WEBB COUNTY ARCHEOLOGICAL SOCIETY
Lampazos De Naranjo, Monclova,
Cuatro Cienegas, Sabinas,
President - Arnulfo (Fito) Santos,
Vice-Pres. - Sylvia Rodriguez
Treasurer - Ina Pool
Historian - Geronimo (Jerry) Villarreal
Rose Treviņo -
Commissioner, Texas Historical Commission
Table of Contents
IN SEARCH FOR LA SALLE
A MISSION FOR THE TEJAS
SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA
TO RESUPPLY THE MISSION
A NEW ROAD TO THE COLORADO
IN QUEST OF COMMERCE
A WAY STATION TO SAN ANTONIO
BACK TO THE BAY
THE PRESIDIOS REVIEWED
THE FRENCH THREAT ADES
REVIEW FO THE ZACATECAS MISSIONS IN TEXAS
THE CANNONS OF FORT SAINT LOUIS
PRESIDIO DEL RIO GRANDE DEL NORTE
SAN JUAN BAUTISTA PARISH CHURCH
SAN JUAN BAUTISTA MISSION
SAN BERNARDO MISSION
SAN FRANCISCO SOLANO MISSION
LAS COMPANIAS VOLANTES
SPANISH EXPEDITIONS INTO TEXAS 1689-1768 William C. Foster
This first section deals with the Spanish 'entradas al despoblado' into Texas. It took a very
special breed of explorers to brave the many uncertainties and dangers that awaited them. Most
were started in the Spring to avail themselves of good weather. However, since they were done
during what meteorologists term "the little ice age' Spring blizzards were not uncommon.
In fairness to all, the Spanish were exploring land held by native tribes. The plan was to
make the natives conform to believe system via missions and churches. The Spanish would
establish a mission, along with fort for protection, with the idea of conversion. The 'indios
barbaros' were in many cases defending what belonged to them. Atrocities w ere from both
As history shows, these were not to prove successful. What probably accelerated the
unpopularity of the missions among the Indians is that the Europeans brought with them a from
of small-pox. The indigenous people lacked immunity to small pox. In some cases this disease
wiped out entire clans. Some put estimates of death caused by diseases at over 80%.
In many ways Texas was born because of the French incursions into Spanish Texas. The Spanish
made many expeditions into Texas to reestablish their claim of these lands. They did so by
building missions to convert the Indians and with presidios to protect them. Many of these
excursions started in Monclova via Guerrero passing the Rio Grande at the El Frances Crossing
These excursions also led to the Spanish road system - the Camino real or kings road.
An October 1998 San Antonio Express-News article reported that underwater archaeologists had
found what they thought may be the "Aimable" - A French supply ship part of the LaSalle
expedition. Explorations had been concentrated near matagorda bay between Corpus and Houston.
Its sister ship, the "Belle" had already been found and is presently being curated at a special
laboratory in college station, Texas. It will be perhaps two more years before this ship is
ready for display. Its cannons and other items all already part of a traveling exhibit.
You may ask, why? What do Monclova and Guerrero COAHUILA have in common with French Explorers?
Is there a possible connection? The answer: there is a very strong connection!
Back in the late 15th century a bitter power struggle for north America's exploration had
erupted between Spain and France. Spain held a claim to what it know Texas, Mexico and New
Mexico. The gulf-of-Mexico was considered a Spanish sea.
These were very vast and extensive land holding. So vast in fact that while it was claimed it
was not populated or otherwise controlled. The Spanish called it "El Despoblado" Texas, and
northeast a scattering of remote missions and military forts. In 1684 LaSalle landed near
matagorda bay in Spanish Texas. Word quickly reached Mexico about the French presence along
the coast and in response Spain sent various expeditions, both land and marine, to locate them.
However, these initial excursions were not to be successful.
It was not until 1688-1689 that Governor Alonso be Leon captured Jean Gery, who was with the
LaSalle party, but living near eagle pass. After he was interrogated he agreed to lead be Leon
and his party to locate the French Fort - For t St. Louis.
This 50-year-old Frenchman continues to be one of the most fascinating persons associated with
Texas's founding. He had taken an Indian wife and had learned several of the
Indian languages. He was not only respected by Indians along the way but revered. It was said
he held a very high LaSalle position in the Indian community.
IN SEARCH FOR LA SALLE
In 1689 Governor Alonzo be Leon was commissioned by the Spanish Crown to make an entrada into
Texas with several soldiers, Indian guides, missionaries and, of course, Gery. The Frenchman
was to prove a very worthy ally for the governor.
This excursion started in Monclova continued to Guerrero then crossed the Rio Grande at 'Paso
de Francia' a river ford located about five miles from Guerrero. He continued to the northwest
than followed a west southwesterly direction. He crossed South Texas coming close to such
present day cities as Crystal City, Pearsall, Jourdanton, Karnes City, Cuero along Garcitas
Creek ending at a site near Matagorda Bay.
The fort was found destroyed its inhabitants killed. The Karankawa, coastal Indians, are said
to have been responsible for these actions. Prior to reaching this fort near present day Port
Mansfield Governor De Leon had found several Indian camps having French muskets and missionary
robes from the fort.
A MISSION FOR THE TEJAS
Governor De Leon made an additional excursion into Texas the following year, 1690. On this
excursion he was assigned the task of burning the fort's remain and bringing back any of the
fort's survivors. He accomplished his task in that two young French boys, 14 year old Pierre
Talon and 20 year old Pierre Meunier were retrieved from the Indian tribes.
