Health Conditions


The garrison at the royal fort at Tubac was apparently quite a healthy one. The northern Piman Indians In the area suffered more from imported European diseases than the Europeans suffered from endemic native diseases. The latter included syphilis and in the immediate area yellow fever (Libro de Entierros de Santa María Magdalena de 1702, P. 23; Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros, f. 1).

Troopers ran a constant risk of being killed or wounded in action, of course, and there were other hazards such as mountain lions or jaguars which sometimes mauled a person (Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San 1697, f. 21), or rabid dogs or wild animals which sometimes bit a human being (ibid., f, 30). The sex ratio in the populace at the fort was probably maintained very much in favor of the males by a high rate of female mortality in childbirth (ibid., f. 25).

The Spanish population of Tubac was not distinguished by its love for walking. In fact, the men of the settlement far preferred allowing a horse to carry them wherever they were going, even if it was just across the street to talk to a neighbor. No one ventured out of the post on foot, always riding. The hard riding involved in handling livestock on the range often lasted for days on end, however (Treutlein 1949:290) and there is no reason to believe that the men lacked physical strength, stamina or supple condition as a 358result of their love for the saddle. The multifarious and laborious tasks of the women-tortilla making, maize and wheat grinding by hand on the tripod metate, clothes washing, cooking, and so on-ensured that those with an adequate diet and unaffected by infection were in very good physical condition. Continual sawing to make clothing for the family probably produced some eye-strain among the Tubac women, especially during cold weather when they worked inside the ill-lighted adobe houses. The worst of the rough sewing seems to have been accomplished by tailors, however, in making uniforms and heavier clothing. Women did not have to labor over hot cauldrons making soap as the pioneer peasant women did in North America. Bar soap was bought from manufactories to the south and sold at Tubac (Rubí Dec. 21, 1766 & O'Conor Aug. 16, 1775).

The physical condition of the troopers of the company seems to have been fairly good. There were a few men who either enlisted with infirmities or acquired them in service.  Ensign Phelipe Beldarrain, who was taken to Tubac at the age of two by his father, the first post comandant, suffered from lung trouble at the age of twenty-five (Oliva Aug. 13, 1775 No. 9). Inasmuch as the young man had never lived elsewhere than Tubac and Santa Ana his illness can be attributed only to life in the healthful Sonoran desert as he lived it. Being the captain's son from 1752 to 1759, Juan Phelipe should have been well fed, and his widowed mother was well endowed with Indian slaves at Santa Ana, indicating the family did 359not suffer greatly there. If his lung trouble were tuberculosis, it was probably not caused by lack of sufficient food but by spoiled young Phelipe's rejection of a balanceddiet.  In his case, illness can be almost certainly attributed to the individual ratherthan the place.

Other members of the garrison also suffered lingering disabilities. José Antonio Azedo was recommended for medical discharge in 1775 because of long-continued illness without hope of cure (Oliva Aug. 13, 1775 No. 5). He was only three years older than Phelipe Beldarrain, a Spanish native of Fronteras who had been in the army since he was twenty (Oliva Aug. 13, 1775, No, 2, 3). Three other soldiers were immobile because of sickness in 1775 and were recommended for retirement.All three had been on forty campaigns or thereabouts. José AntonioRomero was thirty-three with fifteen years service. Juan JoséRodriguez was thirty-two with fourteen years in, and Pablo JoséCorona at thirty-one had served eleven years (Oliva Aug. 13, 1775 No.4).

1. Recreation

The Spaniards of Tubac could not often relax andplay, but weddings, baptisms, and the burial of children were occasionsfor social gatherings and merriment. The guests were feasted at these family celebrations, and amused themselves with gay and lively dances and songs. Dancing was largely solo, individuals taking turns executing intricate steps, but groups also gyrated for the edification of the spectators 360and themselves (Treutlein 1949:289). The music was relatively simple, probably no more than a violin or two, possibly a small harp.

In the absence of formal recreational facilities, and the comparative rarity of an excuse for a festival, most of the amusement the Tubac people obtained was probably found in frequent visiting and lively conversations and gossip (ibid., p. 290). Card playing was very likely a major amusement for the men of Tubac, among the off-duty soldiers at headquarters or in the barracks, and the idle farmers during the off season, and so on. The failure of the anything but sympathetic Jesuit Ignaz Pfefferkorn to mention card playing as a major vice of the Sonoran Spaniards suggests that his parishioners were well aware of the priest's low regard for card games, and took care not to exhibit the entertaining pasteboards when the good father was about.

