First Attempts In Eastern Texas
Plans to occupy the mouth of the Mississippi.—The aggressive policy of the French, English, and Dutch in the West Indies, the raids of freebooters on the Spanish settlements, the occupation of Carolina by England, and the advance of the French into the Mississippi Valley caused Spain great uneasiness for the northern Gulf Coast. As a defensive measure missions had been extended to the Apalache district at the same time that Nuevo León had been strengthened. In 1673 Joliet and Marquette descended the Mississippi to the Arkansas, and in 1682 La Salle explored it to its mouth. Four years earlier news had reached the Spanish court that Peñalosa, a discredited ex-governor of New Mexico, had proposed to attack New Spain in the name of France. Spanish officials therefore at once planned to occupy the Bay of Espíritu Santo (Mobile Bay, or perhaps the mouth of the Mississippi) and in 1695 Echagaray, an officer at St. Augustine, was ordered to explore it for the purpose.
The search for La Salle's colony.—A few months later the authorities learned with alarm that in November, 1684, La Salle had left France with a colony to occupy the same spot. Immediately several expeditions were sent out by land and sea to learn where La Salle had landed and, if necessary, to occupy the danger point. In 1686 Marcos Delgado explored west by land from Apalache to the neighborhood of Mobile Bay. In 1686-1688 five coastwise expeditions (under Barroto, Rivas, Iriarte, Pez, and Gámara) explored the Gulf between Vera Cruz and Apalache. They discovered the wrecks of La Salle's vessels at Matagorda Bay, and it was concluded that the French expedition had been destroyed.
The Beginnings of Coahuila and Texas.
Eastern Texas occupied.—While these coastwise voyages were being made, Alonso de León was leading expeditions from Monterey and Monclova by land. In 1686 he descended the Rio Grande to the coast. In 1687 and again in 1688 he crossed the Rio Grande, and in the latter expedition captured a stray Frenchman. Shortly afterward a party of soldiers and Indians from far distant Nueva Vizcaya crossed the Upper Rio Grande to seek out the French intruders. In 1689 De León succeeded in finding the remains of La Salle's settlement near Matagorda Bay, a few weeks after it had been destroyed by Indians. In the following year De León and Father Massanet, one of the Coahuila missionaries, led an expedition across Texas and founded two missions among the Asinai (Tejas) Indians, on Neches River. Texas was now erected into a province and Domingo de Terán made governor.
And then abandoned.—In 1691 Terán led an expedition designed to strengthen the outpost on the Neches, explore and occupy the Cadodacho country (near Texarkana) and, if time permitted, to reëxplore the coast as far as Florida. He reached the Red River but accomplished little else that was new. The Asinai Indians proved hostile, and in 1693 the missionaries withdrew. The Texas project was now abandoned for a time, and attention centered instead on western Florida, which was in danger not only from the French, but also from the English in Carolina, who were visiting the Georgia and Alabama Indians.
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