as a slave. On May 28, Doña Loreta acquired a Pápago Indian godchild (ibid., f. 36-36v). Thus the important social role Lt. Errán and his wife played in the transculturation of the various Indian tribes in northwestern Sonora is readily apparent in even a partial record of Indian infants whose godparents one or both of them became.

Lt. Errán apparently died late in 1803 or early in 1804, but it is not clear from available records. (Possibly he was promoted to another post.) Before his death, Errán apparently was promoted to Captain or retired in that grade, since 450when his daughter married in 1819 the priest who officiated referred to him as Captain (Libro de las Partidas de...Casamientos...de Tubac...f. 8v). Since Fray Narciso Gutierrez had been at Tumacácori Mission off and on since 1795 when Errán was still living, he should have known his ultimate rank.

It was evidently a misreading of the record of Errán's daughter's marriage, incidentally, which gave rise to Bancroft's statement that a Captain Nicolás Herrera was commander of the Tubac post in 1819 (Bancroft 1889:383). No verification of Bancroft's statement has been found.

c. Ensign Manuel de León. Ensign Manuel de León was dispatched to command the royal fort of St. Rafael at Tubac in the year 1804, as a promotion from his previous post (León 1807:3). In February of 1807 he was still regarded as its acting commander (García Conde Feb. 12, 1807:4).

It was Ensign León who, as a new officer at Tubac, authorized other citizens to occupy Toríbio de Otero's military reservation land grant following the drought of 1804 when he moved downstream seeking more irrigation water (León 1807:3-4) and had to report on the situation to the Intendent-General when Otero sought return of his grant or recompense for it.

It was also Ensign León who surveyed the boundaries of the Tumacácori Mission land grant in 1807, when that grant was reconveyed by Intendent-General Alexo García Conde at the request of the missionary and Indian officials at the mission. (Britton & Gray 1884:13-14).

451Ensign León was still stationed at Tubac as late as December 22, 1808, when he and his wife María Grijalba acted as godparents to a boy born to citizens of nearby Tumacácori Mission (San José de Tumacácori, Libro de Bautismos, f. 45). He was transferred later to the royal fort of St. Agustín at Tucson, and in late August of 1813 was acting commandant there (León Aug. 29, 1813:1), having been promoted to lieutenant. He evidently stayed at Tucson a very long time, since after independence he commanded that garrison in his own right (León Feb. 16, 1825; Urrea March 8, 1825).

d. Lt. Simón Elías Gonzalez. Occasionally an officer belonging to the Sonoran provincial elite would be posted to one of the Indian garrisons on the frontier, but such an assignment was always a way station on his way up the ladder of command. Thus Lt. Simón Elías Gonzalez served briefly as commander of the royal fort of St. Rafael at Tubac on his way from a secretarial post at the Commandant-General's office in Chihuahua to service in the big fort at San Antonio de Bejar in Texas and promotion to captain.

Simón Elías Gonzalez was an authentic member of the provincial elite, born October 28, 1772. His grandfather was Captain Francisco Elías Gonzalez de Zayas, the former commandant at Terrenate, and his father of the same name a wealthy mine operator. He had begun his military training as a distinguished soldier--a special category of non-commissioned rank reserved for members of the elite--in the Tucson garrison in 1788 at the age of fifteen. In 1793 he was made a 452cadet in the Buenavista company (Almada 1952:242), where he served in that grade through 1794 (Villaescusa 1794). Later he transferred to the Bacoachi Opata company before being assigned to the Commandant-General's headquarters where he was promoted to Lieutenant.

At the age of thirty-four, Elías Gonzalez became commandant of the Tubac company on April 1, 1807 (Almada 1952:242). That was evidently the date of his commission. When he arrived to relieve Ensign León and take command is not clear. Nor is it certain how long Elías Gonzalez remained at Tubac. Before long he had gone to San Antonio de Bejar and another promotion, transferred to El Paso del Norte and by the beginning of 1811 he was commanding the troops stationed at Chihuahua where he took part in the court martial of the priest Hidalgo who had raised the shout for independence in 1810.