2. Diet

The basic diet of the people of Tubac consisted of cereal grain products made from the staple grains maize and wheat. Basic dishes were posole, pinole, atole and tortillas (ibid., p. 288) orwheat bread (ibid., p. 289). Atole was a refreshing drink made with corn meal and water, borrowed from Indian cuisine. Pinole was the basic ground corn meal ingredient for that and other preparations.Tortillas were very thin bread baked on a hot comal or thinclay or metal circle after being patted out from a ball of malleable361dough and thinned by flopping from hand to hand and thenfrom forearm to forearm as they increased in diameter.

Meat dishes were relished by the Tubac populace, which was in general well satisfied with fresh or jerked beef. Only the wealthy could afford delicacies such as mutton and chicken (Treutlein 1949:288), suggesting that small animal husbandry and bird keeping were not widely practiced skills at Tubac. There must have been some hunting of wild game and there was probably some bartering for fresh or dried venison brought to the post by the desert Pápagos.

Even under Captain Juan Bautista de Anza the food supply system for Tubac was none too efficient. The ration he issued was considered scanty by the troopers, some of whom peddled their horses and equipment to purchase extras (Rubí Dec. 21, 1766). The ration was the same as the one customary in other frontier posts, restricted invariety by the small number of crops raised in Sonora (Anza Dec. 30,1766).

Field Marshal Pignatelly y Rubí instituted a schedule of rations designed to raise the amounts received by the troopers and eliminate the scarcity of provisions which had previously prevailed among the Tubac troops:


He shall give each soldier for his fifteen-day ration one fanega of maize or wheat, or 362in its place an equivalent quantity of flour for the price of-------- 4 p. For the same fifteen days time he shall issue for each four soldiers one beef for the price of-------- 8 p. Providing that these must be issued by the Captain precisely at the above-fixed interval of fifteen days and not at one time for all the year as has been the practice. If beef is lacking so each soldier is provided one sheep as equivalent to the aforesaid quarter of beef, he shall issue it for the price of-------------1 p. 4 r. If because of some accident the distribution of beef which is scheduled on some date should be impossible the captain must issue the corresponding amounts of salted or dried meat. To all this shall be added the corresponding beans or vegetables which are easiest for the captain to supply with sufficient chile, sugar, soap, salt, and other necessities which because of their daily consumption also are to be issued exactly every fifteen days ... (Rubí Dec. 31, 1766b).

The royal inspector's reform of the Tubac ration system approximately doubled the ration received by the troops. Previously each trooper had received only one fanega of maize per month, a peso's worth of soap, and such vegetables as 363were in season at any particular time (J. M. Acuña Dec. 23, 1766), plus necessary salt and shoes (Estrada Dec. 24, 1766; Martínez Dec. 24, 1766).

As time went on the supply service probably improved with the advance of civilized territory toward the frontier of settlement. At least by 1775 rough-refined brown sugar loaves appear in the Tubac post accounts (O'Conor Aug. 16, 1775). Flour, maize, pinole, and beans with chile and salt for seasoning still formed the basic diet(ibid.).

Festival foods for the celebrations were on a more appetizing order than everyday dishes. The principal treat was chocolate served with high-quality tortillas. Brandy also graced the family festivals of baptism, wedding and children's burials, and the Spaniards were very fond of it (Treutlein 1949:289).

3. Tobacco

Like the Indians of the area, the Spaniards of Tubac were very fond of tobacco (ibid.). The crown had long been aware of the propensity of colonial subjects to consume this narcotic in great quantity, and had formed a tobacco monopoly controlling distribution of tobacco products for the royal profit. Presidial officers such as the commanders of Tubac were responsible for the administration of tobacco sales within their posts (Rubí Dec. 21, 1766).

Later, under the New Regulations of September, 1772, 364which went into effect at Tubac on June 1, 1774, a junior officer designated as quartermaster took over administration of the royal tobacco monopoly which profited fromthe sale of cigarettes to the tobacco-loving troops (O'Conor Aug. 16, 1775). Cigarettes came in packs in those days, too.

