Coronado's Expedition.Shortly after the discovery of America the Spanish people became imbued with the idea that somewhere in the interior of the New World there were rich mines of gold and silver, and various expeditions were sent out to search for these treasures. As every important event in history is the sequence of something which went before, in order to gain an intelligent understanding of the expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, in search of the seven cities of Cibola and the country of Quivira (1540-42), it will be necessary to notice briefly the occurrences of the preceding decade. Pedro de Castaneda, the historian of the expedition, begins his narrative as follows:
"In the year 1530 Nuno de Guzman, who was president of New Spain, had in his possession an Indian, one of the natives of the valley or valleys of Otixipar, who was called Tejo by the Spaniards. This Indian said he was the son of a trader who was dead, but that when he was a little boy his father had gone into the back country with fine feathers to trade for ornaments, and that when he came back he brought a large amount of gold and silver, of which there is a good deal in that country. He went with him once or twice, and saw some very large villages, which he compared to Mexico and its environs. He had seen seven very large towns which had their streets of silver workers."
The effect of a story of this nature upon the Spanish mind can be readily imagined. It aroused the ambition and cupidity of Guzman, and exercised an influence on all the enterprises he directed along the Pacific coast to the north. Gathering together a force of some 400 Spaniards and several thousand friendly Indians, he started in search of the "Seven Cities," but before he had covered half the distance he met with serious obstacles, his men became dissatisfied and insisted on turning back, and about the same time Guzman received information that his rival, Hernando Cortez, had come from Spain with new titles and powers, so he abandoned the enterprise. Before turning his face homeward, however, he founded the town of Culiacan, from which post incursions were made into southern Sonora for the purpose of capturing and enslaving the natives.
In 1535 Don Antonio de Mendoza became viceroy of New Spain. The following spring there arrived in New Spain Cabeça de Vaca, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, Andres Dorantes and a negro named Estevan, survivors of the Narvaez expedition which had sailed from Spain in June, 1527. For six years these men had been captives among the Indians of the interior, from which they had heard stories of rich copper mines and pearl fisheries. These stories they repeated to Mendoza, who bought the negro with a view to having him act as guide to an expedition to explore the country, but it was three years later before a favorable opportunity for his project was offered.
In 1538 Guzman was imprisoned by a juez de residencia, the licentiate Diego Perez de la Torre, who ruled the province of Culiacan a short time, when Mendoza appointed his friend, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, governor of the province of New Galicia, situated on the west coast of Mexico, between 25° and 27° north latitude, the new province including the old one of Culiacan. Coronado showed a willingness to assist and encourage Mendoza in the effort to find the "Seven Cities," and on March 7, 1539, what might be termed a reconnoitering party left Culiacan under the leadership of Friar Marcos de Niza, with Estevan as guide. Father Marcos had been a member of Alvarado's expedition to Peru in 1534. Upon reaching a place called Vapaca (in central Sonora) Marcos sent Estevan toward the north "with instructions to proceed 50 or 60 leagues and see if he could find anything which might help them in their search."
Four days later Estevan sent to Father Marcos a large cross, and the messenger who brought it told of "seven very large cities in the first province, all under one lord, with large houses of stone and lime; the smallest one story high, with a flat roof above, and others two and three stories high, and the house of the lord four stories high. And on the portals of the principal houses there are many designs of turquoise stones, of which he says they have a great abundance."
A little later Estevan sent another cross by a messenger who gave a more specific account of the seven cities, and Father Marcos determined to visit Cibola for the purpose of verifying the statements of the messengers. He left Vapaca on April 8, expecting to meet Estevan at the village from which the second cross was sent, but upon arriving there he learned that the negro had gone on northward toward Cibola, which was distant thirty days' journey. The friar continued on his way until he met an inhabitant of Cibola, who informed him that Estevan had been put to death by order of the Cibolan chiefs. From the top of a hill Marcos obtained a view of the city, after which he hastened back to Compostela and made a report of his investigations to Gov. Coronado.
