Padilla, Francisco Juan De, a Franciscan friar and the first missionary to the Indians of Kansas, was a native of Andalusia, Spain. In early life he was a soldier, but exchanged the sword for the cassock and became an active member of the priesthood. He possessed talents of a high order, held several important positions in Old Mexico, and was at one time guardian of a convent at Jalisco. He was one of the four Franciscans who accompanied Coronado (q. v.) on his expedition to Quivira, and subsequently became a missionary to the Indians of that province. There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether he remained among the Quivirans or went back to the tribe after returning to New Mexico with Coronado. Even Castaneda, the chronicler of the Coronado expedition, gives conflicting statements regarding the movements of Father Padilla. In one place he says: "A friar named Juan de Padilla remained in this province, together with a Spanish-Portuguese and a negro and a half-blood and some Indians from the province of Capothan (Capetlan), in New Spain. They killed the friar because he wanted to go to the province of the Guas, who were their enemies."
In another part of his narrative he says: "The general sent a company to escort them (the priests) as far as Cicuye, where Friar Luis stopped, while Friar Juan went on back to Quivira with the guides who had conducted the general," etc.
Gen. W. W. H. Davis found at Santa Fe an old manuscript which gave the following account of Father Padilla: "When Coronado returned to Mexico, he left behind him, among the Indians of Cibola, the father fray Francisco Juan de Padilla, the father fray Juan de la Cruz, and a Portuguese named Andres del Campo. Soon after the Spaniards departed, Padilla and the Portuguese set off in search of the country of the Grand Quivira, where the former understood there were innumerable souls to be saved. After traveling several days, they reached a large settlement in the Quivira country. The Indians came out to receive them in battle array, when the friar, knowing their intentions, told the Portuguese and his attendants to take to flight, while he would await their coming, in order that they might vent their fury on him as they ran. The former took to flight, and placing themselves on a height within view, saw what happened to the friar. Padilla awaited their coming upon his knees, and when they arrived where he was they immediately put him to death. The same happened to Juan de la Cruz, who was left behind at Cibola, which people killed him. The Portuguese and his attendants made their escape, and ultimately arrived safely in Mexico, where he told what had occurred."
Prentis, in his History of Kansas, says Padilla was killed by the Quivirans "because he had left them and was on his way to spread religion to other tribes. Padilla ordered the few who were with him to escape, and kneeling, met the savage attack. Friendly Indians piled stones about his grave, making a crude monument, which stands, crowning the summit of a hill near Council Grove."
The monument mentioned by Prentis is about 10 feet high, 6 feet square at the base, and is constructed of loose, undressed stones. Father Padilla met his death in the fall of 1542, so that for more than three and a half centuries this rude structure, erected by the hands of uncivilized admirers, has stood as a silent witness to the fate of the first Christian martyr in Kansas.
Another monument to Father Padilla was erected in the city park at Herington, Dickinson county, at a cost of about $500, and was dedicated on Oct. 26, 1904.Pages 431-432 from volume II 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 July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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