1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 1 Part 1




The conquest of the continent of North America by the Spaniards was for the most part conducted from Cuba. The expedition of Cortez, to conquer Mexico sailed from Havana. In 1520 Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon was granted a royal license to explore the coasts of Florida. In pursuance of this order he sent his lieutenant Gordilla to make a preliminary voyage, whose reports were so favorable that Ayllon carried them to Spain, where he secured a royal cedula to explore and settle eight hundred leagues of the Florida coasts. In 1525 he sent out Pedro de Quexos to make a more extensive preliminary survey of the east shores of America. This expedition returned with a very favorable account of the Atlantic coast regions. In June, 1526, Ayllon sailed from Hispaniola with three ships bearing Spanish emigrants for a colony. He beat up the coasts of North America to the mouth of a stream afterwards known as the James River, into which he turned. On its wooded shores he founded a settlement which he called San Miguel, on the spot where the English afterwards built Jamestown. The Spaniards did not succeed at San Miguel. Ayllon soon died of a fever; the colonists quarreled and finally abandoned the enterprise.

The movement which led to the expedition of Coronado had its origin in the myths of "The Seven Cities." These myths were the more readily believed because of the magnitude of the spoil of the Peruvian Empire, accounts of which had spread over the whole of both Old and New Spain. It was supposed that what Pizarro had accomplished in South America might be duplicated in North America. In this relation it must be remembered that the Spaniards had not then explored the interior of the continent, and that they were in almost total ignorance of its geography, its mineral resources, its productions, its animal life, and its inhabitants.

The myth of "The Seven Cities" appeared first in Mexico in 1530. Nuno de Guzman was then President of New Spain. Attached to his state was an Indian named Tejo, who was a native of the valley of Oxitipar. This Indian claimed to be the son of a trader, then dead. This trader, so the son said, had gone into the back country to barter fine feathers for whatever ornaments the inhabitants of those regions could be induced to part with. On the journey (or journeys) made for this purpose, the Indian Tejo had accompanied his father. He now told Guzman that they brought back much silver and gold, which the country produced in considerable quantities. He said, also, that he had seen in that northern land some towns as large as the City of Mexico then was. In seven of those towns there were streets given over to shops and workers in the precious metals. Those cities, he said, were far distant, and from his native valley it required forty days to reach them. For the way, he insisted, was through a barren land where no plant-life was to be seen except some desert shrubs the height of a span.

Hoping to find rich countries to plunder, Guzman organized an expedition to discover "The Seven Cities." He enlisted four hundred Spaniards and collected twenty thousand Indians with which to make conquest of those opulent countries of which he had little doubt the seven towns were the capitals. But the expedition came to nothing. The difficulties encountered in the first stages of the march discouraged the men, and discontent spread through the ranks of the adventurers. For this, and for other causes, Guzman abandoned the enterprise when he had but entered the district of Culican.

Panfilo de Narvaez was prominent in the conquest of Cuba in 1511, and settled in that island. Mexico was subject to Cuba, but Cortez threw off the authority of Velasquez. In an effort to regain and retain power in Mexico, in 1620, Velasquez appointed Panfilo de Narvaez Lieutenant-Governor of Mexico, and directed him to voyage to that country, take possession of it, and imprison Cortez. Narvaez set out on this mission, and landed at Vera Cruz in April, 1520. On the 28th of May he met Cortez at Campoala, where he was defeated, wounded, and captured. He managed soon to regain his liberty, after which he went to Spain, where, in 1526, he secured a royal patent to conquer and govern Florida.

At that time Florida embraced all that part of North America, along the Atlantic seaboard and bordering on the Gulf of Mexico to the Rio Grande, which river was then called Rio de Palmas by the Spaniards. Narvaez made preparations for the immediate conquest of Florida. He sailed from Spain on the 17th of June, 1527. His course carried him to Cuba, where he overhauled his fleet, to which he added a vessel to replace one lost on the voyage. He then set sail for the Texas coast, but on the 15th of April he landed at Apalache Bay, having been driven him from his course by a storm and the force of heavy currents. Supposing that he was not far distant from the point for which he was bound, he sent one ship back for recruits and directed the others to sail along the coast to Panuco, near the mouth of the Rio Grande.

