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On June 13 of that year they pitched camp alongside a group of friendly Payaya Indians at the River's headwaters.It happened to be the day of Saint Anthony of Padua, and they named the spot San Antonio de Padua.By 1680 the Spanish had begun to fear French expansion into lands claimed by Spain, and between 17 several Spanish , or formal expeditions, made their way across Texas.These explorers realized the gentle plain below San Antonio Springs was a strategic spot for a permanent stronghold against French incursion.Around every lane it takes a loop; here it is just a pebbly ford, there, although so perfectly transparent that you can see every flint in its bed, it is of a profound depth, and every where it is of a color whose loveliness is past belief.It flows by the Mexican jacal, and through the wealthy garden, around the churches, across the business streets with its delightful glimpses.Franciscan missionary Antonio de San Buenaventuara y Olivares arrived with one of these expeditions at the San Antonio River on April 13, 1709, and was so pleased with the river site that he began a nine year campaign to build a mission on the banks.On May 1, 1718, Olivares broke ground, built a hut of brush and grapevines, offered Mass, and named his mission San Antonio de Valero.
There is probably nothing like it in America." Spofford wrote: In and out among these houses slips the San Antonio River, clear as crystal, swifter than a mill-race; now narrow and foaming along between steep banks with luxuriant semi-tropical growth, and with the tall pecans on either side meeting above them in vaulting shadows; now spreading in sunny shallows between long grassy swards starred with flowers, twisting and turning and doubling on itself, so tortuous that the three miles of the straight line from its head to the market-place it makes only in fourteen miles of caprices and surprises, rapids and eddies and falls and narrow curves, reach after reach of soft green and flickering sunshine, each more exquisitely beautiful than the other.
Few cities have had such an intense love affair or such an intimate relationship with their river as San Antonio.
Year round bathing in the River was a San Antonio tradition and was described by Frederick Marryat in 1843: The temperature of the water is the same throughout the year, neither too warm nor too cold for bathing, and not a single day passes without the inhabitants indulging in the favourite and healthy exercise of swimming, which is practised by everybody, from morning till evening; and the traveller along the shores of this beautiful river will constantly see hundreds of children, of all ages and colour, swimming and diving like so many ducks.
(Image from By 1850, San Antonio had made a servant of its River.
It powered waterworks and mills, fed irrigation ditches, provided drinking water, put out fires, and carried sewage downstream (Mc Lemore, 1980).
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It was moved to the east side of the San Pedro Springs in 1719 where farmland was better, and then was moved to the location now occupied by St. Hurricane floods destroyed it in 1724 and the mission was then moved to its final location on the banks of the San Antonio River , to divert water from the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek to farmlands.