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New Spain-Index


Nueva España
Nuevas Philipinas--Provincia de Tejas


The First Spaniard | Presidios, Missions and Villas
Mission Valley | American Ally 1763
Origin Texas Ranching | Spanish Xenophobia
Filibustering Spanish Territory | Disputed US Border
Neutral Ground | Independence Movements

For Biographies (Individuals in Bold), Search Handbook of Texas Online


Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.    Earliest Spaniard and European in the Future DeWitt Colony 1528-1534.  The story told in 1936 by historian Carlos Castañeda in Our Catholic Heritage in Texas 1519-1936.

Map New Spain 1718Missions, Presidios and Villas on the Eastern Frontera of New Spain. At the close of the 17th century, Texas and the Sabine River on its eastern border was the northeast frontier of the vast Spanish empire in America. It served as a buffer zone against the westward expansion of archrival France from Louisiana whose King's agent Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle had failed to secure the attempted bridgehead called Ft. St. Louis at the mouth of Garcitas Creek on current Lavaca Bay in 1684. In 1689 a Spanish expedition led by Alonso De León with Father Damián Massanet to determine status of French penetrations into New Spain found the ruins of Ft. St. Louis which had been destroyed by Karankawa attacks:

"Three leagues down the creek [Garcitas] from the point where they reached it in coming from the crossing of the Guadalupe, we found it. Having halted with the force about an arquebus-shot away, we went to see it and found all the houses sacked. All the chests, bottlecases, and all the rest of the settlers' furniture broken; apparently more than two hundred books torn apart and the rotting leaves scattered throughout the patio-all in French. We noted that the perpetrators of this massacre had pulled everything the colonists had out of their chests and divided the booty among themselves, and what they had not cared for they had torn to pieces, making a frightful sack of all the French possessed, for besides the evidence in our finding everything in this condition, further proof was in the fact that in the rancharia through which we had passed before we arrived at the settlement, we found in the possession of the Indians some French books in very good condition, with other articles of very little value. These books were recovered and their titles committed to memory. The Indians had done this damage not only to the furnishings, but also to the arms, for we found more than a hundred stocks of flint-lock arquebuses without locks or barrels. They must have carried these off, as was proven by an arquebus barrel found some distance from the houses. We found three dead bodies scattered over the plains. One of these from the dress that still clung to it appeared to be a woman. We took the bodies up and chanted Mass for the bodies present and buried them. We looked for other dead bodies, but could not find them; whence we supposed they had been thrown into the creek, and had been eaten by the alligators of which there were many. The principal house of this settlement is in the form of a fort, made of ship timbers, and with a second story also made of ship timbers, and with a slope to turn off water. Next to it, and without any partition is another apartment, not so strong, which must have served as a chapel where Mass was said. The other five houses were of stakes, covered with mud inside and out, their roofs were covered with buffalo hides, all quite useless for any defense. The settlement was on a beautiful level site, so as to be capable of defense in any event."

A soldier of De León's command (probably Juan Bautista Chapa, a literate man who was secretary for the Monterrey Ayuntamiento in the late seventeenth century) was apparently moved to compassion at the sight of the massacre and wrote the oft quoted passage from a longer elegy:

"Sad and fateful site. Where only solitude doth reign. Reduced to this sorry plight. Thy settlers efforts all proved vain."

The greetings by indigenous tribes "Techas, Techas!" which meant "friends" extended to the De León party while in the more eastern part of their explorations into Texas, was thought to have been the origin of the name given to the area tribes by the Spanish and the region became the kingdom or province of the Tejas. De León on order of superiors completed the destruction of Ft. St. Louis begun by the Karankawas by burning and burying all remains of the fort.

Ironically, the brief and abortive venture of La Salle on Garcitas Creek on Matagorda Bay, a site which he initially mistook for the location of the mouth of the Mississippi River, that left no cultural legacy and long term French descendants in Texas, changed the course of history of Texas and for that matter the entire Gulf of Mexico at least the north part.  According to author Robert Weddle, the largely rumor-based intensive search and destroy missions to find La Salle and the French and to prevent further incursion of the French into the region resulted in the most intense exploration and mapping of the Gulf coast up to that time and solidified the west and southwestern Gulf shores as part of the territory of New Spain and later the Republic of Mexico.  La Salle's venture was used as the basis of claims by the United States that the border of the Louisiana Purchase extended to the Nueces or Rio Grande Rivers until the border between the United States and Spain was established by treaty as the Sabine River in 1819.   To secure and attempt to develop the vast territory, the government set up a series of tri-partite outposts consisting of presidios or forts for military protection, pueblos or villas for community development, and missions or churches for spiritual development. Future DeWitt Colony Texas lay between and a little to the east of two of the first, largest and most famous. First was Villa San Fernando de Bexar, Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo) and Presidio San Antonio de Bexar on the upper San Antonio River established in 1718 by Martin de Alarcon which is the current city of San Antonio. In the same year of establishment, Alarcon and his men visited the future DeWitt Colony area and the trip was recorded in a diary by Friar Francisco Celiz.

