San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

Presido Santa Cruz De Terrenate

The Spanish Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate is the most intact example remaining of a once extensive network of similar presidios (fortresses) that marked the northern extension of New Spain into the New World. Only a stone foundation and a few remaining adobe wall remnants mark the location of an isolated and dangerous military station.

The Presidio was established in 1776 by an Irish mercenary, Hugh O'Conor for the King of Spain (Carlos III). The Presidio was never completed to the specifications of its design plan. Warfare with the Apache was not like war between Europeans, and the construction of the Presidio was altered to fit the needs of the garrison. Numerous problems including Apache depredations, administrative greed and corruption, poor morale, and the obvious failure of the presidial network helped account for the abandonment of Santa Cruz de Terrenate less than five years later. The last commander summarized his reasons in a general report to the crown in 1781:

"The terror instilled in the troops and settlers of the presidio of Santa Cruz that had seen two captains and more than eighty men perish at the hands of the enemies in the open rolling ground at a short distance from the post, and the incessant attacks which they suffered from the numerous bands of Apache, who do not permit cultivation of the crops, who surprise the mule trains carrying effects and supplies, who rob the horse herds and put the troops in the situation of not being able to attend their own defense, making them useless for the defense of the province."

The failure of this Presidio to hold, much less secure additional territory for Spain, ensured that dominion of the land destined to become Arizona would continue to be contested for many years. The Apache successfully thwarted Spain's bid for North America, while extending their own undisputed dominion for another 75 years.

Many people know the Presidio as Quiburi, since Charles DiPeso (in the 1950's) excavated a substantial portion of the site, and reported that he believed he had evidence indicating that O'Conor had located the fort over the abandoned Sobaipuri indian village of Quiburi. Many archaeologists support a counter hypothesis that the structures at the site believed by DiPeso to be Sobaipuri, were in fact the temporary quarters of the Presidio soldiers and their families.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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