Historian

Eusebio Francisco Kino Signature

"Few if any missionary episodes are better illuminated by contemporary records than this one whose scenes were La Paz and San Bruno.  … The diaries, maps, linguistic notes and letters of Kino, Copart, Atondo, Guzmán and others connected with the [Atondo-Kino California] enterprise constitute a definite contribution to North American exploration, cartography, ethnology, and history, comparable, we might say, with the famous reports of Frémont, or of Lewis and Clark."

Dr, Herbert E.  Bolton
"Rim of Christendom 
A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino: Pacific Coast Pioneer"  1935

"His manuscripts now brought to light constitute by far the best contemporary historical record of the regions where he labored."

Hubert Howe Bancroft

"Kino, Historian's Historian"

Ernest J. Burrus, S.J.


Some months ago, when I suggested in letters to several friends in Tucson that the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of Eusebio Francisco Kino - March 15, 1961 - not be allowed to go by unobserved or uncommemorated, I quickly realized from the enthusiastic and heartwarming response that Tucson is very much "Kino country" and that in this city there are many true aficionados of the great frontiersman and Christian pioneer. Father Kino's work as explorer and missionary, as a maker of borderlands history, is well known here. On his occasion, therefore, it may be appropriate to emphasize a lesser known aspect of Kino's remarkable career: his work as a recorder of the history which he did so much to make.  ....

This strenuous doer of deeds was also a scrupulous recorder of them. Kino's writings were numerous and deal with a considerable variety of subjects: astronomy, cartography, ethnology, geography, linguistics, and political, social and ecclesiastical history. He furnishes indispensable biographical data on himself and numerous key figures civil, military, and religious. To appreciate the wealth of information his writings furnish, the modern historian has only to try to prescind from them in discussing such personalities as Admiral Atondo, Governor Jironza, Captains Manje and Bernal, or Fathers Juan Ugarte,Salvatierra, Francisco Maria Piccolo and Saeta. Without his reports, the Indian chiefs whom Kino immortalized for their loyalty and braverywould be completely unknown to us. How unwaveringly he defends the Pimas against false accusations in a statement that he copied over and signed many times! On each of the numerous tribes of Baja California and Pimeria what a wealth of detail he gives, how he penetrates and reveals their character and distinctive traits! How, then, to write on the history of Lower California without Kino's contribution? How to deal adequately with the late seventeenth or early eighteenth centuries in Pimeria Alta without studying his works? .....

But it is exclusively with Kino's work as a writer of history that this paper will deal, and here four questions arise spontaneously. They are these: (I) What writings in particular merit for Kino the title of historian? (2) Was he accurate, did he possess and exercise a critical spirit, and what were the sources on which he drew? (3) Did certain factors - such as the missionary's need for effective propaganda and the composition of all his key writings in a language not natively his own - detract from his historical impartiality or from his ability to express his thoughts so that subsequent historians could understand unmistakably and unequivocally what he was trying to say? And (4) Are there important manuscripts still to be discovered which may confirm my opinion that Kino deserves to be called "historian's historian?

 For Entire Article, click on Kino, Historian's Historian

Mother of the Missions 1692
María Guadalupe de Lancaster
Duchess of Aveiro, Arcos y Maqueda
With Her Children Joaquín, Gabriel and Isabel

One of Kino's Letters To The Duchess 
Plan for Jesuit Return to California 1686

Your Excellency, the Peace of Our Lord be with you!

Some six months ago, shortly after reaching Mexico City from California (or Carolinas), I wrote <2> to your Excellency giving you an account of that vast Island's extensive mission field so ripe for the harvest of souls, and the heartrending pleadings which those gentle and tractable natives (after their instruction in the tenets of our holy faith) are making to receive holy baptism. <3> I also recounted how we sailed out in the California ships to meet and warn the Manila Galleon about the enemy pirates lurking along the coasts of the South Sea in order to capture it. By God's favor, we succeeded in bringing the Galleon into the port of Acapulco to the chagrin of the four enemy ships. <4>

Afterwards, about the middle of January of this present year of 1686, we continued from Acapulco to Mexico City. In April, as we were on the point of returning to California to get on with the conversion of the many docile natives and gather in so ripe a harvest, a decree arrived from Madrid. Inasmuch as the previous year of 1685 a report had gone out from here to the effect that Nueva Vizcaya, <5> because of the natives' restiveness, was on the brink of ruin, the order came enjoining the assistance to and preservation of that province or territory of Nueva Vizcaya, even if this entailed the suspension of the California enterprise with its settlement and conversion. But as this suspension was effected not because of the peril to which Nueva Vizcaya is exposed (as the royal Attorney-general <6> states in his reply of May 6th of the present year of 1686), additional subsidies instead were obtained for four new missions: <7> two among the Tarahumaras and the others among the pagan Seri and Guayma Indians who live within sight of California, so close that only fifteen or sixteen leagues separate them. My superiors recently appointed me to found this new mission or missions among the Seris and Guaymas, who are also pleading for holy baptism. For this purpose I shall be departing, God willing, from Mexico City in just two days. <8>