Restored Mission at La Bahia (Goliad)Second was the Presidio La Bahia and associated villas and missions (est. 1722), established first on current Matagorda Bay which was originally La Bahia del Espiritu Santo, then at Mission Valley (1726) on the current southern DeWitt County border and later moved to La Bahia (1749). Also near La Bahia (current Goliad) were Missions Espíritu Santo (est. 1749) and Rosario (est. 1754). The Presidio de Nuestra Señora de Loreto La Bahia del Espíritu Santo was to be established precisely where the ill-fated Ft. St. Louis of La Salle stood on Garcitas Creek on current Lavaca Bay. Gov. Aguayo set the day for the formal groundbreaking of the Mission Nuestro Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga as 10 Apr 1722 about three fourths league from the fort on Garcitas Creek. The presidio was left in charge of Capt. Domingo Ramon and the mission under Padre Agustine Patron y Guzman. Capt. Domingo Ramon was son of the commander of the presidio of San Juan Bautista, Diego Ramon, and was involved in expeditions into east Texas and the establishment of the east Texas missions. Stationed in east Texas, he was with the Alarcon expedition from San Antonio through the future DeWitt Colony to La Bahia and the coast in 1718. In 1721 he had reached La Bahia Espiritu Santo charged with locating a suitable site for a mission that could serve as a port that could receive supplies from southern Mexico by sea.

Almost from the departure of Gov. Aguayo, La Bahia began to experience security problems with coastal aborigines who were some of the least developed and most savage of indigenous peoples in the kingdom of the Tejas. According to most, Capt. Ramon was an inept and corrupt commander failing to discipline his men as well as alienating the local tribes by example and brutality. In late 1723 amid violent altercations between Ramon's men and the local Indians, Ramon was stabbed by an Indian with scissors and died of the wound. The Franciscan missionaries moved their efforts even before official permission to a spot in the future DeWitt Colony on the Guadalupe River 10 leagues west and began to minister to the Aranama tribe, a subgroup of the Tonkawas. Meanwhile, the son of Domingo Ramon, Diego Ramon took over command of the presidio and the failures in leadership proved a family tradition. He was removed on order of the governor and replaced with Capt. Don Juan Antonio de Bustillos y Ceballos.

Mission Valley in Future DeWitt Colony.  Despite the fact that Bustillos y Caballos was a more competent Capt., Gov. Alamazan after a visit to La Bahia decided to move the Presidio to the site on the Guadalupe River where the mission had previously relocated. The site was known as Mission Valley and was located a few miles south of the current DeWittCo-VictoriaCo line on Mission Creek south of current Nursery.

Descriptions of the area in the early 20th century refer to remains of buildings and dams of the settlement. The mission and presidio remained at the site for 26 years and flourished due to the fertile fields and ranch land of the area watered by the Guadalupe. The Franciscan fathers build extensive dams and acequias from the river and its tributaries although rainfall was sufficient such that irrigation was unnecessary in the period. The settlement began to produce not only enough for local consumption, but for export to Bexar and the east Texas missions. Indian converts increased and relations were relatively peaceful, although there were periodic rebellions and vandalism and theft. Pedro Rivera visited the mission and presidio at Mission Valley during his inspection in 1727-1728 and was complementary to the operation despite his reputation in the eyes of historians as a critic and cost-cutter who stalemated the expansion of the mission-presidio system. He reported that Capt. Bustillos y Caballos had a troop of 90 men and military standards were such that he had no corrective recommendations. Rivera recommended, possibly for the first time in history, that the Guadalupe River be made navigable to the coast. Historian Charles W. Ramsdell estimated that over 400 Aranama converts were associated with the mission in 1726. He describes a fiesta in honor of the Spanish King in Feb 1748 with parades, dancing, duels with mock weapons and a rodeo complete with bullfighting and roping. Despite this success, Spanish military xenophobia and paranoia had much higher priority than building a viable society and the recommendation of José de Escandón, governor of Nuevo Santander, to the viceroy to move the mission and presidio further south near the coast was approved. Sometime in 1749, the mission and presidio of La Bahia was moved to its current location on the San Antonio River near current Goliad.

Associated with the missions were vast grazing lands or ranchos populated with the Texas Longhorn, sheep, buffalo and mustangs, essentially the cradle of the Texas ranching industry. La Bahia at Mission Valley in future DeWitt Colony occupied over 1 million acres of grazing land comprising the earliest ranch of this scale in Texas history. It stretched from the convergence of the Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers on the south to a point on the west near current Nordheim in DeWitt County and as far north as current Belmont in Gonzales County. Even after La Bahia Mission was moved to current Goliad, the ranching headquarters, Rancho Viejo, remained on the Guadalupe River near Mission Valley. The La Bahia Road running through the heart of future DeWitt Colony which connected La Bahia (Goliad) with the interior provinces of Mexico to the south became the southern connection to the East Texas missions and Louisiana. The road was a major route for export to the east and supply of livestock to Spanish allied forces against the British during the American Revolution.