4. Population

The population of the military post at Tubac and its auxiliary citizenry eventually numbered somewhat over four times the complement of the garrison. At any rate 421 persons were reported living at Tubac in November of 1761 (Tamarón 1937:305 & Santos Angeles de Guebavi, p. 129-130).  The garrison at that time numbered fifty-one officers and men. This was about seven years after the full complement of fifty reverted to Tubac. As time went on the proportion of civilians to soldiers increased.

In 1761 there were sixty-two families at Tubac (Tamarón 1937:305). How many of these were families of troops and how many of citizens is not known. By the end of 1766 the citizens numbered forty (Anza Dec. 30, 1766) probably meaning male family heads. Since the total number of dwelling units at the post was over seventy about that time (Urrutia 1766), it appears that perhaps thirty of the troopers had families and twenty were single. Certainly the population was growing as a result of immigration of civilians to the post (Rubí Dec. 21, 1766).

365On October 23, 1775, the population of Tubac decreased sharply with the departure of sixty-three persons with Captain Anza's expedition to colonize the San Francisco Bay in Upper California (Bolton 1930:I:242), apparently the largest contingent sent to the Golden Gate by any one community in New Spain.

If the Tubac population refrained stable from 1766 to 1775, sixty-three emigrants took away fifteen percent of the total populace of the post. If Captain Anza had been able to augment the citizenry by attracting more settlers, the percentage loss was, of course, smaller.

That Captain Anza had not been able to attract many pioneers to Tubac after 1766 is suggested by the number of civilians reported living at the post in August of 1775 two months before the departure of the California colonists. At that time there were thirty-nine families of citizens settled at Tubac, plus two families of Yaquis, two of Opatas, one of Piros and one of Apaches-forty-five families in all not belonging to members of the garrison (Oliva Aug. 10, 1775 No. 8). This represented either a net loss of one family since 1766 or a gain of five, depending on whether Anza counted Indians among the forty citizens he reported then. (If Anza actually meant their were forty total civilians in 1766 rather than forty family heads, then forty-five families represented a very considerable increase.) Family number is no accurate index to Tubac's total population however.

366a. Birth Rate. The Tubac population was a fertile one and most of the married women there bore several children during their productive years. The garrison of the original company seems to have been a comparatively young one, with most of the men recently married and their wives entering their most fertile years.

The Tubac stork derby began in November of 1752 when wives of two soldiers bore children conceived at Santa Ana (Libro de Bautismos del Partido de San Ygnacio de Caburica p. 172-173). The total population of the post was at least seventy-six (counting the rotated unit at Ocuca, nineteen verified wives and six known children taken to Tubac). The crude birth rate can be estimated at about fifty-two births per 1,000 population. This is about double the recent birth rate in the United States which averaged 25.1 births per 1,000 population from 1951 through 1956 (Dunn 1958:I:XLII). The estimate is high to the extent that the Tubac population exceeded seventy-six, but this error is at least partially corrected by births of which no record has been found.

1753--The next year there were nine known births to wives of Tubac soldiers. Nine births in a population of seventy-eight meant a crude birth rate of 115 births per 1,000 population or about four and one half times the current United States birth rate which is increasing the population rapidly combined with a low death rate. Again, of course, this Tubac figure is to some extent an overestimation.

3671754--This year the birth rate fell spectacularly to a mere 23 births per 1,000 population due to the rise in population the previous year and a drop of births to only two. This just maintained the known population, since there were two deaths in the post population during 1754 (speaking always in terms of births and deaths of which record has been found, of course).

1755--The women of Tubac rebounded from the 1754 low with a doubled crop of infants in 1755, four births. This meant a crude birthrate of forty-six births per 1,000 population and a net increase to ninety-one verified residents.

1756--Three births during 1756 indicated a crude birth rate of thirty-three births per 1,000 population, increasing the verified population of Tubac to ninety-four persons.

1757--Only two births in this year meant a crude birth rate below the current United States rate, only twenty-one births per 1,000 population. One fatality at least occurred that year in the company, so the net gain in the verified population was only one. (Actually it was two since the deceased soldier would have been replaced by a recruit or a transfer.)

1758--This was a better year for the goals of colonial administration for the crude birth rate climbed to sixty-three births per 1,000 population. Six women bore children at Tubac to raise the population four persons-two fatalities of record having occurred-to ninety-nine individuals. 3681759--Three births during 1759 exactly balanced three known fatalities. Both the crude birth and death rates ware thirty per 1,000 population.

b. Fertility. Certainly during the seven and one-half years from June 1, 1752, to January 1, 1760, there was additional immigration to Tubac which has not been taken into account in the preceding computations. This does not invalidate the estimates just offered, however, for the immigrants would have had children also, and none of those are included in the computations above. The birth rates above represent the fecundity only of the original Tubac pioneers.

