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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 6, No. 2
June, 1928
SPANISH EXPLORATION OF OKLAHOMA 1599-17921

BY A. B. THOMAS, PH. D. UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA

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INTRODUCTORY

We do not customarily associate Oklahoma with the Spanish Southwest, but the Spaniards in their thinking and actions clasely linked the region with their possessions in this part of North America. For present Oklahoma, like Colorado2 and Arkansas, formed, from the Spanish point of view, an important unit in their long frontier line which ran disjointedly from eastern Texas to New Mexico. Necessarily, therefore, of this area and its people, the Spaniards took particular note in their frontier calculations, whether in hopefully searching for new lands, placating the Indians, or planning to hold back aggressive French, English, and Americans.

In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries Spanish pioneers brought parts of present Oklahoma well within the orbit of their extensive explorations about New Mexico. In the later eighteenth century other equally energetic Spaniards traversed the region westward along the Arkansas River, northward out of Texas, and finally eastward again from Old Santa Fe. In this work the forerunner was Coronado. His expedition, besides being the first to cross the region, brought into view certain Indian tribes—the Querechose of eastern New Mexico, the Teyas in the upper Brazos River of Texas, and Quiviras beyond the Arkansas River that constantly thereafter attracted Spanish attention. Later Spaniards revealed further customs both of these tribes and ones found within present Oklahoma itself, threw light on the various relations existing between themselves, the tribes of neighboring areas, and the Europeans who subsequently came to settle in the lands surrounding.





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Such is the significance of the explorations considered here, which span the period from 1599 to 1792.

1. Spanish Exploration of Oklahoma 1599-1719.

Humaña and Leyba 1592-1593.—After Coronado, the Spaniards advanced more slowly towards the regions he had penetrated. Effectively established in northern Mexico by 1580 these colonizers were in that year again contemplating the further extension of their civilization. Missionary zeal, cupidity, and fear of foreign aggression stimulated this new expansion. Of the series of explorations between 1580 and 1598, which opened this new movement, only Humaña and Leyba in 1592-1593, so far as is known, explored parts of present Oklahoma. Leaving Mexico without proper authority, these adventurers sojourned among the Pueblos for a year and then made off towards Quivira, accompanied by an Indian named Joseph. Like Coronado they encountered shortly beyond Pecos the Querechos; wandering further to the east and north they reached eventually, beyond two large rivers an extensive pueblo of grass lodges, surrounded by cultivated fields. Continuing still northward, they came to another larger river and then attempted to return. Only their guide, Joseph, however, reached New Mexico alive. In later years it was learned that they had visited Indians now within present Oklahoma, and Kansas.3

Five years later, in the spring of 1598, Juan de Oñate, of a proud old family, led forth from northern Mexico a colony, composed of four hundred men, women, and children, eighty-three wagons and carts, and more than seven thousand head of cattle, that established Spain in New Mexico.4 From his base at San Juan, near later Santa Fe, Oñate hunted for the treasures of a second Mexico. Meanwhile in 1599 the more prosaic demands of his colonists sent forth his lieutenant, Vincente de Saldivar Mendoza, to the eastern plains for a supply of buffalo fat. Proceeding





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by way of Pecos the party soon encountered a band of Indians whom they referred to as Apachi, and who fruitlessly begged the Spaniards’ aid against their enemy the Jumano. Beyond, about one hundred and thirty miles from Pecos

map

the soldiers built a huge cottonwood enclosure near the Canadian River. They had poor success, however, in corralling wild buffalo though they finally secured about a ton of tallow.5 There, near the present Texas-New Mexico



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line the Spaniards described informingly the Indians whom they found. Near the Canadian itself they met many herdsmen who had just crossed the stream, “coming from trading with the Picuries and Taos, populous pueblos of this New Mexico, where they sell meat, hides, tallow, suet, and salt in exchange for cotton blankets, pottery, maize, and some small green stones which they use.”6 Nearby in a ranchería, Saldivar found “fifty tents made of tanned hides, very bright red and white in color and bell-shaped, with flaps and openings, and built as skillfully as those of Italy and so large that in the most ordinary ones four different mattresses, and beds were easily accommodated. The tanning is so fine that although it should rain bucketfuls it will not pass through nor stiffen the hide, but rather upon drying it remains as soft and pliable as before. This being so wonderful he (Saldivar) wanted to experiment, and, cutting off a piece of hide from one of the tents, it was soaked and placed to dry in the sun, but it remained as before, and as pliable as if it had never been wet. The sargento mayor bartered for a tent and brought it to camp, and although it was so very large, as has been stated, it did not weigh over two arrobas.”7 To carry the tent poles, supplies of meat and pinole or maize, the “Indians use a medium-sized shaggy dog, which is their substitute for mules. They drive great trains of them. Each, girt round its breast and haunches, and carrying a load of flour of at least one hundred pounds, travels as fast as his master. It is a sight worth seeing and very laughable to see them traveling, the ends of the poles dragging on the ground, nearly all of them snarling in their encounters, traveling one after another on their journey. In order to lead them the Indian women seize their heads between their knees and thus load them or adjust the load, which is seldom required, because they travel along, at a steady gait as if they had been trained by means of reins.”8 In another place the sargento mayor adds to his description: “The Indians are numerous in all that land. They live in rancherias in the hide tents hereinbefore mentioned. They always follow the