The force of Narvaez consisted of three hundred men; and he had fifty horses. On the 18th of April he began his march through the forests and over the quagmires of Florida. His course was north, but he soon turned toward the west. The natives became hostile. At a large river, reached on the 15th of May, he rested, while Cabeza de Vaca, the royal treasurer of the expedition, went with a small party down to the sea to find the ships. Not a sail was to be seen along the coast solitudes, and upon the return of the party the march was continued. Another large river was encountered, and this Narvaez descended to the sea. No ships were there to greet him.

The Spaniards were discouraged. No gold had been found, and no cities for sack and plunder had appeared. They had seen only naked savages living in cane huts and in poverty. They determined to build boats in which to quit those inhospitable shores, and to keep the sea to the westward. Late in 1528, a forge was set up, and such metal as their equipment afforded was made into tools and nails. With these, five boats were constructed. They were furnished with rigging from ropes made of the long hair saved from the manes and tails of their horses. Sails were provided from their clothing and the hides of their horses. Each boat was capable of carrying forty-five men, none of whom knew much of navigation. They hugged the shore and drew westward, and about the first of November they came into the mouth of a great river whose mighty volume bore them far into the Gulf of Mexico. There two of the boats were lost, one of which was that of Narvaez, while the other carried the friars of the expedition. A great storm threw the remaining boats upon the shore beyond the Sabine in the winter of 1528-29.

How many survivors of the expedition suffered this shipwreck we do not know. Four finally reached the Spanish settlements. They were rescued on the coast of the Gulf of California in April, 1536. They had wandered in the wilds of Texas and the deserts and mountains of Northern Mexico, as we know those regions, for more than seven years. The leader of the band was Cabeza de Vaca, and the others were Maldonado, Dorantes, and a negro slave named Estevan. The route passed over by these wanderers can not now be established. How they had escaped and managed to survive they did not themselves know. They had been enslaved by savage tribes, had seen and hunted the buffalo, had acted as medicine men, had risen to influence, and had escaped from one tribe only to suffer the same routine of disaster in another. Cabeza de Vaca went on to Spain, but the others remained in Mexico. The stories of their adventures did not excite great interest, or, rather, was overshadowed by those drifting in from Peru. They were for some time the guests of the Viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza, who bought the negro from his master, Dorantes. Cabeza de Vaca had been given a hawk's bell, made of copper, on which was cast or carved the figure of a human face. He related some accounts of the land to the north, which caused the people to believe rich countries might be found there. And these recalled, revived, and confirmed the stories told by the trader's son, the Indian Tejo.

In the revival of the myths of "The Seven Cities" it was said that other parties from the Spanish settlements had visited the rich countries of the North, especially after the return of the shipwrecked wanderers. Of what they saw there, of what they reported, we are not certain. But there was a growing desire to know what those hidden regions held. Mendoza determined to find out. He sent forth an expedition commanded by Friar Marcos de Niza, who is said to have made a prior journey into that land on his own account. He had came into Mexico from Peru, where he had gone with Pizarro, and where he had witnessed the murder of Atahuallpa.

The negro Estevan was the guide of the expedition led by Friar Marcos to discover "The Seven Cities." He was well fitted for that service, for he had doubtless been near that country with Cabeza de Vaca. Approaching the borders of that land, he was directed to go on before, and to report to the friar upon his discoveries. If what he found was favorable, he was to send back a white cross as large as the palm of the hand, and if the country was better than Mexico, he was to send a larger cross. He penetrated to the Seven Cities, to which he lured the friar by sending back immense crosses. But before the arrival of Friar Marcos, the negro was killed by the Indians because of his rapacity and his lascivious conduct. He collected a quantity of turquois[sic] and demanded that women be given to him at every village.

