Mission Socorro

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Mission Socorro (1680-1848) - A Spanish mission established in 1680 in present day Socorro, El Paso County, Texas. Abandoned as a mission about 1848 but continues as the Mission Church. Also known as Nuestra Senora de Socorro Mission and Nuestra Senora de la Limpia Conception del Socorro.

Mission Socorro Church Courtyard
Mission Socorro Church Interior
Mission Socorro Church

Mission Socorro History

Established on 13 Oct 1680 by Spanish Colonial Governor Don Antonio de Otermin, Father Francisco de Ayeta and Piro Indians from Socorro, New Mexico, who had fled the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and relocated to the area south of present day El Paso, Texas. By 1691 the mission housed sixty Piro Indian families and fifteen Spanish families.

Mission Socorro Cemetery
Mission Socorro Interpretive Panel
Mission Socorro Marker

The mission church was constructed of sun dried adobe brick mostly by the Piro Indians supervised by Franciscan priests. The church was built in the shape of the cross with the adobe walls covered with white stucco. The church at Socorro faced east toward rising sun in accordance with Piro Indian and Christian traditions. Mission features included a large cemetery across the plaza from the church, a rectory and a surrounding irrigation system that brought water from the Rio Grande to the mission farmlands.

The mission was twice destroyed by flooding of the nearby Rio Grande River in 1740 and 1840 and was twice rebuilt. The main part of the current mission church dates to the 1843 rebuilding.

Originally the missions provided a structured community with lands surrounding the mission itself supporting the inhabitants. The Spanish colonial government provided some support and monies to keep the missions going. The nearby Presidio San Elizario was built in 1773 to provided a military garrison for protection against hostile Apache Indians and bandits. When necessary, a small number of soldiers might be stationed at the mission. The mission itself was built as a fort with a strong adobe wall enclosed the church and the large patio. The necessity for military fortifications was demonstrated by the losses in the province for the years 1771-1778:

  • 1,963 Persons Killed
  • 155 Taken Prisoner
  • 116 Haciendas & Ranches Destroyed
  • 68,873 Head of Cattle Stolen

In the late 1790s a process of secularization began in which the mission lands were to be divided up amongst the inhabitants and the role of church was reduced to providing for the spiritual needs of the community.

The Mexican War of Independence ended Spanish colonial government support of the missions, drove off the Spanish priests and by the late 1820s had reduced the missions to small enclaves surrounding the churches themselves. The Mexican Government maintained jurisdiction for some 20 years and some of the churches were abandoned during this period.

The Mexican War (1846-1848) and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (2 Feb 1848) brought the missions on the east bank of the Rio Grande River around El Paso under United States jurisdiction and effectively completed the secularization process. The first American Flag arrived in Socorro in 1846. Some of the land claims of the missions and churches in the annexed territory were not settled until the end of the U.S. Civil War (1865). Once the land claims were settled, the missions came under American church control with no support or restriction from the U.S. Government. Mission Socorro transferred from the Mexican Diocese of Durango to the American Vicariate-Apostolic of Tucson in 1868 but the first American priest, Fr. Ollivier, did not arrive until June 1873.

Mission Socorro Church Plan HABS

Current Status

The Socorro Mission is part of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail and has been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). The restored 1843 Mission Church remains in Socorro, El Paso County, Texas. The mission church underwent a ten year restoration completed in 2005.

Location: El Paso County, Texas. Map point may not be accurate.

Maps & Images

Lat: 31.65928 Long: -106.30349

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 3,661'

See Also:



Visited: 26 Mar 2016

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