These young men had been placed with the local Indians, the Toho and Tejas, to learn
their customs and become assimilated into their culture.
Also recovered were the three Talon children that had been taken captive by the
Karankawa. It was customary for Indian's to spare the lives of children. These children
were Marie Madeleine age 16 and two boys ages 8 and 5.
SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA
During 1691-1692 Governor Domingo Teran De Los Rios also made an entrada starting at Guerrero
traveling though the cities mentioned above. In addition to these he also explored present day
La Grange. Generally, his mission was to build a mission for the Tejas Indians.
The year prior this group had asked Governor De Leon that they would welcome a mission for
TO RESUPPLY THE MISSION
In May 1, 1693 Gov. Gregorio de Salinas Varona left Monclova to resupply the east Texas
missions. Fray Damian Massanet had accompanied Governor Teran the year prior and had stayed to
establish a mission for the Tejas Indians. He too passed the Rio Grande at "Paso de Francia"
about five miles below Guerrero. Given the devastating acts of smallpox and other diseases
that were blamed on the Spanish by the Tejas Indians forced Frey Massonet to return to Monclova
in February 1694. Three missions and one presidio were built by the Spaniards near the Rio
Grande crossings (Guerrero COAHUILA) - San Juan Bautista, San Francisco Solono and San
Bernardo. It would be about 16 years from the termination of this excursion that before the
Spanish would once again continue their entradas into Texas.
A NEW ROAD TO THE COLORADO
On April 1709 Fray Isidro de Espinoza, Fray Antonio be Olivares and Capitan Pedro De Aguirre
left San Juan Bautista with 14 soldiers and various Indian guides. Their goal was to reach the
Tejas Indians who 16 years prior had forced fray Massonet to leave their area. They were to
confirm reports by other Indians that the Tejas would move from their present home near the
trinity and neches river to 100 miles southwest (near la grange) if the Spanish would build a
mission. While their plans did not go as planned they did provide a very significant find -A
better road to San Antonio from San Juan Bautista (Guerrero) and a road from San Antonio to the
Colorado river. This very significant find would prove very helpful to explorers who would
follow later. Also, this charted road would play significantly in the early Spanish road
During that some month (18th) there was much complaining about the bitter cold. We are told
hot this was not surprising since most entradas took place during the "little ice age (1550-
1850). There are some accounts attesting to heavy snowfalls being very common in the area of
present day Sabinas, COAHUILA. Large herds to bison were also reported from Monclova to
Guerrero. However, Spanish settlers have been blamed for their demise since they would kill
only for the bison's tongue and tallow.
The report written by the priests concluded that there was no need f or more large-scale
expeditions into Texas for the time being, but a mission would likely be built in San Antonio.
Little did they know that this would take place in 7 years. On this future trek the Spanish
would go to stay.
IN QUEST OF COMMERCE
Fray Antonio Margil and Fray Isidro De Espinoza both Franciscans Priests from the colleges of
Queretaro and Zacatecas accompanied Capitan Don Domingo Ramon into the
next Texas excursion. This Feb. 1716 expedition included twenty troopers and eight families.
Three Frenchmen also accompanied the group one was Capitan bon Luis de St. Denis, Chief Convoy.
St. Denis first arrived at San Juan Bautista in 1714 on a trading mission with the Spanish on
the Rio Grande.
On June 23, upon reaching a major Tejas village the Indians rejoiced at the sight of the
Spaniards. This was the same group that 23 years earlier has chased away Fray Massonet
and his priests. There was much celebration. This called for the smoking of a three-foot long
pipe. It was smoked in a ceremonial manner in that the Spaniards were meant to repeat.
On June 30 Ramon established the first presidio in East Texas - "Nuestra senora de Los Dolores
de Los Tejas'. Three more mission sites were selected. On May July 1716 all the participants
in the entrada including cattle, horses, priests, soldiers had all settled in. Prior to this
time all would return home.
Soon thereafter St. Denis once again attempted to establish trade between Louisiana and New
Spain via Son Juan Bautista. He and a partner loaded wagons with trade goods and headed for
the Rio Grande. He was escorted by Captain Ramon's troops.
Shortly after crossing the Colorado he come under attack by 60 mounted apaches. The troops
repulsed the attack but not before making off with a (Spanish mulatto) women mule driver and 23
Debanne, who accompanied St. Denis, visited presidio San Juan Baustista. While there he
noticed that Governor Alarcon and several local priests were prepared to embark on an
expedition that would include Matagorda Bay.
A WAY STATION TO SAN ANTONIO
On April 1718 Governor Martin de Alarcon, Governor of the province of Tejos, was to lead a
party of 72 to establish a mission and presidio on the Son Antonio river. And also to supply
the east Texas missions. Two Fray were to keep a diary on this expedition. They are Fray
Celiz and Fray Perez de Mezquia. The road taken was much the same the one taken by earlier
explorers. It was quickly becoming what was to be known as the "El Camino Real".
On May 5 near a spring (San Pedro) having very good water ViIla be Bejar and Presidio de San
Antonio was established. On the 9th Frey Mezquia reported seeing about 120 Indian huts. He
also observed an irrigated planting field.
