Padre Francisco Garcés
Location: Lorenzi Park Rose Garden; 3333 West Washington Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada
Dedicated: October 7, 1954
Marker Significance: The monument was erected and dedicated in honor of Padre Francisco Garcés, the first recorded white man to enter what is now the state of Nevada. Francisco Garcés was Franciscan monk who, in 1775, passed through the southern part of the state on his way to California. Francisco Garcés was among the great names in the Franciscan history of Arizona and California. His book of travels is considered one of the epic journeys of all North America. Francisco Garcés was born April 12, 1738, in Aragon, Spain, the son of Juan and Antonio Maestro Garcés. His uncle aided in his early education and at 16 he took his holy orders. When he was 25, he was ordained a priest and later attended the College of Santa Cruz de Questara, Mexico, where he prepared for mission work among the Indians. Because of his love for his fellow man and missionary zeal, he implored to be sent to San Zavier del Bac Mission. This was the point most exposed to the attacks of Apaches. From here he made extensive expeditions along the Gila, Colorado, and Mojave Rivers, from Bakersfield on the north through Needles on the south.
As a missionary and wanderer, rather than a road maker, Garcés was a solitary explorer who preferred to risk his own life. Traveling either on foot or horseback, he endured a life of great hardships. It mattered not where he went as he had just one dominating motive -- the Christianizing of Indians. To this end he visited nine different tribes composed of 24,500 souls.
King Carlos of Spain, however, was desirous of opening a land route from Mexico to California and, after reading Garcés' diaries in 1774, ordered Lt. Col. Bautista de Anza to confer with Garcés and plan two great expeditions to San Gabriel Mission and Monterey. This was done but Garcés preferred to travel without protection of soldiers so as not to arouse the suspicions of the Indians he was attempting to help. In 1780, Father Garcés founded the missions of Conception and San Pedro.
It seems Spain had earlier promised Chief Palma, of the Yuma Indians, a mission to be erected in his area. Unfortunately, this was not done. So, after three years of waiting, the disappointed and angry Yumas attacked the San Pedro Mission on July 19, 1781. Chief Palma sent tribesmen to find his friend Garcés, and his assistant, to escort them to Conception unharmed. They were found, but in spite of Chief Palma's orders, were killed. Thus the life from one of early America's great scholars, explorers, and soldiers of the Cross -- Padre Francisco Garcés -- was extinguished.
The monument was dedicated on October 7, 1954, at the then Las Vegas City Library on Carson Street between 2nd and 3rd streets in downtown Las Vegas. The stone monument incorporated a rock from each of the then 48 states. The rocks were gathered by Mrs. Lydell Clement. The City Library property was eventually cleared to make way for the present day City Hall building, and the monument was removed and placed into storage. When the rose garden at Lorenzi Park was dedicated, the monument was relocated there where it remains today.
Later, Francisco Garcés Chapter also erected a flag pole at the Lorenzi Park rose garden.
Directions: Lorenzi Park is on West Washington Street, just west of the intersection with North Rancho Drive in Las Vegas. The Park is northwest of the spaghetti bowl interchange between U.S. Highway 95 and U.S. Interstate 15.