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cattle, and in their pursuit they are as well sheltered in their tents as they could be in any house. They eat meat almost raw, and much tallow and suet, which serves them as bread, and with a chunk of meat in one hand and a piece of tallow in the other, they bite first on one and then on the other and grow up magnificently strong and courageous. Their weapons consist of flint and very large bows, after the manner of the Turks. They saw some arrows with long thick points, although few, for the flint is better than spears to kill cattle. They kill them at the first shot with the greatest skill, while ambushed in brush blinds made at the watering places, as all saw who went there * * *”9

Oñate 1601—Three years later Oñate himself set out for the East in the hope of locating there the rumored rich kingdom of Quivira. There is little doubt as to Oñate’s general route. His map and account of his journey show that he followed the Canadian River one hundred and eleven leagues, then called the Rio de Magdalena, to approximately the Antelope Hills region in Western Oklahoma. From this point the party turned northeast and reached some Indian lodges just across the Arkansas River near present day Wichita.10 Along the first part of his route to the Antelope Hills region, Indians called “Apachi” were first encountered at the point where the Canadian turns to the east in Eastern New Mexico, “Here some Indians of the nation Apache came out with signs of peace * * * raising their hands to the sun, which is the ceremony they use as a sign of friendship, and brought to us some small black and yellow fruit of the size of small tomatoes, which is plentiful on all that river * * *.”11 After this meeting Apaches were frequently encountered. “In some places we came across camps of people of the Apache nation, who are the ones who possess these plains, and who, having neither fixed place or site of their own, go from place to place with the cattle always following them. We were not disturbed by them at all, although we were in







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their land, nor did any Indian become impertinent. We therefore passed on always close to the river, and although on one day we might be delayed in our journey by very heavy rains, such as are common in those plains, on the following day and thereafter we journeyed on, sometimes crossing the river at very good fords.”12 Near the present Antelope Hills region the party left the Canadian, following apparently Commission Creek. “Having travelled to reach this place one hundred and eleven leagues, it became necessary to leave the river, as there appeared ahead some sand dunes; and turning from the east to the north, we traveled up a small stream until we discovered the great plains covered with innumerable cattle. We found constantly better roads and better land * * *”13 After crossing several small streams14 they “discovered a large rancheria with more than five thousand souls; and although the people were warlike, as it later developed, and although at first they began to place themselves in readiness to fight by signs of peace they were given to understand that we were not warriors, and they became so friendly with us that some of them came that night to our camp and entertained us with wonderful reports of the people further on * * *”15 The next day the Spaniards moved forward to this rancheria but cautiously stopped within an arquebus shot of their settlement. “From there the governor and the religious went with more than thirty armed horsemen to reconnoitre the people and the rancheria, and they, all drawn up in regular order in front of their ranchos, began to raise the palms of their hands towards the sun, which is the sign of peace among them. Assuring them that peace was what we wanted, all the people, women, youths, and small children, came to where we were; and they consented to our visiting their houses which all consisted of branches an estado and a half long, placed in a circle, some of them being so wide that they were ninety feet in diame-









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ter.16 Most of them were covered with tanned hides, which made them resemble tents. They were not people who sowed or reaped, but lived solely on the cattle. They were ruled and governed by chiefs, and like communities which are freed from subjection to any lord, they obeyed their chiefs but little. They had large quantities of hides which, wrapped about their bodies, served them as clothing, but the weather being hot, all of the men went about nearly naked, the women being clothed from the waist down. Men and women alike used bows and arrows, with which they were very dexterous.”17

These Indians, as indicated on Oñate’s map and in other sources, were called Escanjaques. They guided the explorers to a river, undoubtedly the Arkansas, eight leagues distant from this place, with wonderful banks and, although level, so densely wooded that the trees formed thick and wide groves. * * * It flows due east, and its waters were fresh and pleasant to taste.”18 The Indians “in a few hours quickly, built a rancheria as well established as the one left behind, which caused no little wonder to all.” Here the main body halted, for, as they claimed, the Indians beyond were their enemies. From other accounts, however, some of the Escanjaques, apparently went on with the Spaniards.19 Across the Arkansas, in Quivira near present Wichita,20 the Spaniards found extensive settlements containing several thousand Indians. There they visited several rancherias and wrote in considerable detail concerning the life they saw and the Quivira grass habitations. Their descriptions of the latter bear a striking resemblance to those of the Wichita grass lodges. These Indians treated the Spaniards well, allowed them to move about their rancherias and obligingly informed them of their country.











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They told Oñate, as had the Escanjaques, of Humaña’s residence among them, but disclaimed any part in their death.21

Some of these Quiviras shortly developed a hostile attitude and Oñate, petitioned by his soldiers, set out to return. Their route was disputed by the Escanjaques with whom they fought a bloody battle, and thereafter continued their journey to reach New Mexico on the 24th of November.22

Oñate’s expedition to the Quiviras was, of course, an event of importance to the Quiviras themselves and soon after the Spaniards’ return they sent an embassy to secure the aid of the newcomers against the defeated Escanjaques. The incident is described in 1626 by the padre-historian, Zarate Salmeron, of New Mexico, who wrote, while the achievements of Oñate were still familiarly known to the New Mexicans, that there was sent, “from Quivira an Indian ambassador of high standing and gravity. He brought with him six hundred servants with bows and arrows who served him. * * * Arrived (he) gave his message inviting the Spaniards with his friendship and lands to help him fight against their enemies, the Ayjaos.”23 The Ayjaos seem to be but another name for the Escanjaques for a later account furnished by an equally distinguished and well-known New Mexico writer, Father Posadas, writing in 1686, states that the Aijados Indians had accompanied Oñate into the land of the Quivira and proposed to burn their houses. The commander forbade this act of hostility and as a result the Aijados attacked the Spaniards in a great battle.24

