Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 3, No. 1
OKLAHOMA AS A PART OF THE SPANISH DOMINION, 1763-1803
By the treaty of Fountainbleau, November 3, 1762, Louis XV, on account of affection and friendship which he felt for his cousin
Charles III of Spain, made him a gift of the country named Louisiana, as well as New Orleans and the Island in which the city
is situated, and by this gift Oklahoma received a new king and became a part of the Spanish Empire. This treaty was kept secret,
and the King of France continued to govern Louisiana until 1766, when Don Antonio de Ulloa arrived to take possession in the
name of the king of Spain.
When Louis XV offered western Louisiana to Spain, Charles III at first refused the gift, but after reconsidering, accepted.
To Spain this gift was not very attractive, because Louisiana at this time was not only destitute of intrinsic value, it was
a positive deficit. Neglect and misgovernment had brought the whole province of Louisiana into a deplorable condition. The
different military posts in Louisiana had been used by the French as merely rewards to some favorite, and not all of them
helped to build up the territory. When Louisiana was ceded to Spain, most of the inhabitants lived south of Point Coupee.
The Arkansas region was the most sparsely settled. After the cession to Spain, and even before, this region was the center
of the discontented and the lawless. This was the land of "the bad man of America." Here beyond the pale of civilization,
roamed the renegade Frenchman and the half-breed, who, under the name of hunters had become outlaws. Athanase De Mezieres,
in describing the condition in 1770, says, "On the Arkansas River there lives, under the name of hunters some men of whose
pernicious customs I must give your lordship a brief account, confident that you will design to repress the excessive abuses
which flow each day from the unbridled proceedings of these people, more and more to the service of God and the king, and
of the welfare and peace of the subjects.
"I will not go into details, since it is so, vulgar a matter, in telling your lordship that most of those who live there
have either deserted from the troops and ships of the most Christian king or have committed robberies, rape or homicide, that
river thus being the asylum of the most wicked persons without doubt in all the Endes. They live so forgetful of the laws
that it is easy to find persons who have not returned to Christian lands for ten, twenty or thirty years, and who pass their
scandalous lives in public concubinage with captive Indian women who, for this purpose, they purchase among the heathen, loaning
those of whom they tire to others of less power, that they may labor in their service, giving them no other wages than the
promise of quieting their lascivious passion; in short they have no other rule than their own caprice and the respect which
they pay the boldest and most daring who control them, would that, limiting themselves like brutes, to so infamous a mode
of living, they might not continually go beyond to disturb the peace of these territories."1
Chief of these Arkansas outlaws at this time was Brin damur, a French Canadian, who by his gigantic strength made himself
a petty king over the rest.
Perrin du Lac in describing the conditions that existed in the Arkansas country says: "The inhabitants, almost all originally
French, who have emigrated from Canada, are hunters by profession, and only cultivate maize for the support of their houses
and beasts of burden. Above half the years, only old men, women and children are seen in the village. The men hunt wild oxen,
castors, and squirrels, whose skins are less valuable than those of the northern countries. When at home they pass the time
in dancing, drinking or doing nothing: similar in this respect to the savages, with whom they live the greater part of the
year and whose tastes and manner they contract.2
Spain in taking over Louisiana, added a new problem, that had to be solved. Other problems that confronted her at this time
were the ever westward advancing English, the hostility of the Indians, and Russian aggression upon the Pacific. To meet these
demands was the heroic task of Charles III.
The great number of Indian tribes, in Louisiana, espe-
cially in the Arkansas River region, in whom France had spent a century creating a hatred toward the Spanish, had to be brought
to Spanish allegiance. Spain had the burden of winning and restoring the Osages and other tribes who had been enemies of the
French and who might be counted upon to continue their hostilities toward the province of Louisiana regardless of the change
of ownership. Then the Comanche, the Wichita and the Tonkawa must be brought under control. These tribes could formerly be
treated as enemies, now they were in the very heart of Spanish territory. They, like the Apache; either had to be expelled,
exterminated or brought to allegiance. Also, all these new tribes must be kept hostile to the advancing English, and to keep
the English from crossing the Mississippi.
