Mission to Arizona, 1916-1940: Father Augustine Schwarz, O.F.M.

Introduction to Collection and Method of Research


The photographs of the Franciscan, Augustine Schwarz, O.F.M., were donated to the Anthropology Department at Arizona State University by a niece, Elizabeth M. Jones, in 1986, and transferred to the Labriola National American Indian Data Center, University Libraries, Arizona State University, in June of 2000.


Our aim in this exhibit is to reconstruct the thirty years of Father Augustine’s service to his Church and the Native people of Arizona through his photographs. The majority of the images fall nicely into three groups: the Pima people of Central Arizona; the Papagos (Tohono O’odham) of the south, and the Apache in the Whiteriver area of northern Arizona. St. John’s Mission in the village of Komatke, some 14 miles southwest of Phoenix, received the most extensive photographic coverage.


Since 1984, the Papago people prefer to be called, Tohono O’odham, the desert people. We will continue to use Papago throughout this exhibit since that was the term in use when Fr. Augustine served in Arizona.


Because he was sending these photographs to his family, Father Augustine often wrote a description on the reverse. This has helped enormously in identifying sites and researching the history of the various chapels in the villages he served during his years in Arizona. He left many blanks, however. He also cut off borders and segments of some photos.


I have consulted an extensive number of sources as I attempted to further identify the photographs and fill in those blanks. The works of James S. Griffith have been of great value, particularly his 1973 dissertation, “The Catholic Religious Architecture of the Papago Reservation.” Sister Bernaleen M. Bothe’s thesis, “The History of Saint John’s Indian Mission at Komatke, Arizona,” has been useful for its historic content and information on daily life at the mission, its students and early buildings. The Indian Sentinel, a publication of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, re-printed numerous letters and articles by Fr. Augustine and his colleagues at the various missions that open a window to life at the isolated villages on the reservations. The main object of the stories they told was to solicit donations to help continue their work.


As I delved into the history of the missions shown in Fr. Augustine’s photographs, I decided to visit each village on the Papago, Salt River, and San Xavier reservations and photograph the churches or chapels as they appear today. I am grateful to a student, Emilia Morgan, who photographed sites on the Apache Reservation to help complete illustrating the trio of culture areas, which are described separately under Mission to Pimería, Papaguería, and Apachería. In contrasting the old and the new, we find a great many changes over time. However, most churches, many now eighty years old, remain a central part of the village, see regular use, and have been well cared for.


A complete set of the good Father’s photographs can be found at the end of this exhibit. In many cases, his written notes on the reverse are included. Please click on the "Comments" icon below in order to comment on or add information that might be added to the exhibit.


This exhibit results from the effort of a number of people. I am personally grateful to Father Walter Holly of San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, and Deacon Tom Swisher of St. John’s Mission, who graciously granted interviews to talk about the missions. At ASU, Curatorial Specialist Senior Rose Minetti, oversaw the total project; Suzanne McNamara, Library Assistant, scanned the hundreds of photographs from the collection. In addition Assistant Archivist Hillery Oberle created an interactive map with technical assistance from Library Specialist Michael Lotstein. Joyce Martin, Library Specialist Senior, took on the monumental job of putting it all on the web. – Patricia A. Etter, Curator, Labriola National American Indian Data Center, July 2002


Biography of Fr. Augustine

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