2018 Field Work and Historical Background
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.
A recap of the Spanish Colonial History of the area: Mission San Lorenzo 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 2018 TAS investigations, guided by these recommendations and the work completed during 2017 will focus first, on exposing the rest of the north wall of the mission in Area A. Second, the Youth Group will continue to expose architecture in Area B and help to define the condition and extent of any mission foundations along the west wall. Finally, new areas of excavations will be opened up along the south wall (Area D) and east wall (Area E) where several rooms have yet to be investigated. The lab crew will be busy sorting, washing, and processing all of the artifacts collected from the field during the week.
Texas Tech University (TTU) students will again join us this coming summer and will work side by side with TAS members. The TTU crew will continue working in the southeast portion of the mission compound and outside the east wall. The TTU field school will overlap with TAS field school and both undergraduate and graduate students will be working to prepare the site for the arrival of the TAS. Further, they will also be on hand after the TAS leaves to assist in finishing any work not completed at the end of the week. We are happy to announce that the same crew we had last year assisting as area supervisors and lab directors will be assisting us again this coming summer.
A TAS survey crew will be working to identify and record sites on ranches in the area, pending landowner permissions. Remember, 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 another fun and educational summer field school. We have a great site and a wonderful local community that is enthusiastic and excited about the upcoming investigations. They have welcomed us with open arms and are ready for the fun and adventure that the next TAS field school will bring. Please join us for an outstanding field season.