Jacob Du Breuil, Commander of the Arkansas Post, now changed to Fort Charles III, in his report to the Governor of Louisiana
of the conditions of the Arkansas region, sent the following letter, which had come into his possession: " We the subscribers
do certify that the Bearer Hunkasha, a chief of the Arkansas Nation, has always ever since our acquaintance with him, professed
a sincere friendship to the English and by various instances proved it, for which he hath received from Captain Thos. Thomas
his majesty’s colonies medal. He has been offered large presents by the Spanish to deliver them up, but he rejects the Spanish
and their presents and always appears steadfast in his friendship to the English. Therefore we recommend him to be respected
by His British Majesty’s loyal subjects. Given under our hand at Concord, Mississippi, July 1st, 1777."
Spain, to meet the situation that confronted her in Louisiana, was forced to adopt a new Indian policy. Spain had always relied
upon the mission and Presidial guards to control the Indians. But in this new territory acquired from the French, she retained
France’s Indian policy, as the line of the least resistance. That was, to control through fur trade and presents. Frenchmen
were retained to carry out
the policy. These traders had the task of making known to the Indian tribes of the transfers, and the fact that the Spaniard
and the Frenchman were no longer at war. but were brothers. It was rather a difficult task for, for over a hunderd years the
Indian in the southwest had been the tool in carrying on the hostilities between French and the Spanish. It was hard for him
to reconcile the fact that he was to live in peace with the tribes which he had waged war against at the white man’s own request
and leadership. The normal state of the plains Indian was wear, and it was much easier to bring about a war than it was peace.
The Arkansas Post was the center of control for the Indians in the Arkansas River region, which included the tribes of the
Arkansas nations Touacara, of the Canadian River,the Coanche and the Apache further west. It was the duty of the commander
of the Post to keep all these various tribes living in harmony with each other and with Spain. The following extracts are
taken from reports of the Commander of the Post, which bring out some of, the difficulties that confronted a frontier post,
and, especially the frontier of the Arkansas region. This region was far away from the center of control. One of the great
problems of the, frontier post was to get supplies and presents for the Indians. These gifts were, or had become, a necessity
in maintaining peace and friendship among the Indians.
ARCHIVES OF THE INDES
PAPERS OF CUBA 107
Extracts from the letters of Don Francisco De Masilleres (Desmasillers) from the first of January until the last of June,
1770. Written from the Arkansas (Post).
A party of Chactas Indians came to the Post to make peace.
The Chactas offered to make peace for four pounds of gunpowder, eight gun-shots (bullets), four bottles of spiritous liquor,
two ounces of vermillion, and some bread.
I suggest that you make allowance for these and other small expenses which arise daily; it is necessary to have not less than
four thousand trinkets for the savages, and two
Casks of spiritous liquor, and a dozen white covers (part of table service) in order to entertain during the year the foreign
visitors who arrive here.
The savages find it strange that they are not always given drink when they come to this Post, and I beg that two casks of
liquor be sent because one cannot meet these expenses from his own pocket.
Their Grand Chief says that the Government should deprive them of this liquor altogether. This certainly would cut expenditures.
Also, they should not be given gifts until all the savages arrive, as this would oblige us to make duplicate presents in bread
and wine, which expenses if seen continued would empty one’s purse.
The Arkansas nation having taken false alarm, believing that the Chactas were coming against them, applied to the commandant
of this Post, in order that he might aid them by giving them powder and bullets though he did not dare to deliver to them
the one hundred pounds of gunpowder which he had obtained himself; but at the same time the inhabitants of the Post gave them
twenty-seven pounds of gunpowder and bullets in proportion.
The same day of the false alarm the Ylinuars presented themselves to the Commandant saying that they had not a grain of powder
and that he would be obliged to supply them; he gave them ten shares of powder, twenty bullets, also he gave the soldiers
of the Garrison three pounds of cartridge because the Ylinuars established themselves half a league from here which is midway
from the Arcanzas and who knows but that they are aggrieved because they have not been given more presents?
