Swiss Jesuit missionary Philipp Segesser (1689 to 1762) followed famous Jesuit missionary Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino (1645 to 1711) into the Pimeria Alta of Southern Arizona (18th- century Sonora, Mexico).
His letters in Swiss German (mostly to his family in Lucerne) have been read and translated by my husband German Studies University Distinguished Professor Albrecht Classen. Quote below from the summary intro:
The early history of Sonora/Arizona (Pimeria Alta) was profoundly influenced and determined by the Jesuit missionaries from Europe. After Padre Eusebio Kino’s death in 1711, an increasing number of German-speaking Jesuits arrived in our region and soon dominated the entiry missionary district. We have known so far well about the Fathers Ignaz Pfefferkorn or Joseph Och.
The Swiss Philipp Segesser, one of the most effective, pragmatic, and industrious members of the Jesuit Order active here in the Southwest, has not yet been fully noticed because his large collection of letters have never been translated into English.
Segesser’s reports about his daily life in our region, his insightful observations about local agriculture, fauna, flora, climate, and geology, and his numerous comments about the native Indians, their life styles, clothing, food, hunting habits, religion, and culture at large prove to be most intriguing and fascinating.
The introduction and excerpts of letters (translated into English) of a forthcoming book* are now online at his webpage at:
http://aclassen.faculty.arizona.edu/transcription_letters_0. These particular excerpts pertain to life in the Tucson area and San Xavier del Bac mission, located in the Tohono O’odham Nation southwest of Tucson at 1950 W. San Xavier Road.
See also the pre-print online versions of all Segesser’s letters (click here).
*Due to state budget cuts this book will not be published in print by the Arizona State Museum.
(updated June 13, 2011)