Mission Valley

La Bahia at Mission Valley Established (From Presidio La Bahia by Kathryn O'Connor).  After this [murder of Captain Domingo Ramon and troubles with Karankawas and Copanes aborigines on the coast] all the Indians fled from the pueblo and Mission [La Bahia at its original coastal location]. The Franciscans, dispairing of getting them to return, and because of the unsuitableness of the situation, appealed to the authorities to allow them to move the Mission to a desirable place farther inland where a more peaceful, sedentary tribe was situated. This was at a spot on the Guadalupe River some ten leagues west. Not waiting for permission, the padres moved to that place and began their missionary work among these Aranama Indians. This tribe was probably a sub-tribe of the Tonkawas.  Diego Ramon, son of the murdered Captain Domingo Ramon, temporarily succeeded his father in command at the presidio at the Garcitas location but seems to have been even more worthless than his father. Conditions at La Bahia became so bad that the governor of the province had to remove him, and Captain Don Juan Antonio de Bustillos y Ceballos was given the post. While he seems to have been an efficient and satisfactory official, it was now realized that the fort would never succeed at its location among the hostile Karankawas, and besides, was too inaccessible, so efforts were made to remove it.

The site on the Guadalupe River, now called Mission Valley, where the Missionaries had congregated the Indians of that region, was chosen as the most suitable for a presidio to protect the mission and to watch the encroaching French from Louisiana. Governor Alamazan in April, 1726, made an inspection, of the site and recommended that the presidio should be removed to the Guadalupe where fortifications should be built out of more permanent materials and placed in a condition to withstand the attacks of foreign aggressors much better, where the climate was healthy and the mission could be established under proper protection. He reported that the place had much to recommend it. It was on the banks of the river with plains, suitable for stock raising, extending from it; the river was available for irrigation of the fields; there was abundant timber to rebuild the Mission and presidio and stone could be secured from a quarry about ten leagues away.   The irrigation ditch had already been dug for the farms and the fields were already plowed and planted. 

Here for the next twenty-six years the Mission and Presidio remained and prospered. Many years and many hours of labor of the padres and their Indian wards was expended in the efforts to irrigate the fields. They dug extensive acequias and made dams to control the waters from the Guadalupe River, remains of which can still be dimly traced.  The Spaniards, familiar with the soil and climate of Mexico, thought that without irrigation no agriculture was possible in Texas. Before the irrigation system could be put in full operation a series of wet years showed the padres that corn and vegetable crops could be raised here with just normal rainfall. The acequias, therefore, were allowed to deteriorate. 

Enough corn and hay was produced at Mission Valley to supply the Mission and Presidio, plus some to sell to the East Texas and San Antonio settlements.  The principal industry here, however, was livestock raising. The vast prairies between the Guadalupe and Lavaca Rivers to the north, and to the San Antonio River on the south provided excellent pasturage for the livestock. Countless herds of cattle and droves of mustangs already roamed these prairies, still considered the garden spot of Texas.   The Indians of the Mission, at first docile and industrious, received religious instructions and many were baptized and became good Christians. The serpent in this Eden was the malcontent apostates, notably el Mocho, who induced the Mission Indians to desert the Mission, although not all left at any time.

Rivera on his inspection of Texas establishments after 1730, in his report on the Presidio of Nuestra Senora de Loreto de la Bahia del Espiritu Santo, reported that Captain Bustillos y Ceballos, called "governor," had a garrison of 90 men, and that their military bearing was exceptionally good. He observed that such good discipline was maintained and that the commander performed his duties so well that he, Rivera, found nothing to correct. "Rather," he declared, "I was particularly impressed to see the soldiers uniformily dressed and skilled in the Manual of Arms and that the pay that had been four hundred pesos a year had been reduced to three hundred and eighty because lie had seen to it that prices charged the soldiers for supplies had been reduced. Here, and in the immediate neighborhood he found the following tribes: Tacames, Aranamas, Mayeyes, Panpopas, and others, including the Karankawas and their sub-tribes of Copanes, Cujanes and Cocos, all of whom were "fierce cannibals, and regarded as particularly dangerous to mariners on the perilous coast," according to Bolton.  Rivera recommended that the Guadalupe River be made navigable to its mouth. This was the first proposal to navigate the Guadalupe River.

Restored Presidio at La BahiaIn spite of the favorable location and prosperity of the establishment here on the Guadalupe River, Escandon, who had been authorized to re-arrange the location of all presidios in Seno Mexicano and South Texas, recommended that the Presidio and Mission of Espiritu Santo La Bahia be moved to a location on the lower San Antonio River, at a place to be later called Santa Dorotea, as the latter site afforded a better situation to place a fort to guard the main road from Mexico to San Antonio and East Texas .

John J. Linn in Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas, 1883   This celebrated valley is so called from the mission that stood about one half-mile from the residence of Mr. Patricio De Leon, on the west bank of the Guadalupe River, and about ten miles north of Victoria. The foundations of the mission are yet in a tolerable state of preservation.  A dam, of  "concrete" work, was made across a creek some two miles from the valley, for the purpose of filling a reservoir with water. An artfully contrived ascequia, or water-way, wound around the hills like the folds of a serpent, seeking the cultivated field in the valley below. This field comprised about sixty acres of land. The ascequia was composed of a bed of durable cement, and can yet be traced for a considerable distance. A "gate" in the dam was opened when the growing crops required irrigation, and the water from the reservoir flowed down the ascequia to the field below. These ruins, the mission, the dam, and the ascequia remain no less eloquent through silent testimonials to the zeal of the missionaries than monuments to the engineering skill displayed in their erection and government.