Baca 1634—For the remainder of the seventeenth century information concerning the eastern plains, particularly for the area within present Oklahoma, is scanty. At present, the only known expedition that apparently crossed the region was that of Captain Alonzo Baca, 1634, who, accompanied by some Indian allies, marched three hundred leagues east of Santa Fe. Arrived on the banks of a large











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river, his allies, like Oñate’s Escanjaques, refused to cross and warned Baca that if he continued the Quivira tribes beyond would eventually kill him and his men. The Spaniards, too few to go on alone, returned to New Mexico.25 Just what river referred to is not apparent from the account. Posadas, our source, however, also stated that Oñate traveled three hundred leagues to the east, a statement that may be significant since Oñate found, as did Baca, Quiviras beyond a river, which, in Oñate’s case was the Arkansas.

Thus Spanish explorations to 1634 had added to the earlier information supplied by Coronado concerning the Oklahoma region. The area in Eastern New Mexico and the Panhadle of Texas, occupied by the Querechos of Coronado and the Vaqueros of Humaña, is found occupied by Indians, doubtless the same tribe called by 1634 the Apache. Beyond them have appeared the Escanjaques in present Oklahoma, in warlike relations with the Quiviras across the Arkansas River. Who the Escanjaques were is as yet un-determined, for there is no known mention of them again in Spanish records.

Spanish exploring activities from New Mexico after 1634 until 1696 towards the east, so far as is known, penetrated regions now within present Southwestern Texas or Eastern Colorado. From these explorations we can see roughly the relationships of the tribes there encountered and those that are more particularly within the region considered here. To the southeast of New Mexico the Spaniards had before 1629 reopened communication with the Jumano along the upper branches of the Colorado River and southwest to the Pecos River. Records of other expeditions made there about the middle of the century reveal too that the Indians beyond were known as the Teyas, located about where Coronado found Teyas in the century before.26 Posadas, writing in 1686, adds that north of these Teyas were the Quiviras, all of which fits in well with the facts ascertained up to this point in our study.27 To the northeast some time between 1664 and 1680, Captain Juan de Archuleta made a journey from Santa Fe to the plains





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of present Eastern Colorado where he visited Indians afterwards known as the Apaches Cuartelejos. Here the Spaniards found various metal articles secured in trade with the Quiviras and Pawnees, the latter of whom even at that early date were trading with the French.28 Directly to the east of New Mexico, during this period, the later seventeenth century, the Apache Indians are described by Posadas as habitually bringing to Pecos, to trade for horses, young boys and girls carried off in attacks made in the land of the Quiviras.29

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680, as is well known, drove the Spaniards out of the province until 1692 when they began its successful re-conquest. The records re-opening in that year reveal a new name, Faraones, applied to some Apache Indians in Eastern New Mexico.30 Doubtless they were part of those heretofore referred to simply as Apaches. Faraone activities, certainly as subsequently known, get those of the Apaches described above by Posadas. Later, as we shall see, these Faraones ranged over parts of present Oklahoma.

De Vargas 1696.—For the moment, however, we must note the activities of Governor de Vargas, whose reconquest of New Mexico compelled him to engage in the fall of 1696 in an expedition to the east. In that year some Pueblos, obstinately refusing to accept the Spanish king and God, rebelled and fled from their homes eastward over the Taos Mountains. De Vargas, setting out at once from the Picuries Pueblo recaptured, after an exciting chase, the majority of the rebels but the rest escaped in company of some Apaches.31 The General’s Journal of the event does not give sufficient information to state how far he penetrated on this march. He later stated he traveled eighty-four leagues; but whether this is the distance for one or both ways is not clear. His entire journey, going









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and coming, however, consumed only seventeen days, two of which were spent in camp because of a blinding snowstorm. Colonel Twitchell, nevertheless, has interpreted his remark and the diary to mean that the journey took de Vargas eastward beyond Clayton, New Mexico, into the western Panhandle of present Oklahoma.32

In the following year, 1697, the Reconquest of New Mexico was completed but the re-occupation of the lost province still presented serious problems to the Spaniards. Constantly on the qui vive against a new uprising, they were quick both to investigate suspicious rumors of revolt and to lend helpful hands to the Pueblo Indians. In this latter spirit the governor despatched in 1706 an expedition to the far off Cuartelejos to bring back the fugitives who escaped De Vargas in 1696, and others there enslaved, and who now sought the privilege of returning to their kinsmen. The expedition, commanded by Captain Juan de Uribarri, journeyed through the Jicarilla country of Northeastern New Mexico, the Carlana country south of the Arkansas and then eastward from near present day Pueblo, Colorado, to the Cuartelejos in Eastern Colorado of to-day. These savages received the expedition with genuine expressions of friendship, offered no objection to the loss of their slaves and servants but loaded the Pueblo ponies high with corn and sent off Spaniards and Indians rejoicing.33