The party, upon the death of Estevan, desired to return at once to Mexico, but Friar Marcos persisted until he dared go no farther. Then he prevailed on two chiefs to take him into a mountain, from the top of which he was able to see one of the cities of Cibola. It was set upon a hill and glittered in the desert sun. He was told that there were other cities beyond, where the people wore clothes of cotton and had much gold.

Friar Marcos returned, arriving at the Mexican settlements in August, 1539. He is said to have made what was in effect two reports - one stating what he had himself seen, and one setting out what the Indians had told him. But the people did not discriminate. It was soon spread abroad that the good friar had reported as facts all the things spoken by him. It came to be of common report that the houses of the Seven Cities were four stories high, with doors faced with precious stones. The Spanish population of New Spain were eager to go there. The principal men of the provinces, and even those in Spain, became rivals for the royal permission to explore and settle the country of Cibola. This privilege went finally to Mendoza, the viceroy, who selected the post of Compostela, on the Pacific, as the point of assembly. He appointed as commander of the expedition Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.

The force allowed Coronado consisted of about two hundred and sixty horsemen, seventy footmen, and a motley throng of Indians variously estimated at from three hundred to one thousand. This army of conquest started from Compostela on Monday, February 23, 1540, and followed the common highway to San Miguel de Culican. This march occupied about a month. The army left Culican on the 22d of April, and its general direction was northeast. Coronado, with a select company, went on in advance. The route led them into that land embraced in Eastern Arizona, as we know the country. The Indians were alarmed at the approach of so large a force of strangers, and gave battle. They were defeated, and the Spaniards took possession of the Zuni villages on the 7th day of July, 1540. How different the reality from the golden stories which had stirred New Spain! The Seven Cities were the filthy, unlighted, unventilated, gloomy pueblos to be seen to this day on the Zuni and Moki Indian reservations in Arizona.

And so was the mystery of the Seven Cities solved, to the dismay of Friar Marcos, who stood with his countrymen in the midst of the rude mud-and-stone communal dwellings of the squalid desert tribes.

Coronado sent out detachments to explore the regions round about. One of these was commanded by Don Hernando de Alvarado, and started eastward on the 29th of August. This was in consequence of the appearance before Coronado of a chief from the province of Cicuye, said to be seventy leagues east of Cibola. The chief came, he said, in response to the invitation made generally to the Indians to come before the commandant as friends. The Spaniards called this chief Bigotes, that is, Whiskers, for he wore a long mustache. He brought presents, and he invited Coronado to pass through his country, should he desire to do so. Among the presents borne by Whiskers to the Spanish commander was the skin of a buffalo. It had the hair still on it, and this hair was a sore puzzle to the Spaniards. They could not understand how a "cow" could have such hair.

Whiskers became the guide of the expedition sent out under Alvarado, who reached the village of Tiguex on a river which the Indians called by the same name, on the 7th of September. This river was the Rio Grande, and Alvarado reported to Coronado that there were eighty villages scattered along its course. The country was much better than that of Cibola, and Alvarado advised that Tiguex be made the winter quarters for the army.

After sending back his report, Alvarado went on to the eastward five days, when he arrived at the village or communal dwelling of Cicuye. There Alvarado learned that he was on the border of the country of the wild cows. He found at Cicuye an Indian who is set down as a slave, but who was only a captive, and a native of some country far to the east, bordering evidently on the Mississippi. He was different in appearance from the Indians of the desert regions, and he resembled a Turk, from which circumstance he was called the "Turk." He was probably an Arkansas Quapaw Indian, and from the villages on the west side of the Mississippi below the mouth of the Ohio.1 To him history assigns the honor of having first mentioned Quivira to Europeans. He acted as guide on a trip Alvarado made from Cicuye to see the cows. The Spanish captain, however, lost interest in the cows and the country where they roamed. The Turk told him such wondrous tales of gold and silver to be found and to be had in Quivira that chasing the stupid and lumbering buffalo seemed a waste of time and energy that should be used in making an early conquest of the golden land. And the buffalo was not to be seen in vast herds at that season of the year. Those found by Alvarado were in scattered bunches and perhaps along the waters of the Upper Canadian.

