Site hosted by Build your free website today!

The Texas Coastal Islands
And Port Aransas


René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687) left France with four ships filled with soldiers, settlers, and servants to build a settlement in the New World. By error, or as some contend, on purpose, he shifted off course, making landfall at the inlet to Matagorda Bay.

The St. Francois one of his ships, was captured by the Spaniards. The main supply ship, the Amiable, sunk at the Cavallo Pass to Matagorda Bay. And to make matter worse captain of the ship Joli or Joy (depending on which records reviewed) disobeying La Salle's commands, returned to France.

La Salle was now left with one ship, the La Belle. Salvaging the timbers from the Amiable, they framed a wooden stockade and designated it Fort St. Louis. From Fort St. Louis, La Salle took the La Belle to investigate the Texas coastline. They sailed into many bays and rivers, even the Rio Grande, dubbing it the River of Palms. Then tragedy would strike again. The La Belle sank in Lavaca Bay. Now the party marooned, in an unknown land, and surrounded by the cannibalistic Karankawas, were on their own. Lasalle La Salle then angered the locals with thievery of their canoes and kidnapping a young Karankawa girl. The little girl would die in their care so after the kidnapping.

La Salle after this, set out with a party to search for the Mississippi one day. It would be his last doing, as some of La Salle's men would shoot him dead then started fighting among themselves and the murders ended up killing each other, so the report goes (take it with a grain of salt). One thing seems certain, La Salle was killed by his own men near present-day Navasota, Texas The remaining men of the party not involved in the homicide returned to the fort. It would be soon after that a epidemic of small pox broke out and most fall dead to it. The others? Well some it is believed became dinner, while yet others were sold into slavehood.

Joutel, Henri (ca. 1640? ca. 1735) is a notable witness to the historical account of the La Salle expedition. Joutel, observed the Karankawa heads were shaven beside a piece of hair long enough to be braided on the top. Another distinctive mark was the small circle of blue tattooed over each cheekbone. Throughout life each one retained a splendid mouth full of white teeth. The men donned small cloth patches, the women, knee length Skirts, beast bare, the children all together naked. Some had small disks of tin, iron, brass, or other metal tied to their throats, others had deerskin bracelets on the left wrist and the men wore small shells, glass beads and such around their necks. Below is part of his account of the events. The Belle resembled the type of vessel known as 'a barque longue' shown below. belle

Excerpt: A Journal of the Last Voyage Perform'd by Monsr. de la Sale, to the Gulph of Mexico, to Find Out the Mouth of the Missisipi River by Joutel, Henri, 1640?-1735

. . . narrowly escaped being taken Savages, and they believed the others had fallan into their Hands. Monfieur de la Sale order'd us immediately to handle our arms, and to march with Drums beating towards the Savages, who seeing US in that Posture faced about and went off Monfieur de la Sale being desirous to join those Savages, to endeavour to get some information from them ordered Ten of us to lay down our Arms and draw near them, making Signs to them, at the same Time, to come to us. When they saw us in that Posture and unarmed, most of them also laid down their Bows and Arrows and came to meet us, carreffing us after their Manner, and stroaking first their own Breasts and then ours, then their own Arms and after- wards ours. By these Signs they gave us to understand that they had a Friendship for us, which they exprefs'd by laying their Hands on their Hearts, and we did the fame on our Part. And Six or Seven of those Savages went along with us and the rest kept three our men, in the Nature of Hostages Those who went with us were made much of, but Monfieur de la Sale could learn nothing oft them, either by Signs or otherwise ; all they could make us understand was, that there was good hunting of Bullocks in the Country. We observed, that their Yea consisted in a Cry, fetch'd from The Bottom of the Throat, not unlike the Call of a Hen to gather her Chickens. Monfieur de La Sale gave them some Knives, Hatchets and other Trifles, with which they seem'd We1l pleased, and went away Monsieur (34)