BACK TO THE BAY
Governor Marques de Son Miguel de Aguayo was directed to lead a large entrada into Texas during
1721-1722. His chief objective was to re-assert the Spanish presence in east Texas. The prior
efforts were not successful due to the continued French threat. a French military mission led
by Commandant, Phillipe Blonder lead the Spanish to abandon their holdings and flee. The
northmost Spanish presence was now Son Antonio. Aguayo was to push back the French by building
missions and presidio including one at Los Adoes (Louisiana), which was now
the Texas Capital.
The expedition started in Monclova during the latter part of 1720.. It followed the "Camino
REAL" to Guerrero where the religious delegation of missionary priests awaited. This was a
very large expedition comprised of hundreds of men, many horses, cattle and extensive supplies.
Reports show there were eight companies each having 350 horses, 600 head of cattle and 800
sheep. A large group indeed.
During the early Spring of 1721 it was reported that heavy snow and frost delayed the Rio
Grande crossing at PASO DE FRANCIA near Guerrero. The bitter cold was made tolerable by brandy.
It allowed the 50 'nadadores' to be able to swim several barges across the frigid Rio Grande.
The diarist reported that The Province of Tejas was separated from the Province of COAHUILA by
the Medina River. This was about 16 miles from the presidia of San Antonio de Bejar and the
nearby Mission de San Antonio de Valera (the Alamo), formerly San Francisco Solano located at
the Presidio San Juan Bautista (present day Guerrero).
The Frenchman Capt. Louis St. Denis visited the Governor of July 31 and questioned Aguayo about
his intent with such a large force. Aguayo advised him to abandon Los Adoes and return beyond
the Red River to Natchitoches.
During August 1721 Aguayo reestablished four missions including:
San Francisco de Los Neches; Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion; San Jose de Los Nazonis and
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Los Nacogdoches.
He arrived at fort St. Louis on the Spring of 1722 are drew an octagon outline atop the burned
foundations of LaSalle's fort, Fort St. Louis. It was to include a moot and a tower. It is
interesting to note that as of this writing staff archaeologists (Mike Davis for one) from the
(THC) Texas Historical Commission are clearing brush (carefully) for possible archaeological
excavations next year. On May 5 he left San Antonio for Monclova arriving 20 days later.
THE PRESIDIOS REVIEWED
Five years after Aguayo's 1721-1722 expedition the Spanish Crown ordered Brigadier General
Pedro De Riviera y Villalon on an extensive inspection tour within the provinces of COAHUILA
and Tejas. A comprehensive assessment of the presidios an d missions condition was his goal.
This was to be 3-year inspection tour started in Mexico City in Late 1724 arriving in Monclova
1727. He headed into present day Texas from this point.
THE FRENCH THREAT FADES
Discrimination About 40 years after Brig. General De Riviera's inspection tour the Spanish
Crown in 1767 directed the Marques de Rubi to visit the Texas presidios and recommend changes.
In June 28 Rubi left for Monclova headed for a river f ord about 15 miles north of present-day
eagle pass. On August 8 it was reported that the Presidio San Antonio
De Bejar had 22 men including a Capitan and a sergeant.
Also reported by the diarist was the fact that there were five Franciscan missions within an
8-mile segment of the San Antonio River: San Antonio De Valero, Concepcion, San Jose
de Aguayo, San Juan Capistrano and Son Francisco de La Espacla. He went on to say that the
missions were populated by a total of 809 Indians.
During November Rubi's party visited present day Goliad (Presidio La Bahia) and proceeded west
to San Juan Bautista via present day George West to Laredo. It was reported that there was a
prodigious amount of rattle snakes as he approached Laredo he stopped at the present day San
On November 18,1767 he reached Laredo. Rubi reports that the Laredo villa had only 12 huts on
the left bank made of branches and leaves and another group of huts on the right bank. In total
there were 60-armed settler's huts on both sides commanded by a local militia Capitan. He added
that there were three additional settlements down river from Laredo: Revilla, Camargo and Miera
(Mier). these were founded on the right bank during 1749-1752.
From this point Rubi proceeded "32 leguas" (Leagues - 2.6 miles) to Presidio San Juan Bautista
Del Rio Grande. On February of the following year he was back in Mexico City ready to complete
REVIEW OF THE ZACATECAS MISSIONS IN TEXAS
In 1768 the Rubi expedition was returning from their military tour of the presidios in Texas.
A new religious expedition was being readied by Fray Gaspar Jose be Solis to inspect the
Franciscan Missions in Texas. He reports that he started in Zacatecas and both entered and left
Texas via Laredo.
He described both flora and fauna as he approached the Rio Grande from the south in the Spring
(Feb). He reports immense herds of mustangs in the area of Monclova and Villaldama. Upon
reaching Laredo he reports sailing across the Rio Grande "en que pase en un bote muy bueno con
su vela latina". A military contingent from San Antonio was to escort him northward. This area
was well known for Indian attacks on the Spanish . Snow and a fierce cold were reported in Webb
County during mid February.
His first stop was Mission Rosario at present day Goliad. He described some of the practices of
the Karankawa Indians at Rosario. He details that there were four methods in which the coastal
Indians would eat Spaniards, Priests or other Indians:
1). A victim was tied to pole near a large bonfire. The men would dance around the victim and
would occasionally cut out pieces of flesh that was cooked on a nearby fire. When the
victim would perish his body was devoured by all present.
2.) The victim was roosted by a large fire as he hung from his feet.
3.) In a third method one-inch cedar poles were set afire first for torture then to roost
4.) Probably less ritualistic but most barbaric was when the victim was torn to pieces by
the Karankawa using only their teeth.
