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The Final Years: Evacuation and Resettlement

Title page of the Spanish King's new regulations photo of the historical marker for the site of El Lobanillo

Removal to San Antonio de Béxar (June - September 1773)

In February 1773 the Spanish viceroy in Mexico City expressed his eagerness to Governor Ripperdá of Texas about executing the King's New Regulations of 1771, which ordered the abandonment of Presidio Los Adaes based upon Rubí's recommendations as part of Spanish Bourbon reforms and the transfer of Louisiana from France to Spain during the French and Indian War. By April, Governor Ripperdá informed Governor Unzaga of Spanish Louisiana about the pending closure of this fort and the "useless" East Texas missions. He specifically asked Unzaga to ensure the commandant at the Natchitoches post, Athanese de Mézières, remain vigilant against any resistance and to make the Indians understand that the settlers of Louisiana were as much Spaniards as those at San Antonio de Béxar.

Governor Ripperdá arrived at Presidio Los Adaes in June 1773 to initiate removal, but stayed only eight days before returning to San Antonio de Béxar and attending to Comanche troubles. He left Lt. Joseph Gonzales in charge of removal from Los Adaes and ordered the Adaeseños to be ready for evacuation to San Antonio de Béxar within five days. Despite receiving an extension they had requested, some thirty-five Adaeseños refused the eviction notice and fled into the forest. The majority of the residents obeyed, but complained against Lieutenant Gonzales who allegedly mounted a horse and went from house to house forcing people outside.

By this time, Antonio Gil Ybarbo emerged as the most influential Adaeseño. Born and raised at Presidio Los Adaes, he followed his father's footsteps into military service at Presidio Los Adaes and eventually made his home at El Lobanillo ranch, located between present Nacogdoches and San Augustine, Texas, along the Camino Real. He also forged close commercial and social relationships at the French Natchitoches post.

On June 25, 1773 the Adaeseños began their odyssey to San Antonio de Béxar. They abandoned their houses, furniture, lands, and left on foot. Their livestock had been scattered; corn that required harvesting was left behind; and heavy items, like some of the cannons, gun cartridges, and most of the ammunition, which could not all be transported, were buried inside Presidio Los Adaes. A month into their exodus they had reached El Lobanillo, where twenty-four individuals stayed behind due to sickness, including Ybarbo's mother and sister-in-law. Ybarbo obtained permission from the governor to leave them there along with his son and another family. A little farther west they reached the site of Mission Nacogdoches, where nine people consisting of two families remained behind, apparently at the request of a Tejas (Caddo) Indian chief named Bigotes, who wished to join their march to San Antonio de Béxar and convince the governor to allow their return with a Franciscan missionary. On July 30 at Mission Nacogdoches, Lt. Joseph Gonzales and two women died.

The ensuing march entailed more misery. The drought they encountered in the first stage of the journey was followed by heavy floods the rest of the way and more sickness among the Adaeseños and whatever animals remained. Ten children died and more cattle became lost. Upon reaching the Brazos River, they received relief from the governor who had sent them supplies and mules. When they reached Cibolo Creek near present New Braunfels, Texas, and the twenty Spanish troops recently garrisoned there, a few more Adaeseños stayed behind. Finally, on September 26 the rest dragged into San Antonio de Béxar and the Villa de San Fernando after a three month journey. With them were the four missionaries from Los Adaes, Los Ais, and Nacogdoches, while soldiers brought four-pound cannons, fifteen boxes of ammunition, and eight tercios of gun-carriage iron pulled by oxen that belonged to Adaeseño settlers.

Adaeseño's Petition to Re-Settle in East Texas (October 1773 - March 1774)

Barely a week after their arrival at San Antonio de Béxar, the majority of Adaeseño families requested permission from Governor Ripperdá to return to the Louisiana-Texas frontier. Their petition, which Antonio Gil Ybarbo and seventy-five other Adaeseño men representing themselves and their families had signed, specifically asked the governor to grant them a license to establish a new town at the former East Texas mission for the Ais Indians near present San Augustine. They believed this place was most suitable for their survival and in this manner not become a burden to the San Antonio community. They enticed the governor further that this could be done at minimal cost to the King, only they be given a chaplain to administer to their spiritual needs paid by the Crown for a ten-year period, "knowing the lamentable misery we suffered on such a prolonged road, enduring thirst, drought, lacking mounts, death of children and adults, and abandonment of most of our goods."

