1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 1 Part 3


The return of Padilla to Quivira may be considered a consequence of Coronado's march to the Great Plains. For he and three other Franciscans had been on that famous primal exploration. And it is to be regretted that it can not be recorded that they, or any of them raised voice or offered protest at the murder of the Turk. Let us hope the record is sadly incomplete.

This priest is usually spoken of as Fray Juan Padilla, and it is said that he was a native of Andalusia. He remained on the Rio Grande when Coronado returned to Mexico. And Fray Juan de la Cruz, a Portuguese soldier of fortune named Andres del Campo, a negro, and a half-blood negro named Louis and Sebastian respectively, and some Indians from New Spain stopped with Fray Padilla at the pueblos on the Rio Grande. In the summer of 1542 Padilla prepared to return to Quivira as a missionary to that country. Some of his company went with him, and all may have gone. The journey was made in the fall of 1542. By some accounts, they went on foot, and by others there was at least one horse taken along by them. It is reasonable to suppose that the route used by Coronado in coming out of the land was followed by Padilla and his company going in.

What Padilla accomplished in Quivira remains hidden. Some say he immediately sought the cross set up there by Coronado, and that he found the grounds about it swept and cleansed. This service had been rendered by the Indians, who doubtless regarded it as an occult object to be propitiated. It is not to be supposed that Padilla accomplished much in the work of Christianizing the Quiviras, for they murdered him shortly after his arrival. Indeed it is not certain but that they met and murdered him as he entered their towns. Others say that after a short sojourn with the Quivirans he set out for the country of the Guaes. These Guaes are set down as the enemies of the Quivirans, who could not understand how any good man could leave them to dwell with their foes. It is not improbable that they attributed traitorous designs to the good father. In any event, he lost his life trying to reach a new tribe. One account has it that he was much beloved by the Quivirans, and he left their villages against their wishes, but attended by a small company. This chronicler says that the band had proceeded more than a day's journey when a war-party was encountered, and this company of warriors murdered Padilla.

What the old writers say of Padilla is here set out, for it may be affirmed that he was the first Christian martyr in what is now the United States. Castaneda says: -

A friar named Juan 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, in New Spain. They killed the friar because he wanted to go to the province of the Guaes, who were their enemies. The Spaniard escaped by taking flight on a mare, and afterwards reached New Spain, coming out by the way of Panuco. The Indians from New Spain who accompanied the friar were allowed by the murderers to bury him, and they followed the Spaniard and overtook him. This Spaniard was a Portuguese named Campo.

It would appear from the foregoing that Padilla did not return to the Rio Grande with Coronado, but remained in Quivira when his commander left the plains. There is more detail in this account -

He reached Quivira and prostrated himself at the foot of the cross, which he found in the same place where he had set it up; and all around it clean, as he had charged them to keep it, which rejoiced him, and then he began the duties of a teacher and apostle of that people; and finding them teachable and well disposed, his heart burned within him, and it seemed to him that the number of souls of that village was but a small offering to God, and he sought to enlarge the bosom of our mother, the Holy Church, that she might receive all those he was told were to be found at greater distances. He left Quivira, attended by a small company, against the will of the village Indians, who loved him as their father.

At more than a day's journey the Indians met him on the warpath, and knowing the evil intent of those barbarians, he asked the Portuguese that as he was on horseback he should flee and take under his protection the Oblates and the lads who could thus run away and escape. . . . And the blessed father, kneeling down, offered up his life, which he had sacrificed for the winning of souls to God, attaining the ardent longings of his soul, the felicity of being killed by the arrows of those barbarous Indians, who threw him into a pit, covering his body with innumerable stones. . . . It is said that the Indians had gone out to murder the blessed father in order to steal the ornaments and it was remembered that at his death were seen great prodigies, as it were the earth flooded, globes of fire, comets and obscuration of the sun.

The second paragraph of the foregoing quotation must have been written from the imagination purely. There was no white witness to the murder of the friar except possibly the Portuguese and the attendants. They are said to have observed it from a hill. It is not safe to depend on such testimony. They were fleeing for life. It is doubtful if they turned to look back while in view of the Indians. In truth, they might have themselves murdered Padilla. The account contains no sufficient motive for his murder by the Indians. The assertion that they committed the murder to secure his ornaments can not be taken seriously. And the asseveration that the earth was convulsed, comets seen, and the sun obscured, discredits the entire account. There is still another Spanish version, quoted by Davis in his work on New Mexico, as follows: -

When Coronado returned to Mexico he left behind 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 many 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 flight, while he would await their coming, in order that they might vent their fury on him as they ran. The former took 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 Portuguese and his attendants made their escape, and ultimately arrived safely in Mexico, where he told what had occurred.