The Turk was to play an important part in the future movements of the Coronado expedition. He must have gone with Alvarado when that captain returned to Tiguex. There, during the winter, he related to Coronado the wonders of the country of Quivira and two adjoining provinces - Arche and Guaes. In Quivira there was some silver and gold, he said, but more in the adjacent lands. It is admitted that he was a man of superior intelligence, and it is probable that when he learned that the Spaniards desired gold above all other things, he told of great store of it in these distant countries, doubtless hoping these stories would in some way turn to his own benefit. He overplayed the part which he had assumed, or which, as he later claimed, was assigned to him by the people of Cicuye, and was found to be lying, but so intent were the Spaniards on finding another Peru that they disregarded that fact.

On the 23d of April, 1541, Coronado set out from Tiguex to find the rich land of Quivira. The Turk was the guide, and once upon the way, there remained no doubt of his knowledge of the country to be traversed. Coronado went by Cicuye, but did not stop there. He was impatient to reach the golden settlements and held steadily to the eastward. In nine days from Cicuye the army emerged on the Great Plains and saw the buffalo, then just beginning the annual migration to the north. Still the Turk pointed to the east, and the Spaniards toiled in that direction thirty-five days without a single sign of civilization to encourage them. Other Indians were found, following the buffalo herds, the Querechos and the Teyas. They were first spoken to by the Turk, and later they confirmed what he had said about Quivira. An advance guard was sent on to find the country of Haya or Haxa, described by the Turk, but no such land appeared. With Coronado was an inhabitant of Quivira, one Ysopete, who insisted from the start that the Turk was lying. At first no credit attached to what he said, but on the treeless wastes doubt of what the Turk was saying became general in the army. Upon their entry into the settlements of Cona, a portion of the country of the Teyas, the Turk was not permitted to first talk with the people. They said Quivira was in the North - or towards the North - and not in the direction in which the Turk was taking them. Then heed was given to what Ysopete had said of the Turk and his stories.

After resting in a river-bottom where there were trees - a ravine as the old writers have it - it was decided that Coronado should take thirty horsemen and "half a dozen foot-soldiers" and go on to Quivira. The remaining portion of the army was to return to Tiguex, which it did by a shorter way than that taken in the outward march. The Teyas furnished new guides, and Coronado bore to the northward. The Turk was carried along, now a prisoner, and not permitted to converse with Ysopete or the Teyas. On a day counted that of St. Peter and St. Paul in the old calendar of the Roman Church a tolerable river was found and crossed, and which was named for the day of its discovery. This river is spoken of as "there below Quivira," by which we are to suppose it was south of that land - or perhaps bounded its southern borders. It is more likely that Quivira was up the stream from that point. This river has been identified with the Arkansas by most writers, and the point of crossing, where it turns to the northeast below the present Fort Dodge, or Dodge City.

Coronado followed this river - "went upon the other side on the north, the direction turning towards the northeast." In three days Indian hunters were found killing the buffalo - "and some even had their wives with them." They began to run away, but Ysopete called to them in their own tongue, when they turned about and approached the Spaniards without fear.