Uribarri’s expedition contributes to Oklahoma history in two respects. For the first known time there appears, in Uribarri’s notes, the Indian name of the Arkansas River, Rio Napestle. The commander first noted the Arkansas under this name when he crossed it in the foothill region near present Pueblo, Colorado. Thereafter, until the early nineteenth century the stream was always spoken of in New Mexico as the Rio Napestle, or Napeste. Finally, however, the usage of the French, Arkansas, applied to





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the lower reaches of the stream was carried westward by the Americans and succeeded in displacing this original Indian name. But in altered form the term still remains

map

on the Arkansas, Napesta, the name of a little Colorado town, situated just below the mouth of the Huerfano River. In addition to this detail the Spaniard’s diary also reveals that hostility then existed between the Jicarilla Indians of Northeastern New Mexico and the Faraones who ranged across Western Oklahoma of to-day. For while Uribarri

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was passing eastward among the former, they warned him of the warlike, and thieving tribes beyond, among whom were the Limitas and Nementina, names identified as Faraona. By 1715, this antagonism apparently had disappeared for there is evidence that Jicarillas were then accustomed to visit the rancherias of the Faraones.

Besides making journeys of mercy into the western plains the Spaniards found it necessary also to make punitive expeditions against the Utes, Comanches, and Apache raiders on the borders of the province. The losses of human life and stock during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in New Mexico from Indian raids is appalling. Possibly all the facts worked out in the heroic defense of the province might prove that Spanish blood alone saved a large part of the distinctive Pueblo life of our great Southwest. Certain it is that the documents of the period reveal at once the helplessness of the Pueblos and the valor of the Spaniards in the face of constant and hammering attacks by Utes, Comanches and Apaches. Certain, too, is the fact that this long defensive activity is an element too often overlooked by later comers who found in New Mexico much to criticize in the low state of civilization there encoun-tered.

Hurtado 1715—Outstanding among the Apaches who beat upon the defenses of New Mexico was the eastern Apache tribe already mentioned, the Faraone. Among the repeated expeditions made against these Indians after the Re-Conquest, the campaign of Captain Juan Paez Hurtado is of particular importance for our purposes here.34 The care and efficiency of the aged Governor, Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon, has provided us with a complete account of the preparations for this undertaking and of the expedition itself. In planning the campaign Mogollon’s first care was to call into a council of war in the spring of 1715, some Picuries and Taos Indians whose tribes had long been accustomed to pursue Faraones to retrieve captured Pueblo women, children, and livestock. From Don Geronimo and Don Lorenzo of Taos, Mogollon learned that the Faraones



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were known under a variety of names, the Chipaynes, Limitas, Faraones, Trementinas, and in the language of the Taos, Sejines. The habitations of the Apaches according to the Taos Indians, were a ten days’ march on the road to the plains. Concerning these, Don Geronimo said that the first was composed of thirty wooden barricaded houses on a river,35 that the road up to this point had sufficient water for a large horseherd, that the rancheria itself was in good land, but that beyond was less and less water and a great deal of sun. The best time to make the campaign, Don Geronimo advised, was about the middle of August for at that time the Faraones were reaping the crops, but thereafter go out to hunt buffalo until time to return to sow, about the end of April or the beginning of May. At no other time, he concluded, would they be found for they were either hunting buffaloes for hides—or Pueblos for corn! The Council settled other details for the campaign, but Mogollon learned that an impending visit or inspection required him to fix the date of departure of the expedition for the following September.

Late in August, after the inspection was over, Mogollon designated as Commander Juan Paez Hurtado, who immediately collected his forces, consisting of fifty-five Spaniards, one hundred and forty-six Indian allies, accompanied by two hundred and seventy-six head of horses and mules, and set out on the 30th from the Picuries Pueblo. His route was east over the Taos Mountains from that Pueblo, south along the Mora River, and then east along the Canadian River. This stream, together with sudden showers and springs, furnished the command with sufficient water as the Taos had testified. The journey, however, was uneventful, though they investigated numerous Apache trails. After proceeding in this manner some sixty-three leagues, their guide led them away from the Canadian to a spot where he promised a Faraone rancheria. To their disappointment the Spaniards found nothing, and the guide confessed that he was lost and didn’t know where the Faraones were. Hurtado, furious with the fellow, gave him fifty lashes, named the spot the Arroyo of the Whipping, and appointed a Picuries guide. The latter then took



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the command a short distance north of the Canadian to a place his own people sometimes went, where they came upon a deserted enemy rancheria. Here the Spaniards decided to abandon the search and return to New Mexico which they reached on the 30th of September. In his subsequent report to Mogollon, Hurtado stated that the Faraones, because they had learned of the expedition while trading and ransoming at Pecos, “had absented themselves from the Rio Colorado (Canadian), where they have their rancherias.”

This expedition of Hurtado’s fills out considerably our knowledge of the regions which it penetrated. From Hurtado’s remark, undoubtedly based upon information given him by the Picuries, we definitely learn that the Faraones had their rancherias along the Canadian River, while his excursion itself further reveals that a Faraone rancheria then existed about one hundred and sixty miles east of the Picuries Pueblo just north of the Canadian. Finally, in the testimony of the Picuries and the Taos Indians valuable light is shed upon the habits of the Faraones. Possibly the latter are the same or among those, described by Posadas thirty years before, whom he said ransomed and traded for horses at Pecos and Picuries, women and children carried off from Quivira settlements.