If this version of the effort of Padilla to found a mission in Quivira is correct, he was slain before he had entered the Indian town. The heavens were not rent, nor was the moon turned to blood. There is no mention of a cross, and the inference is that the priest had reached a new town - had found a village of which he had not heard before.

It is with Padilla as with the other Spaniards connected with the Coronado expedition. There is little that can be asserted with confidence. The evidence is fragmentary, contradictory, and incomplete. No certain thing can be founded on it.

The effort to have it appear that a certain monument erected of stones more or less regularly set together near the present Council Grove was erected by the Indians as a monument to Padilla cannot be sustained. That monument was probably set up as a guide-post at the opening of the Santa Fe Trail by the Missourians. General James H. Lane marked the underground railroad from Topeka to Nebraska City in 1856 with exactly such monuments as that to be seen at Council Grove. After the discontinuance of the Lane Trail these monuments were called "Lane's Chimneys." There were some of them still standing in Richardson County, Nebraska, in 1890. Their purpose had been forgotten with new generations, and their origin was attributed to the Indians. And there is not the slightest evidence that Padilla was ever in the Council-Grove regions. He may have been there, but there is no record to establish that historical fact.


The Coronado expedition gave the Spaniards the first claim, the prior right and title to the Great Plains. The discovery, together with the exploration of the country by De Soto, should have given the great interior valley in the heart of the continent to Spain. This it would have done had that country shown energy and persistency in its conquest and settlement. But the unusual success of Cortez and Pizarro had overwrought the Spanish common mind. Countries holding only possibilities of trade and agriculture were not at that time considered worth much, and they received little attention. The adventurers were seeking countries full of gold and silver. It was their intention to seize those commodities at all hazards, even though the lands so ravaged were utterly destroyed. The Great Plains, those "sandy heaths" covered with wild cattle and inhabited by naked savages, did not appeal to the average Spaniard. He was often ruthless and cruel in his conduct toward the Indians in such countries as he finally settled, sometimes perpetrating more atrocious murders than the savages were guilty of, as witness the action of Coronado when he burned the people of the pueblos at the stake.

In the occupation of the country north of Mexico the priests stopped in the dead and desolate pueblos along the Rio Grande. A few Spaniards - Mexicans - came with them. The burdens imposed on the miserable Indians of the filthy pueblos were unbearable, and they were goaded into desperation. They rose and slew to the utmost. This civilization brought into the valley of the Rio Grande, nearly as barbarous as that which it sought to displace, was thrown back whence it came. It was some years before another attempt to colonize that country was made.

For many years the feeble and desultory efforts at exploration only reflected the weakness of the Spanish in New Mexico. The discoveries made by Coronado could not be continued. A few journeys were made to the plains, but they constantly diminished in strength and purpose. They were finally abandoned altogether. An empire of vast possibilities was practically forgotten in the interest of goats and burros on the deserts of New Mexico.

The first of the futile efforts to follow the grand march of Coronado was a filibustering expedition led from Nuevo Viscaya by Francisco Leyva de Bonilla and Antonio Gutierrez de Humana, in 1594. It is claimed that it was unauthorized. Bonilla was the leader. He lingered about the old pueblos a year, with Bove, the St. Ildefonso of later times, as his headquarters. Then he began his movement to the northeastward. He is said to have passed through Pecos and another pueblo, but he did not follow the route of Coronado, though it is believed he ultimately reached the same destination. A vagabond and wandering course was pursued to the eastward, many streams crossed, and large herds of buffalo encountered. Far out on the plains, Bonilla turned to the north. He probably entered Kansas somewhere about the town of Kiowa, and crossed the Arkansas in the vicinity of Wichita. There he found, no doubt, the Quivira villages visited by Coronado. About these towns there were extensive fields of corn. Three days beyond them to the north on the road which led Coronado to the Nebraska border he was murdered by Humana, who usurped command of the filbusteros. On that day a buffalo herd was seen which seemed to cover all the plains. After this the herds were not so large, and on the tenth day out from the Quivira towns on the Arkansas, a river was reached which was a quarter of a league wide, as remembered by the man who described the journey. It was possibly the Platte. There six Indians deserted and started back to New Mexico. Jusephe, one of the deserters, seems to have finally escaped, though he was captured by the Apaches, who kept him a year. The other deserters were lost or killed.