Coronado was reassured. He felt once more certain of his ground. He had emerged from the labyrinth in which the Turk had sought to involve him. As he stood recovered there, the sense of location returned to him. And standing on the shores of the river given the holy name, reflecting doubtless on perils now safely passed, another matter occupied his attention. He weighed the fate of that Indian who had led him astray in those wilds. A judgment was determined and a death decreed. The Turk - in chains now at the rear of the army - was brought to account. Perhaps they asked him why he had deceived them. No doubt he stated his reasons like a brave man. Who shall blame him for his course? He had seen, maybe, the butchery of the revolted inhabitants of Tiguex. He evidently knew of the fate of those hundreds who had perished at the stake or had been trampled into the earth by Spanish horses after they had surrendered and had been granted peace. These strangers astride fierce animals seemed invincible. In brutality and cruelty they surpassed the barbarous Indians. They were devoid of honor. Their plighted word was worthless. To the Turk it was plain that if they came in numbers the Indians must perish or be enslaved. To avert this calamity to his people he planned to lead the strangers a devious course through deadly mazes. And now he faced the cruel Spaniard and admitted again the truth, though he knew his life was forfeit and his doom at hand. From the temper of his race we know that he was not appalled at his fate. He stood on the shores of two rivers - one seen, the other unseen. There may have been bars of tawny sand lying over beyond the shining river flowing there at his feet. Our knowledge of plains-streams might permit us to say there were water-bushes fringing its intangible shores. Up and beyond, there were the rolling, limitless prairies covered with billowy turbulent herds of wild oxen. And over all were the opalescent skies. of the Great Plains, merging into a mystic shimmering haze at the horizon. And, perchance, the Turk saw these and was not moved as the garotte tightened about his throat and he was no more - "an example" to those assembled there - the first of his people to die on the soil of Kansas by the hand of the white man.

So, thus perished the Turk. He carried to Europeans the first tidings of Quivira - Kansas. He was the prey, the first Kansas victim of the brutal spirit which wrecked nations in the New World - then seeking other countries, including his own, for destruction. He was a hero. He acted only as has every patriot in the world with the fate of a people weighing on his soul. Lettered bronze and graven granite should rise in his honor on the plains he sought to save to his race.

Vengeance wreaked, Coronado continued his journey. He came into the land of Quivira. Indeed, he then stood on the borders of Quivira, but the settlements were some leagues beyond. It was a country inhabited by just such Indians as were found on the plains of Kansas and Nebraska two centuries later. They planted a little corn, but they lived chiefly by hunting the buffalo. They had no gold nor anything else a civilized man would covet. Coronado spent twenty-five days in Quivira, traversing the whole width of the land. Then he returned to Tiguex, using a shorter route, probably the ancient road later known as the Old Santa Fe Trail.

1 Under various headings in the Handbook of American Indians, issued by the Bureau of Ethnology it is said that the Turk was a Pawnee - "evidently a Pawnee." I have not found anything to support that view except the statements in the work above referred to. Mr. Dunbar, in his article, "The White Man's Foot in Kansas" published in Volume X. Kansas State Historical Collections, says in reference to this matter:

The Turk was no doubt a native of some tribe near the Mississippi, for his description of the scene quoted from Castaneda, one of the chroniclers of Coronado's march, portrays an ordinary familiar scene upon the Mississippi River at that time; while the second writer, the Knight of Elvas, a chronicler of Soto's expedition, presents an ornate naval display on the part of the Indians before the Spanish chieftain. Though the conditions were so diverse, the underlined portions indicate essential resemblance. The two passages are as follows:

He (Turk) claimed that in his native country, where the land was level, there was a river two leagues in width, in which were fishes as large as horses, and many canoes of great size with more than twenty oarsmen upon either side. The boats carried sails and the chiefs sat at the stern under awnings, while upon the prow was a large eagle of gold.

The next day, the cacique arrived with 200 canoes filled with men, having weapons. They were painted with ochre, wearing great bunches of white and other plumes of many colors, having feathered shields in their hands, with which they sheltered the oarsmen upon either side, the warriors standing erect from bow to stern, holding bows and arrows. The barge in which the cacique came had an awning at the poop under which he sat.

The absurdity of contending that the Turk was a Pawnee Indian is clearly shown by these quotations. The Turk lived on the Mississippi. If he were a Pawnee, then the Pawnee Indian country bordered on the Mississippi below the mouth of the Ohio, and the Pawnees were the Indians who met De Soto.

There is another horn to this dilemma. If the Turk were a Pawnee and the Pawnee country came down to the Kansas River about the mouth of the Big Blue, then his description of the river must be made to apply to the Kansas - something which is preposterous.

1918 Kansas and Kansans 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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