The Founding Of New Mexico
Renewed exploration of New Mexico.—The expansion of Nueva Vizcaya and renewed activities on the Pacific coast in the later sixteenth century stimulated a new advance into New Mexico. Coronado's expedition had proved disappointing, and for four decades no further explorations had been made in the region. Nevertheless, the tales of great cities had not been forgotten, and in the meantime a new line of approach to New Mexico had been opened by way of the central plateau. By 1580 mines and missions had reached Santa Bárbara, while slave hunting expeditions had descended the Conchos to the Rio Grande. Through reports given by the outlying tribes, a new interest in the Pueblo region was aroused.
Rodríguez and Espejo.—To follow up these reports, with a view to missionary work, trade, and exploration, an expedition was organized at Santa Bárbara in 1580 by Fray Augustin Rodríguez, a Franciscan lay brother, and Francisco Sánchez Chamuscado. In the next year the party of three friars and nine soldiers and traders descended the Conchos River, ascended the Rio Grande to the Pueblo region, visited the buffalo plains, Ácoma, and Zuñi, and returned, leaving two friars at Puaray, one having been killed. In the following year a rescue and trading party was led to New Mexico over the same trail by Fray Bernaldino Beltrán and Antonio de Espejo. The friars had already been slain by the natives, but before returning Espejo went to Zuñi, Moqui, and western Arizona, where he discovered mines, returning to Santa Bárbara by way of the Pecos River.
Plans to colonize New Mexico.—The expeditions of Rodríguez and Espejo aroused new zeal for northern exploration and settlement, and there were dreams now, not only of conquering New Mexico, but of going beyond to colonize Quivira and the shores of the Strait of Anian. The king ordered a contract made for the purpose, and soon there was a crowd of applicants for the honor. While these men were competing for the desired contract, Castaño de Sosa in 1590 led a colony from Nuevo León up the Pecos to the Pueblos and began their conquest, but was soon arrested and taken back. Some three years later two men named Leyva and Gutiérrez de Humana led an unlicensed expedition from Nueva Vizcaya to New Mexico, whence Gutiérrez went to northeastern Kansas, and apparently reached the Platte River.
Oñate and the founding of New Mexico.—The contract to colonize New Mexico was finally assigned in 1595 to Juan de Oñate, son of Cristóbal, one of the founders of Zacatecas. In accordance with the ordinances of 1573 he was made governor, adelantado, and captain-general, granted extensive privileges, lands, and encomiendas, while his colonists were given the usual privileges of first settlers (primeros pobladores). It was February, 1598, when Oñate left northern Nueva Vizcaya with his colony. It included one hundred and thirty soldiers, some with their families, a band of Franciscans under Father Martinez, and more than seven thousand head of stock. Previous expeditions had followed the Conchos, but Oñate opened a more direct route through El Paso. Without difficulty he secured the submission of the tribes, settled his colony at San Juan, and distributed the friars among the pueblos.
Oñate's explorations.—Having established his colony, Oñate turned to exploration in the east and the west. In the fall of 1598 Vicente Zaldivar was sent to the Buffalo Plains, while the governor set out for the South Sea. At Moqui he turned back, but Marcos Farfán continued west with a party, and staked out mining claims on Bill Williams Fork. Ácoma rebelled at this time and as a punishment was razed. In 1599 Zaldivar was sent to the South Sea and seems to have reached the lower Colorado. Early in 1601 Oñate, with seventy men, descended the Canadian River and crossed the Arkansas to an Indian settlement called Quivira, apparently at Wichita, Kansas. During Oñate's absence most of the colonists deserted, but they were brought back, with reinforcements. Still bent on reaching the South Sea, in 1604 Oñate descended Bill Williams Fork and the Colorado to the Gulf of California, where he got the idea that California was an island. He had reëxplored most of the ground covered by Coronado and had opened new trails. But he had lost the confidence and support of the authorities, and in 1608 resigned and was displaced by a royal governor.
New Mexico in Oñate's Time (From Bancroft, Arizona and New Mexico, p. 137).
Santa Fé founded.—In 1609 Santa Fé was founded and became the new capital. This event, which occurred just a hundred years after the occupation of Darién, may be regarded as the culmination of a century of northward expansion.
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