Mission to Arizona, 1916-1940: Father Augustine Schwarz, O.F.M.
Mission to Apachería: Introduction
Fort Apache Reservation covers close to 3,000 square miles in east-central Arizona. Fort Apache Military Post was established on the reservation in 1870 to protect white settlers in the area and remained active until 1922, when it was turned over to the Indian Service for educational purposes. At that time, the Indian population was 2,456. Whiteriver, located on the river of the same name, is three miles north of the military post, and serves as the agency and the main trading center for the reservation.
Lutheran missionaries were the first to minister to the Indians at Whiteriver, arriving about 1893. It would be twenty-five years before the Catholic Indian Bureau offered the field to the Franciscan fathers of the Province of Santa Barbara who assigned Father Justin Deutsch to minister to the Native people. Father Augustine arrived in 1923, served for two years, and according to his resumé, returned five years later to finish construction on the Cibecue Chapel some 50 miles to the north.
He left no photographs that record his latter sojourn but he did write to The Indian Sentinel during depression years to say that he’d sunk all his savings into church repairs at Whiteriver. He added that “the religious instruction work is going ahead among these Apache. I’m glad to report the spiritual prosperity at least in these times of depression.”