Perhaps this point can be better made by analyzing the fertility of the women involved. As mentioned above, available documents have permitted identification of only nineteen wives of the original garrison. Some troopers were bachelors and some wives bore no children during the seven and one-half year period analyzed. Only seventeen of the nineteen verified wives are known to have born children between the founding of the post and January 1, 1760. These seventeen bore thirty-one children during that seven and one-half years, an average of 1.8 children per child-bearing female of record.

There was a very intriguing correlation between socioeconomic status and number of births per wife during this first seven and a half years of the post of Tubac. Two women out of the seventeen bore four children each. They were 369Doña María Theresa Prudhom Butron y Moxica de Beldarrain and Doña Bartola de la Peña de Ramirez, wives of the post comandant and ensign-lieutenant respectively!

One of the other wives bore three children during these seven and a half years and six bore two children each, leaving eight wives who bore a single infant each. It bears repeating here that since these totals are all documented, the possibility remains that these same women bore additional children of whom no record has been found. The figures analyzed therefore indicate minimal fecundity in this small population. Some of the children born to Tubac mothers were born out of wedlock often in other settlements (Libro de Bautismos del Partido de Huquitoa de 1757 f. 16v), so records of births of that type are difficult to locate.

The virtual certainty that special chaplain Br. Joséph Manuel Díaz del Carpio was keeping a separate set of administrative records for the Tubac post from 1760 on prevents any precise estimation of demographic characteristics. Figures derived from records kept by other priests can yield minimal and skewed estimates only, not reliable ones. The crude death rate which could be computed on the basis of the one known death during 1762 (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros, p. 64) would be only 2.4 deaths per 1,000 population. This is little more than a quarter of the present United States crude mortality rate (Dunn 1958:I:LIV) and much too low to be reasonable.

5. Epidemics

There seems to have been no epidemic outbreak between the founding of the royal fort at Tubac in 1752 and the year 1760. This gave the settlers a breathing spell to acclimate to the climate and local germs of the old Indian settlement.

a. Epidemic of 1760. In this year an unknown illness struck Sonora. The symptoms included lassitude and depression, loss of appetite and thirst, severe pain in the limbs, headaches and a feeling of heaviness and dizziness which made it difficult to remain standing. Those who forced themselves to stay on their feet threw the contagion off faster than those who went to bed, according to the Jesuit missionary Ignaz Pfefferkorn, whose value-system blinded him to the fact that those able to stay on their feet must have had a less worrisome attack in the first place. Fatalities occurred primarily among those already weakened by age or some other malady (Treutlein 1949:217).

The upper Santa Cruz River Valley Indian missions seem to have been affected by this contagion during January when Guebavi counted eighty per cent of its recorded fatalities for the entire year, Tumacácori thirty-seven and one-half per cent of its total and Sonoita fifty per cent (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros). The royal fort at Tubac escaped with no known fatalities, however, indicating that this epidemic was more deadly to the Indian populace than to the Europeans and mixed-bloods at the fort.

371b. Epidemic of 1765-1766. During February and March of 1766 the upper Santa Cruz River Valley Pimans were afflicted by an infectious epidemic which interfered with Spanish military operations.

This epidemic apparently began in southern New Spain during 1765 and spread northward. It reportedly reached Sonora toward the end of June (Treutlein 1949:217) although it did not strike the frontier missions near the royal fort at Tubac until February of 1766 (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros). Symptoms of the malady began with severe headaches and bodily pains followed by very high fever causing delirium in most cases. Observers abandoned hope for patients who vomited and regarded blood dripping from the ears and nose as a sure index of recovery. Sonora suffered heavy mortality during this epidemic which wiped out entire families and virtually depopulated some villages (Treutlein 1949:218). While the 1760 epidemic had probably been simply a severe virus infection, this contagion may well have been typhus.

In the upper Santa Cruz River Valley area the heaviest mortality occurred at Tumacácori where thirty-eight and a half per cent of all 1766 deaths came during February. At Sonoita the February mortality was twenty per cent of that recorded all year. At Calabazas it was only ten per cent and not above average. At Guebavi mission one-third of the recorded deaths during the year occurred during February (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros).