The Franciscans commenced the stupendous work of damming the Guadalupe River at the northern extremity of the valley for the construction of a vast reservoir that would have the capacity of holding sufficient water to irrigate the whole valley. Some portions of this work, which the hostile Comanches did not suffer the missionaries to complete, yet stand. These Bedouins of the plains came down from their mountain haunts in such numbers, and were so rapacious and hostile, that the civilized population of the mission were forced to seek refuge at La Bahia; and the fruit of long years of arduous toil was dissipated in a day by the ruthless destruction of the savages.

King Charles IIIFirst Treaty of Paris 1763---Spain turns American ally against the British. With exit of rival-turned-ally France from the Americas and the cession of the Louisiana territory on the east to Spain by France in 1763 by the first Treaty of Paris, Texas temporarily lost its strategic importance and, consequently the attention of the government as the Louisiana Territory became the eastern frontier of New Spain. Spain’s rival in America now became Great Britain with whom Spain’s Bourbon monarch Charles III had declared war with French Bourbon ally France in 1762. With the gain of Louisiana and also regain of previously lost Cuba, Spain gave up Florida to the English. In response to these changes, King Charles III began to implement changes in defense and development strategies throughout New Spain which would effect Texas and future DeWitt Colony.

José GálvezThe King commissioned José Bernardo de Gálvez Gallardo and the Marqués de Rubi to inspect the provinces of New Spain and prepare detailed reports and recommendations for change. He found the state of the westernmost garrisons, Santa Cruz de San Saba and San Luis de Amarrillas, appalling. He found only San Antonio de Bexar with its presidio, villa and five missions staffed by 22 soldiers and La Bahia worthy of continued government support. He recommended consolidation of Texas posts to the two areas and abandonment of all posts in East Texas including the former capital Los Adaes. In 1772, a royal edict called "New Regulations for Presidios" ordered the consolidation, and called for an Indian policy aimed at peace with the northern tribes primarily Comanches and extermination of the southern Apaches. With the edict and its substantial population that had grown from 860 in 1770 to 1351 in 1777 and to 1463 by 1780, San Antonio de Bexar became the focus of activity of the government in this area of New Spain upon its designation of capital of the Spanish province of Texas.

Teodore de CroixIn 1776 King Charles III appointed Teodoro de Croix as Commandant General of the newly organized New Spanish unit called the Provincias Internas which included Coahuila, California, Neuva Vizcaya, New Mexico, Sinaloa, Sonora and Texas. In June 1779, Spain and Texas along with its ally France joined the war for American independence against the British. At the same time that meager government support of defense and development of Texas turned toward the war, increased Indian attacks further threatened the existence of San Antonio de Bexar, La Bahia and Nacogdoches. Nacogdoches arose from residents of former capital Los Adaes (near current Robeline, Louisiana) and scattered settlements on the Trinity River who refused to adapt to earlier resettlement to San Antonio. Despite these severe handicaps and lack of resources, Commandante Croix together with Texas governors Juan María Baron de Ripperdá and Domingo Cabello y Robles was able to reasonably protect and secure the three population centers as well as the Texas ranches and farms in the vast area between them. It was Commandante Croix who established the tactics that would be used to secure the vast uninhabited frontera, which was Texas up to and succeeding statehood in the mid-19th century. These were the mobile ranging units known as "flying companies" that linked the citizen soldiers or militia who were residents of presidios, missions, villages, stations or other outposts. At the end of the war and Commandant Croix’s tenure, he had established a contiguous series of presidios from San Antonio and La Bahia, each with under 100 men, to California with a total of nearly 5000 men.

American Revolution and Supply of Texas Beef and Horses. Under the leadership of General Bernardo de Gálvez, governor of Louisiana and later Viceroy of New Spain, for whom Galveston, Texas obtained its name, New Spain reclaimed the Gulf Coast territories of Spanish West Florida (current Florida to the Mississippi River) which had been ceded to Great Britain in the first Treaty of Paris of 1763. Together with George Washington’s American Continental Army on the eastern seaboard and George Rogers Clark’s American forces in the West, Spain, New Spain and Texas under General Gálvez defeated the British resulting in American Independence. One hears little of the contribution in modern history books.

The first official cattle drive out of Texas was authorized on June 20, 1779 by General Gálvez to feed Spanish forces in Louisiana. Over 9000 documented and more than 15000 estimated head of Texas Longhorns herded by Texas cattlemen and vaqueros (both Tejano and Indian) left Texas ranchos between San Antonio de Bexar and La Bahia (Goliad) between 1779 and 1782. The Guadalupe River valley in the heart of future DeWitt Colony was the staging area for these cattle drives that preceded the more well-known drives north from Texas to Kansas, Missouri and Colorado by nearly 100 years and equaled them in magnitude. The area supplied Spanish forces on the Gulf Coast front in the successful fight for American Independence from Britain. Although seldom mentioned in American history books, Spanish forces supplied with Texas beef kept British forces occupied on a vast second front in addition to the American northeast coast, which was believed to be instrumental in defeat of the British and resultant American Independence.