The immediate effect of his report, in which he stated that the city he saw from the top of the hill was "larger than the city of Mexico," was to awaken the curiosity of the people of New Spain and create a desire to visit the newly discovered region. In response to this sentiment, Mendoza issued an order for a force to assemble at Compostela, ready to march to Cibola as soon as the spring of 1540 opened. Arms, horses and supplies were collected and the greater part of the winter was spent in preparations. In casting about for a leader the viceroy's choice fell on Gov. Coronado, a native of Salamanca, who had come to New Spain with Mendoza in 1535. Two years later he married Beatrice de Estrada, said to be a cousin by blood of Charles V, king of Spain. About the time of his marriage Mendoza sent him to quell a revolt among the Indians in the mines of Amatapeque, which he did so successfully that the following year the viceroy appointed him governor of New Galicia, as already stated. Castaneda's narrative says:
"There were so many men of such high quality among the Spaniards, that such a noble body was never collected among the Indies, nor so many men of quality in such a small body, there being 300 men. Francisco Vasquez Coronado was captain general, because he was the author of it all."
In addition to the 300 Spaniards, there were from 800 to 1,000 Indians. Accounts vary in this respect. Mota Padilla says the expedition consisted of 260 horse, 60 foot, and more than 1,000 Indians, equipped with 6 swivel guns, more than 1,000 spare horses, and a large number of sheep and swine. Bandelier gives the number of men as 300 Spanish and 800 Indians, and says the cost of equipping the expedition was 60,000 ducats, or over $250,000 in United States money. On Feb. 23, 1540, Coronado left Compostela with his army and, according to Winship, reached Culiacan late in March. Here the expedition rested until April 22, when the real march to the "Seven Cities" began. Coronado "followed the coast, bearing off to the left," and on St. John's eve "entered the wildernessthe White mountain Apache country of Arizona." Mendoza, believing the destination of the expedition to be somewhere near the coast, sent from Natividad two ships, under command of Pedro d'Alarcon, to take to Xalisco all the soldiers and supplies the command could not carry.
As the expedition advanced, detachments were sent out in various directions to explore the country. In June Coronado reached the valley of the Corazonesso named by Cabeça de Vaca because the natives there offered him the hearts of animals for food. Here the army built the town of San Hieronimo de los Corazones (St. Jerome of the Hearts), and then moved on toward Cibola. There has been considerable speculation as to the location of the fabled "Seven Cities," but the best authorities agree that they occupied the site of the Zuni pueblos in the western part of New Mexico. A map in the 14th annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology shows them there, and Prof. Henry W. Haynes, in an address at the annual meeting of the American Antiquarian Society on Oct. 21, 1881, sums up the arguments in favor of this location.
On July 7, 1540, Coronado captured the first city, the pueblo of Hawikuh, which he named Granada. After the capture of this place the Indians retired to their stronghold on Thunder mountain. Coronado reconnoitered the position and on Aug. 3 despatched Juan Gallego with a letter to Mendoza, advising him of the progress and achievements of the expedition.
The army went into winter quarters at Tiguex, near the present city of Albuquerque, and during the winter subjugated the hostile natives in the pueblos of the Rio Grande. While at Tiguex Coronado heard from one of the plains Indians, a slave in the village of Cicuye, the stories about Quivira (q. v.). This Indian, whom the Spaniards called "The Turk," told them his masters had instructed him to lead them to certain barren plains, where water and food could not be obtained, and leave them there to perish, or, if they succeeded in finding their way back they would be so weakened as to fall an easy prey. Winship says:
"The Turk may have accompanied Alvarado on the first visit to the great plains, and he doubtless told the white men about his distant home and the roving life on the prairies. It was later, when the Spaniards began to question him about nations and rulers, gold and treasures, that he received, perhaps from the Spaniards themselves, the hints which led him to tell them what they were rejoiced to hear, and to develop the fanciful pictures which appealed so forcibly to all the desires of his hearers. The Turk, we cannot doubt, told the Spaniards many things which were not true. But in trying to trace these early dealings of the Europeans with the American aborigines, we must never forget how much may be explained by the possibilities of misrepresentation on the part of the white men, who so often heard of what they wished to find, and who learned, very gradually and in the end very imperfectly, to understand only a few of their native languages and dialects . . . . Much of what the Turk said was very likely true the first time he said it, although the memories of home were heightened, no doubt, by absence and distance. Moreover, Castaneda, who is the chief source for the stories of gold and lordly kings which are said to have been told by the Turk, in all probability did not know anything more than the reports of what the Turk was telling to the superior officers, which were passed about among the common foot soldiers. The present narrative (Castenada's) has already shown the wonderful power of gossip, and when it is gossip recorded twenty years afterward, we may properly be cautious in believing it."