By December 1773, Governor Ripperdá gave his permission to the Adaeseños to return to the Louisiana-Texas borderlands at former Mission Ais. Meanwhile, the Adaeseños had given their power to speak as one voice through Ybarbo and Gil Flores, who also hailed from the extinguished presidio at Los Adaes. On December 10, after declaring his sympathy for their plight, the governor informed Viceroy Bucarely in Mexico City that he had given passports to Ybarbo and Flores so that they could "go before you at your feet" and implore your support for their cause. He added that the Adaeseños were unable to stay at San Antonio de Béxar satisfactorily enough to "work the land, make water well, or request solares [lots] in security and quiet from the surrounding Indian nations." As further incentive to permitting them to establish a new town on the Louisiana-Texas borderlands, Governor Ripperdá told the viceroy that they could keep watch upon commerce between the Norteños [Southern Plains Indians] and the Natchitoches post, while also remain vigilant against the English arriving on the Texas coast from the Mississippi. He added that the Adaeseños had abandoned many fields at Los Adaes and that Rancho El Lobanillo was already a de facto pueblo or town, located thirty leagues (75 miles) from Los Adaes, where the ill Adaeseños were left behind.

In February 1774, Ybarbo and Flores appeared in Mexico City with their petition to the viceroy, who handed it over to the Council of War and Estates for consideration. The viceroy and his advisors were indeed sympathetic to their plight as Ybarbo and his companion dramatized the removal. On March 17, the viceroy's council agreed that the Adaeseños could re-settle at former Mission Ais, "making sure to establish the rest of the population closeby, secure the peace and calm of the Indians, and avoid communication with the English and other foreign nations." The following day, Viceroy Bucarely signed an auto, decree, approving the results put forth by his council. During their stay in Mexico City which extended into the summer, Ybarbo and Flores took the initiative of asking the viceroy's permission for the Adaeseños to settle at the Natchitoches post in Louisiana. Viceroy Bucarely, however, was unwilling to allow them to return this far, reflecting the concerns of some Spanish officials on the frontier about the problem of smuggling on the border and chain of command disputes.

The Bucareli Settlement on the Lower Trinity River (August 1774 - February 1779)

The site chosen by Governor Ripperdá for the new settlement of Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Bucareli ("Bucareli") was the right bank of the Trinity River at a crossing of the San Antonio and La Bahía roads known as Paso Tomás (present day Robbin's Ferry in Madison County). This location was within the homeland of the Bidais, close trading partners of Caddo-speaking groups, who also traded with Spanish governors at presidios Los Adaes and French traders from Louisiana. Governor Ripperdá preferred this location instead of San Augustine for many reasons. First, Paso Tomás was approximately halfway between San Antonio de Béxar and Natchitoches, and a new town here could facilitate communication between the Spanish colonies of Texas and Louisiana. Second, the spot was protected from the Comanches by friendly Tonkawa and Tawakoni Indians to the west. Third, Bucareli t provided a base for maintaining peace with friendly Indians living to the north and south and missionary work. Fourth, it was considered a great fertile agricultural region. Lastly, and most importantly, Paso Tomás provided a good location for intercepting contraband trade and guarding against the penetration of the English inland from the upper Texas gulf coast. The governor appointed Ybarbo captain of the company and Justicia Mayor (Judge), Gil Flores as First Lieutenant, and Juan de Mora as Alférez (Second Lieutenant) of the Buacreli community.