Monsieur de la Sale glad to be rid of those People, because he was willing to be present when the Flyboat came in but his ill Fate would not permit it. He thought fit to go himself along with those Savages and follow'd him thinking to have found our men in the famed Place where we left them; but preceiv'd on the Contrary, the Savages had carried them away to their Camp, which was a League and half from us and Monsieur de La Sablonniere lieutenant of fort being one of those the Savages take with them. Monsieur de la Sale resolved to go himself to fetch him away, an unhappy Thought which cost him dear. As We were on our Way towards the Camp of savages happening to look towards the Sea we saw the flyboat l'Aimable under sail which the savages who were with us admired, Monsieur de la Sale observing it narrowly, told us, those people steered wrong standing towards Shoals, which made him very uneasy at. But still we advanced. We arrived at the camp of savages, which stood upon an eminence fifty cottages made rush mats and others of dried skins and built long poles bow'd round at the top, like great ovens and most of the savages sitting watch. We were still advancing the village when we heard a cannon shot. The noise whereof struck dread among the savages fell flat ground. But Monsieur de la Sale and we were believed it a signal that our ship was aground which was confirmed by seeing them furl their sails (35)

However we were gone too far to return ; our Men must be had, and to that Purpose, we proceed to the hut of the Commander in Chief. As soon as we arrived there Monsieur de la Sale was introduced. many of the Indian Women came in were very deformed and all naked, excepting a Skin girt about them, which hung down to their Knees. They would have led us to their Cottages, but Monsieur de la Sale ordered us not to part, and to observe whether the Indians did not draw together, for that we kept together, standing upon our Guard, and I was always with him . They brought us some Pieces of Beef both fresh and dry'd in the Air and Smoke, and Pieces of Porpoise, which they cut with a Sort of Knife, made of Stone, setting one Foot upon it, and holding with one Hand, while they cut with the other. We saw nothing of Iron among them. They had given our Men, that came with them something to eat, and Monsieur de la Sale being extraordinary uneasy, we soon took Leave of them to return. At our going out, we observed about forty Canoes, some of them like some of them like those Monsieur de la Sale had seen on the Mississippi, which made him conclude he was not far from it. We soon arrived at our Camp, and found Misfortune, Monsieur de la Sale had apprehended, was but too certain. The Ship was stranded on the Shoals! The ill Management of the Captain. or of the Pilot, who had not steered by the Stakes placed for that Purpose. . . (36)

and th weather being cold they lighted a fire, about which they laid down and all fell asleep ; the Sentinel they had appointed doing the same. The Indians returning to their Camp and perceiving our Men had carry away two Canoes, some Skins and Blankets, took it for a Declaration of a War, reflected to be revenged, and discovering an unusual Fire, perfectly concluded that our Men had halted there. A considerable Number of them repair'd to the Place, without making the least Noise and found our careless People fast asleep, wrapped up in their Blankets, and shot a full Volley of their Arrows upon them all together on a Sudden, having first given their unusual Shout before they fail on. The Sieur Morangas awakening with the Noise, and finding himself wounded, started up and fired his Piece successfully enough and some others did the like, where upon the Natives fled. The Sieur Morangas came to give us the Alarm, though he was shot through one of his arms, below the Shoulder, and had another haunting Wound on the Breast. Monsieur de la Sale immediately sent some armed Men to the Places who could not find the Indians, but when Day appeared, they found the Sicurs Oris aid and Desages dead upon the Spot, and the Sienur Gayen much hurt and all the rest safe and sound. (42)

. . . the Indians, who came frequently in the Night to range about us, howling like Wolves and Dogs ; but two or three Musket Shots put them to Flight. . . . (46)

. . . They made a Fire, perhaps to dress some Meat; but ne- neglecting to stand upon their Guard, they were surprised, and all six of them killed by the Savages; who also broke their Canoe, and thus revenged themselves for the Irruption Monsieur de la Sale had lately made among them. More Time being elapsed than Monsieur de la Sale had allotted those Men to return, he grew uncanny, and went himself along the Coast, to see if any News could be had to them, and keeping along the Shore, he found the sad remains of those unfortunate Wretches', whose Carcasses scattered about, were torn and almost devoured by Wolves or wild Dogs (59)

By February, 1687, La Salle's party was reduced to thirty-six persons. Bad-tempered, haughty and harsh, he alienated even those who had remained faithful to him to the end. He died, shot dead at point blank range by some of his own men. It was the nineteenth of March, 1687. Three of his companions had been murdered just before him. The conspirators who committed the murders then set about killing one another.