I beg that two hundred shares of gunpowder be sent for the store house because in case of a strong attack, to surrender to
the savages even though we defended ourselves well, would have a bad effect upon our nation. I account to this possibility,
the evil rumors which have got out that Spain cannot defend her establishments against attack, and which I cannot destroy
notwithstanding the careful attention I put on it.
There arrived here Don Pedro Piernas, called Perraquier, from the chief of the Aufaubulas Indians, who has described vividly
the thousands of invectives among the savages against the Spanish. Some of the charges are to the effect that if the Chactas
come to attack them no one would have the blame but the Spanish and the French; because protection is not given; in view of
which, I called a council of the chiefs and made various explanations of these rumors, assuring them that the Spanish nation
would always look after them with tender concern and that if they could conduct themselves well they would have annually the
same gifts Which they had always been given, and that they must not believe anything they heard; upon which the chiefs were
assured and departed.
News has just been received that the Anjajes Indians on all occasions insult the hunters of the River (Cazadares del Rio)
and that it would be advantageous to send the Arcanzas nation against them in order to divert them from the Rio; for it would
increase considerably the trade in meats, pelts, and oil.
The hunters have already begun to come down from the Rio and if they all do not return there will be no lawful hunters up
there (Rio) and this would go hard with those who would trade here.
I have given license to, a man named Mansero who came down from Point Cartada to marry with one of the daughters of Madame
Complaints were entered against Don Joseph Orieta and he asked the concession that he be not judged without listening to him,
and that he will give with ready compliance, proofs against that which is said of him. It is judged that Orieta has taken
the advantage of writing against me since the false alarm; because the women filled with fear came to ask protection, upon
which we accordingly compressed ourselves as much as possible in order that we might make room. With this motive in view I
entreated Mr. Espaxlier, an old official, to go to sleep in the quarters where they offer prayers, which is a room without
furnishings of a church but just as all the other quarters, and where the old captain slept. I also gave a room in the fort
to the wife of
an official who had recently married here; and I gave quarters to a German who is a poor officer who has nothing with ’Which
to pay for his lodgings. I also wished I might have taken for a servant, an old Indian woman of sixty years of age who has
two daughters, one of thirteen years and the other of seventeen years; because the surgeon named Menar came to her house drunk
one night and tried to force his entrance. This gave her the right to complain, asking me to take her into my house since
she and her daughters were frightened every day of their lives. The good reputation of this woman is admitted after examination
of her conduct in this colony for nineteen years, and she must be given protection.
It is easy to see the desire with which Don Joseph Orieta awaits the command (of the Garrison) but he would not be zealous
in his duties. He has not the carefulness necessary, he has no method of keeping a journal. It is said that he is disliked
by the savages, who will not bring him meat or furs—and this is necessary for life here. He never visits them nor assists
them in the Council of the Chiefs. Before his arrival all was tranquil; but now the inhabitants and savages, who dislike him,
speak only of abandoning the Post. All the chiefs of the nation say they wish to go down to the city, or that they wish to
establish themselves on the Colorado River; notwithstanding this, they give evidence by their good judgment, that they are
worth detaining as subjects and as satisfying.
Pardon has been sought for Sergeant Miler who is very discontented because of his punishment, and all the French. soldiers
of the Garrison complain bitterly that he was punished without cause and that they will desert if he is not given reparations.
It is said that he is a tale-bearer and capable, by his conversation, of breaking up the Garrison. It is hoped that we will
give way to the charges against him in order that he can be justified before the court. It is a fault that some do, not know
the practices, customs, and laws of the Spanish service and in this case it is petitioned that he be excused from the offences
which he has incurred because of his ignorance.
It is reported that the soldier Jean Bautista Baras has broken his leg and it is asked that someone replace him in the Garrison.