He goes to describe other social aspects of the Karankawas's life including 'emanfroditos'
(homosexuals). He writes: "abunden en estas nationes los emanfroditos a quienes llaman
monaguia". It is interesting to note that they were not looked down upon by other tribal
members. They are said to have had a limited role in combat missions. There are many other
accounts of homosexuals in Indian societies including the plains Indians.
As he continues his excursion he speaks about members of the Tejas Indians. Near San Pedro
creek of the Trinity River he met Tejas that were white, as opposed to reddish-tan, were well
built and had light colored hair. The men were naked except for a breechcloth. He describes
the woman as being fair and pretty, wore deerskin dresses bordered with colored beads and bone
Also, he reports of meeting a female Tejas chief, Santa Adiva, is described as a queen with
five husbands. She lived in a large house and had many male and female servants attending her.
The Padre also notes that the Tejas had French muskets that were considered superior to the
Spanish Harquebus. Bow and arrows were rarely used.
Also observed by party members is that Indians from different tribes communicated with hand
signals. There are many hand signs used by deaf-mutes today that originated with these Indian
tribes. Some authors feel that the American Sign Language originated with these natives.
He concludes his journey by once again passing through Laredo on his way to Zacatecas. He
arrived on August 24. His descriptions of the expeditions are considered a treasure of the
Spanish colonial period.
The Cannons of Fort Saint Louis by Curtis Tunnell
A group of Texas archaeologists has unearthed the remains of the ill-fated French colony that
was established on the Texas coast by Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle in 1685 after he failed
to find the mouth of the Mississippi River, and have begun work to preserve historic Fort St.
Louis. On an April morning in 1689, with coastal mist hanging in the air, bon Alonzo be Leon
and a band of Spanish soldiers from COAHUILA, rode cautiously into the courtyard at La Salle's
Fort Saint Louis. They were amazed by what they found.
The ill-fated French colony was established on the Texas coast by Robert Cavalier Sieur de La
Salle in the spring of 1685 after he failed to find the mouth of the Mississippi River, which
was his goal. On high ground beside what the French called Riviere aux Boeufs, today Garcitas
Creek, the colonists built one substantial structure of salvaged ship timbers and logs, as welt
as crude huts of posts and mud. During the next three and a half years, they fished, raised
pigs and gardens, and occasionally killed a bison. But members of the little band regularly
succumbed to disease, malnutrition, snakebite, overwork, exposure, and attacks by feral hogs,
wounded bison, and unfriendly natives. The cemetery at the site expanded rapidly to include
more than 100 graves.
The colony had lost most of its supplies in the sinking of two expedition ships, L'Aimable and
La Belle, in Matagorda Bay. By the time La Salle and his chronicler, Henri Joutel, left the
fort in 1687 to search for the Mississippi and French colonies around the Great Lakes, only 22
people remained in the little outpost, including two priests and seven women and girls.
After months of frantic searching for the intrusive French Colony, the be Leon expedition
finally found the outpost on April 22, 1689. There were no signs of life. He described the
primary structure, made of squared logs and ship's timbers with dovetail joinery, as having a
chapel and three rooms below and an upper story used as a storehouse. It had a gabelled roof to
divert the coastal rains. Six other structures at the fort were made of poles set in the ground
and plastered with mud an d crudely roofed with dried buffalo hides. Some 200 French books had
been torn and scattered around the settlement. Eight large cast iron cannons, some on their
carriages, were at the corners of the buildings (See be Leon map). About 150 harquibuses
(muskets) had been broken over the cannons and their barrels taken by the natives. Broken
trunks and crates were everywhere. Three dead bodies, one obviously a woman in a dress, were
given Christian burial.
De Leon carefully buried the eight cast iron cannons in a pit on the slope above the creek,
assuming they might be useful to the Spaniards at some future time, since they were in new
condition. He found a cellar pit where French renegades had burned more than 100 barrels of
powder a few months earlier. Struck with the poignancy of the place, be Leon refused to let his
men burn the fort building. Returning a few months later with another force, be Leon's
assistant, Father Damien Massanet, did put the fort to the torch on orders from the Viceroy.
There being a brisk wind, it was quickly reduced to ashes.
In 1722, another Spanish force under the Marquis de Aguayo, returned and built a temporary
presidio on the site of Fort Saint Louis. They mention finding French artifacts in their
foundation trenches, but they failed to find the cache of eight cannons buried by be Leon some
32 years earlier. The presidio built on this site was known as "La Bahia" and it was moved to
several other locations before eventually being established on the San Antonio River at Goliad,
where it can be visited today.
Centuries passed with the site of Fort Saint Louis experiencing nothing more dramatic than
occasional attempts at collecting by treasure hunters foolish enough to invade the coastal
brush crawling with aggressive rattlesnakes. Then in 1950, Glen Evans took a field crew from
the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin and excavated at the site. Although they recovered
thousands of French and Spanish artifacts, they failed to find the eight iron cannons brought
to the site by La Salle. In the late spring of 1996, a ranch hand with a metal detector
finally found the old cannon pit, and he exposed parts of three cannons that were immediately
covered back over. Under an agreement with the Keeran Ranch Trust, a Texas Historical
Commission field crew went to the site in September 1996 and recovered La Salle's cannons,
which had been buried by be Leon in 1689. The crew consisted of this author, Dr. Jim Bruseth,
Brett Cruse, Mike Oavis, Bill Martin, Jim Bonor, and Smitty Schmiedlin of Victoria. Assisting
the archaeologists on occasion were Terry Cullen, Bill Donoghue, Glenn Adams, Dick Byrns, and
Richard Barnett. In spite of heat, humidity, rain squalls, mud, and billions of really hungry
mosquitoes, the cannons were carefully uncovered in their little clay nest. Henri Joutel had
described the soil at this site as "like potter's clay," and the crew found this to be an
accurate description. Thankfully, the dense clay soil tended to keep oxygen and moisture from
the iron cannons, leaving them in excellent condition. Three of the cannons are three-
pounders, three are four-pounders, and two are six-pounders. They weigh from about 700 to
1,200 pounds each.