By late August 1774 their second resettlement journey began, except this time their trek to the lower Trinity River was not as dreadful as removal from Los Adaes. Fewer Adaeseño families left San Antonio de Béxar than those who originally signed the petition the year before. As soon as enough horses were gathered, however, the rest intended to join the others. Not long after their arrival on the Trinity River, Ybarbo retrieved a number of items left at Los Adaes, including nails and iron works from the houses, gunpowder, ammunition, six cracked cannons and some gun-carriage iron for construction of buildings and defending of Bucareli. The Adaeseños laid out the town plaza with surrounding houses, while Ybarbo had a wooden stockade built for placement of the cannons and guards. They also constructed a chapel, which was replaced soon thereafter by a nicer one through the financial support of Nicolás de la Mathe, who was Ybarbo's business partner from Louisiana. They kept their devotion to the patroness of Our Lady of Pilar as they did in their former chapel at Los Adaes.

The temporary exemption from payment of royal taxes surely helped the struggling settlement at Bucareli, but the Adaeseños remained mired in the same poverty they had known at Los Adaes. Ybarbo brought supplies from San Antonio de Béxar to relieve Bucareli's sad economic condition. In particular, he took cotton seed, sheep, and a black weaver to the Adaeseños with the hope of teaching them how to produce their own clothes and blankets. The Adaeseños at Bucareli lived at a subsistence level not much above that of their Indian neighbors, supplementing measly products from the field and herds with hunting of the buffalo and wild cattle that roamed abundantly between the Trinity and Brazos Rivers. According to Herbert Bolton, the Adaeseños likely participated in the fur trade through their hunting and exchanging of peltries for French goods.

A 1777 census of Bucareli revealed many Indian nations in all directions. Approximately 300 hombres comprised the Navadachos, Aynays, and Asynays, collectively known as the Tejas Caddos, who lived along the Camino Real to the Natchitoches post and the Neches and Angelina rivers. About twelve leagues (30 miles) above them along the same path on the Atoyaque River lived 300 men, more or less, of the Nacogdoches Caddos. Some twenty leagues (50 miles) north from Bucareli on the Trinity River lived about 40 armed men from the Cadohadacho nation. In between the ojos de agua (springs) of Lobanillo and Ais, were another twenty Nacogdoches Indians who survived the "previous epidemic," and lived together with a few Adais Indian families. The Bidais nation, located just two leagues below Bucareli, was reduced in size due to the same previous epidemic and numbered around 60 armed men like the Orcoquizas Indians, who were located near where Presidio San Agustín stood and numbered around 30 armed men. In the same vicinity as the Orcoquizas on the lower Trinity River lived the Karankawas, who together with the Coojanes, numbered around 100 armed men and were declared enemies of the Spaniards.

Governor Ripperdá also reported that approximately 5,000 Comanche men lived within five districts, four in New Mexico and the other in Texas about 80 leagues (200 miles) north of San Antonio de Béxar. The latter band lived among 260 men of Taovayas, Tuacana, and Yscanis Indians and their families, referred to as the Nations of the North (or Norteños) on the Brazos River. The Ouchitas (Wichita) Indians, who numbered around 700 men, ranged near the Nations of the North and lived on the Rio Vermejo (Red River). Approximately 60 leagues (150 miles) to the northeast of the Wichitas lived around 800 Osage Indians. Lastly, the greater number of Cadohadachos, population estimate unreported, also lived along on the Red River, while some 300 men of the Tancayuas ranged from the Trinity to the Red River. The Osage, the governor reported, were enemies of the Cadohadacho nation.

The 1777 census showed a disproportionate balance of power in favor of Southern Plains Indians. Approximately 740 armed men, mostly Caddos (Nacogdoches and Teja), were allies of the Spaniards. This figure paled in comparison to the 7,160 armed Indians, mainly Comanches, Wichitas, and Osages, who threatened Spanish Texas communities from the northwest out of New Mexico, to the north and northeast across the southern plains and to the Louisiana-Texas borderlands. The Caddos provided the only protection for the 347 Spanish men, women, and children at Bucareli. Meanwhile, the larger Spanish towns at San Antonio de Béxar and La Bahía had virtually no Indian allies and remained isolated fortresses.

