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A Taint on Texas
By Sally McClain
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Sally McClain
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The vast, rich territory that would eventually become the states of Texas, New Mexico, parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado was filled with wild game, pure flowing rivers, groves of various species of trees, patches of black-bottom swamps, hills, and thousands of acres of semi-arid plains. The indigenous peoples that freely roamed this expanse of varied geography and endured the unpredictable weather patterns learned to live in harmony and respect on the land. This nomadic, pastoral way of life would be short-lived and ultimately vanish once invaders from across the Atlantic Ocean discovered the riches and promise of the New World.
The first Spanish expedition led by Pánfilio de Nárvaez departed Florida in 1528 and landed on the shore of present-day Galveston. The survivors of this expedition were washed ashore after a hurricane and were rescued by Karankawa natives. These early explorers later encountered Coahuiltecans farther down the coast and into the northwest region. In the center were the Tonkawas, who were typical hunter-gatherers and called themselves Ticwantic, the "most human of people." In the upper northeastern section were approximately two dozen various bands of Kä'dohädacho (Caddo) that also roamed through the Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma territories. The Caddos tended to form loose confederations with surrounding tribes, including the Hasinai, who were also semi-agricultural societies living in settled villages and were fairly peaceful except when it came to their long-standing enemy, the Comanche.
The territory Narváez's expedition originally discovered was later occupied for short periods of time by the French, who introduced the tribes to firearms in trade for pelts. They also used the tribes as allies in their territorial wars with the Spanish. Conversely, the Spanish introduced horses to the tribes in lieu of trade goods with the same purpose in mind when war with the French occurred. Both France and Spain attempted to use the various tribes against each other in a vain attempt to control them and the territory they roamed, often a useless and wasted effort. The only benefit the tribes derived from French and Spanish occupation was obtaining a working knowledge of firearms and horses, which eventually made them more effective hunters and warriors.
After the Spanish managed to gain a firmer foothold in the new territory, they encountered another large tribe called the Hasinai. The Hasinai referred to themselves as Tayshas, "allies."
When the Spanish arrived, this word was pronounced as "Tejas," which would eventually evolve into the present-day name of Texas. The Hasinai were wary of the Spaniards and down right hostile to any conversion attempts by Catholic monks, as Catholicism was in direct conflict of their spiritual beliefs. The Hasinai, along with the Caddos, believed in a deity who created the world and was omnipotent in directing all living creatures. Contrary to the Bible, they believed that in the beginningthere was a mother and two daughters involved in the creation process, and women of both tribes played an active spiritual role on equal footing with the men. The monks considered this a totally heathen practice, and when they tried to insinuate their beliefs within the tribes, conflict was inevitable.
The conquistadores, believing they had a divine right to claim the land in the name of the pope and king, gave the native peoples a choice of just how this uncompromising conversion process was to be carried out: convert or die. Many natives did appear to convert, but some did not even entertain the idea. When violent conversion confronted them, they melted into the vast region where they could live without Spanish interference.
In 1689, Spanish soldiers and priests ventured far north beyond the existing Hasinai settlements, near present-day Dallas, a region controlled by the Caddos. The same religious conversion tactics were pressed upon the Caddos with similar results. The Spanish also brought with them smallpox, which swept through the Caddos with devastating effects. Over three thousand people died of this terrible disease during the next two years. In 1692, a caddi (chief) informed the foreigners that "all of his people were very annoyed with the Spanish and it would be better if they left his lands." The Spanish departed then spent the next twenty years trying desperately to maintain viable trade with the Hasinai and Caddos.
After exploring the eastern section of the territory, the Spaniards turned their sights toward the central section, where they encountered small bands of nomadic tribes: Alabama-Coushatta, Anadarko, Arapaho, Biloxi, Chickasaw, Delaware, Kichi, Kiowa, Kickapoo, Muskogee, Pakana, Potawami, Shawnee, Tawakoni, Tigua, Witchita, and Waco. The Spanish encountered the same opposition with conquest and conversion, trade and peace with these tribes as they had with the Caddo and Hasinai. They would have zero success with the Comanche living in other various areas of the territory.
In the Trans-Pecos area were the Jumanos, a comparable tribe to the Pueblo who farmed corn, beans, and squash and hunted game. The Spaniards, in order to obtain adequate slave labor for the silver mines in Chihuahua, began raiding and capturing the Jumanos, which eventually decimated their population. Years later when the Apache overran their territory, the remaining scant numbers of Jumanos were absorbed into their lower ranks. In March of 1694, hostilities and resulting casualties between the tribes and Spaniards became so severe the viceroy of Mexico formally ordered the abandonment of the Trans-Pecos area.