ONE WITHOUT DATE
In answer to the suggestion that was made to the effect that not enough of the necessary care has been taken in spreading
among the Indian nations the value of the Spanish, I reply that I have not neglected to teach, with the spiritous liquor,
the most favorable ideas regarding our nation. I attribute the little progress in this work to the public peace which came
with the Spaniards.
Don Pedro Piernas arrived here with six men from the Garrison, having left six others in their places.
An order has been issued to all the hunters who are in the River to return here inside of two months under the penalty of
paying the expenses which they, occasioned for the savages who were sent in their search, they having stopped in the city
where they said they were well protected.
The Decrees have all been published as has been directed.
Don Joseph Orieta complained that he has not given good lodging upon his arrival, and he had said through Don Pedro Piernas
that he should be granted proper entertainment because of the appearance of etiquette and in order to create good harmony,
peace and friendship.
The savages wished to leave the Post hoping to be relieved of Don Joseph Orieta and they spoke of establishing themselves
with the Aufages; but I said to them that whether Don Joseph stayed here or not, it would be safe for them.
A man by the name of Renis, with his family, left for the Ylenaecaca and there was no difficulty in giving him the permission
for he is a very bad, unruly subject.
Permission has been given to Furgan and to Rosela to go to Ylenaeses to marry with Angelica and Ana Franzoen.
I have delivered to the savages the following gifts, a, bell, a large caldron of copper. A box of surgical instruments should
be sent to the Post on the first occasion.
I have commanded that the negroes without baptism receive intelligent instruction from the Curate with this end in view.
An Indian chief by the name of Granmergre has selected one by the name of Turque to help him. Turque is the better of the
savages in that he inspires among them more fear and obedience. For this courage and valor he was
given a small medal; it would be too dangerous to give him a large medal because this would create jealousy.
Don Pedro Piernas left a soldier here but we have not the capital to pay his wages. Please send the funds to pay a gunsmith
who began his services in January and who says he does not wish to serve as a regular soldier.
The uniform which was sent for the Sergeant, being like that of a common soldier, was not accepted because it duplicates the
common uniform. Please send him another one, also send equipment for three more soldiers who recently enlisted.
You have not answered my request for a light in the Guard room. A party of ten Chicasas arrived from the Alcanza and have
brought news that the Chactas wish to make peace with the Alcanza and the Chicasas declared to the Chactas that if they do
not make peace with the Arcanzas that they will join the Arcanzas and make war on them, with the motive that they fix in the
peace terms that the Chactas, make peace with the Arcanzas.
Don Joseph Orieta was not found in this, nor in any other council of the savages.
It has been recommended to the Chicasas that they do not make war on the Ylinuares, as it indicated by their establishment
in the Arkansas; but they do not wish to consent to this because they are already there and because they say the Ylinuares
recently killed the son of their chief; they will not talk of peace, notwithstanding my determination to make peace between
Notice has been given that seven parties of savages have passed through the Rio San Francisco; one party of seventy-three
men, and the other twenty-six men. One party lately has pillaged the hunters whom they found in the Rio and robbed then of
their arms and ammunition.
Since your last letter, it has been ascertained that those same Chicasas were incited by the English to rob our hunters.
Also, there is news that the Ylinuares Indians, that is, the Carquasias and a part of the Peraubias, came to establish themselves
with the Arcanzas owing to the constant war which the Chicasas and the Quiranas have made. Don Pedro
Piernas must continually be sent to them, and at present there is not anything in the storehouse with which to maintain the
Arkansas. I ask that a little powder and bullets be sent for their use.
The hunters, Bonee, Panau, and Francour arrived at the Post with their wives and children. They had been to the city to be
married and to have their children baptised. In view of their needs and their repeated demands, they have been allowed to
return to the city to collect their furniture and to prepare a little salted meat for the autumn. The settlers of this Post
would be more contented if there were a clergyman here to marry them and baptise their children. If a priest cannot be sent
from Havana, send a Capuchin friar.