The archaeological recovery of La Salle's eight iron cannons, which are described so many times
in the French and Spanish documents, removes any shadow of doubt about the location of Fort
Saint Louis, it is on the southwest bank of Garcitas Creek, a few miles above its mouth. This
project demonstrates how coordinating archaeological and historical research can be a winning
combination. Much remains to be learned about La Salle's little fort on the Texas coast.
Evidence of the burned fort, burned cellar, and wall trenches of jacal structures should still
be extant. The extensive French cemetery has never been identified. Trash pits, toilet pits,
and many artifacts remain to be found. The Keeran Trust and the Texas Historical Commission
have agreed to conduct extensive excavations on the site when the massive La Salle Shipwreck
Project is completed. In the meantime the site is protected by dense coastal brush filled with
fearsome rattlesnakes, feral hogs, voracious mosquitoes, occasional alligators, and by strict
prosecution for trespassing.
The extensive stockpile of cannons, muskets, and powder at Fort Saint Louis could not save the
colonists from the arrogance, ignorance, and mismanagement of their leaders. This tragic
chapter in the early history of Texas spurred the Spanish to establish their claim and control
over this frontier region.
Curtis Tunnell, an archaeologist, is executive director of the Texas Historical Commission.
(Source: Guerrero, COAHUILA, Mexico - a guide to the town and Missions - Jack D. Eaton.)
Present day Guerrero, COAHUILA was formed during the late 1600 by Expedition leaders and
other who would use the nearby river fords. These fords were: 1.) Paso Del Frances 2.) Paso
Pacuache and 3.) Paso de Las Islas. It was necessary to find good river crossings due to
expeditions being comprised of many men, carts and animals which would be used for food during
the excursions. Ideally river fords would have smooth riverbeds, a gradually sloping
entrance/exit and be shallow enough for horses and cattle to wade across. The alternative
would be to built barges for all to cross. Barge crossings would of course take additional
time and supplies. Archives show that most times personnel and animals would wade across
the Rio Grande.
In 1700 the Franciscan missionaries had established the missions of San Juan Bautista and San
Francisco Solano (moved to San Antonio and became the ALAMO). In 1702 Mission San Bernardo was
also established nearby. Of these only San Bernardo stands today.
A fort was now necessary to protect the missions from marauding Indians and others. For this
the crown, in 1701, selected Capitan Diego Ramon to protect the missions with his compania
volante (flying company) of 30 soldiers.
Presidio Del Rio Grande Del Norte
The 1703 Plaza De Armas consisted of 10 flat-roofed stone and adobe structures. They stood on
the present site occupied by Guerrero's main plaza. This main plaza has a park and a bandstand
and is west of the church. Numerous houses belonging to military and civilian families formed
the frontier settlement. Ruins of the 1776 Capitans house are still visible east of the Plaza.
San Juan Bautista Parish Church
Construction of this church, which today stands east of the main plaza, was started on the
early presidio period but was not completed until the turn of the 19th century. While it was
under construction a smaller church was used for the spiritual needs of the military and
Located on Calle Abasolo still holds some burial crypts from the Spanish colonial period.
San Juan Bautista Mission
Although built as the first mission in the gateway community on new year's day 1700 it was
moved in 1740's to a hilltop site west of the presidio. Archaeological investigations were
done of the ruins of the mission during 1976. What were uncovered were the foundations and
ruins of several buildings. After recording was complete, excavations were back-filled to
The mission church was cruciform in plan with an east entry. Sillar, related to caliche, was
used in most of the construction. It had a stone foundation with lime used as cement. Also
uncovered was a bell tower with a baptistery at its bas e. Most of its floor had ceramic tile
that was probably made nearby. One main altar and two lessor altars were also located.
South of the church stood a Monastery Quadrangle and a granary behind it. The Quadrangle was
the living quarters and offices for the resident friars. Granaries were used to store beans
and corn. Two workshops, probably where carpentry and blocksmithing were taught, were found
south of the Granary.
Indian housing was located nearby. The long foundations indicate small apartments for the
Indians. A torreon or tower was found at the west end of this housing. this was used f or
defensive purposes and allowed the Spanish to f ire through troneras or portholes.
San Bernardo Mission
This is large abandoned church visible from the highway. This mission was founded by Capitan
Diego Ramon and Father Alonzo Gonzalez. However, the present church was built during the
1760's by father Diego Jimenez. It was the second church built on the mission, during 1975-
1976 archaeological investigations were done. These were carried out by representatives of both
U.S. and Mexican governments. The US group was headed by CARL - Center for Archaeological
Research - UTSA, Dr. Thomas R. Hester, Director. The Mexican part was headed by INAH, a
Mexican government agency.
Generally, foundations for 12 buildings were found. Six of these are to the west, about 10
meters from the church, and six are to the east about 50 meters from the church.
the east side buildings are the monastery group while those on the west side are former Indian
housing. The original San Bernardo Church (its foundations) was found with the east group.
