2017 Field Work
Camp Wood is located in Real County in a beautiful part of the hill country 120 miles west of San Antonio and 40 miles north of Uvalde. In addition to the rich history of the town, including the 19th century military outpost of Camp Wood for which the town is named and the 18th century site of Mission San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz, the town also boasts one of the best swimming holes in the state. Known as “The Quince”, this swimming spot is part of the Nueces River that also attracts kayakers, bird watchers, and fishing enthusiasts. Archeologically speaking, the area is also rich in history and prehistory. While the upcoming investigations will focus primarily on the 18th century site of Mission San Lorenzo, additional investigations will include a survey of surrounding areas and archeological testing on a property adjacent to the mission site.
Mission San Lorenzo (Figure 1) was established by Franciscan missionaries for the Lipan Apache at a site along the upper Nueces River that is today just inside the city limits. Occupied from 1762-1771, the mission was never officially sanctioned and the missionaries attempt to convert the Lipan ultimately failed (Tunnell and Newcomb 1969). Ironically, the founding of Mission San Lorenzo along with a second mission, Candelaria del Cañon near present-day Montell, was encouraged and financially supported by Captain Felipe Rábago y Terán. Captain Rábago, as many of you may remember from the 2003, ‘04, and ’07 TAS field schools, was in command of Presidio San Sabá until 1769 when he was replaced by Captain Manuel Antonio de Oca. Rábago’s licentious behavior and connection to the death of two individuals at San Xavier (where he was in charge of the presidio) in 1752 damaged the relationship between the soldiers stationed at the presidio and the nearby missionaries. In fact, Rábago and his garrison were ex-communicated from the church as a result of his actions (Chipman and Joseph 1999).
Although Rábago was detained for his alleged involvement in the San Xavier murders he was eventually exonerated and returned to San Sabá where he took command of the garrison in 1760. Rábago immediately went to work reinforcing the presidio with stone construction and shortly thereafter began plans for a Lipan Apache mission. His motivations for financing a new mission are not clear though perhaps he was eager to strengthen the alliance between the Lipan and the Spanish since, as Tunnell and Newcomb (1969:163) point out, he needed support to defend the presidio against the Comanche and “the Lipans were the only natives who could give it.” Whatever his reasons, Mission San Lorenzo was up and running by February of 1762. By October of the same year, several buildings were erected including a sacristy, church, granary, and priests’ quarters.
During its brief existence, the San Lorenzo mission suffered many hardships. Chief among these challenges were the numerous Comanche raids, Indian attacks, food shortages, and a smallpox epidemic. These trials along with the unsanctioned status of the mission led to its eventual closure. Towards the end of its tenure, presidial soldiers stationed at the mission were slowly siphoned off to reinforce the garrison at San Antonio. Adding insult to injury few if any Lipan Apache remained at the mission after 1767 and by late June of 1771, the mission was entirely abandoned (Weddle 1999). The desertion of Mission San Lorenzo effectively ended the decades-long effort to convert the Lipan.
In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission acknowledged the site with a historical marker and 200 years after San Lorenzo’s founding archeologists began to investigate the site in 1962. A research team from the Texas Memorial Museum (TMM), led by archaeologist Curtis D. Tunnell, exposed the layout of the mission quadrangle. Tunnell subsequently documented the archeological and architectural findings in a report published in 1969. These investigations exposed the adobe and stone construction present at the mission along with numerous features and burials that provided a glimpse into the daily lives of the inhabitants of San Lorenzo. Living quarters, the sacristy, the church, storage areas, the kitchen, the convento, the granary, and gate area were all identified during Tunnell’s excavations.
Despite these extensive investigations, Tunnell recommended further investigation of several areas of the mission compound. The 2017 TAS investigations, guided by these recommendations, will focus on exposing parts of the mission that were not located during the 1960s excavations. These areas (Figure 2) include the central part of the northern wall and a part of the east wall that may contain another structure, the central part of the south wall where an unidentified structure may exist, the central plaza area where limited excavations were carried out by the TMM team, and the midden areas within the compound walls. Further, some of the architecture exposed in the 1960s will be re-exposed so that we can re-map the site and further study the construction style. Texas Tech University (TTU) students will be working side by side with TAS members and will be preparing the site for their arrival. TTU, under the direction of the author, will be also conduct an archeological field school in conjunction with the TAS field school and graduate students will be on hand to help oversee the operations.
The TAS survey crews will be working to identify and record sites on at least two beautiful ranches in the area. Pending landowner permission, we also plan to revisit and update archeological site information for over a dozen prehistoric Indian sites located on and adjacent to the river. These were first recorded in the mid-1950s by the Carrizo Springs High School Archeological Society led by a young Tommy Hester. In the State of Texas artifacts found on private land belong solely to the landowner and may not be taken without consent, so prior to survey or excavation on private land TAS will seek an agreement with landowners to address whether artifacts will be collected and when they will be returned.
We are looking forward to a productive and exciting summer field school. We have a great site and a wonderful local community that is enthusiastic and excited about the upcoming investigations. They have rolled out the red carpet for us and are ready for the fun and adventure that a TAS field school brings. Please join us for what I know will be an outstanding field season.
Excavation this year for the Youth Group will be either at a Lipan Apache campground or at a historic site location to be determined. Leaders Doug Boyd, Neal Stilly and Trudy Williams will be on hand to guide excavations and provide a great learning experience.