Duvals Story of Early Texas

Two days before the Canary Islanders left Quautitlan, Francisco Duval was crossing the village plaza on his way to a nearby pasture to look into the condition of the horses and pack mules when he encountered Francisco Arocha, Vicente Travieso, Antonio Rodriguez, and Juan Delgado, seated in the shade of a tree engaged in earnest conversation. These newly married men were discussing the responsibilities that would rest upon them as heads of families in the new civil settlement in Texas.

Arocha had spoken of the hard work that would be necessary to raise full crops on virgin land that the government would give them. Delgado had mentioned the care required to keep the live stock in condition, while Rodriguez had outlined the task that confronted all the settlers in constructing and maintaining a good irrigation ditch. As Duval approached, Travieso was commenting on the duties of those heads of families to be chosen to hold public office. He said it was unfortunate that so many of the settlers had not attended school and therefore lacked the knowledge and experience needed in conducting a sound municipal government.

The superior intelligence of Arocha and Travieso surprised Duval, who, prior to their arrival, had come to regard the Canary Islanders as a shallow-minded, shiftless, quarrelsome lot. He soon learned, however, that both young men had attended parochial schools and had received some rudimentary instruction in Spanish history and politics, which they retained. He was pleased when Arocha suggested that knowledge of the early history of the province of Texas would be valuable in planning for the future, and that they ought to ask Father Gomez to enlighten them on the subject before they left Quautitlan.

Duval told the young men that his parents had sent him to school in Mexico for several years, expecting that he would become a priest, but he found he was unfit for the holy calling when he could not adjust himself to a life of sacrifice and seclusion.

Finally, he convinced his parents that he ought to abandon the idea, whereupon he took employment in the service of the viceroy. He said history was his favorite subject and offered to give the young men a summary of the historical background of the province of Texas, if they so desired. Arocha and Travieso quickly accepted tlie suggestion, but Rodriguez showed only mild interest, while Delgado suddenly remembered that he had promised to meet his wife and left his companions huddled around Duval. The substance of Duval's discourse is here recorded in modern terms for ease in identifying some places whose original designations long since have been either lost or forgotten.

Duval began by saying that by priority of discovery and exploration, Spain had the initial opportunity to develop the territory north of the Gulf of Mexico, including the Mississippi Valley, and had the mother country been more alert and less avaricious, she might never have lost Louisiana to the French.

As early as the close of the fifteenth century, Spanish funds financed Columbus' discovery of America, the object of which was not so much the acquisition of territory as the gaining of wealth through new channels of commerce. Many other Spanish explorers followed his voyage between the years of 1493 and 1540.

Balboa discovered the "South Sea" in 1513; Cortes roamed over Mexico six years later; Juan Ponce de Leon was credited with discovering Florida in 1512; and in the period between 1516 and 1540, Miruela, Pineda, Allyon, and Narvaez planted the banner of Spain in many parts of the Western Hemisphere. Cabeza de Vaca traveled inland along the coast of Florida and Texas to the Gulf of California in 1528 to 1536, seeking the pot of gold that was supposed to exist at the western end of the rainbow.

Hernando de Soto arrived at Tampa in 1539, under the sponsorship of Charles V, to search for precious metals, a fruitless effort that probably hastened the explorer's death. At this time Coronado had come overland from present Mexico looking for the fabled "Seven Cities of Cibola," whose streets were reported to be paved with gold, and the fronts of whose houses were set with precious jewels. His efforts also ended in failure. Not finding gold in the regions covered by Cabeza de Vaca, DeSoto, and Coronado, Spain relaxed her feeble grasp on the Mississippi country and turned her attention to Mexico and South America, where he had already found it.

Following the overthrow of the Aztec Empire by Cortes between 1519 and 1521, Spain claimed the country northward from the Isthmus of Panama to a line running east from present northern New Mexico to the South Carolina coast, which, with the West Indies and Venezuela (also the Philippine Islands from 1565 to 1584), was designated as "New Spain." Later, New Spain's territory in eastern North America was reduced when the English occupied Georgia, and it was delimited still farther westward by the French occupation of Louisiana. Spain, however, retained Florida as a barrier against possible future British encroachment.