Although we are hoping that the final decision for the continuing of the settlement and conversion of California (or Carolinas) will be a favorable one, and are consoled by the news that the next Viceroy <9> is well disposed towards the missions through his devotion to the eminent apostle and angelic Saint Francis Xavier, and, further, are reassured by the grant of two subsidies for the two new missions among the Seris and Guaymas with the observation that the sum would thus help promote the continuity of the conversion of nearby California; despite all this, the uncertainty of the future is blocking or delaying the dispatch of the spiritual assistance for the salvation of so many souls so eager to receive holy baptism. <10> In all sincerity and from the depth of my heart, as also in the name of those gentle and tractable natives, I commend, not once but a thousand times, this enterprise to the holy zeal of your Excellency so that, when the occasion presents itself and you judge it opportune, you will deign to favor so holy a cause. To this end it would help to keep in mind the following three points. <11>

The first is that at present it is possible to secure the continuation of the settlement and conversion of California with a moderate and wisely employed sum from the royal treasury, <12> whereas since 1680 nearly half a million pesos have been spent <13> (that is, approximately one hundred thousand pesos each year), and the earlier expeditions <14> entailed an outlay of two million more, namely those of Hernan Cortés in 1523, of Sebastian Vizcaino in 1597 and 1602, of Francisco Ortega in 1634, of Admiral Pedro Porter Casanate in 1644, of Bernardo Bernal de Piñadero in 1677 and other attempts involving large ships and "long boards," armed soldiers and marines, weapons, supplies and repairs; the expenditures for the discovery and settlement of California amounted to the sums stated above. But now with a couple of long boats and a small garrison of twenty or twenty-five soldiers and four to six missionaries (a total expenditure of some twenty thousand pesos and, if necessary, of even a smaller outlay), it is possible to effect the desired project of the peaceful settlement of California, as can testify many level-headed men with experience gathered during the last few years through their participation in the California enterprise.

Everyone knows how much the undertaking has suffered and has been retarded and how much useless expenditure has been incurred by employing large ships and sailing them over a route more than two hundred leagues from Compostela and Guadalajara in order to transport the provisions to California, with a delay of usually nine or ten months until the bulky shipment finally arrived and half rotten at that; whereas with a weekly crossing of long boats from Sinaloa and Yaqui, it would be easy to secure all that one might desire.

The second is that the settlement, enterprise and conversion of California has experienced many difficulties, obstacles and delays (purposely created, by the way). The enemy of mankind in the attainment of its salvation, furious that so great a prize, securely his for so many years, should slip from his grasp, associated with some others, has so resolutely opposed the Society of Jesus, that one may appositely say with the Apostle of the Gentiles in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, XVI, 9: "For a great door and evident is opened unto me; and many adversaries."

Despite the large number of the difficulties, <15> they can be reduced to these three: the first, the great expense; the second, the drought and unproductiveness of the land, so much so that some have not hesitated to say that the country is uninhabitable; the third, the diseases, especially scurvy, which during the past months of March, April and May of 1685 made victims of many soldiers.

The replies to these three difficulties are as follows. The solution to the first has been indicated above, namely in the first point discussed. The second difficulty states that the drought in California lasted a year and a half; it is at least extenuated by realizing that the drought was general; that is, almost everywhere in New Spain and North America, and that when we reached California on October 6, 1683, and proceeded to San Bruno, we found attractive and fertile lands with plentiful pastures for herds and suitable for planting, as Admiral Isidro de Atondo y Antillón wrote to the Viceroy in a letter dated October 15, 1683. The bit of maize and wheat and other grain which we then planted gave a yield equal to that of any part of New Spain; from the wheat harvested bread was made and the hosts with which for a long time the holy sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated.

Likewise, from the information furnished by the California natives, it is certain that farther north <16> there are lands which are level, rich and fertile, and with abundant water. There is a royal decree with the statement that on the 36th parallel there are trees to build ships of any tonnage. It is also certain that we have not yet seen one percent of California, which is so extensive that the distance from Cabo San Lucas <17> to Cabo Mendocino and Cabo Blanco is over five hundred leagues; <18> and, according to sea charts and the accounts of Sebastian Vizcaíno, Francisco Ortega, Pedro Porter de Casanate and others who on various occasions sailed over to California in order to explore the region (and their statements agree with what the natives have told us), all of California is inhabited by numerous tractable and peaceful Indians. And should there at times be any scarcity of some provisions in California, they could be imported by small craft from the productive nearby regions, namely from the lands of the Seris, Guaymas, Sinaloans and Yaquis. Thus, the necessary help and alleviation could be secured.