In 1814 Elías Gonzalez returned to Sonora expecting to be made Adjutant Inspector and receive a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. He found, however, that the viceroy had already appointed someone else, and had to be satisfied with command of the presidial company at Santa Cruz. Not until six years later in 1820 did Elías Gonzalez secure promotion to the office of Adjutant Inspector in which capacity he adhered to the Plan de Iguala and helped transform colonial New Spain into independent Mexico. The short-lived Empire promoted him to Lieutenant Colonel and he was elected to the first national congress in 1822. Two years later Elías Gonzalez again returned to Sonora with an appointment as commanding 453general, but the man in office refused to vacate it. Elías Gonzalez was elected deputy to the State of the West legislature that year, and in March of 1825 became commander of arms and shortly thereafter constitutional governor. He took leave to campaign against the rebel Yaqui Indians from October to February, and in August of 1826 renounced the office because he had been elected to the same position in the State of Chihuahua (Almada 1952:242)! After variable fortune there, Simón Elías Gonzalez returned to Sonora in January of 1830 as Commanding General in Sonora and Sinaloa, an office he held until he retired in June of 1831 and returned to Chihuahua, where he continued to be drafted for tough jobs virtually until his death on March 7, 1841 (ibid., p. 243).

e. Lt. Ygnacio Sotelo. Probably Lieutenant Simón Elías Gonzalez was succeeded as post commandant at Tubac by Lieutenant Ygnacio Sotelo. This officer was commanding the Tubac post at least as early as August of 1813 (León Aug. 29, 1813:1v), and at least as late as the end of April of the following year (Sotelo April 27,1814). Given the relative scarcity of presidial commanders at this period (Tucson was alternatively commanded by Captain Antonio Narbona from Fronteras and its own lieutenant), it is likely that Sotelo spent a number of years in command at Tubac and his tour probably extended from the departure of Simón Elías Gonzalez to the arrival of his brother Ignacio Elías Gonzalez.

Like Ensign León, Sotelo had to deal with the squabble between pioneer settler Toríbio de Otero and other citizens 454of Tubac (Otero n.d.). It also fell his lot to take legal testimony in other cases (Sotelo April 27, 1814) since this was a recurrent duty of colonial post commandants because of their position as principal administrative and judicial authorities in their posts. Lt. Sotelo also performed his primary function of campaigning against Apache Indians (León Aug. 29, 1813).

Ygnacio Sotelo was married to Ysabal Quintana. They had a daughter named Manuela who married the Lieutenant of the Pima Tribe in February of 1818 (Libro de las Partidas...de Casamientos...de Tubac...f. 6v). Meanwhile Lt. Sotelo had died by November 4, 1816, evidently during the epidemic of that year (Libro de las Partidas...de Entierros...de Tubac, f. 8v). Sotelo's family remained at Tubac after his death, and many of his children died there. His young son Juan José died November 4, 1816, at the age of three (ibid.). Next his daughter Chrisanta died there on December 19, 1819, at the age of five (ibid., f. 13). His son José Antonio died there in January of 1820 at the age of about eighteen (ibid., f. 13v). Probably María Jesús Sotelo, who married Ramón Otero, (Libro de las Partidas...de Casamientos...de Tubac...f. 12v) was also his daughter, although she may have been a niece.

f. Lt. Ignacio Elías Gonzalez. The last commander of the royal fort of St. Rafael at Tubac was another member of the Sonoran provincial elite, Lieutenant Ignacio Elías Gonzalez (Bancroft 1889:383). He was the "Lieutenant and Commander of this fort" on February 25, 1821 (ibid., f. 10v), and 455probably had been since the death of Lt. Sotelo. In June of 1821 Elías G. surveyed the San José de Sonoita land grant León Herreras sought to buy (Mattison 1946:299) and the Canoa grant the Ortiz brothers sought (ibid., p. 295).

Ignacio Elías Gonzalez was a brother of a previous post commander, Simón Elías Gonzalez (Almada 1952:242). Four years younger than Simón, Ignacio had not won promotion as fast as his older brother and was still a lieutenant commanding a second-rate post when Simón was Adjutant Inspector of Sonora. Born in 1776, Ignacio was more than old enough to have daughters of marriageable age in 1821, and made a match for his Joséfa Clemente. She married a local boy, Tomás Ortiz (Libro de las Partidas...de Casamientos...de Tubac...f. 10v), son of a deceased ex-soldier who had purchased the Aribaca land grant from the government in 1812 (Tomás e Ignacio Ortiz 1833:2), and purchaser with his brother of the Canoa grant (Mattison 1946:294).