Such was the situation on April 9, 1682, when Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, reached the mouth of the Mississippi River after a long expedition from Canada by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

Encountering no opposition from the Spanish, La Salle took possession of the country of Louisiana, the seas, harbors, ports, adjacent straits, and all the nations, peoples, provinces, cities, towns, villages, mines, minerals, fisheries, streams, and rivers within the extent of Louisiana, from the mouth of the Ohio River, also along the Mississippi River and the rivers which emptied into it, from its source beyond the Sioux country as tar as its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico, and also to the mouth of the river Palms. La Salle claimed he had assurance from the Indian natives of these countries that he and his associates were the first Europeans to have descended or ascended the Mississippi River, and he protested against all who might thereafter undertake to invade all or any of these countries, peoples or lands, to the prejudice of the rights of his King, who had acquired them by the consent of the nations dwelling in them.

Knowledge of La Salle's encroachment caused only feeble reaction in Spain, but a few years later, Spain awoke from her lethargy when he landed by mistake in Matagorda Bay, thinking he was entering one of the mouths of the Mississippi River.

After La Salle realized he had missed his true destination, he moved his camp near the head of La Vaca Bay on Garcitas Creek, built a fort, and established a permanent colony, which he named Fort St. Louis. Meantime, hostile Indians attacked his colony and killed some of his people, while many others died of disease. La Salle's last ship was wrecked along the gulf coast, his supply of food became exhausted, and his remaining colonists faced starvation. In desperation La Salle set out with a small party on a journey in an attempt to obtain assistance from the French settlements on the Illinois River. At a point believed to be on the Brazos River, he was killed by some of his men. All but a few of the colonists who remained at the fort were either murdered by the Indians or died of disease, and the survivors joined the Indians.

The Spanish authorities in Mexico became indignant when they learned of the French settlement at Fort St. Louis, and between 1686 and 1689, they made several unsuccessful attempts to find La Salle's colony. However, Alonso de Leon, governor of Monclova, accompanied by a Franciscan friar, Father Massanet, and a small body of soldiers, found the abandoned Fort St. Louis. Several unburied bodies and the chaotic condition of the premises told the tragic story of the colony. De Leon found some of the French survivors among the Indians and took them to Mexico. He made first mention of the existence of the San Antonio River, which he called the "Arroyo de Leon," in his diary of April 12, 1689.

In 1690 Father Massanet, with a military escort under De Leon, again visited Fort St. Louis, and burned the tort himself before proceeding to the Neches River, where he established Mission San Francisco de Los Tejas, in further opposition to French expansion of New Spain. This was the beginning of Spanish settlement in what was called Tejas. Depredations by the Indians and their aversion to living in permanent communities, together with alternate flood and drought, prompted the viceroy to order the Neches River mission to be abolished in 1693.

In 1691 Domingo de Teran de los Rios, governor of Coahuila, accompanied by Father Massanet, explored the country eastward to the Cadodacho Indian country in the Red River Valley, and made explorations on the gulf coast. He discovered a Payaya Indian village, called "Yanaguana," near the head of the San Antonio River, and Father Massanet gave it the name of "San Antonio de Padua," in honor of his patron saint.

In 1712 the King of France granted Antoine Crozat a monopoly of the trade of Louisiana for fifteen years, and the new governor, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, endeavored to establish commerce with the Spanish settlements in Mexico, an activity that caused the Spaniards much concern. Cadillac sent a ship to Vera Cruz, whose master attempted to convince the viceroy that mutual advantages would result from trade relations between Louisiana and Mexico. The viceroy was suspicious of the good faith of the French and refused to become interested in the suggestion.


Meantime, another incident occurred that served to upset the Spaniards. Father Hidalgo, a Franciscan friar who had been one of Father Massanet's associates at the Neches mission, but who had long since returned to Mexico, addressed a letter to the church authorities in Louisiana, suggesting that because of their closer proximity to the Asinai Indians, who roamed along the extreme eastern border of New Spain, they might convert and pacify this hostile band.

Father Hidalgo's letter fell into Cadillac's hands after the French ship returned from Vera Cruz bringing an unfavorable reply from the viceroy. Whether Hidalgo's letter had the sanction of the viceroy is not known, but it afforded Cadillac an excuse to send a messenger to Mexico to confer with Hidalgo for the ostensible purpose of inducing the Spaniards likewise to send priests to minister to the Asinai Indians. That messenger was Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, a skilled trader and hardy frontiersman.