Four years later in the fall of 1719 the governor of New Mexico, Don Antonia de Valverde, led another punitive expedition northeast, along Uribarri’s old route, against the Utes and Comanches.36 In present Eastern Colorado Valverde learned from the Cuartelejos that the Pawnees and French had recently attacked the Apache Palomas, apparently near the present South Platte River, then called the Rio Jesus Maria. This incident, together with details in other contemporary documents of the period, reveal that since Urbarri’s expedition of 1706, important changes in Indian relations have occurred northeast of New Mexico, some of which have a close association with the history of the region of present Oklahoma. For one thing there has appeared the name Jumano applied to a tribe of Indians in



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the region of present Wichita, along the Arkansas River.37 Secondly, the French established on the lower Red River since 1714, have been moving along the Red, Canadian and Arkansas Rivers across present Oklahoma and have joined these Jumanos in attacks upon the Cuartelejos. The earliest evidence of this new arrangement in the northeast appears in 1714 when some Carlana Indians reported in New Mexico that such a combined attack was made on the Cuartelejos in the month of August of that year. In that raid the French and Jumanos killed thirty Cuartelejos and carried off twenty-eight as prisoners.38 These and other rumors reported to Valverde in 1719 of the French in the northeast brought about in the next year, 1720, another Spanish expedition in that direction under the command of Pedro de Villasur who penetrated as far as the junction of the North and South Platte Rivers where unfortunately the command was almost entirely exterminated by Pawnees and French.39 This was a serious setback for the Spaniards, and the French after this date were unmolested by the former in their advance. But, just at the moment a new arrangement, considered below, was forming among the tribes to prevent French penetration there for some twenty years. From New Mexico, so far as is known, no other expeditions were made to the east until about the middle of the century when Governor Bustamente y Tagle of New Mexico, made an extended journey down the Arkansas in pursuit of Comanches. His route and distance traveled, however, cannot be determined from the account.40

II. French and Spanish Exploration of Oklahoma 1713-1763

Eighteenth century history of present Oklahoma can









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also be studied through the approach of the French from Louisiana and that of the Spaniards who come north to the Red River from their settlements in Central Texas, However, the activities of the French, but briefly summarized here, will be considered only as they bear upon Spanish exploration of the region.

The French entered present Oklahoma from two directions; west and southwest from their Illinois settlements through the Osage country, and northwest from Louisiana via the Red and Arkansas and Canadian rivers. As early as 1703 expeditions from Illinois traded towards New Mexico; thereafter the movement from that direction developed rapidly and joined with the one coming from the southeast. This latter advance was led by St. Denis, the well-known Frenchman who dominated the lower Red River valley in the early part of the eighteenth century from his post at Natchitoches, in present Louisiana. From there French influence extended itself into present eastern and northern Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. In 1719 the Nasonite post was founded among the Cadadocho just beyond the southeast boundary of present Oklahoma. In 1719 La Harpe established another trading center among the Cadadoches tribes, visited the Touacaras then living near the mouth of the Canadian River and proposed a third post for that region.41 At the same time Du Rivage was sent up the Red River to extend French control in that direction. Paralleling this penetration at the moment was the expedition of Du Tisné who, coming southwest from the Osage, visited and made an alliance with the Pawnees on the Arkansas River where he left a flag flying to indicate French possession.42 Two years later, 1721, in exploring the Arkansas River, La Harpe’s travels took him about half way to the mouth of the Canadian.43

Most of these French explorations had for their object, besides Indian commerce, the opening of a trading







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route via these streams to New Mexico. We have already seen the earliest indications of this advance in the Spanish reports of French, Plawnee, and Jumano attack on the Cuartelejos. But the French about this time, 1720, as noted above, found themselves blocked by two powerful tribes of Indians. The Apaches along the Red River were hostile to these westward moving Europeans who traded with their enemies, the Indians of Northern Texas and present Oklahoma, known to the Spaniards as the Norteños. North of the Red, along the Arkansas and South Platte rivers the Comanches on their part were averse to French traders supplying weapons to their enemies beyond, the Apaches. Finally, the Spaniards themselves took definite steps to encourage Apache enmity to prevent the French approach to New Mexico. Indeed, the Viceroy of New Spain wrote to the Governor of New Mexico in 1719 that he should take particular care to win the Apaches to the Spanish allegiance so that they might be used with those allied with the Spaniards in Texas, to prevent French entrance into Spanish dominions.44 As a result, this tribal rivalry and Spanish policy, successfully shut off the advance of French traders until about the middle of the century. Meanwhile, the French on their side, traders and officials alike, concentrated their efforts on persuading the Comanches and Apaches to let them pass beyond. Much of this little-known struggle took place on the soil of what is now Oklahoma.