It was hoped that this month all the hunters from the Rio would come down, but I have just heard that Senor Faurnuar has sold
them gunpowder and bullets against the orders. This will cause most of the hunters not to come down now. It is asked that
this man not be permitted to go up there any more he is a mischief-maker. Notwithstanding that he owed Jaun Francour the amount
of 954 pesos, he secured a bond from Mr. Decluet for 700 jugs of oil whereby to pay Francour part of the sum. It is also said
that Francour is indebted to Faurnaur for the spiritous liquor he sold at the Rio; but in spite of this discount Francour
will still owe him the 954 pesos. A memorial was sent to Francour on this very thing.
A white man by the name of Linremision just arrived here from the Rio and having found him in the same quarters with the rest,
he has been permitted to stay until autumn when he will bring up his movables from the Rio.
A party of fifteen Alcanzas Indians have gone to conclude a definite peace with the Chicasas.
Juan Bautista Baras, the man who broke his leg, returned by the boat of Senor Faurnuar, and he has not yet had a surgeon and
I am much concerned about him. A youth of eighteen years of age, by the name of Thomas, has been put in his place in consequence
of orders had from Don Alexandro O’Reilly who says that there are some French
soldiers not contented and who would like to be sent to the city and re-employed there.
It is believed that the young chief of the Danhau goes to dance the Calumet with the Tonicas. An attempt will be made to apprehend
him as he passes the city, and for this a careful watch has been made for several days.
The best description of the Arkansas Post at the time of transfer to Spain is given by Captain Philip Pittman, "The fort is
situated three leagues from the River Arcansas; and is built with stockade in a quadrangular form; the sides of tile exterior
polygon are about one hundred and eighty feet, and one three pounder is mounted in the flanks and face of each bastion. The
buildings within the fort are, a barrack, with three rooms for the soldiers, commanding officer’s house, a powder magazine,
and a magazine for provisions, and an apartment for the commissary, all of which are in a ruinous condition The fort stands
about two hundred yards from the waterside, and is garrisoned by a captain, a lieutenant and thirty French soldiers, including
the sergeants and corporals. Then there are eight houses without the fort, occupied by as many families, who have cleared
the land about five hundred yards in depth, but on account of the sandiness of the soil, and the lowness of the situation,
which make it subject to be overflowed, they do not raise the necessary provisions. These people subsist mostly by hunting
and every season send to New Orleans great quantities of bears oil, tallow, salted buffalo meat, and a few skins. The Arcansas
* * * are reckoned amongst the bravest of the southern Indians. They hunt little more than for their common subsistence, and
are generally at war with the nations to the westward of them, as far as the river Bravo, and they bring in frequently young
prisoners and horses from the Cadodaquiso, Paneise and Podoquias, of which they dispose of to the best advantage."4
The English established posts on the Mississippi in order to, prevent the Spanish and the French from trading with the Chactas.
The Spanish built forts on the opposite side of the river to keep the English out. But Daniel Boone and the long hunters had
started west, and it would take more than
the decadent Spanish nation and hostile Indians to keep them out. One of Spain’s difficult problems in Louisiana was controlling
the waterways. The Arkansas River was an important highway. This river from the earliest offered a tempting highway with the
Spanish southwest. It was over this route that the Taos and Santa Fe marts were most easily reached.
Louisiana remained under Spanish rule for forty years. During this time its prosperity was greater than it had ever been before.
Fur trade at this time was the most important factor, in the development of the West. It is estimated that in 1771 the pelt
worth between seventy-five and one hundred pounds sterling were exported from New Orleans.
Contest for the control of Louisiana through control and trade grew more intense preceding the Revolutionary War. In spite
of the ever watchfulness of the Spanish government, the English traders were gaining ground. In order to offset this influence,
it was advised that the Spanish merchants be granted free trade as soon as possible and that forts be built on Spanish territory
opposite the mouth of the river flowing into the Mississippi.