Late in 1713 St. Denis established a post on the Red River among the Natchitoches Indians, and then set out for Mexico to find Father Hidalgo. He took along two Asinai Indians and two French survivors at Fort St. Louis, La Salle's old fort that Father Massanet had burned twenty-five years before.

Father Hidalgo was absent when St. Denis arrived at the fort of San Juan Bautista, in Coahuila, near present Eagle Pass, Texas. The commander of the presidio. Captain Diego Ramon, received St. Denis cordially, and treated him with utmost courtesy. Whether St. Denis told his host the true purpose of his visit is not known, but there is no doubt that it was to establish clandestine trade between Louisiana and Mexico.

Captain Ramon detained St. Denis in Coahuila while he sent a messenger to Mexico to inform the authorities of his visitor's presence and to ask for instructions. Meanwhile, St. Denis improved the time by making love to the captain's daughter, and later married her. St. Denis then went to Mexico under guard and convinced the authorities that his purposes were not inimical to Spain. The viceroy was so impressed that he appointed St. Denis to guide an expedition whose alleged purpose was to establish Spanish missions in eastern Texas. Accordingly, in April 1716, two years after his arrival in Coahuila, St. Denis led an expedition under the command of Don Domingo Ramon, and headed in a northeasterly direction.

The expedition included sixty-five men, among whom were nine Franciscan friars under the direction of Father Espinosa, and also Father Hidalgo, previously mentioned. The expedition made a slow, tiresome journey from Coahuila, since the caravan included a thousand head of cattle, sheep and goats, and several oxcarts loaded with farming implements.

On May 14, 1716, Don Domingo Ramon halted his expedition at the headwaters of a slender, shaded creek, and camped for the night. Ramon was so enamored of these waters, which he called "San Pedro Springs," that he was reluctant to depart, but his destination was over one hundred leagues farther eastward and he had orders to proceed as rapidly as possible. Before departing, he took note of his surroundings and followed the creek in a southerly direction for about half a league, where he came upon the Indian village of "Yanaguana," which, as previously noted, Don Domingo Teran de los Rios, with Father Massanet, had discovered a quarter of a century before and named "San Antonio de Padua."

After a short visit to the village, Ramon proceeded down the creek for about a league to a point where it empties into a larger stream whose flowage was from the northeast. He crossed the creek and ascended the larger stream for about two leagues to its source. Along the way, he observed that the shores were lined with tall cane and edged here and there with clusters of willow trees. The sinuous windings of the swift stream gave it the appearance of a huge snake moving rapidly southward to escape some dreaded enemy in the direction of its source.

Ramon located the headwaters of the larger stream at the foot of a long hill, and the outpouring of the springs was so great that the river attained almost full growth within a quarter of a mile of its source. Around and above the springs was a luxuriant growth of trees that included pecans, live oaks, hackberries, and box elders. A rich sprinkling of poppy marrow, lupin or bluebonnet, and other native wild flowers grew in profusion. In the midst of this beautiful setting, Ramon had found the source of the San Antonio River.

Ramon was so much impressed with his discovery that he sent a glowing report to the Duke of Linares, viceroy in Mexico City, and suggested the location as ideal for a military post and mission.

Here, he said, was a large Indian population in need of the gospel; an inexhaustible supply of water would afford means of irrigating vast farms which the Indians might be induced to cultivate; while the site itself was well located for the establishment of a settlement between the Rio Grande and the eastern border of New Spain.

Don Domingo Ramon proceeded slowly to the eastward, and in due time reached the vicinity of the Neches and Angelina rivers, where his church associates found sites for tour missions, which they named Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, La Purisima Concepcion, San Jose, and San Francisco de los Tejas. They later erected another mission farther east, nearer French territory, and called it Nuestra Senora de los Dolores. A part of the expedition then proceeded to Natchitoches, St. Denis' post, on the border between French and Spanish territory, and planted a mission in the valley of the Sabine and east of the Red River at a site known as Los Adaes. This mission was named San Miguel de Linares.

As development progressed along the eastern border of New Spain, the authorities in Mexico concluded that some missions should be set up midway between that area and Coahuila. In this broad expanse of territory, they reasoned, were thousands of spiritually neglected Indians whose souls were in jeopardy. Such a venture would serve a three-fold purpose of evangelizing the Indians, developing commerce with them, and establishing bases of supply and communication between the Rio Grande and the eastern border of Texas.