Fabry 1741.—At last in 1739, the French broke through. The Mallett brothers in that year entered the province of New Mexico from the direction of the Platte River, remained there some nine months and then returned, some going northeast to Illinois, the rest down the Canadian to the Arkansas and thence to New Orleans. Interest was stimulated by this success and in 1741 Governor Bienville sent out Fabry de la Bruyere with some of the Mallet party who went along the Canadian but failed to reach the province. Fort Cavagnolle, however, was established among the Kansas, and the Arkansas route was made safe by a treaty between the Comanches and their eastern enemies, the Norteños. Soon after, in 1749 and



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1751 several French parties passed along the Arkansas to New Mexico. Likewise, other Frenchmen found an avenue of approach by way of the Platte and the rivers of present Nebraska and Kansas.45 These activities of the French had their effect upon the Spaniards in Texas and New Mexico. Investigation was made to determine the boundary—an almost chronic investigation in the history of Oklahoma—between Louisiana and Texas; and Governor Barrios of Texas was ordered to prevent the commerce of the French with the Indians of his province and those in Southern Oklahoma and Arkansas of to-day.46

Parilla 1759.—For the Spanish settlers of Texas, as well as for the profit-seeking French of the Red, Canadian and Arkansas rivers, the Apache tribes of Western Texas were also a serious problem. After 1743 the many Spanish proposals for converting these Apaches grew into demands. Accordingly in 1757 the far removed outpost of San Sabá mission and Presidio, was established on the San Sabá River near present Menardville, Texas.47 The fierce Comanches, however, attracted by the possibility of plunder, raided the settlement in March of the following year. A second attack occurring shortly afterwards hastened the campaign plans of Parilla, governor of Texas, to set out, in August, 1759, from San Sabá in search of the raiders. Parilla marched northeast one hundred and fifty leagues, passed through many deserted Comanche rancherias, and at last, at a Tonkawa village decisively defeated the Indians he met there. Not satisfied with this victory the governor pushed northward until he came to the villages of the Taovayas on the Red River in the neighborhood of present Ringgold, Texas. “Here he was surprised to find a large body of Indians intrenched behind a strong stockade with breastworks, flying a French flag, and skillfully using French weapons and tactics. For four hours the Spaniards sustained an attack by Indians from both within and without the fortress. Two swivel guns were trained on the stronghold, but near nightfall Parilla withdrew with a loss of fifty-two men, having inflicted an equal loss upon the Indians. Desertions having begun, it was decid-







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ed in a council to retreat that night, leaving the two cannon and extra baggage behind.” Spanish accounts of the settlement found there are interesting. The fortified Indian village was “a pueblo formed of high thatched oval-shaped houses, surrounded by a stockade and a ditch, the road leading to it being surrounded in the same way, since it is culebrado, with the opening at the very river * * * and all the stockade on that side surmounted by Indians armed with muskets.” “Nearby was large and well fenced fields devoted to the raising of maize, beans, calabashes, and melons. Behind the Taovayas town was the camp of the Comanche allies.”48

Though this expedition ended unfortunately, yet for our purposes it definitely established the Taovayas in the region visited. In the following years these Taovayas, were a pivotal point in Spanish exploration of Northern Texas and Southern Oklahoma of today.

III. Spanish Exploration of Oklahoma 1763-1793

The transference of Louisiana to Spain in 1763 had its effect upon the frontier Indian policy of New Spain particularly with regard to the region considered here. With the acquisition of Louisiana, Spain’s frontier advanced from Texas to the Mississippi River, beyond which were the expanding English colonies. As a result of this advance, the Norteños, i.e., the Indian tribes of Northern Texas, the Red River Valley, and adjacent regions, heretofore beyond the frontier and, as we have seen, under French influence, were now brought into the empire. Their location accordingly presented a real problem for they were in a strategic position, on the one hand in the rear of the Spanish Illinois-Louisiana settlements and on the other north of those in Texas. Consequently over these Indians, their former enemies, the Spaniards now had to extend their control.

To meet these new conditions, Spanish officials characteristically made careful preparation by ordering a survey of the whole region so that all frontier relations could be viewed in their proper perspective. The undertaking was entrusted to the Marqués de Rubi in 1767. When his tour of the frontier was completed, he drew up



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recommendations that were incorporated, practically as submitted in a royal order issued in 1772, known as the “New Regulation of Presidios.” For our purposes here it is sufficient to note that the New Regulations provided for the abandonment of Western Texas since that region was now protected from the English colonists by Louisiana.49 Meanwhile measures had been taken to win over the Norteños and thereby protect the Texas establishments from attack. Here the Spaniards readily perceived the elements of their problem. For one thing they recognized that the Norteños were subject to the growing influence of English traders who had for many years prior been crossing the Mississippi River to operate among the Indians of the western bank, even as far as present Oklahoma and Arkansas. Secondly, the Spaniaros realized that since these Norteños had long been accustomed to the influence of French traders the sensible plan was to utilize the services of the French agents who had remained in the province after the transfer to accustom the Norteños to Spanish rule. This policy was accordingly adopted.

Two Frenchmen appointed as Indian agents, De Villiers and De Mezieres, were to render signal service to Spain in this capacity among the Norteños. Happily the work of Athanase De Mezieres in Northern Texas has been thoroughly studied and his achievements given their proper recognition through the researches of Professor Bolton.50 To date, however, no similar investigation has been made of the work of de Villiers and other commandants who were stationed at the post on the Arkansas River whence they directed the extension of Spanish influence into present Arkansas, Oklahoma.51

De Mezieres was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of







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the Natchitoches district soon after Don Alejandro O’Reilly took possession of Louisiana in 1769. His instructions were in accordance with the new policy outlined above. “Licensed traders were to be appointed for the friendly tribes, but that in order to coerce the hostile Indians all trade with them must be cut off, whether conducted by Spanish subjects or by foreigners. A special abuse to be suppressed was trade in stolen horses and Indian captives. This evil was particularly prevalent at the Taovaya villages on the Red River. When they were not at war, the Wichita tribes supplied the Comanches with French weapons and agricultural products. In exchange they secured horses and mules stolen from the Spanish settlements, Indian captives, among whom the Apaches predominated, and Spanish captives from the frontier settlements. For the horses, mules and Indian captives they found a ready market with the French traders from Louisiana where Apache slaves and stock bearing Spanish brands were common.”52 As can be readily seen, these instructions not only reveal the care the Spaniards took to handle their new subjects, but throw valuable light on the activities of the late eighteenth century inhabitants of present Oklahoma and adjacent regions.