Bernardo de Gálvez (1746-1786)

Bernardo GalvezBorn in Macharaviaya in the Province of Málaga, Spain in Jul 1746, Gálvez was the oldest child of Matías de Gálvez and Josefa Gallardo, both from noble and distinguished families in the royal service of the Spanish monarchy. His father was Captain-General of Guatemala and then Viceroy of New Spain from 1783-1784. Distinguished uncles in the royal service were José de Gálvez, Minister of the Indies, Field Marshal Miguel de Gálvez and ambassador to Russia Antonio de Gálvez. Bernardo Gálvez was promoted to Lieutenant and Captain because of combat service for Spain in Europe at the age of 16. He became commandant of the army of Neuva Vizcaya in 1769 where he led multiple actions against Apaches, in one of which he was wounded severely. After return to Spain in 1772 with uncle José de Gálvez, he studied military science in France and served in multiple expeditions in Europe and Africa. In 1776, he returned to America as Col. of the Louisiana Regiment and was governor of Louisiana in 1777. Gálvez’s duties were broad and those required to maintain and develop colonial New Spanish Louisiana, but most importantly to weaken British influence in the area. He had great admiration for the American Independence movement and was given secret orders to assist wherever possible. Gálvez declared the port of New Orleans open and free to American forces and began to provide munitions and cooperated with practically every venture of the rebels in the area.In 1779, Spain declared war on Great Britain and became an open ally of the American Revolutionary movement. Forces under Gen. Gálvez secured the Mississippi River with victories at Manchac, Baton Rouge and Natchez causing great worry in the British high command. In Mar 1780 now Brigadier-General Gálvez captured Mobile and was promoted to Field Marshal (Mariscal de Campo) and became commander of all Spanish forces in the Americas. With great difficulty and daring, Gálvez captured Pensacola, the British capital of West Florida. The war ended as Gálvez was moving to take the Bahamas, Jamaica and St. Augustine and Halifax in the Floridas. Gen. Gálvez’s Spanish forces provided munitions, medicine, money, and most important of all, food, which came from Texas haciendas to supply Spanish forces and to some extent, the American Continental Army. Gen. Gálvez secured the entire Gulf of Mexico and kept the British forces occupied on that front which otherwise would have freed them to fight the American Colonists in the northeast. At the end of the war, Gálvez returned to Spain until 1785 when he returned as Viceroy of New Spain upon the death of his father. He was a popular Viceroy in Mexico as well as governor and military leader, however, sudden illness caused his death on 30 Nov 1786 at age 38. Throughout his career from the beginning as a teenage soldier in Spain, fighting Indians in New Spain, commanding large naval and ground forces to Commander in Chief of the Gulf Coast and Caribbean, Gen. Gálvez was known for leading those under his command in the thick of the battle and motivating his troops by personal example and eloquence. The name Bernardo Gálvez is one seldom heard among those of lesser contributors from other European allies and countries in the War of American Independence against Great Britain. His name should stand out equal to or above the names Lafayette, de Grasse and Rochambeau of France, von Steuben and de Kalb of Prussia, and Pulaski and Kosciusko of Poland.

Future DeWitt Colony--Demise of the Mission-Villa System--Rise of Texas Ranching. With the Second Treaty of Paris in 1783, Spain now faced the problem of securing the vast Louisiana Territory, which had replaced Texas as the northeastern frontier of New Spain, as well as Florida which it regained from Great Britain at the end of the American Revolutionary War. Ironically, American settlement was moving west toward Spanish territory as a consequence of the independence that New Spain helped to secure for them against the British. As an internal province rather than eastern border front of New Spain, attention for the period 1783 to 1803 was largely turned to protection of the three population centers, Nacogdoches, La Bahia and San Antonio de Bexar and the vast associated private ranches and farms from Indian raids. Generally a strategy of pacification and agreement through gifts and trade similar to French colonial strategies was applied. Governor Domingo Cabello y Robles made a treaty with the norteño Comanches in 1785, which lasted until the end of New Spain in Texas. The Apache tribes remained resistant to treaty. Viceroy Bernardo Gálvez instituted a policy of vigilance and immediate response by civilian minutemen with the military rather than systematic offensive extermination that would be continued in Texas through colonization and statehood.

Developments during the period 1762 to 1783 brought the demise of the historic Spanish mission system in Texas, the demise of the partnership of the Catholic Church and the State military and somewhat the Catholic Church in general except in the three population centers, San Antonio, La Bahia and Nacogdoches. In 1787, Governor Martinez Pacheco organized the first Texas roundup and rodeo that reached from San Antonio de Bexar to the Gulf Coast and included large parts of the future DeWitt Colony. The venture demonstrated that private ranches identified 6000 head while missions could identify only 1500 and mission interests could hardly make a showing of men in the field or in rodeo competition. In 1790, church missions showed a little over 100 Indian converts in residence and less than 2000 head of cattle that at one time had exceeded 40000. In 1792, Father José Francisco Lopez, president of Texas missions, recommended secularization of Mission San Antonio de Valero as well as the administration of four other missions near San Antonio.

In 1793, Viceroy Revilla Gigedo ordered the secularization of the mission and all others in Texas thereby relieving the government of financial responsibility and turning their Indian welfare wards into tax-paying citizens of New Spain. As private ownership increased, the Texas ranchos and haciendas between the San Antonio and Guadalupe Rivers became the cradle of the Texas ranching industry producing for the first time regional wealth in the form of longhorn cattle, sheep and mustangs. These herds under control of Spanish vaqueros made their way south and east along the La Bahia road that stretched from Laredo to Louisiana. The La Bahia road passed through the heart of future DeWitt Colony from La Bahia (current Goliad) on the San Antonio River to the creek "El Cuchiyo" (Sandies Creek) across the Guadalupe River to the creek "El Cuero" to the "Rio La Baca" (Lavaca River), "Rio Navidad" and on northeast to the Colorado River.