San Francisco Solano Mission
This mission was founded two months after San Juan Bautista was founded, thus it was built
during the Spring of 1700. It was in service about three years before it was closed down and
moved to the San Antonio River where it was renamed San Antonio De Valero. Its most important
significance was it became THE ALAMO. Archaeological excavations for this missions have not
been made. Archaeologists have only clues to guide them at present. Perhaps one-day
archaeological excavations will be carried out!
The, acequias, or water supply, for the town of Guerrero is still the same as when the Spanish
first built it. The two springs that provide the water are LAS BRUJAS and LAS PARRITAS. These
provide water for the acequia cienega on the north side of town.
Las Companias Volantas
The concept of the Compania volantas was said to have been refined by the Tlascalan Indians.
The Tlascaltecas, Spanish allies since the Conquista were from Mexico's central highlands. In
payment for their valuble service they were given lands which t hey developed. They were master
craftsmen, weavers, artisans, poets and also excelled in the construction trades and in
astronomy. They also have been credited with the Mexican pan-dulce and other delicacies such as
Tamales and corn tortillas. Bustamante had a large contingent of Tlascaltecos which are
credited with starting what Bustamante is famous for - their pan-dulce. The matachines are also
derived from this tribe.
Many writers have erroneously lumped members of this tribe with the indigenous population of
northeast Mexico and Texas, they had little if any connection to the latter. In Bustamante and
in Candela they were allowed to carry arms and ride horses like the Spanish. Also, they would
live within their own section of town segregated from the others. They were afforded such
treatment so as not to "mix" with other town folks.
The refinement that they bought to the Companias volantas was called the caballada. Generally,
each rider would be outfitted with a knife, 2 pistols, a rifle and others weapons. Each rider
would have a remuda of 10 horses. This would allow him very long-range pursuits with relative
ease. Thus, would there be need to track down an outlaw he would give chase, before his mount
would tire he would change to a fresh horse and continue his chase. They tended to have a very
high capture rate. While two or more may make a group it was not uncommon for them to work
alone for extended time periods. These method of law enforcement was far superior to the older
method of soldiers stationed within a presidio. The early citizens of Laredo requested a
compania volante for protection against Indians.
During a October 1998 airing of the TODAY show it was announced that a certain diary written by
an obscure Mexican soldier serving with Santa Ana was to be auctioned. This diary, which was
handwritten and authenticated by experts, is over several 100 pages long. Jose Enrique De La
Pena was this soldier in Santa Ana's army as it headed off towards the Alamo. It is unknown
what the diary fetched at auction but its contents are nothing short of fascinating. Carmens's
Perry's publication WITH SANTA ANNA IN TEXAS is available at book stores. Information here is
from her translation of the diary.
In one section it tells of a Tampico Regiment's march in which severe weather made for much
suffering, during February 1836, between Monclova and Guerrreo, they were hit by severe
blizzard that made for a most miserable time for the Mexican troops. T he snow was said to
blanket everything making it very hard to find firewood or the road, for that matter. Since
the troops were not accustomed to this weather many perished during the night. The morning
after he tells of mules and horses that had collapsed with their heavy loads. They would hit
the ground with such force that their heads would split open upon impact. Their blood would
contrast brightly against the white snow.
Other noteworthy happenings in Guerrero occurred during the war with Mexico during the
Mid1840's. A young engineer assigned to the American Army of Chihuahua was to become quite
famous during the civil war. This young engineer built a bridge near Guerrero allowing troops
and materiel to cross the Rio Grande. His name - Robert E. Lee. 1
During the same time period the riverboat General Brown, steamed from Mier to Laredo. Since the
route further west (upriver) was unknown several of the crew decided ride to the presidio del
Rio Grande and float down to Laredo. Well, the dugout canoe performed well, but, it was
determined that this stretch between, Guerrero and Laredo was not navigable. Too many times
they had to push the dugout from sandbars.
The conclusion was that Laredo would be the next important gateway into Mexico and Guerrero. 2
1 Robert S. Weddle, SAN JUAN BAUTISTA GATEWAY TO SPANISH TEXAS- P.413
2 Ibid., Page 412
THE VALLEY OF CUATRO CIENEGAS DE CARRANZA, COAH., MEXICO
We need to consider three separate themes in order to give some justice to this small town and
1. - The town proper & the geographic area,
2. - The unique ecosystem and,
3. - The typical hardy people from the area.
THE TOWN & THE AREA
According to Lic. Javier Villarreal Lozano(5), Cuatro Cienegas, was first mentioned by
Fr. Acosta in 1599. Fr. Acosta said that the site of Cuatro Cienegas was located "about 30
leagues north of the other part of the lake (the region now known as La Region Lagunera." Fr.
Acosta estimated that the valley could sustain 2,000 inhabitants. There were several attempts
following that assertion to colonize that area, but the few people who tried to do so could not
cope or survive the frequent attacks of nomadic Indians.
On May 24, 1800, the Governor of the Province of Coahuila registered the foundation of the
Villa. By 1802 there were 174 settlers "of all classes, young & older."(5) (In the late 1840's
several resident families of San Antonio & Bexar County, TX. mi grated & settled in Cuatro
Cuatro Cienegas lies about an hour's drive west from Monclova. If one looks at the map of the
State one may find Cienegas more or less in the center. The town is serviced by the Mexican
Railroad System. The highway connects the town to Monclova on the eastern side, to Ocampo
which lies N.W. & Torreon on the S.W. The region yields agricultural products, different
minerals & cattle.(2) Cienegas is particularly proud of the quality of grapes & wines it
Lic. Villarreal Lozano quoted the topographer, George W. Hughes, member of the brigade of Gen.