During a period of time from 1716 to 1816, the Spanish were unable to adequately populate or protect the vast region north of the Rio Grande River. The Spanish relied heavily on a system of Franciscan missions to help maintain military control over the Apache-Lipan, Comanche, Witchita, and Waco, and pitting them against each other was done so at great peril. In a report to the King of Spain in 1779, Padre Juan Augustin Morfi stated:
The Apache-Lippans, even after a half a century, during which time they have sustained considerable losses in the war waged against us, and still more in the continuous struggle with the Comanche and other nations of the north, are still able to put in the field two thousand warriors. ... The province has declined day to day so that even though we still call ourselves its masters, we do not exercise dominion over afoot of land beyond San Antonio.
To combat this situation Spanish authorities concluded that granting land to Anglos and "civilized" Native American tribes willing to relocate in the province would be a satisfactory and workable solution. In 1798, the first land grant registered to Anglos was located in Nacogdoches in the names of merchants William Barr and Peter Samuel Davenport. Although they never populated or improved their grants, this area would eventually be incorporated into the San Felipé de Austin land grant authorized in 1820 to Stephen F. Austin.
In the interim, the Napoleonic wars in Europe created constant battlegrounds in Spain and Portugal, forcing the King of Spain to concentrate his resources and manpower on the problems placed at the foot of his throne. This meant the Spanish governors were left to fend for themselves and make do with what they currently had. Trade with friendly tribes was simply unsustainable because of the vast distances between the missions throughout the province, which also made communications slow and highly unreliable. The results of the instability within the province and growing disillusionment with a king half a world away led to a wave of independence that began sweeping through the territory in 1810 and lasted for eleven years before independence from Spain was secured on September 21, 1821.
During this unsettling and fractious period, Anglo colonists residing in the Province of Coahuila y Téjas began viewing it as ripe for the picking and set in motion a plan to eventually create an independent republic. Relations between Anglo colonists and Mexican nationals (Téjanos] had always been tenuous at best as Anglos viewed the Téjanos as lazy, priest-ridden, bloodthirsty conquistadores who were full-blown demons.
On the other hand, Téjanos viewed the Anglos as nothing more than smugglers, land thieves and filibisteros (freebooters). As more and more Anglos moved into the territory, they rarely interacted or met on a social basis with each other because they basically feared, distrusted, and were prejudiced and jealous of each other. This mutual atmosphere of enmity would later prove fertile ground for independence.CHAPTER 2
Mexico's independence from Spain was won on September 21, 1821 with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba between representatives of the Spanish crown and the rebel leader Augustin de Iturbide. Toward the end of the war, Iturbide created three guarantees for Mexican independence: Mexico would become an independent monarchy via a transplanted king, equal rights and privileges would apply for all, and the Catholic Church would be protected and retain its power and monopoly. These guarantees were known as the Plan of Iguala and were so broadly based that they pleased both patriots and loyalist members.
The Plan of Iguala created a provisional government with an independent congress with the right to deliberate the best way to incorporate laws for the people. While these activities were taking place, local officials in the Province of Coahuila y Tejas were given permission to allow Anglos to settle within the territory. Among the first to take advantage of this new opportunity was the father of a man who would later be regarded as the father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin.
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in 1793 in the Virginia colony to Moses Austin and Maria Brown. Moses owned a dry goods store along with several lead mines near New River in southwest Virginia. In 1797, due to the financial failure of the lead mines, Moses applied for a grant of one league square of land in the Spanish-held Louisiana Territory. Spain granted his passport in 1798 and he packed up his family and departed for Kaskaskia, a town opposite Saint Genevieve in the Missouri Territory. Moses once again purchased lead mines and attempted to make a success of them.
In 1804 the Missouri Territory was purchased and transferred to the United States. It proved to be a mixed blessing for the inhabitants as taxes, militia duty, and a meticulous and rigid land system was instituted. During that year, Stephen, age eleven, was sent to family friends in Connecticut to begin his formal education at the Bacon Academy. He was an excellent student and upon graduation three years later applied and was admitted to Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He studied and excelled in math, geography, astronomy, history, and philosophy, graduating with honors in 1812. He returned to the Missouri Territory and in 1814 was elected to the House of Representatives and served until 1820, when Missouri achieved statehood. In 1817, while serving as representative, he took over his father's lead mines in a futile attempt to salvage them. This ultimate failure prompted father and son to purchase a farm at Long Prairie on the bank of the Red River, which would be used as a way station and supply base for emigrants heading west. The farm was abandoned less than a year later because the most traveled route west went through Natchitoches, Louisiana.
