San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Settlement in the San Antonio area dates from the early eighteenth century when explorers crossed the Rio Grande and began travelling though the lands north of Mexico, with the aim of extending the new Spanish territories. Besides the acquisition of new land, these pioneers also sought to spread the Catholic faith - new villages were based around a large church with other buildings for storage and living quarters, which together with cultivated areas for crops and animals were enclosed in a high protective wall, to ward off attacks from unfriendly groups of roving Apache and Comanche Indians.
The whole compound was termed a mission, and several dozen were built across south Texas, always near a river; as well as the San Antonio, they were constructed along the Rio Grande and Nueces, and further east along the Neches and Angelina. After the new territory was secured, the missions became important links in the supply route to lands in the east that were being threatened by French insurgents from Louisiana.
Mission San José - the largest, most impressive and best preserved of the 5 missions, San José was founded in 1720 and retains the original enclosing wall and all associated outbuildings. The church is 15 miles from the city centre and situated in a less developed area, surrounded in most directions by trees and grassland around the river. Quite extensive reconstruction has taken place after the structure fell in to disuse in the nineteenth century.