Whatever the nature of the stories told by the Turk, they influenced Coronado to undertake an expedition to the province of Quivira. On April 10, 1541, he wrote from Tigeux to the king. That letter has been lost, but it no doubt contained a review of the information he had received concerning Quivira and an announcement of his determination to visit the province. The trusted messenger, Juan Gallego, was sent back to the Corazones for reinforcements, but found the town of San Hieronomo almost deserted. He then hastened to Mexico, where he raised a small body of recruits, with which he met Coronado as the latter was returning from Quivira.
On April 23, guided by the Turk, Coronado left Tiguex, taking with him every member of his army who was present at the time of starting. The march was first to Sicuye (the Pecos Pueblo), a fortified village five days distant from Tiguex. From this point the route followed by the expedition has been a subject for considerable discussion. Unquestionably, the best authorities on the Coronado expedition are Simpson, Bandelier, Hodge and Winship, and their opinions have not been sufficiently divergent to affect the general result, so far as concerns Coronado's ultimate destination.
Gen. Simpson, who devoted much time and study to the Spanish explorations of the southwest, prepared a map of the Coronado expedition, showing that he crossed the Canadian river near the boundary between the present counties of Mora and San Miguel in New Mexico, thence north to a point about half-way between the Arkansas and Canadian rivers, and almost to the present line dividing Colorado and New Mexico. There the course changes to the east, or a little north of east, and continues in that general direction to a tributary of the Arkansas river, about 50 miles west of Wichita, Kan.
Bandelier, in his "Gilded Man," says the general direction from Cicuye was northeast, and that "on the fourth day he crossed a river that was so deep that they had to throw a bridge across it. This was perhaps the Rio de Mora, and not, as I formerly thought, the little Gallinas, which flows by Las Vegas. But it was more probably the Canadian river, into which the Mora empties." The same writer, in his reports of the Hemenway archaelogical expedition, says that after crossing the river Coronado moved northeast for twenty days, when the course was changed to almost east until he reached a stream "which flowed in the bottom of a broad and deep ravine, where the army divided, Coronado, with 30 picked horsemen, going north and the remainder of the force returning to Mexico.
Hodge's map, in his "Spanish Explorations in the Southern United States," shows the course of the expedition to be southeast from Cicuye to the crossing of the Canadian river; thence east and southeast to the headwaters of the Colorado river in Texas, where the division of the army took place.
Winship goes a little more into detail than any of the other writers. Says he: "The two texts of the Relacion del Suceso differ on a vital point; but in spite of this fact, I am inclined to accept the evidence of this anonymous document as the most reliable testimony concerning the direction of the army's march. According to this, the Spaniards traveled due east across the plains for 100 leagues (265 miles) and then 50 leagues either south or southeast. The latter is the reading I should prefer to adopt, because it accommodates the other details somewhat better. This took them to the point of separation, which can hardly have been south of the Red river, and was much more likely somewhere along the north fork of the Canadian, not far above its junction with the main stream."
At the time the army divided in May, Coronado reckoned that he was 250 leagues from Tiguex. The reasons for the separation were the scarcity of food for the men and the weakened condition of many of the horses, which were unable to continue the march. During the march to this point a native kept insisting that the Turk was lying, and the Indians whom they met failed to corroborate the Turk's account. Coronado's suspicions were finally aroused. He sent for the Turk, questioned him closely, and made him confess that he had been untruthful. The Indian still maintained, however, that Quivira existed, though not as he had described it. From the time the army divided, all accounts agree that Coronado and his 30 selected men went due north to a large stream, which they crossed and descended in a northeasterly direction for some distance, and then, continuing their course, soon came to the southern border of Quivira.
