The Lipan Apaches and the Spanish

When the Spanish founded a mission and presidio at San Antonio in 1718, they knew there were Apaches in Texas, but they believed that they lived at least two hundred miles to the north. Indeed, that was the case, but what the Spanish did not know was that the Comanches were rapidly pushing the Lipan Apaches ever southward and the Lipans had fixed their sights on the San Antonio area and wished to claim it as their homeland. The first years of San Antonio’s founding were extremely perilous for the Spanish soldiers, missionaries and settlers and the Lipans came close to forcing them to abandon the isolated settlement. In June 1745, over 300 Lipans and Nah-tah-hays (Lipan allies who were affiliated with the Mescalero Apaches) launched a night attack on the San Antonio presidio, setting the buildings on fire. Suddenly, the Lipan chief told his warriors to retreat. He had received news that his daughter was being held hostage at Mission San Antonio de Valero (now known as the Alamo) and he feared she would be killed if the Lipans pressed on with their attack. The Béxar presidio was saved from destruction because of a Lipan father’s love for his daughter.

In 1749, the Lipans and Nah-tah-hays celebrated a grand peace with the Spanish at San Antonio. The entire population came out to meet the Apaches and the leaders feasted under an arbor specially-built for the occasion in what is known today as Plaza de Armas or Military Plaza. Both sides exchanged captives and the chief’s daughter was reunited with her father. At the conclusion of the feast, the Apaches dug a large hole in the center of the plaza and placed a horse, six arrows, a lance and a war club in the hole. Then the Apaches and the people of San Antonio took handfuls of dirt and covered the hole, signifying that henceforth, both sides would put an end to warfare and would "live together and move forward as brothers." The Lipans kept their word and never again attacked San Antonio. They never believed that the Spanish were their enemies, just their adversaries, and they often requested Spanish protection against their true enemies--the Comanches.

The Spanish established four missions specifically for the Lipan Apaches, but all four missions failed either because the Lipans revolted or because the missions were attacked by the Comanches and their allies.

(1) Mission San Lorenzo (near Zaragosa, Coahuila):
December 21, 1754 to October 4, 1755
The Lipans revolted and burned the buildings, citing a lack of food.

(2) Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá (near Menard, Texas):
April 17, 1757 to March 16, 1758
The Lipans never entered the mission in any numbers. In 1758, the priests were attacked and killed by the Comanches and their allies, who were hunting for Lipan Apaches.

(3) Mission San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz (near Camp Wood, Real County, Texas):
January 23, 1762 to 1767
The Lipans were forced away from the mission by Comanche, Wichita, and Tejas attacks.

(4) Mission Nuestra Señora de la Candelaría (near Montell, Uvalde County, Texas):
February 6, 1762 to 1766
The Lipans were forced away from the mission by Comanche, Wichita, and Tejas attacks.