Antonio Gil Ybarbo provided the governor with his own detailed report in January 1778 on the status of the Bucareli community. He reported upon the relatively small number of buildings and livestock, the moderate climate, and the communal farming of wheat and maize. Ybarbo particularly stressed the scarcity in arms and ammunition to defend against foreigners from the southern coast. Ybarbo also indicated that the land was fertile and had plenty of water for ranching and grazing to sustain big settlements, especially in the southern and northern directions with good woods of pine, cedar, oak, and more. Many wild mustangs roamed the countryside. There was also plenty of buffalo that provided sustanence and hides for the Indians. To the west were ganado vacuno (bovine cattle) that provided beef for the Bucareli settlement, while many deer, bears, wild turkeys, geese, ducks, and fish were found throughout its jurisdiction, and in such abundance as daily food for all the Indians. Despite the seemingly ideal physical environment that surrounded Bucareli for farming, ranching, and commerce, Ybarbo suspected it was not the safest place from encroaching microbes, Comanches, and English traders. Two months after Ybarbo's report, Commandant de Mézières of the Natchitoches post gave a supporting favorable assessment of the Bucareli settlement adding strategic reasons like previous Spanish officials had stressed for its settlement.

Comanche Raids at Bucareli and Flooding (May 1777 - February 1779)

The advantages that Bucareli's location offered were offset by the ever increasing threat from the Nations of the North and the Comanche, who were increasingly raiding farther to south and east. By November 1778 de Mézières was back at Natchitoches and informed his superiors that Juan de Mora, an Adaeseño, was killed in battle between Spaniards and presumably the Tancagues on the Brazos River. This caused "such inquietude that the people at Bucareli moved from the Trinity River to Nacogdoches [site of former mission], exposed to whatever assaults, having no more than the elderly, children, and women, for whom I promptly provided relief upon receiving such heavy-hearted news." De Mézières added that upon hurrying his march he accidentally fell down at the foot of a hill and received a blow which caused him a fever, delirium, and other symptoms. He returned home and stayed in bed two months. On his own initiative, Captain Ybarbo had moved the most vulnerable persons out of Bucareli to a safer place amongst the Tejas Indians.

In December 1778, Ybarbo wrote Governor Domingo Cabello, who succeeded Ripperdá as governor of Texas, about disconcerting news of further Indian troubles looming at Bucareli. Ybarbo informed Governor Cabello that when the Comanche Nation first discovered Bucareli in May of the previous year [1777] they had entered with thirty warriors and took part of the horse herd back with them across the Brazos River. Later, the Comanches returned on a second entrada, stealing around 270 bestias (livestock) and left sixty armed men to ambush any passing Spaniards.

Just two days before Christmas, Father Juan García Botello wrote Governor Cabello about the saddened state of affairs at Bucareli. Father García, a Franciscan friar from Mission Espada at San Antonio de Béxar who had recently administered to the spiritual needs of Bucareli's citizens. He remarked upon the lack of harvests other than wheat, the ineffective gristmills, and the resident's general poverty. Father García also stated the need for reinforcement of troops to defend Bucareli against an enemy so "vigorous" as the Comanches. He referred also to the settlers' problems with wooden houses being combustible, and the weakened posts due to the instability of the land. Lastly, he told the governor that according to two or three friendly Indians, the Comanches had declared their intent to "destroy" the Bucareli population. To make matters worse, the settlers at Bucareli had endured a flood. Father García believed that there was greater security to the east at the former mission of Nacogdoches, or farther still at the former mission of Ais.

By February 1779 Governor Cabello had informed his superiors about this troubling news at Bucareli. In May 1779, de Croix, the Commandant General of the Interior Provinces in northern New Spain, a position created as part of the military reforms outlined in Rubí's recommendations, wrote the governor acknowledging his communiqué. de Croix emphasized to Governor Cabello that he pay attention "to economize," which was being done in many provinces under de Croix's command. Apparently, the Apache problem in Chihuahua where de Croix was headquartered commanded the general's immediate focus.