John E. Wool (U.S.-Mexican War) as follows: Hughes expressed admiration for the beauty of the
Valley & he equated it with scenes from Dutch paintings, such beauty, however, contrasts
sharply with the harsh reality of the ever presence of the Chihuahua Desert.(5)
"In 1994 the Mexican Government granted Cuatro Cienegas status as a protected area, (4) The
area is described by biologists as a "show place of Biodiversity" and an "irreplaceable
treasure of Mexico."(4) The October, 1995 "National Geographic" issue displayed an extensive
graphic report of several "Posas" & some of the unique in the world flora & fauna of the
THE EARLY INHABITANTS
The name of Carranza appears prominently as one of the original settlers. Jose Carranza was
listed as one of 11 settlers(5).
The Carranzas, from the very beginning, were always politically active and well
connected with the existing government. Don Jesus Carranza, Venustiano's father, aided
President Benito Juarez in his flight to Chihuahua. He did so by lending the latter the camels
that Don Jesus used on his commercial expeditions to the state of Chihuahua (3) subsequently,
the Carranzas were closely associated with the Porfirio Diaz regime.
The best known member of this family was Don Venustiano, he was born in Cuatro Cienegas on
December 29, 1859 (the house where he was born and grew up still stands and it is currently
used as a museum); he was baptized in the Church of San Jose on January 2, 1860. He attended
the local elementary schools and later on he continued his studies in the Capital city of the
State, Saltillo. Initially he planned to study medicine, but he had to return to his native
Cienegas. He married Miss Virginia Salinas. He was appointed Municipal Judge, but he soon
successfully ran for Alcalde in 1886; he did not remain on his post for very long; he strongly
disagreed with the governor to simply "rubber stamp" a report on the conditions of the town .
Later on, as Governor of the State, he opposed and he refused to recognize General Huerta as
the legitimate president of the country. General Huerta has named himself president of Mexico
after he has assassinated Francisco I. Madero, Carranza's friend and fellow Coahuilian. This
propelled Carranza to national leadership and to the Presidency on May 1, 1917.(5) He was
assassinated at 4:00 a.m. on May 21, 1920 in Tlaxcalantango, Veracruz.(3) (It should be noted
that a Laredoan was part of the initial honor guard at Carranza's funeral. ( The late Samuel
Alexander as such a man.) Carranza's integrity and honesty contrasted sharply with the on going
political trend of the time. Such trait contributed to his demise.(3)
It would take time and space to adequately explain Carranza's achievements and
contributions. Many of these are in existence now. Suffice to say that Carranza and other
Cieneguenses shaped the destiny of Mexico and, to some extent, the world; they contributed
much talent and leadership to the revolution of 1910, but other important contributions worthy
of mention are those provided by the young aviators: Gustavo Salinas Carnifia and Alberto
Salinas Carrariza. The first one made significant contributions to military aviation while the
second's gifts went to civilian aviation.(6)
1. Amador, Capt'n Octavio, La Tragedia de Tlaxcalantango, p.p. 133 - 135, Primera Edici6n,
2. Campillo, Cauth, Hector, Enciclopedia Regional Ilustrada Coahuila, Fernandez editores,
3. Carranza Castro, Jesus, Origenes, Destino y Legado de Carranza, p.p. 33 - 39, B. Costa
Amic, Editor, Mdxico, D.F., 5/77.
4. Mader, Ron, "Endangered Treasure: Cuatrocienegas;" 10/93
5. Villar Teal Lozano, Lic. Javier, "La Cuatrocienegas de Carranza." conference delivered at
the Museo V. Carranza, C.Cienegas, Coah., 5/25/94.
6. "Zocalo", Piedras Negras, Coah., 10/18/71.
Antecedents of Monclova
Presidio San Francisco de Coahuila
20 April 1678
Historically, Spanish dominions in the Aercias were defended largely by colonists who were
part-time soldiers and part-time settlers. From this tradition, a frontier institution evolved
that played a significant historical role in the defense and northward advance of Spanish
civilization and culture in New Spain - the presidio. Ostensibly a military garrison, the
presidio, however, differed from the regular military institutions of Spain. Presidial troops
reflected this difference, particularly in the interior provinces such as Coahuila. One
historian describes them as "neither elite troops nor raw recruits, but hard-bitten, home-grown
vaqueros who were at ease in the saddle, inured to the harsh and lonely terrain in which they
served, and accustomed to the cruel and unconventional tactics of Indian warfare." The men
listed below were made of such mettle.
Antedating the presidio San Francisco de Coahuila were several attempts to settle this
location. As early as 1585, Luis de Carvajal established a site named Nuevo Almaden. Soon
after, however, Carvajal was called to face the Inquisition be cause of his Jewish heritage.
Gaspar Castaflo de Sosa, who was left in command, abandoned the settlement in the summer of
1590 to pursue better silver mine prospects. Almost twenty years later, Diego de Montemayor
sent Captain Pedro de Velada to re populate the site. Velada left Monterrey along with Fray
Diego de Arcaya, Indians and families from the Santa Lucia mission, twenty-two soldiers, loads
of maize and wheat and herds of cattle and sheep. They reached the ruins of Nuevo Almadin on
24 March 1609. Crop failures and warfare with the nomadic tribes, however, spelled the end of
the settlement by 1618.