De Mezieres 1772.—De Mezieres set about immediately to carry out his new duties. In 1770 he secured the attendance of powerful chiefs of the Taovayas, Tawaknoi, Yscanis, and Kichai tribes at a council near present Texarkana. There they promised their friendship and signed treaties drawn up in 1771 at Natchitoches. Next, in 1772, De Mezieres made an extensive journey through the northern tribes to explore their country, learn the strength, and investigate rumors of English trading among them. From Natchitoches he went to the Trinity River, thence up the Brazos to the Wichita Indians in Northern Texas. From there he communicated with the Taovayas, on the Red River. From his reports of this extensive exploration we learn that the Taovayas were procuring English goods in exchange for stolen horses and that the northern tribes were being hard



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pressed by the Osage.53 Indeed, his report of the hostility of the Oasge towards the Spanish and their Indian allies is paralleled by similar reports from the Spanish commandant, Don Pedro Piernas, at St. Louis and from the commandant at the Arkansas post.54

Gaignard 1773.—In the next year, 1773, De Mezieres was in Europe, but a trader named Gaignard was sent up the Red River from Natchitoches to make peace with the Comanches. He found the Taovayas in bad humor because their horse and slave trade had been cut off with Natchitoches, would not allow him to proceed to the Comanches; but the head chief of the Naytane, a Comanche band, and four thousand warriers met him at the village of the Taovayas and here signed a peace compact with him.55

De Mezieres 1778.—In 1776 a further administrative change was put into effect on the northern frontier of New Spain. This was the establishment of the Privincias Internas, a department composed of the provinces from California to Texas inclusive, of which El Cavallero de Croix, a great but little known administrator of Western North America, was made the first Commander-General. His most important problem was to check Indian raids on the northern frontiers of New Spain, of whom the Apaches of Western Texas were the greatest offenders. De Croix immediately laid plans to use the Norteños, Apache enemies, with Spanish forces in a joint campaign into Western Texas. A council was held accordingly at Monclova, and a later one in January, 1778, at San Antonio whence De Mezieres was summoned from Louisiana. To prepare the Norteños for their role, De Mezieres set out in March to visit the northern tribes. On this occasion he reached the Taovayas villages on the Red River after passing through the northern tribes of Texas about the Brazos. From the Taovayas villages he sent a warning to the Comanches. His visit informed him, too, that







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in 1777 English traders had pushed their way in the year before into these very villages, on the far side of present Oklahoma, a circumstance that impelled him to write De Croix urging a Spanish settlement among the Taovayas. On his return to Natchitoches he brought back Parilla’s cannon left there after the battle of 1759, recounted above. Shortly afterward De Mezieres was transferred to Texas from Louisiana to control the Norteños from San Antonio instead of Eastern Texas. His death in 1779 and Spain’s entry into our Revolutionary War, partly altered De Croix’s plans in this quarter for the joint campaign against the Apaches.56 De Meziere’s contribution to our subject is considerable. His marches reveal the importance attached to the tribes of the area within and about present Oklahoma; his reports show that the English have definitely replaced the French as a menace to the frontier here, and finally, his activities center attention on the Taovayas now friendly to Spanish control. In the next decade the Taovayas assume further importance in Spanish frontier explorations.

Vial 1786-1787.—Another important problem raised by the adding of Louisiana to the Spanish possessions was that of establishing effective communication between the widely separated centers of St. Louis, San Antonio and Santa Fe.57 In the solving of this problem, much of the resulting exploration between these points passed through present Oklahoma. Before this time, plans, one of which appeared as early as 1630,58 had been proposed to establish routes between New Mexico and Texas. Apache and Comanche hostility, however, was the chief factor, as we







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have seen, in preventing the opening of this route. During the eighteenth century, as noted above, the French traders had learned how to conciliate the Comanche and Apache, and De Mezieres and others had in large part transferred this affection for French traders to the Spaniards, so that the foundations were laid for the efforts now to be successfully made. Pedro Vial, another Frenchman, whose experience among the Indians between Texas and New Mexico well fitted him for the undertaking, was in 1786 the first to be commissioned for this purpose. In that year, directed by the governor of Texas, Don Domingo Cabello, Vial set out to explore a direct route from San Antonio to Santa Fe.59 Leaving on October 4th, he went north to the Colorado River, turned east to the Brazos, followed that stream sixty-two leagues and then branched off to the Taovayas, northeast on the Red River. Leaving the Taovayas on January 8, 1787, Vial moved along the Red River to a Comanche village where he remained until February 18th when he renewed his journey up the Red thence north to the Canadian, finally making his way to Santa Fe on May 26th, after having passed through several Comanche villages. Vial thus established the fact that communication was not impossible and that the Comanches and other tribes were friendly.