The narrative of this Contrabando is obscure and half-mythical, as are most of the old Spanish chronicles. By one version it appears that while the party lay encamped on the plains, "gold-laden," the grass was set on fire by the Indians. They rushed forward with the flames and massacred the entire band, except Alonzo Sanchez, whom the Indians saved, and who became a great chief among them.

The route of Humana, after he left the towns of Quivira, on the Arkansas. is a matter of conjecture. It is believed that he reached the Platte River. It is likely that he lost his life in the robbery of some Pawnee Indian Town. There was no good accomplished by this band, and geographical knowledge was not increased by its journey over the plains into what is now Kansas.


The Spaniards called the pueblos on the Rio Grande the "first settlements." In the year 1601, Don Juan de Onate, being at the first settlements, determined to go on an expedition "to the interior, by a northern route and direction, both because of the splendid reports which the native Indians ware giving of this land, and also because of what an Indian named Joseph, who was born and reared in New Spain and who speaks the Mexican tongue, saw while going with Captain Umana." The force was assembled at San Gabriel, and on the 23d of June detachments began the march for the final rendezvous, the pueblo of Galisteo, which they left about the first of July.

Their route carried them across the Gallinas, and to the Canadian, which they named the River Magdalena. They descended the Canadian, finding much improvement in the country and climate as their journey progressed to the eastward. Apache Indians were encountered and found to be friendly. The river led the Spaniards out onto the buffalo plains. Sometimes the bluffs made it necessary for them to bear away from the river. Other bands of Apaches were met, but "no Indian became impertinent." The great abundance of wild plums pleased the men much. Early in August herds of buffalo appeared, and their habits are well described. Coming down from the Great Staked Plain, sand-hills turned them away from the river, and they bore north to two streams supposed now to be Beaver Creek and the Cimarron. Continuing in a northeasterly direction the buffalo increased, and some of the prairies were covered with wild flowers. Beyond these much game was seen. Oak and walnut trees were found along the streams, the water of which was cool and pleasant. A temporary village or camp of wandering Indians was found. These are said to have been the Escanjaques, later identified by some students with Kansas or Kaw Indians. Whether this identification shall be permitted to stand remains one of the problems for students of the future. It would appear that it is much more probable that they were the Arkansas Indians, who had come up the Arkansas River to hunt the buffalo. They had lodges ninety feet in diameter, covered with buffalo hides, and they wore dressed hides for clothing. They were at war with another tribe living some twenty-five miles beyond in the interior. The Escanjaques said it was their enemies who had killed Humana and his men. They supposed the Spaniards had come for the purpose of avenging those murders, and they requested permission to guide the strangers to those villages. This permission was granted, and the whites were taken seven leagues to a river with wonderful banks, and in some places so deep that vessels might have sailed on it with ease. The land was fertile and densely wooded along the river, which is now supposed to be the Arkansas.

The Spaniards seem to have been descending the Arkansas, for the mention of crossing smaller rivers is made. Marches totaling eleven leagues brought them to some elevations upon which appeared people shouting for war. They were, however, appeased, and they invited the Spaniards to their houses. That night the Indians of this latter village were accused of having murdered Humana and his men "surrounding them with fire and burning them all, and that they had with them one who had escaped, injured by the fire." The peculiar wording of this text makes it probable that the survivor was a mulatto woman described in Zarate's Land of Sunshine. This accusation was made by the accompanying Indians. The party took counsel as to what should be done, and it was determined to seize some of the Indians of the town and carry them along. Among those taken was the chief, Catarax.

The Spaniards there crossed the river at a ford, and half a league out an Indian town was found which contained twelve hundred houses, "all established along the bank of another good-sized river which flowed into the large one." The houses were those seen by Coronado in Quivira, or similar ones, and they probably stood along the banks of the little Arkansas, on the present site of Wichita, Kansas. The people had fled and the houses were vacant, though containing corn. The Escanjaques desired to burn the town, and perhaps did burn a portion of it. The country there is described as the best the Spaniards had ever seen.