Controlled Immigration in Spanish Louisiana--Spanish Xenophobia in Texas--Rise of an Independent Tejano Society. Despite the consolidation and survival of San Antonio de Bexar, La Bahia and Nacogdoches and the rise of private Texas ranches and farms, the decline of the Texas mission system signaled the failure of the Spanish Church and State partnership to secure, colonize and develop Texas through peaceful means. While the total Interior Provinces of New Spain averaged 6 inhabitants per square league (about 6 square miles), Texas averaged fewer than 2 per league, only twice that of the most severe desert regions of Baja California. In 1803 when Texas again became the frontier of New Spain (described below), the permanent population of Texas was 2500 San Antonio de Bexareños, 618 La Bahiareños and 770 Nacogdochereños, a total of no more than 4000 including the scattered settlements. The problems of maintenance of Spanish culture and control in the vast frontera lands far from the centers of government were rapidly becoming apparent. As early as 1783, a French Indian agent, Juan Gasiot, sent a prediction to Commandant of the Provincias Internas Felipe de Neve that the independence of British American colonies would bring serious dangers to Spanish interests in America:

"Citizens of the American Confederation are active, industrious, and aggressive people…..will constantly menace the dominion of Spain in America and it would be an unpardonable error not to take all necessary steps to check their territorial advance…."

The Spanish ambassador to France in about the same period warned:

"This federal republic is born a pigmy. A day will come when it will be a giant, even a colossus….liberty of conscience, the facility for establishing a new population on immense land….will draw thither farmers and artisans from all nations. In a few years we shall watch with grief the tyrannical existence of the same colossus."

Moreover, the small population of originally Spanish origin in Texas was evolving into a racially and socially diverse group, which coupled with private sector economic opportunities and frontier spirit, fostered independent thinking and desire for self-determination similar to that of the increasing number of similar-spirited peoples that had developed from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River and was spreading slowly within Spanish Louisiana to the Sabine River.

To leave the rich and vast territories of New Spain unsettled and undeveloped would most certainly mean loss of them by default to other world powers who had interest in North America and in particular the newly independent American Confederation. With insufficient Spanish citizens willing to colonize the Louisiana Territory and the northern Provincias Internas of New Spain, Spain had no choice, but to consider a policy of controlled immigration as a source of resident citizens under Spanish control. At first the policy emphasized fresh European immigrants direct from Britain, France and other European countries, but then residents of the American colonies to the east after 1783. With the latter, it was predicted that grants of land, economic freedom and de facto religious freedom would take precedence over allegiance of the mostly European immigrants and their descendants of only one or two generations to the fledgling Confederation of American States. However, unlike the Spanish Louisiana Territory, which was much more diverse because of its French background and contact with the outside world through its Gulf Coast and Mississippi River ports and its distance from southern provinces of New Spain, Spanish xenophobia dominated and was policy in Texas at the close of the 18th century.

From his headquarters in Chihuahua in 1796, Commandant of the Provincias Internas Pedro de Nava issued orders banning foreigners without extensive documentation, including citizens of Louisiana, entrance into Texas, targeting particularly the Anglo-Americans. A letter from Commandant de Nava to Texas governor Manuel Muñoz indicates that the policy came from the top:

"a royal order, sent through secret channels, has arrived ordering the utmost care to prevent the passage to this kingdom of persons from the United States of America. The king has been informed on good authority that the United States has ordered emissaries to move here and work to subvert the population…"

Filibustering Begins--The Phillip Nolan Expedition. It was at this height of Spanish xenophobia regarding individuals from the newly independent Confederation of American States that the first Texas filibustering expedition from the east of historic note occurred in the period from 1791 to 1800 with disastrous results. Phillip Nolan, born in Belfast, Ireland in 1771 and a resident of Kentucky in 1789. Nolan was a student of James Wilkinson, a self-serving political and economic opportunist of the period with influential contacts at all levels of the governments of New Spain and the USA. Nolan was interested in the vast herds of horses that roamed Texas and filling the void for working ranch horses that existed in Louisiana with the growing cattle industry which itself had been exported from Texas. Nolan, who carried papers approved by the highest levels of Texas officials, in his numerous trips to Texas between 1791 and 1799 in which he delivered several thousand head of Texas mustangs to buyers in the east became suspected of a spy for Wilkinson and his associates. Despite his awareness of the suspicions of both governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos in Natchez, govenor Munoz of Texas and Commandant Nava, Nolan entered Texas in 1800 with 28 associates, crossed the Trinity River and built a corraling station for mustangs near the Brazos River. Governor Juan Bautista de Elguezabal authorized the commander Manuel Múzquiz at Nacogdoches to arrest Nolan and encountered Nolan and associates in Mar 1801 near Blum in current Hill County, Texas. In the confrontation that followed, a ball killed Nolan, and his men surrendered under a white flag raised by the royal patrol and the promise of safe return to the United States. After being transported to Nacogdoches, San Antonio and then Chihuahua, eight Nolan associates were forced to roll dice, the lowest number of which was to be executed for resisting the king’s soldiers. A man named Ephraim Blackburn rolled a four and was hanged in Chihuaha in 1807, all the others except the remarkable Peter Ellis Bean died in Spanish prisons.

