Mission San Xavier del Bac: White Dove of the Desert

Fondly known as the “White Dove of the Desert”, San Xavier is a striking sight

In the vast Sonoran Desert on an Indian reservation just nine miles southwest of Tucson, one would not expect to find a beautiful church. Mission San Xavier del Bac is a place, both historical and sacred, that no visitor to Southern Arizona should miss.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fondly known as the “White Dove of the Desert”, San Xavier is one of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture in the United States. It is truly an awesome experience. The sheer size and bright color against a blue sky and the tan colors of the desert make San Xavier Mission a striking sight.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A treasure of southwestern history, San Xavier del Bac is an 18th century religious beacon that calls all to experience. The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th Century space.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Xavier del Bac is a magnet to those that appreciate art, statues, sculptures, and paintings of its original times. The interior is filled with brightly painted carvings of apostles and saints and ornate décor statues that are actually draped in real clothing.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission is a mixture of Moorish, Spanish, and American Indian art and architecture. Its brick walls are six feet thick in some places and is coated with a limestone-based plaster with a formula that includes the juice from prickly pear cactus pads.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mission San Xavier is on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. Tohono O’odham means “Desert People”. The Tohono O’odham were farming along the Santa Cruz River when Spanish Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino established the original mission here in 1692.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Father Kino named the mission in honor of his chosen patron saint, St Francis Xavier. The San Xavier surname of “del Bac” means place where water appears”. Hence, its entire name: Mission San Xavier del Bac.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Religious control of the mission was transferred from the Jesuits to the Franciscans in 1768. Shortly thereafter, the mission was destroyed by less friendly Indian tribes. The current San Xavier Mission was rebuilt under the direction of Franciscan Fathers Juan Bautista Velderrain and Juan Bautista Llorenz in 1783 and was completed in 1797, when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one can say with certainty who the San Xavier architect was, who provided the construction labor, or who the artisans were, but most believe most, if not all, roles were fulfilled by the Tohono O’odham Indians. However, all agree that the architecture was the most profound of the early Spanish missions and the brilliantly colorful artistic embellishments are spectacular.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following Mexican independence in 1821, San Xavier became part of Mexico. The last resident Franciscan of the 19th Century departed in 1837. With the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, the Mission became part of the United States.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1859 San Xavier became part of the Diocese of Santa Fe. In 1866 Tucson became an incipient diocese and regular services were held at the Mission once again. Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet opened a school at the Mission in 1872. Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity now teach at the school and reside in the convent.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recently, Mission San Xavier became a separate nonprofit entity. It remains a testament to the endurance of culture throughout history. The church retains its original purpose of ministering to the religious needs of its parishioners. It’s a destination of Catholic pilgrimage where locals and visitors pray to Saint Francis for intercessory prayer to God.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether your interests lie in religion, history, or art, San Xavier del Bac is an attraction you don’t want to miss when visiting Tucson and Southern Arizona.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located nine miles southwest of downtown Tucson, San Xavier del Bac is on San Xavier Road, just three miles southwest of Mission View RV Resort, our home base for exploring Tucson and regions south. San Xavier is open to the public 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., except during church services.

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

Jacksonville: The Historic Small Town That Never Gets Old

Gold fever, wagon trains, Indian uprisings, epidemics, and the settlement of a new frontier are all part of Jacksonville’s heritage

The historical small town of Jacksonville is located about seven miles west of Medford and fifteen miles north of Ashland, Oregon. Jacksonville is one of the most historically significant communities in the western United States.

Filled with historical landmarks this town offers visitors experience of a bygone era. Jacksonville is filled with antique stores, galleries, book stores, boutiques, specialty shops, cozy inns, fine restaurants, and other historic attractions.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

More than 100 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1966, the entire town of Jacksonville was designated a National Register of Historic landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

After a wild start as a gold rush town, the Jacksonville story began to quiet down as folks moved to the area to focus on agriculture, banking, and shop-keeping along with raising their families.

Jacksonville got its start as a gold rush town. Gold was first discovered at Rich Gulch in 1851. 

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

As the news spread the area was inundated by gold miners seeking their fortunes. Within months, thousands were scouring the hills hoping to stake a claim. A thriving mining camp emerged along the gold-lined creekbeds and before long, the bustling camp was transformed into a town named Jacksonville.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The gold rush fever soon brought prosperity to Jacksonville and by the winter of 1852, saloons and gambling halls were springing up to coax the gold from the hands of the eager prospectors. Makeshift shops, supply stores, a bank, and an array of other enterprising businesses suddenly began to appear on the scene.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Previously, the area was populated by the Upland Takelmas native American tribe. The influx of white settlers caused increased friction and eventually the native populations were removed from the area.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Originally named Table Rock City because of the view of two mesa about 10 miles away, Jacksonville emerged from the mining campsites and thrived to become the county seat and the largest city in Oregon. 

Settlers coming west on wagon trains found the Rogue Valley to be a desirable place to establish land claims and earn a living as farmers and ranchers.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Among those drawn to the area was Peter Britt. His search of gold eventually gave way to a passion to chronicle the times through his talents as a photographer. Fortunately for us, the lives, the landscapes and the legends of the day were captured through his lens. His former estate is now home to the Britt Festival—a summer long concert series, including 3-weekend Classical Festival.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

When the railroad bypassed Jacksonville in 1884, the town remained as the county seat and the prominent town in Southern Oregon, however the boom was over and businesses and residents moved away over the next 50 years. Most relocated to Medford as it took Jacksonville’s place with its railroad stop.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Most of Jacksonville is now a National Historic Landmark due to the preservation of so many of these buildings. At first it was preservation by neglect due to lack of economic incentive. Then, in the 1960s folks who appreciated what Jacksonville was banded together to prevent the interstate from coming through town and started focusing on preservation efforts, leading to the National Historic Landmark designation.

A handful of wineries make it really easy to enjoy the bounty of Southern Oregon wine. There are three tasting rooms in town and two wineries within a mile of town comprising the Jacksonville Wineries Association. Each tasting rooms presents a different perspectives on wine.

With a choice of 18 wineries, the nearby Applegate Wine Trail offers many options in planning a wine tasting itinerary in the area.

Worth Pondering…

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends to do otherwise.

—Henry David Thoreau