As for the third difficulty, namely that of the diseases which they experienced during the past months of March, April and May, the same prevailed to an equal degree and with a high mortality rate in various parts of New Spain. Now, if instead of living in Fort Bruno <19> whose water supply turns very salty because of its proximity to the sea, headquarters were set up in the other fort (San Isidro and San Nicolas, or Los Reyes) or on some other site further inland where even in time of drought the sources furnish an abundance of good water, all would live less subject to such diseases. The most efficacious remedy against such as break out on board ship is to secure fresh provisions, and these can easily be brought over in small craft, namely the so-called "long-boats."

The third point is this. It is now very easy to effect the settlement and conversion of California, at least in various region of the country, inasmuch as it lies only 25 leagues across the strait (in some places, only twenty, nineteen or sixteen leagues). This means a sea voyage of ordinarily twenty hours, and sometimes of only fifteen, twelve or even less. <20> We have secured very good ports on both sides of this calm and tranquil gulf.

We have learned two of the native languages <21> and have brought three California Indians to New Spain who already know Spanish well and can act as expert interpreters. <22> But what most facilitates the settlement and conversion is that the people of California are so gentle, submissive and peaceful that even after our men on various occasions had slain a total of thirteen of them, <23> we received no harm from them by way of vengeance, but rather always signal kindness and esteem and even a truly devoted affection, especially the missionaries of the Society of Jesus, whom they consider as heaven-sent teachers and often in times of drought were asked to pray for rain, etc.

It is true that during the last two years to the present, we have baptized only eleven natives, <24> and these were on the point of death. Of the eleven three recovered, and these unfortunately have stayed behind among the pagans. The fewness of baptisms was due to the withholding during the years of the authorization to confer the sacrament with solemnity. The officials here in Mexico City were supposed to send us the decision to continue the enterprise of settling and converting the region, but because this decision was so slow in reaching us over the tortuous route it followed, we proceeded to Matanchel, a port on the mainland of New Spain. <25> We were immediately dispatched to meet and warn the Philippine Galleon; thus property aboard the Manila Galleon worth some four million pesos escaped by heaven's favor the pirates' grasp.

And although I have written a book in Latin <26> called the New Carolinas, on all these themes relating to California, on the voyages and expeditions undertaken to date, on the inhabitants and their ways, on the other Jesuit missions and neighboring pagan tribes of North America, on the vast amounts of money in behalf of the welfare and eternal salvation of souls being spent by his Catholic Majesty (whom God protect) with so sacred intent and so generously, and Father Baltasar de Mansilla, <27> God willing, will take a copy of the book to Spain for publication if superiors approve, nonetheless in the meantime through this letter I come pleading on my knees in behalf of so many souls to the most pious zeal of your Excellency, and beg of you, by the most precious blood of our Creator and Redeemer Jesus Christ, that you deign to assist and help us, as occasion offers in Madrid, in order that the advantage of so ripe a harvest and the vast expenditures of his Catholic Majesty (whom God protect) and the price paid for by the most sacred passion and death of Our Lord be not lost.

My superiors here have promised me that, on the arrival of a favorable decision from Madrid regarding the conversion of California, they will send me to continue in its missions, and then I shall turn over to another the foundations which I have made among the Seris and Guaymas. In just two days I shall be leaving from Mexico City for those missions; <28> I have been provided with church bells, chalices and altar furnishings.

I repeatedly commend all to the fervent prayers of your Excellency, and ask Our Lord to keep your Excellency through the years in true happiness and increase of heaven-sent gifts, as I desire and these souls stand in need.

Mexico City, November 16, 1686.

Most devotedly yours,

Eusebio Francisco Kino

P.S. On the feast days of Saint Francis Xavier and of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, in accordance with my promise <29> I shall offer, God willing, my Masses for the intention of your Excellency and the spiritual and temporal welfare of my dear friends, Joaquin, Gabriel and Isabel. I commend to your Excellency the twenty-one Englishmen whom we recently converted here; I refer to this in the hope that there may be some opportunity offered you of securing a mitigation of their prison term which is five years. Do pardon the trouble which my requests may entail. <30>

"Kino Writes to the Duchess:
Letters of Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J., To The Duchess of Aveiro"
Editor Ernest J. Burrus, S.J. 1965


Kino's Historical Writings

Selected Bibliography of Translations

Historical Memoir of the Pimeria Alta. Herbert Bolton, translated, Cleveland: Arthur Clark Co., 1919. 2 vols, Reprint: Berkeley: University of California, 1948. 2 vols, in one.

Kino's Biography of Francisco Javier Saeta. Translated and with an Epilogue by Charles W. Polzer, S. J.; original Spanish transcription edited by Ernest J. Burrus, S. J. Rome and St. Louis: Jesuit Historical Institute, 1971.

Kino's Plan for Development of the Pimeria Alta. Ernest J. Burrus, S. J., translated. Tucson: Arizona Pioneer's Historical Society, 1961.

Kino Reports to Headquarters. Ernest Burrus, S. J., translated. Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Jesu, 1954.

Kino Writes to the Duchess. Ernest Burrus, S. J. translated. Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Jesu, 1965.

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