Meanwhile on April 30, Father Joseph Francisco Mariano de la Garza, who had relieved Father García during the winter from his temporary assignment at Bucareli, wrote Commandant General de Croix about the flight of settlers from hostilities of the Comanches. Father de la Garza said that the last of the Bucareli residents had decided on January 25, 1779 to re-settle at the "depopulated" mission of Nacogdoches for their families' safety. A flood on February 14 and another Comanche raid the following day upon Bucareli's horse herd were the last straws. The settlers could ill afford to wait for Spanish royal permission to abandon Bucareli. They also determined to avoid traveling westward across the Brazos, San Marcos, and Guadalupe rivers because these were the places of great ensenadas (coves, inlets) that served as the entry and exit points for Comanches expanding eastward.

By late May 1779, de Mézières informed de Croix from the site of the former Presidio Los Adaes that even friendly Indian nations complained about Comanche hostility against Bucareli. In particular, the Tuacanas and Tancagues said that the Comanches blocked passage of "our merchants" to their villages which caused them great scarcity. As a result they intended to become allies of the Caddos, including the Tejas and Nacogdoches, the Bidais and other Indians for an attack upon the Comanches. De Mézières dissuaded them from such an offensive because he felt it would only create senseless warfare. Instead, he wanted them to remain on the defensive. Apparently, Governor Cabello had approved the transport of supplies to de Mézières as gifts for maintaining the friendship of these Indian allies.

The Nacogdoches Settlement and De Facto Recognition (Feb. 1779 - October 1779)

Before Spanish officials decided whether or not Bucareli's settlers should remain at the former Nacogdoches mission, they considered Ybarbo's request to be relieved from duty as captain. In his petition the previous year, Ybarbo stated he was exhausted, having spent everything on the friendly Indians and "sacrificed his poverty" in service to His Majesty. Ybarbo provided "annual gifts at the dances to each [Indian] nation, without counting in particular what each [Indian captain] requests daily, being the means to maintain themselves by strength of gifts." Such obligation continued even on days when meat, maize, salt, pumpkins, and other things were delayed. Ybarbo noted that the province of Texas was not under the subordination of the Spaniards which made life difficult for the towns. Ybarbo wanted relief from his poverty after four years of sustaining Bucareli almost single-handedly.

Spanish royal officials deliberated the next several months about Ybarbo's petition and considered his service too important to allow his retirement. In addition to protecting Bucareli's residents and maintaining peace with friendly Indians, Ybarbo did a reconnaissance of the Gulf Coast along the Louisiana-Texas borderlands and made a map where the Trinity, Brazos, and Colorado rivers emptied into the sea. The Commandant General de Croix praised Ybarbo's good work on behalf of the Crown, but apparently Ybarbo still had not been paid his salary as captain.

Amidst official deliberations whether the settlers should remain at the former Nacogdoches mission or return to Bucareli, Ybarbo maintained a ranch near Attoyac on the lower Trinity River. Whether from Bucareli or Nacogdoches, Ybarbo perhaps had already considered contraband trade as the only means to counter impoverishment and to continue gifting the Indians which the Spanish governor was unable to sustain. Spanish officials in Mexico City suspected Ybarbo's business activities, but temporarily set aside the matter during this desperate time of Indian troubles in Spanish Texas.

An improvement in Spanish-Indian relations did not come soon enough for Ybarbo and his fellow settlers at the newly established town of Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Nacogdoches. The Comanches continued wreaking havoc upon their community, just like before at Bucareli. In late June 1779, Governor Cabello sent Ybarbo's latest report to de Croix on the status of Nacogdoches and Indian relations there. It referred to the displeasure of friendly Indian nations of the interior because the Spaniards did not keep the promises that former governor Ripperdá made to place traders among them.