Lt. Ignacio Elías G. terminated Spanish royal sovereignty at Tubac by adhering to the Plan de Iguala in the fall of 1821 just as his brother Simón did at the provincial capital. In reward, middle-aged Ignacio received his long-awaited captaincy from the new government (Britton & Gray 1884:30). The whole Elías Gonzalez family gained considerably in political power in the new national and provincial governments due to the departure of royal officials and the key role various Elías Gonzalezes played in assuring the success of the coup d'etat which gained independence. Very likely other members 456of the family used their increased power to improve the lot of Lieutenant cum-Captain Ignacio and his wife Soledad. By the fall of 1825, Ignacio had followed his brother Simón in the office of Adjutant Inspector of Sonora (Figueroa October 22, 1825). In June of 1833 Captain Ignacio was still serving at Arizpe where he acted on behalf of his son-in-law Tomás Ortiz and the latter's brother Ignacio (Elías G. June 18, 1833) in seeking from the state treasurer new title papers to the Aribaca grant presumably purchased by their father Agustín (Mendoza June 21, 1833:6).

Ultimately Ignacio reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel as Adjutant Inspector in Sonora state general headquarters. In that capacity he signed a treaty of peace with several Apache band chiefs at Arizpe on August 30, 1836, which other bands shortly thereafter joined in. He died at Arizpe in 1842 (Almada 1952:239).

g. Subalterns. Lt. Nicolás de Errán had at least two ensigns who assisted him in running the Pima Company. Later records of junior officers at Tubac are quite incomplete.

Ensign Agustín Marquéz--The first subaltern who assisted Errán with the Pima Company at Tubac was a native of the city of León in Castile, Agustín Marquéz, born about 1748 (Errán 1794b). He remained ensign at Tubac until he died (King February 11, 1801), apparently sometime in 1800.

Agustín Marquéz had joined the Catalan Volunteers on July 21, 1780, shipped to New Spain and the frontier with that unit (Errán 1794b). In February of 1786 he was serving 457as veteran sergeant in the Company of Opatas at Bacoachi (Medina February 28, 1786), a position he had held since April 1, 1784 (Errán 1794b). He was still there when promoted to ensign of the St. Rafael Company of Pimas on January 29, 1789, to fill the vacancy created by Errán's ascension to the commanding lieutenancy the previous November. His commission was issued by the King on June 4, 1789.

Ensign Juan Martinez--In 1801 a new ensign, Juan M. Martinez, was assigned to the company of Pimas at Tubac to replace the deceased Agustín Marquéz. This new officer was just that-he was commissioned by King Charles IV on February 11 of 1801. Previously Martinez had been a sergeant at the royal fort at Altar (King Feb. 11, 1801). He was married to Doña Loreta de Olave (San José de Tumacácori, Libro de Bautismos, f. 36-36v). Martinez's Tubac tour lasted at least until the end of May in 1803, when he acted as godfather to a grown Pápago woman (ibid.,), in the usual pattern for Tubac garrison officers furthering the transculturation of neighboring Indians.

Ensign Manuel Ortega--Another officer who lived at Tubac was Ensign Manuel Ortega, who was retired when he died at the post on October 4, 1817 (Libro de las Partidas...de Entierros...de Tubac... f. 9v) at the age of about seventy years. Probably Ortega had been the veteran ensign of the Tubac Pima company toward the end of his career, but this is not certain and he may have emigrated to Tubac to live following his retirement from some other garrison.

458Ensign Juan B. Romero--One of the officers at the royal fort of St. Rafael at Tubac on the eve of independence was Ensign Juan B. Romero (Bancroft 1889:383). On February 20, 1821, Romero's son José married María Soledad Sais. His wife Doña Loreta Cota was already deceased at that time (Libro de las Partidas...de Casamientos...de Tubac... f. 10).  These scanty facts suggest that Romero was in middle age at least by 1821.

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