The Founding Of Texas
The Coahuila frontier.—In 1693 eastern Texas, after a temporary occupation, had been abandoned, and the frontier fell back to Coahuila. In the course of the next decade, however, it was gradually extended until it crossed the Rio Grande. A most important factor in the work were the Querétaro friars, who ever urged the government forward. By 1698 Boca de Leones and Lampazos had become the seats of flourishing mines, missions, and ranches. Between 1699 and 1703 three missions and a presidio had been established on the Rio Grande at San Juan Bautista, below modern Eagle Pass. The site, being a great rendezvous and trading place for the tribes, was known as the "Cádiz of the interior." Near most of the missions small colonies of Spaniards and Tlascaltecans settled. These missions served many Indians from beyond the Rio Grande, and frequent expeditions were made into the outlying country.
Plans to reoccupy Texas.—During all this time the missionaries were desirous of returning to the Asinai or Texas Indians, whom they had left in '93, and with whom they had since maintained communication. In 1706 the governor of Coahuila urged the founding of a mission on the Rio Frio as a means of securing the road to the Asinai. Three years later Fathers Olivares and Espinosa made an expedition to the Colorado River, where they hoped to meet the tribe. Father Hidalgo long made strenuous efforts to get permission to return to his former charges, and Father Olivares went to Spain to procure it. Frequent rumors of French incursions from Louisiana were discussed in government circles, but it required an actual danger to cause the government to act.
St. Denis in Mexico.—In 1714, led by two survivors of La Salle's expedition, St. Denis made his expedition across Texas to trade. At San Juan Bautista he was arrested and taken to Mexico, where it was realized by the officials that a real menace had arisen. In a council of war held on August 22, 1715, it was decided to reoccupy Texas with missions, a garrison, and a small colony. Domingo Ramón, a frontier officer, was put in charge of the expedition, and the missionary field was assigned to the two Franciscan colleges de Propaganda Fide of Querétaro and Zacatecas. Of the missions of the former, Father Espinosa, later known as the historian, was made president; of the latter the president appointed was the still more renowned Father Antonio Margil.
Eastern Texas reoccupied.—In February, 1716, the expedition left Saltillo, and in April it crossed the Rio Grande at San Juan Bautista. In the party were nine friars, twenty-five soldiers, six women, and enough other persons to make a total of sixty-five. They drove with them more than 1000 head of cattle and goats, and an outfit for missions, farms, and a presidio. A direct northeast route was followed, through San Pedro Springs, where the city of San Antonio later grew up. By the Asinai Indians they were given a warm welcome, and four missions were at once founded near the Neches and Angelina Rivers. Near the latter stream the presidio of Dolores was established. At the same time an attempt was made to establish a mission on the Red River among the Cadodachos, but it was frustrated by the Indians, who were under French influence.
A new base needed.—Eastern Texas had been reoccupied, but the outposts there were weak and isolated. The French were trading among the surrounding tribes; St. Denis was known to be planning another commercial expedition to Mexico; and it was rumored that a large French colony was to be established at the mouth of the Mississippi. This prediction was verified by the founding of New Orleans in 1718. On the other hand, Father Olivares urged advancing from the Rio Grande to the San Antonio. These motives to action coincided with a more aggressive Spanish policy toward the French since the death of Louis XIV, a policy exemplified by the new viceroy Linares.
Texas in the 18th Century.
San Antonio founded.—In a junta de guerra held December 2, 1716, it was therefore decided to establish posts on the San Antonio and among the Cadodachos, while Ramón was to destroy the French establishments at Natchitoches. The new enterprise was entrusted to Martin de Alarcón, who was made governor of Texas and, before setting out, of Coahuila. While the expedition was preparing, St. Denis reached the Rio Grande (April, 1717), where his goods were confiscated. Going to Mexico, he was there imprisoned. Meanwhile Ramón had reconnoitered Natchitoches, and on his return early in 1717 two new missions were founded among the Ays and Adaes, the latter being within seven leagues of Natchitoches, and thenceforth a vital spot in the history of international frontiers.
Early in 1718 Alarcón left Coahuila with a colony of sixty-two persons, besides the neophytes of mission San Francisco Solano, who were to be transferred to the new site on the San Antonio River. Arrived there, a mission, presidio, and town were founded, the beginnings of the modern city of San Antonio. In the east Alarcón accomplished little more than to displease the missionaries and to protest against La Harpe's new French establishment among the Cadodachos.
Next: War With France
Previous: Northeastward Advance Of The Spanish Frontier