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John Jacob Baegert

Missionary and ethnographer (1717-1777)

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Baegert, JOHN JACOB, missionary and ethnographer, b. at Schlettstadt in Alsace, December 23, 1717; d. at Neustadt-on-the-Haardt in the Rhenish Palatinate, September 29 (or December), 1777. Baegert belonged to an Alsatian family from which had come several members of religious orders. He studied philosophy two years, entered the Society of Jesus at Aschaffenburg, September 27, 1736, taught the humanities at Mannheim in 1740, studied theology at Molsheim, and after ordination, February 14, 1749, went to America as a missionary. Lower California was given to him as his field of labor. Here he founded the mission of San Ignacio and worked for seventeen years until the expulsion of the Society in 1767. He embarked at Loretto on the return journey, February 3, 1768, and after a short stay in a Spanish monastery of the Minorites retired to the Jesuit college at Neustadt-on-the-Haardt, where he ended his days. In 1773 Baegert published anonymously at Mannheim. “Nachrichten von der amerikanischen Halbinsel Californien mit einem zweifachen Anhang falscher Nachrichten”. The publication is distinguished by truthfulness of statement and corrects the over-favorable description of conditions in California which had been given by Father Venegas in his account issued at Madrid in 1751. Father Baegert describes the physical character of Lower California, the customs and language of the natives and narrates the history of the mission. Owing to the numerous ethnographical observations the work was of value up to the middle of the nineteenth century and an edited translation was issued by the Smithsonian Institution in 1863-64; Vivien de Saint-Martin also wrote a detailed account of the work. The contemporaries of Baegert spoke highly of his talent for poetry and of his fine personal qualities.


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