Quautitlan to San Antonio de Bexar
Francisco Duval appeared at the headquarters of the Canary Islanders at Quautitlan early on the morning of November 15, 1730, with enough horses and mules to make the long trip to Saltillo. Father Gomez had just concluded a special mass during which he prayed for the health and safety of the colonists, he had acquired a deep affection for them and had endeared himself to the visitors by his tender care of the sick and in conducting three funerals and five marriage ceremonies. He pleased them greatly when lie announced that he would accompany them to Queretaro.
Duval formed the line of travel in the same order as that used on the journey from Vera Cruz to Quautitlan, with a fresh assignment of soldiers from Mexico City as guards.
During the first two days of the journey, the route lay over a stretch of country whose altitude was uniformly about seventy-five hundred feet. On the third day the road ascended to a height oŁ over eight thousand feet above the sea, and during the next two days, it dropped to about six thousand feet at Queretaro. Here the company halted a day to rest and relax. They were guests of the College of Santa Clara, which, like the College of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe at Zacatecas, was famous as a center for educating Franciscan friars for service in the various missions in the province of Texas.
At Queretaro, a young priest. Father Hidalgo, replaced Father Gomez as spiritual adviser of the group, with instructions from the bishop to accompany the colonists to the fort of San Juan Bautista on the Rio Grande. He soon proved his sincere interest in the welfare of the colonists, and his kind words often soothed their frayed nerves and encouraged them to move forward in the face of hardship.
After a restful day and night at Queretaro, the Canary Islanders traveled northward, and at the end of the third day, they reached the old town of San Luis Potosi. Here they halted another day, while Duval replaced a dozen horses that had proved unfit to continue to Saltillo. The journey from San Luis Potosi to Saltillo was long and tedious. There were no intermediate villages or towns of importance, and as the hazardous route was exposed to roving bands of treacherous Indians, Duval found it necessary to proceed slowly and with caution. Fortunately, the company was undisturbed, except occasionally at night when the soldiers fired discharges from their blunderbusses to frighten imaginary foes, or more likely, to keep themselves awake. The caravan moved forward so slowly that it did not reach Saltillo until December 11.
In compliance with the viceroy's instructions, when the colonists reached Queretaro and San Luis Potosi, Duval submitted the usual details of personnel, live stock, and baggage to the local authorities, and from them he obtained such supplies and equipment as were needed to continue the journey.
At Saltillo, Duval reported promptly to Captain Aguirre, who, in anticipation of the arrival of the Canary Islanders, had provided temporary living quarters for them. He also obtained several oxen, a quantity of agricultural implements, and other articles which the viceroy had instructed him to provide for use of the colonists in establishing their settlement at San Antonio de Bexar.
When the Canary Islanders reached Saltillo, their horses and mules were in wretched condition. The route to Saltillo was long and rough, and although the company moved slowly, the animals had little time to rest. The country south of Saltillo had been extremely dry and the bits of grass remaining did not afford enough nourishment to supplement the scant daily food allowance. Duval faced the problem of replacing most of the animals before the colonists could continue their journey. At Saltillo the Canary Islanders were to experience a disappointing delay in their traveling schedule. Prior to their arrival, Captain Aguirre had been able to obtain only ten yokes of oxen, although sixteen pairs were needed. The ranches in the vicinity of Saltillo had no oxen in excess of their own needs, and fresh horses and mules were almost as scarce. Aguirre therefore had to send messengers to distant ranches to purchase the needed animals and bring them to Saltillo. Further delay occurred when the area experienced bitter cold weather in December and January, which brought great discomfort to the colonists. Coming from a warm climate, they were not accustomed to the sudden drops in temperature, long known as "northers," usual to that portion of New Spain during the winter season. Captain Aguirre was mindful of the health of his charges and kept them closely sheltered at Saltillo until warmer weather dispelled all danger of illness.
By the end of January, 1731, the Captain had obtained all necessary live stock, provisions, and implements for use of the colonists. The animals included eighty-six horses, seventy-seven mules, and sixteen yokes of oxen. The implements consisted of sixteen cadi of wooden yokes, plough shares, axes, pickaxes, and metates with grinding stones for making cornmeal. To each head of the fifteen families and to the four bachelors, whom he regarded as equivalent to one family, Captain Aguirre assigned these articles and charged them with the responsibility of preserving and using them after they reached San Antonio de Bexar.