Throughout the Revolution, the Spanish governor of Louisiana was appealed to for assistance. Such appeals as that from General
Charles Lee, who spoke for the Virginia Committee of Safety. "Should Great Britain succeed in subjugating the colonies," Lee
wrote, "her army and navy would be free at any moment to take possession of Mexico and Cuba." With American independence,
Spain’s possssions, it was maintained, need not fear."5
After the American Revolution, Spain again had the task of rebuilding and fortifying the frontier posts; especially along
the Mississippi. Jacob du Breuil, Commander of Fort Charles III on the Arkansas (the old Arkansas Post), gives a detailed
account in his report of 1784 of the rebuilding and plans to rebuild this fort. The immediate danger was more apparent to
the north and south, and consequently the St. Louis and New Orleans territory were the first to be re-enforced.
GENERAL ARCHIVES OF THE INDES
Papers of Cuba No. 107
Folio I. My dear sir:
In these drafts of the year 1783 are included the usual and splendid accounts of the Indians, the attacks that have taken
place, the two plans for defense, the flag, and of a naval arsenal magazine to protect the lives of the troops * * I do not
know if these drafts will be very intelligible for I have no formulary for my guidance. With regard to the expenditures I
have been as economical as has been possible.
A tax-list is added of the three villages of the said Indians, with an account of the gifts which can be made of them each
year, an account of which John Ventura Morales asked me to make and which he has not been able to verify until at the present
time, because on account of a lack of food supplies the Indians have been wandering around over the mountains and they have
only come together this month to prepare their fields for cultivation.
May Heaven guide you throughout your life.
Fort Charles III, Arkansas, May 1st, 1784.
Accept my sincerest regards and my most humble service
Jacobo Du Breuil
Senor Don Estevan Miro.
In 1794, Baron de Carondlelet, Governor of Louisiana, in reporting the military condition of the province, says "here still
remains one passage too close to the enemy, by which, if they should force this passage * * * they might be able to penetrate
into the region of lower Louisiana. It * * * is the Arkansas River which is navigable for keel boats. By it the enemy might
enter as far as the town located at a distance of twelve leagues, from its junction with the Mississippi, and thence pass
by means of a well known and passable road to the settlements of the Ouachita, Ottakopas, Natchitoches, etc. By constructing
a fort and redoubt of earth and sod in the same place where the present fort is located (which since it is nothing but a girdle
of stakes occupied by a garrison of thirty men, can be of no use except against the Indians) it is evident that a garrison
of one hundred men could be fur-
nished in time of war from Nogales, joined to a like number of military men, all excellent hunters, who live in the town and
lastly to some two hundred very valiant warriors of the Arkansas Nation * * * could advantageously dispute with the enemy
the ascent of the river, and offer the same difficulties to dissuade them from undertaking a dangerous expedition through
a level country."6 The Governor recommended the fortifying of this one last post of defense.
The Arkansas country then contained two important highways, the one leading to the settlements in New Mexico, Santa Fe, and
Taos, following the Arkansas and the Canadian Rivers, the other toward the southwest, into Lower Louisiana, connecting the
Arkansas Post with Natchitoches Post. From earliest times a counter-band trade, in horses and mules, had grown up between
the Indians on the Arkansas and those north and south.
Following the Revolutionary war, a large number of American settlers pushed into the region west of the Alleghenies, to the
north and the south. Their only outlet was the Mississippi River. The east was slow in realizing the demand of the West for
the navigation of the Mississippi. This brought about many schemes, which led to some very interesting filibustering expeditions
into the southwest. George Rogers Clark and men like him were willing to join Spain in developing the interior of the continent.
The same old policy, that Spain had used, almost for centuries, attempting to hold her territory by building up a buffer state
was again used. Baron de Corondelet, then Governor of Louisiana, gave land grants to Americans who wanted to settle in the
Arkansas region. In 1798, William Gabriel, Elisha Winter and Joseph Stillwell and their families settled near the Post, on
land grants that had been given them the previous year.7 Spain hoped to forestall the westward march of the American pioneer by settling the country. When Louisiana came into the
possession of the United States, Americans were there.
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