In due time the viceroy received Don Domingo Ramon's glowing account of his visit of May, 1716, to San Pedro Springs and vicinity. He was so impressed with the prospects that he directed Governor Don Martin de Alarcon of Coahuila promptly to fit out an expedition to consist of seventy-two settlers, monks, and soldiers; two hundred oxen; two hundred cows; a thousand sheep; and five hundred horses, for the purpose of establishing missions at or near the head of the San Antonio River.

Father Antonio de San Buenaventura Olivares was the spiritual head of the expedition. Scarcely had the expedition started when Father Olivares and Governor Alarc6n engaged in a heated argument, resulting in a division of forces, and each faction took a share of the personnel and live stock. Father Olivares and his party founded a mission on the west side of San Pedro Creek, which he called "San Antonio de Valero," using the original name of the settlement, "San Antonio," given it by Father Massanet, to which he added the name of the viceroy. Marques de Valero.

For religious activities, he erected a hut as a temporary structure. Simultaneously, Governor Alarcon founded what he called "Villa de Bexar" (or Bejar, pronounced Bay-ar), near the mission, and placed it in charge of his soldiers.

Both the mission and the villa were named for the viceroy, whose full designation was "Don Balthasar Manuel de Zuniga y Guzman Santomayor y Sarmiento, Marques de Valero," second son of the tenth duke of Bejar, a Spanish family of nobility for several centuries.

Father Olivares' new mission succeeded one of the same name that had been moved three times previously. The first mission, San Antonio de Valero, was established in 1703, in the valley of the Rio Grande, under the invocation of San Francisco Solano. In 1708, it was moved to San IIdefonso, and again in 1710 to the Rio Grande under the name of San Jose.

The temporary mission hut of Father Olivares served until 1722, when the entire mission was moved to the east side of the San Antonio River, and a permanent system of improvements was inaugurated. The buildings of the fort of Villa de Bexar burned to the ground in 1721, and in 1722 a new fort with the name of "San Antonio de Bexar" was established on the site known today as Military Plaza, on the east side of San Pedro Creek. Scarcely had Father Olivares gotten his Mission San Antonio de Valero in full operation when war broke out in Europe in 1719 between Spain and France, which produced trouble between their American colonies.

The French at Natchitoches threatened to wipe out the Spanish settlement at Los Adaes, to the west of the French post. The Spaniards became alarmed and fled from their east Texas settlement to San Antonio. While the Spaniards were moving westward to San Antonio, a French expedition from Louisiana tried to set up a fort on the Texas coast, near the site of La Salle's old colony, but menacing Indians checked it. After peace was restored between the mother countries, the Spaniards returned to east Texas and re-established Los Adaes. Marques de Aguayo, governor of Coahuila, built a fort near the site of La Salle's old Fort St. Louis and named it Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga, while Father Olivares attempted to advance San Antonio de Valero. These three missions were specifically mentioned in the dispatch of King Philip V to the Canary Islanders in 1729.

On February 20, 1720, another enterprise was undertaken near San Antonio that stretched the slender hospitality of the Valero Mission to provide temporarily for the refugees that had arrived from east Texas.

Some time previously, the viceroy had given permission to the governor to build another mission on the San Antonio River, two leagues south of San Antonio de Valero, and the Spanish refugees, monks, and soldiers, under the direction of Father Antonio Margil de Jesus, set to work on it. The new mission was named "Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo," and was dedicated to Saints Joseph and Michael. In honor of the governor, Aguayo, who had secured the permission of the viceroy to establish this mission, his name was included in the title. The mission was nearing completion when the Canary Islanders set sail from Santa Cruz in Teneriffe for America, almost ten years after its foundation was laid.

While Duval seems to have made no mention of the fact, it is to be remembered that the Spaniards employed three instrumentalities in their efforts to Christianize the Indians of Texas and hold the territory against encroachments of the French. These were the mission, or religious factor; the presidio, or fort, occupied by military forces; and the civil settlement, representing the commercial element. These factors were tried in their successive order, although the plans for colonization were worked out by agencies of both the government and the church. The prime interest of the government was repelling the French, while the priests directed their own efforts towards evangelizing and educating the Indians. Each element was affected by the motive of the other and fullest co-operation was essential to success.


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