Another council was held. The Escanjaques5 and the captive Indians were questioned, and their statements agreed. Another river having six or seven branches was said to be not far away. On that river many people dwelt. The Humana party had been murdered a long distance from there - "Eighteen days' journey from here." Large settlements of Indians were to be found both above and below this town, and the river at that point runs east. The Indians advised the Spaniards to stop and go no further, saying the people who had deserted their homes had gone to assemble their friends to attack the intruders and would destroy them. But the Spaniards pushed on, starting the following day. They traveled three leagues through a well settled country, and could see houses still beyond. The information that had been given them as to the hostile reception they might expect on the third day now began to impress them. Another conference was held, when it was determined to set out on the return to New Mexico.

To prevent the Escanjaques from burning the houses in the town along the little Arkansas the Spaniards had sent them back home from that point. Now, on returning to that town the Escanjaques were found entrenched in these abandoned houses with the purpose of giving battle. The commander of the Spanish party, mounted his men on armored horses and awaited the attack of the savages, who came on to the number of fifteen hundred, if the old accounts are to be believed. And others joined them. The conflict raged for two hours. The Spaniards were driven from the field, though they claimed to have slain many of the Indians. They freed some Indian women, but retained one man and some boys. They then returned to their camp to sleep, almost all of them being slightly wounded. How they escaped we are not told, the narrative ending with the statement that "On the following day we set out, traveling with our usual care, and in fifty-nine days we reached the camp of San Gabriel, having spent in the entire journey the time from the 23d of June until the 24th of November."

An Indian was carried back and was named Miguel. It seems that he had been captured by the tribe with which the Spaniards battled. He was taken to Mexico where he found that the Spaniards wanted gold above all things. He, like the Turk and others, told them what they wished to hear. He described golden countries and drew a map of them which is still in existence. The King of Spain was wrought up by the stories told by Miguel and ordered an expedition of one thousand men to be sent to seek out those golden shores. The Count of Monterey was then Viceroy of Mexico, and he had no faith in the Indian's tales. The expedition was never sent out.

It may be taken as fairly well established that the battle between the Spaniards and the Escanjaques was fought in an Indian village from which the Quiviras (Wichitas) had fled. And, also, that this village stood within the present limits of Wichita, Kansas, which more than likely, was the Quivira town visited by Coronado.

5 Among the first to identify the Escanjaques with the Kansas Indian's was George P. Morehouse, of Council Grove. Mr. Morehouse has given the history of the Kansas Indians much attention and deep study. F. W. Hodge, of the Bureau of Ethnology, Washington, is the best authority who has accepted this identification. For Mr. Hodge's opinion I have profound respect. But it is not yet established that the Quivira towns visited by Coronado were on or near the Kansas River. I am of the opinion that the location is untenable and will soon be abandoned by students. While there is much to support that theory there is much more to condemn it. The latest writers are placing the Coronado-Quivira towns on the Arkansas River - a much more likely location. Whether they are to be finally established there, none can tell. But that they were far south of the Kansas River, I think there is no question.

Now, if the Coronado-Quivira towns were not on the Kansas River, nor near it, the Escanjaques were not the Kansas Indians. The Kansas Indians would not go so far south to hunt the buffalo. For it is conceded that they lived then on the banks of the Missouri, and north of the Kansas River. There were buffalo in their own country at that time but probably not in such numbers as on the plains. It is doubtful if the Caddoan people, the Pawnees and Wichitas, would have permitted them to cross Quivira to hunt the buffalo, even if the Coronado-Quivira country was on the Kansas River. It is certain that the Kansas Indians did not at that time hunt on the Arkansas River.

It is in reason to believe that the Arkansas Indians, the Arkanse, came up the Arkansas River to the buffalo plains. Their location would warrant their doing that. They were found on the south side of the Arkansas River. That river must have been the south boundary of Quivira. To reach the point where Onate found the Escanjaques they would not have had to pass through any Quivira country. Perhaps the Arkansas Indians claimed the south half or portion of the south half of the Arkansas River valley. Onate may have found them in their own country. Then, it is not certain that they were there on a hunting trip. They may then have lived permanently there. They seemed to know of the Humana expedition and the fate of the party.

The orthography of the two words, Kansa and Arkansea, goes far to prove that the Escanjaques were the Arkansea - not the Kansas Indians.

I maintain that the identification of the Escanjaques is not a settled matter, and that the Escanjaques are much more likely to have been the Arkansea than the Kansa.

1918 Kansas and Kansans Previous Section Next Section

A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.

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