372These deaths raised the 1766 death rate at Guebavi above the rate for several previous years. Based on the beginning of the year population (Lafora 1939:126 & Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros), the crude mortality rate at Guebavi was 101.7 per 1,000 population except for the epidemic. The crude epidemic mortality rate for Guebavi was 50.8 deaths per 1,000 population, making the total crude mortality rate for 1766 at this mission 152.5 deaths per 1,000 population.

Actually the epidemic mortality was somewhat higher than indicated and non-epidemic mortality was lower. This was because fatalities from the epidemic continued into at least the month of March with decreasing frequency, and because the disease caused secondary complications which showed up in patients who had recovered from the initial attack.

It was the extension of epidemic fatalities into March which interfered with military operations in the frontier presidial companies. Captain Juan Bautista de Anza had taken a detachment of his troops from Tubac and a body of thirty Piman Indian scouts east to join detachments from the forts at Fronteras and Terrenate for a month-long sweep through hostile Apache country, leaving Tubac late in February (Anza Mar. 17, 1766:109). Anza was forced to out short his campaign at three weeks because the epidemic broke out among his Indian auxiliaries and he feared the death of more of them if he kept them in the field with little protection and great exertions (ibid., p. 112).

373Two of the thirty Indians Anza had taken with him died as it was, indicating an epidemic crude mortality rate of 66.7 deaths per 1,000 of population. This was somewhat higher than the 50.8 per 1,000 at Guebavi Mission, but this much variation is not significant because of the small size of the samples. The two figures do indicate the approximate severity of the disease among the northern Pimans.

Recovery from the disease was slow and characterized by bodily weakness, aversion to meat in the diet accompanied by deep melancholy. The complications included sudden loss of sight or hearing (Treutlein 1949:.219).

c. The Measles Epidemic of 1770. As the year 1770 began the Indians living at the mission of Santa María Magdalena about seventy miles south of the royal fort of St. Ignatius at Tubac were developing symptoms of epidemic measles of a severe type. On January 21 the first measles fatality occurred, and the epidemic did not leave Magdalena until February 18 (Libro de Entierros de Santa María Magdalena de 1702). At least fifty-three and eight-tenths per cent of the total deaths recorded at Magdalena during 1770 were caused by epidemic measles.

At San Ignacio Mission epidemic mortality commenced on January 6, lasting until February 20. Measles fatalities made up sixty-one per cent of the 1770 deaths at San Ignacio. The 1770 mortality was up 181.8 per cent over 1769-nearly tripled (Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San Ygnacio... de 1697, f. 3-5v).

377As the year wore on the epidemic became general in Sonora (Arricivita 1792:416). The Gulf coast Indians resisting the great Elizondo military expedition were decimated about this time by a severe epidemic reportedly of yellow fever (Rowland 1930:214). Significantly this epidemic accomplished what two years of fighting by hundreds of regular army and frontier fort troops had not accomplished-the first significant surrender of hostile Indians in any important numbers. This occurred only after the contagion took its toll of the independent Indians. It marked the turning point in the war and the beginning of the end of Indian occupation of the desert area along the Gulf Coast and inland to the San Miguel River Valley. If yellow fever was indeed responsible for the epidemic among the hostiles, the total contagion may well have been dual.

This epidemic did not strike the upper Santa Cruz River Valley populace with nearly the severity it had at Magdalena. Unfortunately no data on morbidity in the Tubac area have been found, but the mortality records indicate very slight measles mortality. No deaths were reported at the royal fort itself.

At Guebavi Mission one-third of the deaths recorded during the year 1770 occurred during February but the proportion was only twenty-three per cent of the total at Tumacácori, eighteen per cent of the total exclusive of those killed by Apaches at Calabazas, and about seventeen per cent exclusive of Apache victims at Sonoita. While these figures are all 375above the ideal average of eight and three-tenths per cent per month, some of the difference may be due merely to sampling error in the very small numbers involved. The fact that thirty-six per cent of the year's total deaths at Calabazas (exclusive of Apache victims) occurred during March may indicate that the measles epidemic did in fact strike there but flared up primarily during that month (San José de Tumacácori, Libro de Entierros).

Quite clearly the upper Santa Cruz River Valley settlements as a group and the royal fort of St. Ignatius at Tubac in particular somehow escaped the worst effects of the measles-yellow fever epidemic of 1770. It came but did not kill.

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