It was built by the Jesuits nearly two hundred years ago, and is one of the finest specimens of Saracenic architecture to be found on this continent. It is located on the lands of the Papago Indians, in whose charge it now is.
We encamped beneath the shadow of this massive pile, surrounded by the thatched huts of the Papagos, who cluster about its cruciform walls as though confident of its power to protect them, as it did their ancestors, from the contaminating influences of the outside world.
These Indians are a simple, honest, industrious tribe, quite superior to their present situation, and claim that their ancestors have occupied the country for more than a thousand years, and were far more civilized than themselves.
Many of them are as black as negroes, and nearly all are fine specimens of physical beauty. Still, as a race, they, like the old church, are but a wreck of former greatness.
A ride of eight miles brought us to the town of Tucson, through which our wagons passed to the Pico Chico Mountain, five miles beyond, where we made our camp.
This was formerly an old Mexican fort, and was abandoned in 1853, after the survey of the boundary line between Mexico and the United States.
We were here informed, that the Apaches had attacked and captured a small train that was travelling over the route we were following, only the week before; consequently, our chances of getting through unmolested were very good; a piece of information that we received gladly.
The boys and myself spent several hours in Tucson, looking about the town, and its many curiosities, being especially interested in several half-naked, dirty Apaches, which were lounging about, with large nuggets of gold tied up in their filthy rags.
Horse-racing, wrestling, gambling, drinking mescal, and shooting people, seemed to be the principal occupation of its inhabitants, who, as a whole, were about as villainous a looking set of cut-throats as could be found west of the Rio Grande.
Tucson is located in the heart of the great silver and gold bearing regions of Arizona, and it was exceedingly difficult to prevent the boys from loading themselves with specimens of the many ores offered for sale, by every loafer, greaser, and Indian, that we met on the street.
Hal managed to absent himself for a short time; and, when I found him, had traded Ned’s watch for about as small and lively a specimen of a Mexican mule as I ever saw, which, he assured me in good faith, he had bought for Patsey’s exclusive use.
I afterwards learned from Ned, that, ever since the boy had become the owner of a buckskin suit, he imagined that it little comported with the dignity of a person who could sport “sich an illegant suit, to ride in wagins, or walk afoot, whin he ought to ride on horseback, like a gintilmon;” promising, that, if Hal would procure him a mule in Tucson, he would pay him double price on reaching California.