Later that summer the Tejas Caddo visited Governor Cabello at San Antonio de Béxar, revealing close ties between their nation and the former Adaeseños. Cabello informed de Croix that five Indians from the "Nation of the Tejas" presented themselves at his home. Their chief had traveled with Ybarbo and Flores to Mexico City in 1773-1774 to plead for the establishment of Bucareli. The viceroy honored this Tejas chief with "a suit and rod signifying captain for being an Indian very acculturated, rational, and capable." Cabello expressed pleasure at meeting him and the other Tejas Indians through an interpreter named Pedro Gonzales, who was a former Adaeseño soldier and then First Sergeant at Presidio San Antonio de Béxar. The governor also appeared content that many former residents of the extinguished Presidio Los Adaes knew how to speak the "Tejas language." He even noted that Sergeant Gonzales spoke their language with "a perfect accent and is well known by all of them [Tejas Indians]." Governor Cabello called the Tejas chief by the name of "El Texito," who then stated that the Tahuacanes Indians had given him notice that "Captain Pintado," as de Mézières was known to all those Indian Nations, sent word "advising that all the Indians come to this province [Spanish Texas] to make war against the Apaches" and to head out together with de Mézières. The Tejas chief added that de Mézières evidently spoke "very poorly because of a tumor that protruded from a muscle." Instead of maintaining missions for the Lipan Apaches following a treaty concluded with them in 1749 at San Antonio de Béxar, Spanish officials considered Rubí's recommendation of extermination to establish peace with the more powerful Comanche Nation instead.

Governor Cabello also happily reported that the Tejas Indian delegation held a favorable impression of him as "a good big captain." He told de Croix that as many as 1,000 Indians could arrive with de Mézières to fight the Apaches along with another thirty-five to fifty men, all criollos or creoles from Natchitoches, including de Mézières' son who was a captain. The governor invited El Texito and his companions to stay in San Antonio de Béxar at a jacal, hut, with a servant to care for them. Cabello made certain that they were provided each day with meat, beans, corn, tortillas, and a small box of "cigars" for each one of them. He later entrusted Captain Texita to visit the Tahuacanas and Taboyavas in his behalf. Captain Texita then informed the governor that the Aguages, a name Cabello said he never heard before, were very fond of the Spaniards and were united as allies with the friendly Nations. The Aguages numbered around 500 armed warriors. Captain Texita also had insisted upon goods that traders lacked as did all the Indian nations. Governor Cabello realized the need for someone to act as his Indian agent in East Texas much like de Mézières did at Natchitoches for the governor of Spanish Louisiana.

Governor Cabello again reported to de Croix about his trade overtures with the friendly Indian nations and Comanche hostilities against settlers from Bucareli. The governor dispatched Nicolás de la Mathe in his behalf to the "Quiscatas, Tancahues, and Taguacanes" Indians and held a conference with their captains. De la Mathe, the same trade partner of Ybarbo, urged them to form a "pueblo" to stop being vagrants, and to visit the Spanish governor at San Antonio de Béxar for further discussion. It seemed wise that such an Indian settlement could help form a barrier along with the Tejas Caddos against Comanche penetration deeper into the Louisiana-Texas borderlands. Otherwise, the Comanches could forge straight ahead to Natchitoches, Louisiana if not stopped somehow.

Cabello suggested that a piquete (picket) be established from the militia at royal expense for the safety of the residents at Nacogdoches. He hoped it would encourage the settlers to work more freely and openly on their harvests, and no longer need the subsidy they currently received. The militia organized at Nacogdoches was composed of the soldiers and citizens from the abandoned town of Bucareli. In essence, the Spanish settlers in East Texas were responsible for their own defense against future Comanche raids, besides whatever protection friendly Indians afforded.

Individuals like Ybarbo, de Mézières, and El Texito, became powerful commercial, diplomatic, and cultural brokers indispensable to the survival of Spanish colonization in East Texas amidst perpetual warfare to the west. Governor Cabello needed these local and regional elites, which was why he recommended to de Croix that Ybarbo should not be allowed to retire from military service. Meanwhile, de Mézières unfortunately passed away at San Antonio de Béxar after he succumbed finally to the injuries from his riding accident in East Texas. Ybarbo was the Governor Cabello's logical choice to assume the preeminent role as Indian agent and principal trader on the Louisiana-Texas borderlands.

By October 1779, de Croix appointed Ybarbo as Lieutenant-Governor of Nacogdoches and was assigned an annual salary of 500 pesos. With this final act, Bolton argued, Spanish officials effectively "legalized" the new settlement at Nacogdoches. The strong ties that former Adaeseños and the French had with the Caddos on the Louisiana-Texas borderlands seemingly played an instrumental role in the reversal of Spanish policy toward the Lipan Apaches and laid the foundation upon which peace negotiations with the Comanches became possible.