Northeastward Advance Of The Spanish Frontier





The Chihuahua mines.—In Nueva Vizcaya two notable forward steps north were taken in the early eighteenth century. These were the opening of the Chihuahua silver deposits and the advance down the Conchos valley. In 1703-1704 rich ores were discovered near the recently founded mission of Nombre de Diós. The mines proved to be among the best in America, and, it has been estimated, produced silver worth from $50,000,000 to $100,000,000 in the eighteenth century. Two reales de minas, Chihuahua and Santa Eulalia, were established near by, and became the most thriving centers on the northern frontier. By 1763 each had a population of 5000, and the church at Chihuahua was one of the finest in the new world.



Advance down the Conchos Valley.—At the same time the frontier advanced down the fertile Conchos River Valley and across the Rio Grande into western Texas. In 1715 the abandoned missions at La Junta were reëstablished. Soon six missions were in operation and serving Indian towns on both sides of the Rio Grande. For ten years they succeeded, and then, in 1725, the Indians revolted and deserted. During the subsequent years the padres made them occasional visits, while settlement pushed down the Conchos Valley. In 1753 the La Junta missions were restored, and in 1760 were protected by the new presidio of Belén.



The New Mexico border. Moqui and Zuñi resistance.—The reconquest of the New Mexico pueblos had been effected by Vargas at the end of the seventeenth century. The Moquis and Zuñis, however, stubbornly resisted Spanish influence and harbored apostates. In 1726 and again in 1741 the Moqui district was assigned to the Jesuits of Sonora, but they accomplished little. Rivalry led to new Franciscan visits, and in 1742 the missionaries recovered more than four hundred Tigua fugitives who had fled during the great revolt of sixty years before. In 1745 the field was restored to the Franciscans, but they were unable to make permanent establishments.



Xicarrilla and Navajo missions.—In 1733 a mission was founded near Taos for the Xicarrilla Apaches who were hard pressed by the Comanches. Between 1744 and 1750 efforts were made to convert the Navajo, but without avail.



New settlements.—The population of New Mexico grew slowly but steadily. In 1706 Governor Cubero founded the new villa of Albuquerque and reëstablished La Cañada. In 1760 there were 7666 Spaniards in fourteen settlements in the upper district and 3588 about El Paso. This was a population larger than that of English Georgia at the same time. The largest towns were Albuquerque (1814). La Canada (1515), and Santa Fé (1285). At the same time the Christian Indians in the province numbered 10,000.



Indian depredations.—New Mexico was constantly harassed by Navajos on the west, Yutas and Comanches on the north, and Apaches on the east and south. The main object of the savages was to steal stock and other property, but they often shed human blood freely. On the basis of horses and mules stolen in New Mexico, a regular trade was maintained by Indians across the country to Louisiana. The exterior tribes attacked the Pueblo Indians even more freely than the Spaniards. The Spanish soldiery, with Indian allies, often retaliated with telling effect and recovered stolen horses and mules. Captives taken were sold as slaves to the settlers or in the interior. Yet there were truces between campaigns, and by the middle of the century the Comanches and Yutas in large numbers attended the annual Taos fair, where they sold skins and captives.



Rumors of the French.—The French advance up the Missouri stimulated a counter movement of the Spaniards of the New Mexico border. Before the end of the seventeenth century wild rumors of the approaching French had reached Santa Fé. Other interests, especially Indian relations, furnished motives for northeastward expeditions early in the eighteenth century. In 1706 Juan de Urribarri was sent by Governor Cubero "to the unknown land of the plains" to ransom Christian captives from the northern tribes. He crossed the Napestle (Arkansas) River, near the present city of Pueblo, Colorado, and reached the Indian settlement of El Cuartelejo, near the Colorado-Kansas border, where he heard new reports of the French among the Pawnees.



Expeditions to the northeast and north.—The frequent campaigns against the Indians were occasions for new exploration. In 1715 Juan Paez Hurtado, with two hundred and fifty men, pursued Apaches into western Texas. During the next four years several expeditions were made northeast against Comanches and Yutas, in the course of which new reports were heard of the French, who were now pushing up all the western tributaries of the Mississippi. In 1719 a campaign against the Yutas and Comanches led Governor Valverde across the Arkansas. In 1720 occurred the disastrous Villazur expedition to the Platte described later. About 1750 Bustamente y Tagle pursued Comanches down the Arkansas nearly to the Jumanos.



Explorers in Colorado.—Explorers also entered the Utah Basin. Juan María Rivera, sent out by Governor Cachupín in search of ore, visited and named the La Plata (Silver) Mountains, and continued to the junction of the Uncompahgre River with the Gunnison (1765). In the following year Nicolás de la Fora, writing in New Mexico, stated that the Spaniards were acquainted with the country along the Cordillera de las Grullas (in western Colorado) for a hundred leagues above Santa Fé. A decade later (1779) Anza ascended the San Luis Valley, descended the Arkansas River, and returned to Santa Fé over the mountains.







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