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Rare Source on the Spiritual Conquest of the Southwest & Borderlands


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198.     FREJES, Francisco. Historia breve de la conquista de los estados independientes del Imperio Mejicano, escrita por Fr. Francisco Frejes, cronista del Colegio Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas y su Actual Guardian. Mexico: Ojéda, 1839. [i-ii] iii-vii, 302, [2, index] pp. 8vo (16 x 10.2 cm), original full Mexican tree sheep, tan leather label lettered and ruled in gilt. Front hinge and split label expertly restored, front pastedown replaced with sympathetic nineteenth-century paper, head of spine neatly mended, binding a bit worn, otherwise very fine.

     Second edition. Only a handful of copies of the original edition of 1838 are extant, of which Wagner remarks: “This is the first edition of this famous book, of which only a few copies are known. It was reprinted in Mexico in 1839, and in Guadalajara in 1878” (Spanish Southwest, p. 510, erroneously dated 1823). Barrett, Baja California 884. Cowan II, pp. 221-222: “Includes a chapter on the Californias.” Eberstadt 120:93. Graff 1424: “Contains much on the history, geography, Indians, and conquest of Coahuila, Texas, Sonora, and Sinaloa, and on their colonization.” Howell 50, California 87 (1838 edition). Howes F359: “Includes data on Texas and present Arizona.” Palau 94836. Porrúa V:6874. Ramos 1775. Sabin 25825 (citing the 1838 edition, 166 pp.): “Very rare…. Some copies have a different imprint.” Not in Alliot, Rafael Ayala Echavarri (Bibliografía Histórica y Geográfica de Querétaro, Mexico, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 1949), Saunders, Tate (The Indians of Texas: An Annotated Research Bibliography), or Father Weber’s bibliography on California Missions.

     The author is especially proud of the fact that unarmed missionaries without any military support in effect settled and colonized vast areas of the Southwest and Mexico. This rare volume is an important source for the colonial history of the Spanish Southwest, rich in historical detail on the missionary expeditions that brought Texas, New Mexico-Arizona, and the Californias under the jurisdiction of Spain and resulted in the settling of vast regions of what is now the United States. The work is largely an account of the activities of the Church in Mexico and the Spanish Southwest relative to the indigenous population. Among the missionaries discussed is Father Kino. Frejes provides solid documentation, recording, for instance, that in 1655 there were in New Mexico twenty-five missions and as many schools with sixty Fathers attending them. He sometimes remarks on unexpected topics, such as his contention that the sands of the Colorado River are one continuous gold placer.

     In the section on Texas (pp. 221-234) Frejes describes the territory as fertile and so large that no one knows its actual northern extent. He states, however, that Father Juan de Larios was basically responsible for beginning the pacification of the area and its tribes, a development to which the Texas chapter is chiefly devoted (Handbook of Texas Online: Bosque-Larios Expedition; see also Donald Chipman, Spanish Texas 1519-1821, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991, pp. 67-68). He traces the missionary movements north from Saltillo and relates a different version of how Texas got its name (supposedly from the Natives calling the Spanish “Tejia,” their word for friend). He closes the Texas chapter with the entry of Aguayo, which established a Spanish claim to Texas that never again was disputed by France or by the French in Louisiana. See Handbook of Texas Online: Aguayo Expedition and Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo.

     Frejes was official historian of the College at Zacatecas, the most important Mexican training center for the missionaries who went to the Southwest, and wrote several works on history and education. (See Emeterio Valverde Téllez, Bibliografía filosófica mexicana, Mexico, 1907, pp. 77-78.) Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography:

Frejes [1784-1845], Mexican historian, born in Guadalajara…was a Franciscan monk in the convent of his native city, where he distinguished himself as a pulpit orator. His love of study caused him to obtain his transfer to the convent of Guadalupe, in Zacatecas, where he had the advantage of a valuable library containing many manuscripts of the time of the conquest. He was appointed chronicler of the convent in 1835, and in 1838 became its superior. Here he finished his Historia breve de la conquista de los Estados Independientes…. He is a clear and impartial writer, and as some material, which never had become public, was at his command, his history may be considered the most authentic one.

     Frejes’ reason for transferring to the convent of Zacatecas was to utilize its library, which contained many unpublished manuscripts. Most of Frejes’ work was never formally published and remains a promising field for additional research. Frejes is an under-utilized resource for the indigenous population of Mexico, the Southwest, and the Borderlands.


Sold. Hammer: $400.00; Price Realized: $480.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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