Cupidity and jurisdictional disputes spurred a third attempt at resettlement a generation
later. In 1643 rumors about the rediscovery of a silver mine left by Castailo de Sosa
attracted settlers from Saltillo, Zacatecas and Mapimi. Among the settlers was Juan Aguirre
whom the alcalde of Saltillo designated as his representative in judicial matters, not
withstanding that the ruins of Nuevo Almaden were under the jurisdiction of Nuevo Leon by
virtue of Carvajal's First settlement. Saltillo at the time was in the province of Nueva
Vizcaya. The governor of Nuevo Leon, Martin de Zavala, in turn sent Captain Alonso de Leon
(the elder) with a requerimiento requesting Aguirre to turn over jurisdiction to de Leon.
Aguirre refused. Governor Zavala with great restraint sent a second emissary, Captain Martin
de Aldape, with another requerimiento once again requesting that jurisdiction of the settlement
be turned over to Nuevo Leon. Once again Aguirre refused and sent an appeal to the governor of
Nueva Vizcaya along with exaggerated claims about the silver riches to be found in the long-
abandoned mine. Enticed by the figment of a silver bonanza, the governor reacted by appointing
Mateo Arredondo as the alcalde mayor and capitan a guerra of Nuevo Almaden. He ordered
Arredondo to immediately set out with a company of soldiers to take command of the revitalized
** NOTE: page 3 is missing **
complaints about him. In the meantime, Bishop Manuel Fernandez de Santa Cruz y Sahagun
planned his pastoral visit in which he would include this new province.
Informed of the pastoral journey, the Real Audencia of Guadalajara canceled its agreement with
Balcarcel and ceded ample authority to the bishop to continue the work of his predecessor.
Furthermore, the viceroy gave the bishop added authority to remove Tlaxcaltecan families from
the Pueblo de San Esteban de Saltillo and resettle them in Coahuila. The Tlaxcaltecans,
Spanish allies since the conquest of Tenochtitlan, were used as precursor settlers as an
examples of an agricultural and sedentary way of life for the nomadic natives. On 12 December
1675, the bishop along with Agustin de Echeverz y Subiza, Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo, ten
presidial soldiers and fourteen Tlaxcaltecan families from San Esteban arrived at Guadalupe.
The bishop then founded the village of San Francisco de Tlaxcala just west of Guadalupe for the
fourteen Tlaxcaltecan families. In addition he gathered more native families and settled them
at San Miguel de Luna, which the bishop renamed San Francisco de Coahuila. Concurrently, he
formed a presidio nearby in which he named Balcarcel's lieutenant, Fernando del Bosque, as its
captain and left the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo in charge of the province.
The Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo's tenure in Coahuila was short-lived and contentious.
Conflicts with both the natives and the rest of the settlers prompted him to leave by April
1676. Many of the natives had left their settlements and rejoined the nomadic tribes and
occasionally attacked those same settlements they had lived in. The rest of the year saw the
village of San Francisco de Coahuila almost depopulated and Guadalupe under constant attack
from the nomadic tribes of the area. Alfirez Fernando del Bosque, who had been left in charge
when the Marquis left, decided to move the few Spanish families that were left from Guadalupe
to San Francisco the Coahuila. Aid did not come until the next year when a Royal Cedula
promulgated on 24 December 1677 ordered the remaining soldiers at the presidio in Saltillo to
move to San Francisco de Coahuila. Accordingly, on 20 April 1678, the official founding of
Presidio San Francisco de Coahuila was enacted with del Bosque as its captain and the men
listed below as the founding soldiers. This presidio would remain a fledgling until the very
capable Alonso de Leon, whose father had originally been involved in the jurisdictional dispute
over this region, was given the reins of government almost ten years later. On 14 October
1687, De Leon took command of the presidio and mustered and reviewed the presidials.
Vito Alessio Robles, Coahuila y Texas en la Epoca Colonial, Editorial Porrua, S.A., Mexico,
Israel Cavazos Garza, ed., Historia de Nuevo Ledn con Noticias Sobre Coahuila, Tamaulipas,
Texas y Nuevo Mexico, Escrita en el Siglo XVII por el Cap. Alonso de Leon, Juan Bautista Chapa
y el Gral. Fernando Sanchez de Zamora, Gobierno del Estado de Nuevo Leon, Centro de Estudios
Humanisticos de la Universidad de Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, Mexico, 1961.
"Historia del Nuevo Reino de Leon, Desde 1650 Hasta 1690 por un Autor Anonimo," in Genaro
Garcia, Documentos Ineditos o Muy Raros para la Historia de Mexico, Editorial Porrua, S.A.,
Alonso de Leon, "Relacion y Discursos del Descrbrimiento, Poblacion y Pacificacion de este
Nuevo Reino de Nuevo Leon, Temperamento y Calidad de la Tierra. Hechos por el Capitan
Alonso de Leon, Pecino de la Villa de Cadereyta, en el Nuevo Reino de Leon, y Natural de la Muy
Noble y Leal Ciudad de Mexico," in Genaro Garcia Documentos Ineditos o Muy Raros para la
Historia de Mexico, Editorial Porrua, S.A., Mexico, 1975.
Max L. Moorhead, The Presidio: Bastion of the Spanish Borderlands, University of Oklahoma
Press, Norman, 1975.