Winship says that the army returned due west to the Pecos river, "while Coronado rode north 'by the needle.' From these premises, which are broad enough to be safe, I should be inclined to doubt if Coronado went much beyond the southern branch of the Kansas river, even if he reached that stream."
The "large stream" mentioned in the relations is believed to have been the Arkansas river, which the expedition crossed somewhere near the present Dodge City, Kan., then followed down the left bank to the vicinity of Great Bend, where the river changes its course, while Coronado proceeded in almost a straight line to the neighborhood of Junction City. At the limit of his journey he set up a cross hearing the inscription: "Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, commander of an expedition, arrived at this place."
Toward the latter part of August, Coronado left Quivira and started on his return trip. On Oct. 20 he was back in Tiguex, where he wrote his report to the king. The army wintered again at Tiguex and in the spring of 1542 started for New Spain, where they arrived the following fall. His report to the viceroy was coldly received, which seems to have piqued the gallant captain general, as soon afterward he resigned his position as governor of New Galicia and retired to his estates. True, his expedition was a failure, so far as finding gold and silver was concerned, but the failure was not the fault of the commander. On the other hand, the Spaniards gained accurate geographical informationaccurate at least for that dayof a large section of the interior of the continent.
Mota Padilla's account, written in 1742 from records left by Pedro de Tobar at Culiacan, says regarding the failure: "It was most likely the chastisement of God that riches were not found on this expedition, because, when this ought to have been the secondary object of the expedition, and the conversion of all those heathen their first aim, they bartered fate and struggled after the secondary; and thus the misfortune is not so much that all those labors were without fruit, but the worst is that such a number of souls have remained in their blindness."
Four priests started with the expedition, viz: Father Marcos, who had previously been sent out to find the seven cities of Cibola, Juan de Padilla, Luis de Ubeda and Juan de la Cruz. Father Marcos returned to Mexico with Juan Gallego in Aug., 1541, and is not again mentioned in connection with the expedition. The other three friars remained as missionaries among the Indians, by whom they were killed. Father Padilla (q. v.) was killed in Quivira; Father Cruz at Tiguex, and Father Ubeda at Cicuye.
Following the narratives of Castaneda and Jaramillo and the Relacion del Suceso, it is comparatively easy to distinguish certain landmarks which seem to establish conclusively the fact that the terminus of Coronado's expedition was somewhere in central or northeastern Kansas. The first of these landmarks is the crossing of the Arkansas, near where the crossing of the Santa Fe trail was afterward established. The second is the three days' march along the north bank of that stream to where the river changes its course. The next is the southwest border of Quivira, where Coronado first saw the hills along the Smoky Hill river, and another is the ravines mentioned by Castaneda as forming the eastern boundary of Quivira, which corresponds to the surface of the country about Fort Riley and Junction City. In addition to these landmarks there have been found in southwestern Kansas several relics of Spanish origin. Prof. J. A. Udden, of Bethany College, found in a mound near Lindsborg a fragment of Spanish chain mail. W. F. Richey, of Harveyville, Kan., presented to the State Historical Society a sword found in Finney county and bearing a Spanish motto, with the name of Juan Gallego near the hilt. Mr. Richey also reported the finding of another sword in Greeley countya two-edged sword of the style of the Spanish rapier of the 16th century. And near Lindsborg were found the iron portion of a Spanish bridle and a bar of lead marked with a Spanish brand. In the light of all this circumstantial evidence, it is almost certain that Coronado's expedition terminated somewhere near the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican rivers.
One sad feature of the expedition was the fate of the Turk, whom Coronado put to death upon finding that the Indiana had misled him, although the poor native's mendacity had no doubt been encouraged, if not actually inspired by the covetousness of the Spanish soldiers.Pages 447-454 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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