Late in January, 1731, a careful check of the physical condition of each colonist disclosed no illness, and with an improvement in the weather, the time appeared suitable for early departure for the Rio Grande. Captain Aguirre had provided a new escort of soldiers from the fort of Coahuila at Monclova, and these were waiting at Saltillo. On the morning of January 28, 1731, Duval led his party northward towards Monclova, which they reached on February 10, after an uneventful trip. Here they rested for two days, and on the thirteenth, they departed for the fort of San Juan Bautista on the Rio Grande.
From Monclova to the Rio Grande, the elevation dropped steadily. Favorable weather and no untoward incidents on the way enabled the Canary Islanders to reach the fort of San Juan Bautista on February 24, where the schedule provided for a three day rest before beginning the last lap of their journey to San Antonio de Bexar. The tort was located on the west side of the Rio Grande, and as that stream was subject to sudden rises from rains in the mountains hundreds of miles above, the captain of the fort had the colonists cross the river and set up their tents on the east side, so there would be no delay in their scheduled departure in case of unexpected high water.
Prior to the arrival of the Canary Islanders at San Juan Bautista, the viceroy had instructed Captain Ximenes of the fort to supply the colonists with an enlarged military guard and as Many fresh horses and mules as were necessary to complete the journey to San Antonio de Bexar. For several months the Apache Indians had been committing depredations upon the Mission San Antonio de Valero and menacing travelers on the road between that point and San Juan Bautista. To safeguard the lives and property of the settlers while following this route, the captain had orders to provide a fresh guard of soldiers, under a subaltern, to escort the colonists from the Rio Grande to San Antonio de Bexar. Father Hidalgo, who accompanied the colonists from Queretaro, relieved Father Antonio as chaplain at San Juan Bautista, and the latter acted as spiritual adviser during the remainder of the journey.
While the colonists were enjoying a three-day rest on the Rio Grande, Francisco Duval devoted his time to getting his live stock together so that all would be in readiness to resume travel on February 28. As the trip from Vera Cruz had already consumed about seven months, he and all the Canary Islanders were impatient to begin the last stage of the long journey to San Antonio de Bexar. The colonists rose early on the morning of the twenty-eighth, and after mass and a hearty meal, the caravan slowly started on its way.
From the Rio Grande, the road led northeast and crossed the Nueces River east of the present town of La Pryor. The colonists reached the river late one afternoon and made camp for the night. Tired from a long day's trek, they went to bed early, expecting to resume their journey at dawn on the following morning. Despite the usual precautions of guarding the colonists and their animals against assault by lurking Indians, a small band of Apaches slipped quietly into the camp about midnight and drove off six of the best mules. Ten soldiers pursued the savages, but failed to overtake them. The next morning, however, aided by a flock of vultures, they found the remains of the largest mule, which the Apaches had slaughtered for food. This incident so excited the colonists that Duval and Father Antonio had difficulty in quieting them. The friar relieved the tension somewhat when he told the travelers that the Apaches would do no harm if they were not molested while attempting to steal live stock, especially mules, of whose meat they were very fond.
Father Antonio was a kind old man in his late sixties, over six feet in height and very slender. He wore an earth-colored brown woolen robe tied at the waist with a cord, from which hung a Franciscan knotted scourge, or flagellum. Occasionally he applied this instrument of punishment to himself when he permitted his mind to wander too far from spiritual matters. As evidence of his devotion to hardships, he walked with bare feet over the roughest terrain and scorned the use of sandals.
Before leaving the Rio Grande, Duval gave Father Antonio the choice of any animal in the caravan for his mount. The friar at first refused, saying lie preferred to walk the entire distance to San Antonio de Bexar. Upon Duval's insistence. Father Antonio reluctantly chose an animal to ride — the smallest burro in the herd. While the company traveled on horseback, the priest coaxed the stubborn burro along by a horsehair rope until the old man became so weary he could not keep pace with the caravan. He would then mount the burro, overtake the procession, and after he had rested himself, dismount again.
The dignity of Father Antonio's clerical position did not prevent the colonists from giggling at the comical sight of the tall old friar astride a burro so small that he had to keep his legs drawn up at right angles to prevent his feet from touching the ground, while his robe was drawn high enough to expose his scrawny knees.