Mares 1787.—The route laid out by Vial was so far from direct that the governor of New Mexico now despatched another party to San Antonio under Corporal Joes Mares, accompanied by Cristobal Santos and Alejandro Martin, a Comanche interpreter. Leaving on January 21, 1787, they moved south of Vial’s route as far as the village of the Taovayas on the Red River. From there they traveled on to San Antonio, reporting on October 8, 1787. On their return Mares struck off to the northwest and came upon the Red River near the one hundred and first meridian. Thence he went to Santa Fe along his former route, having consumed about four months on this journey.60

Vial and Fragoso 1788-89.—Two months later Vial set out on his return to Texas. This time his objective was Natchitoches. Accompanied by Francisco Xavier





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Fragoso and thirty soldiers, he left Santa Fe on June 24th, 1788, taking apparently a route between that of his first journey and that of Mares’, to the Taovayas. There his escort left him and after four days returned to Santa Fe. Vial himself reached Natchitoches on August 20th, passing after leaving the Sabine the ranchos of six Frenchmen and one Englishman.61 In 1789 Vial again set out from San Antonio for Santa Fe. On this journey, however, he left the Brazos near the junction of the ninety-fifth meridian and the thirty-third parallel and went northwest directly to Santa Fe, consuming slightly less than two months.62 From the above account of these travels it will be observed that all except the last passed through the Taovayas, a fact which indicates the strategic importance of this part of the Spanish frontier then within present Oklahoma.

Vial 1792.—Vial’s extensive experience and successes entitled him to further honors and he was accordingly selected by the viceroy in 1792 to open a route between New Mexico and St. Louis. The governor of New Mexico, Fernando de la Concha, drew up Vial’s instructions.63 Accompanied by two young men Vial was to leave New Mexico via Pecos, march east to the villages of the Magages,64 thence east northeast to the Missouri River nearest to Los Ylinneses (Illinois). On this journey Vial was carefully to note all landmarks, rivers, the direction of their flow, tablelands, etc., and Indian tribes that he encountered. His faithfulness in this respect enables us here to trace the general route of his travels.

Vial set out on May 21, 1792, from Santa Fe. Shortly after leaving the Pecos River they lost a day in camp with a band of Comanches and a Spanish interpreter coming from San Antonio.65 On the 26th they renewed their journey to the Rio Colorado (the Canadian River)which they reached on the 29th. Thereafter until the 22nd of June the party followed the Canadian along Oñate’s old











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route.65 On that day they left the stream to turn northeast towards the Arkansas or the Rio Napestle: “22. We left about seven in the morning leaving the Colorado River, and taking the direction of the northeast in search of the Napeste River, which we call in French the Arkansas River. We found another river which flows into the Colorado and we named it the San Acacio. It was of great volume and its shores are very high. We made about six leagues.”67 Apparently they left the Canadian about the Antelope Hills region. This interpretation best accords with the following comments in his diary. Their northeast journey took them across several streams in this part of present Oklahoma and Southern Kansas to the Arkansas which they reached on the 27th.86 Without doubt they came upon the latter where it turns to the northeast for, Vial, after spending the 28th in camp, took up the journey on the 29th and notes as follows: “29. We left in the morning at daybreak along the said river, which flowed east northeast. We found some buffalo which the Indians had killed and we believed that they were of the tribes of Guachaches, who were hunting through that region * * *”69 They shortly found the Indians who took possession of the horses, cut off the clothes of Vial and his companions, and threatened to kill them. However, one of the savages, a former servant in St. Louis, recognizing Vial, interceded and fortunately saved the lives of the party. The explorers were then forced to remain with the hunters until August 16th when they were permitted to set out once more, though still naked, for the northeast. A ten days’ journey of about fifty leagues brought them to a Cances village on the river of









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the Kances which “flows into the river, called Misoury.” On the 11th of September they secured some clothes from a passing French trader and on the 16th, having secured a pirogue from three other traders going to St. Louis, followed the stream to the Missouri and thence to their destination. Arrived there on October 6th Vial presented his credentials and diary to Zenon Trudeau, the Spanish commandant, and told him that had they not encountered obstacles they could have made the journey in twenty-five days.70 Vial’s journey is particularly interesting in that it is the first to connect St. Louis and Santa Fe along the approximate route followed takes by the caravall trade to New Mexico. Thus the work of De Mezieres, Vial, Fragoso, and Mares rounds out almost two centuries of Spanish exploration in the region set out for study here.

IV. Conclusion.

This study of Spanish exploration in and about the region of present Oklahoma brings into view some important considerations. It is strikingly evident that Spanish sources contribute much to the Indian history of this area. The names, locations of tribes, unknown heretofore in some cases, can therein be determined; their customs and their relations with neighboring tribes indicated; and the part they played in the international struggle carried on by Europeans for this region, understood. In the second place, as appears here, long before the advent of Pike, Wilkinson, Dunbar, and other explorers of the early nineteenth century, much of the territory and the principal rivers of present Oklahoma and adjacent states was explored by Spaniards and Frenchmen. Thirdly, there is revealed in our knowledge of this frontier some gaps that await research. Particularly does the period of French control and influence over the tribes beyond those revealed by Spanish exploration, need investigation. Likewise the work of the Spanish traders after 1763 from St. Louis among the Osages and beyond, and from the Arkansas post westward into present Arkansas and Oklahoma presents a fascinating study. Finally, this survey of but a small corner of Spain’s immense empire suggests the fundamental nature of her contribution to North American civilization.



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