Texas--Disputed Border and Buffer between New Spain and the United States--The Treaty of Ildefonso 1800---The Louisiana Purchase 1803. The thirst for self-determination and local government, distrust of the central Spanish government’s monarchy and the state-dictated Roman Catholic faith and demand of its immigrant citizens need for protection and investment capital resulted in the Louisiana Frontier becoming a political and financial burden for Spain. A solution came with renewed interest of France in its former Louisiana Territory. In alliance with France, Spain hoped to contain the American westward-moving juggernaut at the Mississippi River by concession of Louisiana back to France in 1800 by the secret treaty of San Ildefonso. Political events moved swiftly. In October 1803, Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States of America. In November 1803, France took possession of Louisiana as agreed with Spain in 1800 and 20 days later the fledgling United States of America took formal control of its new purchase. Texas was once again the northeastern frontier of New Spain with the United States of America on its eastern border just across the Sabine River. To many officials of New Spain, Anglos were the evil threat to monarchy and the established order, however, the threat was not from without, but within the borders of New Spain and its inhabitants, forces of the human spirit pressing for self-determination and freedom, that then as today transcend simplistic explanations based on genetics and race.

Although politics, jurisdictions and borders changed in relation to development and securing the frontiers and border of New Spain---the Sabine River in 1700, the Mississippi River in 1763 and again the Sabine River of 1803, the problems in development and security of Texas remained the same. Physically, the frontier was a vast wilderness and territory with few people, little economy, little culture, no military security, which was ranged and exploited by nomadic, unorganized bands of Indians who used the land only to support their subsistence. Inability of the government of Spain to deal with these persistent problems was open invitation to the adventurous Americans to the east, possibly other foreign powers and a gateway for a domino effect of takeover of southern provinces of New Spain as well. Vocal American factions, including President Thomas Jefferson, suggested that Texas was part of the Louisiana Purchase and that the western boundary of the purchase was the Rio Grande River. The Treaty of San Ildefonso ceding Louisiana to France by Spain of 1800 was vague about the western boundary of Louisiana describing it as "the same extent that it now has in the hands of Spain, and had while in the possession of France." Upon the sale of Louisiana, Napoleon had apparently intentionally made definition of boundaries unclear. The uncertainty of the border of the Louisiana Purchase was expressed in communications by Thomas Jefferson to the minister to Spain in Madrid in 1806:

"With respect to our western boundary, your instructions will be your guide. I will ony add, as a comment, to them, that we are attached to the retaining of the Bay of St. Bernard, because it was the first establishment of the unfortunate LaSalle, was the cradle of Louisiana, and more incontestably covered and conveyed to us by France, than any other part of that country. This will be secured to us by taking for our western boundary the Guadalupe, and from its head around the sources of all waters eastward of it, to the high-lands, embracing the waters running into the Mississippi."

Another letter declared the title "to be good as far as the Rio Bravo," it is thought that the ministry was to insist upon the Rio Bravo as the boundary in Madrid and yield only in case of necessity or probable armed force.

Neutral Ground (No Man's Land) between the Sabine and Arroyo Hondo--Attempts to Control Immigration. Open conflict between American and Spanish forces over the Texas border almost erupted in late 1805 as Commandant Provincias Internas Nemesio Salcedo y Salcedo and Texas Governor Antonio Cordero y Bustamente massed over two thirds of the 1368 Spanish royal troops in Texas at Nacogdoches. General James Wilkinson, filibuster Phillip Nolan’s former mentor and now commander of US forces in Louisiana, negotiated the Neutral Ground Agreement with governor Simon de Herrera of Nueva Leon, both without approval of their superiors. The agreement provided for neutral territory between the Sabine River and the Calcasieu River and Arroyo Hondo to the east beyond which either force on either side would not move.

Before becoming engulfed in actions related to the Mexican independence movements, Spanish Texas was besieged by illegal refugees, adventurers, opportunists and filibusters of all sorts sufficient to maintain the fear, suspicion and possibly paranoia of Commandant of Provincias Internas Nemesio de Salcedo y Salcedo of all foreigners, particularly Anglo-Americans. The Neutral Ground between the Sabine and Arroyo Hondo became a haven and staging area for thieves, smugglers and fugitive slaves. In addition, there were a significant number of Louisiana residents of all nationalities, now officially Americans, who were only a short time before Spanish subjects who had interest in making Texas their home. Just prior to transfer of Louisiana to France and the USA, Spanish Louisiana officials convinced Texas to accept displaced Choctaws and Alabama-Coushatta Indians, tribes much more organized and politically active than the indigenous nomadic tribes of Texas. Texas remained a potential area for resettlement of even more indigenous peoples displaced by westward expansion of Americans. In 1807, periodic Indian agent from Natchitoches introduced the concept to Red River tribes that they were "white Indians" and natives similar to Anglo-Americans implying that the Spanish were the alien race.

In the spring of 1807, explorer Lt. Zebulon Pike, sanctioned by American President Jefferson and sent by Gen. Wilkinson, swung south from his namesake, Pikes Peak, in Colorado where he was arrested on the upper Rio Grande River by Spanish forces. He was escorted as a "guest-prisoner" through Santa Fe, Chihuahua, Monclova, Presidio del Norte (current Juarez-El Paso), San Antonio and east into Louisiana on the El Camino Real. In 1809, another adventurer in the Phillip Nolan style, Anthony Glass, and companions penetrated Texas on a trading mission without arrest that stretched as far as the Edwards Plateau.  Glass left a diary of his journal that gave great insight into horse trading with the native populations of the period.