During the summer of 1820, Moses traveled to San Antonio de Bexar and applied for permission to establish a colony of three hundred families within a two hundred thousand-acre land grant. Governor Martinez, not pleased with Moses' attitude or demeanor, refused to entertain his petition and ordered him to vacate the territory at once. Moses then sought out a former acquaintance, Baron de Bastrop, and asked him to intervene on his behalf. De Bastrop was happy to do the favor, and three days later Martinez agreed to forward Moses' application along with de Bastrop's endorsement to Commanding General Joaquin de Arrendondo. Moses' application was conditionally approved on January 17, 1821.
Conditional approval was predicated on each empresario (landowner) following the tenets laid down by the Spanish congress: the empresario was required to pledge allegiance to the king and constitution of Mexico, be accountable and responsible for the character and conduct of each of his colonists, and all emigrants were required to be certified Catholics. Every empresario was also required to provide his colonists with farming tools and livestock, make improvements to the property within two years of occupancy, and enforce the laws of Mexico. Moses was thrilled and willing to accept the terms of the land grant, but sadly he would never live to see his dream of settling in Téjas. He contracted pneumonia and died June 10, 1821.
As he lay dying, he wrote to Stephen extracting a promise from him to carry out the colonization contract. Stephen, the dutiful son, wrote his mother on July 15th and assured her he would honor and execute his father's wish. On July 23rd he arrived in Nacogdoches to meet five families his father had recruited and who were waiting for permission to locate on the Austin land grant. In August, after gathering the required supplies of tools and livestock, the party left for San Antonio de Béxar to present themselves to Governor Martinez.
Upon arrival, Stephen introduced himself as the rightful heir to his father's land grant and asked to be recognized as such. Martinez, expecting the son to be as distasteful as the father, was surprised and very impressed with young Stephen's demeanor. They discussed the arrangements for the establishment of the colony. During their discussion, Austin suggested that Martinez consider appointing a commissioner of immigration along with a certified surveyor for each family's land tract for title purposes. Martinez agreed to forward Austin's suggestions to the central government in Mexico and informed the colonists they would be allowed to bring in goods duty-free at the port of San Bernardo.
Austin led his small party toward the land grant and began the project his father envisioned two years before. Upon their arrival, they began gathering materials necessary for constructing shelters and pens for the livestock. While they were busy with this, Austin began sending advertisements for colonists to newspapers in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri. In November he met with fifty families in Nacogdoches who agreed to relocate, and appointed Josiah H. Bell as temporary alcalé (justice of the peace). He led the families to the mouth of the Colorado River, where he supervised the construction of a stockade and planted five acres of corn. Colonists were required to pay Austin twelve and a half cents per acre and make improvements by January of 1823.
Austin had complete civil and military authority over his colonists, but allowed them to elect their own militia officers and alcaldés. Austin created procedural forms along with simple civil and criminal codes for his courts and later formed an appellate process comprised of seven alcaldés. Returning to Nacogdoches, he received word from Governor Martinez that his father's land grant application was incomplete and needed to be fixed before any more colonists would be allowed to settle within his grant. This forced Austin to travel to Mexico City in order to resolve the issue. Unfortunately he arrived in the middle of a full-blown junta, and it would take the better part of a year before he could obtain official approval of his father's original contract.
During his absence, a group of displaced Cherokees were making their way from Missouri to Arkansas and into the Province of Coahuilay Téjas for what they believed would be their final and permanent home.CHAPTER 3
Cherokee government produces a society of peace and love which ... better maintains human happiness than the most complicated system of modern politics enforced by coercive means. — William Bartram
The Cherokee, a powerful, detached tribe from the Iroquois, originally held the entire mountainous region of the southern Appalachians. This vast area included the Carolinas, northern Georgia and Alabama, southwest Virginia, and the Cumberland Basin in Tennessee and Kentucky. The name by which they commonly refer to themselves is Tsálagi. The word "Cherokee" is a corruption derived from the Choctaw, who called them Chiluk-ki, "cave people." Their northern kinsmen called them Oyata'ge'ronon, "inhabitants of the cave country," and the Delaware along with other tribes often referred to them as the Kittuwa. Ani-yun'wiya, meaning "the principal people," is the spiritual name the tribe uses to refer to themselves.
Excerpted from A Taint on Texas by Sally McClain. Copyright © 2013 Sally McClain. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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