The Garcés Bridge: Who Was Father Garcés?
This is an excerpt from Stop 6 of our History and Dining Guide.
Nearly 100 years before C.O. Brown established the Congress Hall Saloon, Father Francisco Garcés was among the first Europeans to explore and attempt to settle the hostile region we now know as Southern Arizona.
On the wall at the apex of the bridge, located on Congress near the Pima County Courthouse, you will find a memorial plaque dedicated to Father Francisco Garcés, the Franciscan priest who accompanied Col. Hugo O’Conner in establishing El Presidio del Tucson. Fr. Garcés also accompanied Juan Batista de Anza as he led 300 Spaniards to Alta California in 1775-76. Afterward, Garcés made a valiant effort to establish a mission at Yuma Crossing on the Colorado River.
Congress Street looking west ca. 1910. From the apex of the Garcés Bridge, you will be standing over Congress Street. Compare what you see now with the street scene in this old photo. Just like today, electric streetcars were an important part of Downtown until discontinued at midnight on December 31, 1930.
On Anza’s return trip to Tucson, Father Garcés stayed with the Quechen (Yuma) Indians to establish a mission at Yuma Crossing where Rio Gila flows into the much larger Rio Colorado. By all accounts, Father Garcés liked these aboriginals and they liked him. Between 1779 and 1781, Father Garcés, along with a couple of other priests, established two missions along the lower Colorado.
However, over the next two years, more and more Spaniards arrived to cross the river at Yuma Crossing. These new arrivals were not particularly respectful of the Quechens and the Indians became resentful of their presence, particularly the Spaniards’ habit of allowing their horses and cattle to dine on the Quechen’s crops … an indifference that threatened starvation.
For this and other reasons, in July of 1781, the Quechens revolted, killing 105 Spaniards, including Father Garcés. Seventy-six men, women, and children were taken prisoner and became slaves of the Quechens. Nearly all the dead had been bludgeoned to death with war clubs.
Garcés and the other priests killed in the Yuma Revolt are considered martyrs of the faith by the Catholic Church.
If you would like to know more about the fascinating history of Yuma Crossing, we highly recommend the book: Massacre at the Yuma Crossing: Spanish Relations with the Quechans, 1779-1782
CLICK HERE for our article on Yuma Crossing today.
For a copy of our Self-guided Tucson, visit or call Antigoné Books on 4th Ave.