In view of the above chaos, controlled immigration similar to that applied in Spanish Louisiana appeared the only choice to build a society of citizens loyal to the King of Spain, but strong debate arose about how to differentiate between those that would become industrious and loyal Spanish citizens and those perceived as subversive to Spain or simply undesirables of all types. In 1809, Commandant Nemesio Salcedo issued orders banning all foreigners entrance into Texas. The official view was expressed clearly:

"we should always dread the ambitious, restless, and enterprising character of the people <of the United States>, and their misconceived ideas of liberty…..Self-interest and the lure being the only object of the Anglo-American who cares not whence it comes…..we must be watchful and keep our arms in hand against the people amongst whom the scum of all nations is to be found."

Yet he gave his nephew, Manuel María de Salcedo, the new and the last Spanish governor of Texas, broad discretional powers in dealing with the problem of undocumented immigrants already making a living on Texas soil. On an inspection trip to Nacogdoches in 1810, governor Salcedo personally intervened in determining the intention of numerous residents, squatters by the letter of the law, and granted titles of land to those he felt sincere and potentially productive Spanish Texas citizens.

Nemesio Salcedo y Salcedo
Commandante Provincias Internas 1802-1813

Salcedo began his military career about 1765 in the Royal Spanish Guard, for thirteen years was a infantry captain in Navarre and distinguished himself in Spain's North American conflicts. He returned to Europe in 1783, achieved the rank of Lt.Col., then Col. and regimental commander. After transfer to New Spain, he received the attention of Viceroy Pacheco de Padillo and was promoted to brigadier general and commandant of the Interior Provinces. From Chihuahua he autocratically guided Texas and the internal provinces through the last xenophobic and bloody days of Spanish crown rule. His manner and character is described by Lt. Zebulon Pike during his "house-arrest" and interviews in Chihuahua in spring 1807.

Independence Movements in Texas--Last and Tragic Spanish Governor Salcedo. The final and bloodiest decades of Spanish Texas, if not Texas under all six flags, began as the news of the insurrection led by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo of Delores reached Texas. Maríano Jimenez, one of Hidalgo’s trusted lieutenants, was assigned to assess and promote resistance to the royal government in Coahuila and Texas, which were important because of proximity to the United States from which the independence movement needed sympathy and aid. The losing cause of defending the Spanish crown fell to the loyal, able, honest, ambitious and last royal governor of Spanish Texas, Manuel María Salcedo, termed the "Tragic Cavalier" by biographer Felix D. Almaraz Jr.  Salcedo was son of Juan Manuel de Salcedo, the governor of Louisiana when the Louisiana Territory was transferred to France and sold to the United States in 1803.  While in Spain, Salcedo was appointed the governor of Texas by the Council of the Indies in 1807 and arrived in Texas in the summer of 1808. Governor Salcedo moved actively to deal with mounting problems of the period which included  how to deal with squatters in the Neutral Ground.  He promoted somewhat futilely more active settlement of Texas with Spaniards from either Louisiana or Mexico to counteract the influx of Anglos from the US and active measures to deal with the aboriginal populations.  In the spring of 1810 he made an inspection tour of East Texas of which he left a journal record.   Salcedo has been noted for his sympathy for problems of foreigners who had settled in Texas and supported the issue of titles to lands for them.

Governor Salcedo moved quickly to organize resistance to the titanic forces of insurrection with meager resources. Governor Salcedo also realized the potential prestige to be gained by obtaining support and arms from the USA to the east, but such was subverted at the last moment by his uncle, Commandant Nemecio Salcedo. Commandant Salcedo also had recalled most high-ranking officers from Texas for duty in the southern provinces, although he conceded to his nephew’s appeal to let able frontier officer Lt. Col. Simón de Herrera remain. With rumors of rebel spies and assassins and even that Hidalgo forces were preparing to invade Texas, Salcedo imposed restrictions on civilian travel and actually intercepted and screened mail carried by royal carriers. In Jan 1811, Gov. Salcedo secretly sent his family to East Texas. Gov. Salcedo planned to move troops from San Antonio to defend Texas at the Rio Grande, however, rumors circulated that the governor and Lt. Col. Herrera were leaving Texas altogether which would be at the mercy of insurrectionists and Indians. On Jan 6 Gov. Salcedo issued a proclamation to counter the panic and called for renewed loyalty of Texans to the Spanish crown and way of life. On Jan 15, the first overt action against the royal government in San Antonio occurred which Salcedo learned of before action occurred. Rebel sympathizers under Lt. Antonio Saenz planned to take over the Casa Reales, the seat of the royal government in San Antonio. Despite intense efforts of Gov. Salcedo and Lt. Herrara to maintain control and calm, fear, rebellion and revolutionary ideas began to gain a hold on Bexareños including elements of the royal military itself from within.


Next Page--Revolution in Texas 1811 1812 | Las Casas Insurrection | First Republic of Texas | Execution of Gov. Salcedo | First Constitution | Defeat at Medina/Arredondo's Revenge

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