Father Antonio had a hobby that he followed quite seriously when circumstances permitted. He was an amateur naturalist and his particular interest lay in bugs, butterflies, lizards, frogs, and snakes. He would carefully keep his specimens alive until he completed his examinations, and then tenderly release them, for he abhorred the idea of causing injury or death to any living thing. Twice on the journey from the Rio Grande to San Antonio de Bexar, he stopped along the road to examine specimens, and became so interested that he fell behind the company. When finally he realized his predicament, he would hastily mount the burro, and applying his scourge to the little beast, would soon overtake the other travelers.
After the Apache raid on the settlers at the Nueces River, the Canary Islanders never ceased to worry over the possibility of fresh Indian attacks, despite Father Antonio's repeated assurances that these were unlikely. They trudged wearily on until they reached the Leona, at the present village of Batesville, where they camped one night, and here Father Antonio's hobby prevented another Apache raid. . He rose the following morning before daylight to look for a special kind of harmless snake that he had seen during his travels the day before. He had not proceeded very far from camp when he encountered two fine specimens, which he captured. While examining them, he also saw a horned toad and a terrapin nearby, and fearing they might escape, he carefully coiled the snakes around his neck while he gathered up the toad and the terrapin. He was so interested in these specimens, he did not realize that a small band of Apaches was sleeping a few yards away. Suddenly aroused by the noise of the friar, the Indians saw the bareheaded figure of the brown-robed man, in bare feet, decorated with a wreath of live snakes around his neck, clutching a horned toad in one hand and a terrapin in the other, and hastily mounted their ponies and left at full speed. Father Antonio chuckled when he related this experience to Duval, but, for obvious reasons, neither ever mentioned the incident to the colonists.
The Canary Islanders continued their journey to the Frio River and thence to the Hondo River, which latter stream they crossed west of the present town of Devine. Duval planned the itinerary so as to reach the Medina River on March 7 at a point where the village of Von Ormy now stands. By starting early on the morning of the eighth, Duval estimated that the caravan could reach the fort of San Antonio de Bexar before noon of the same day.
The only timber in the area of the camp on the Medina was a heavy growth of short, scrubby oaks, whose tops were bushy, and visibility of the horizon was limited to not more than one hundred paces. The colonists were very tired, and soon after their evening meal, were sound asleep. The stillness of the early night was interrupted only by the yapping of a lone coyote or the hooting of an owl in a distant tree, sounds with which the colonists by this time had become quite familiar. The night was perfectly suited for sleep and rest for a travel-weary folk. In tact, it was too soothing, for the six soldiers on guard duty during the first watch fell asleep!
An hour before midnight the camp was awakened by the whinnying of horses and lowing of oxen. Soon the commotion of stampeding horses was accompanied by the hideous yells of .a band of Indians, who had quietly entered the camp unnoticed. Half the soldiers and as many adult male colonists as could find mounts followed the fleeing horses and their Indian pursuers for a league, when they reached a clearing where the light of the stars enabled them to recover all but two of the frightened horses. The soldiers shot and killed one Indian, but the others escaped. From the dress and trappings of the victim, Duval and Father Antonio identified the intruders as belonging to the Karankawa Tribe, one of the smallest yet most treacherous Indian bands in the entire province of Texas.
This fresh assault by the savages so alarmed the Canary Islanders that they made no effort to sleep during the rest of the night. The women and children became hysterical, and some of the men were badly frightened, although they managed very well to repress their emotions. Duval and the subaltern in command of the troops attempted to belittle the affair, but with little success. As a final measure of appeasement, before dawn Duval dispatched a messenger to Don Juan Antonio Perez de Almazan, captain of the fort at San Antonio de Bexar, with a note which he described the events of the night, and requested that he send a band of soldiers to the Medina by nightfall of the same day, as a gesture of protection to the colonists, who had refused to leave the camp until the morning of March 9. Captain Almazan responded promptly and sent twenty cavalrymen to the Medina to guard the colonists during the night and escort them to San Antonio de Bexar the following morning. The temper of the colonists improved at the sight of the additional soldiers, and with assurance of a peaceful night's rest, they retired early and were soon fast asleep.
At dawn on the morning of March 9, 1731, the colonists began the last few miles of their yearlong Journey from the Canary Islands to San Antonio de Bexar. The trip was without incident, and at eleven o'clock in the morning they crossed San Pedro Creek a few yards west of the fort. Soon the tired, curious settlers marched through the wide gate of the stockade that surrounded the fort of San Antonio de Bexar, situated on the block known today as Military Plaza, in San Antonio, Texas.