Joutel, however, escaped both assassination by La Salle's murderers and the massacre at Fort St. Louis. Instead, he led six other survivors northeast through Texas and Arkansas until they struck the Mississippi, which they then followed upstream to the French settlements. They reached Illinois in September, 1687, where they spent the winter, and arrived at Quebec in July and France in October, 1688, more than eighteen months after leaving the doomed Texas colony. After his return home, Joutel nearly disappears from the historical record. He was interviewed in 1722 by historian Pierre-François-Xavier Charlevoix (1682-1761) and may have died as late as 1735.


1705 French map by Nicolas de Fer entitled "Les Costes aux Environs de la Riviere de Misisipi."

Alonso de Leon from 1686 to 1690, undertook five different expeditions into Texas from Nuevo Leon, seeking the colony founded by La Salle with the intention of demolishing it. On his fourth expedition on 22 April 1689 De Leon located the remnant of the French Colony. The native Indians had already wracked the fort, and most of the French were dead. Del Leon then aided Fray Massanet to build two missions in 1690 among the Tejas Indians nearby the Neches River.
Léon was a soldier of Nuevo Léon, became governor of Coahuila and captain of the presidio of Monclova. Preceding the 1689 dispatch, Léon forged three forays into Texas in 1686, 87 and 88. Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, and settlers settled at Matagorda Bay, Texas. Troubled by this intrusion into Spanish terrain, these search and destroy expeditions were set forth.
The expedition came upon a huge cottonwood tree it's first few days out, which later would be the grounds of mission now known as the Alamo. The first Indian settlement they came to, sported heads, won in battle, of other Indian tribes. They would go on to find the French settlement, or rather the remains. Their story is below.



Itinerary of the Expedition made by General Alonso De Le6n for the Discovery of the Bahia del Espiritu Santo and the French Settlement. 1689.
Wednesday March 23, it was arranged that the detachment of soldiers and camp-followers who were in Coahuila should set out. Accordingly, they marched one league down the river. 1.
Thursday, the 24th, the whole body set out. The detach- ment, being ordered to go down the river,2 traveled down the other bank to its junction with the Nadadores. They trav- elled that day seven leagues toward the north.3 All this country is uninhabitable. 7. &nbs ;
Friday, the 25th, we traveled down the Rio de Nadadores, along the south bank, between two ridges which they call Baluartes. On the bank of the river we passed a cottonwood tree,4 the only one within a great distance. We traveled that day seven leagues, keeping the same northeast course. All the country is level and affords good pasturage. 7. &n sp;
Saturday, the 26th, we traveled down the river as on the day before, to its junction with the Sabinas. We traveled east, halting a league from the junction. The country is level and affords good pasturage.5 [6].
1Translation by Miss Elizabeth Howard West, in Texas State Historical Association Quarterly, VIII. 199-224.
2 They crossed to the south side, and followed the right bank to a point three leagues below the junction with the Sabinas (Miss West). See the Sigiienza map.
3 The Sigiienza map gives the distance as seven leagues (Miss West).
4 The Alamo became a well-known landmark and was regularly noted in later diaries.
5 The Sigiienza map supplies the distance lacking in the Memorias tran- script of the diary.

Sunday, the 27th, we went down the river Sabinas and crossed it toward the north. Passing along the bank we sighted the soldiers who were coming from the Nuevo Reyno de Leon to join us here according to agreement.' As we came together a salute was fired on each side. After we had traveled three leagues to the east, a general review and individual count was made of all the soldiers, drivers, and other servants, and of the baggage as well.2 3.
Monday, the 28th, we traveled to the northeast, a distance of six leagues. After crossing some unwatered plains, we halted at a pool of rain-water. 6. & bsp;
Tuesday, the 29th, we set out toward the northeast. Be- fore daybreak the French prisoner sent out one of the Indians whom we were bringing because of their loyalty, to tell the Indians, his acquaintances, that we were going through their village. As a result, more than seventy Indians, some armed, others unarmed, came out to meet us a league before we arrived at the village, and accompanied us thither. They had a hut ready, covered with buffalo hides; there they put the Frenchman, toward whom they made many demonstrations of affection.3 In front of the hut was driven a stake, four varas high, on which were fastened sixteen heads of Indians, their enemies, whom they had killed. They were five nations, joined together (according to the account the Frenchman gave), entitled Hapes, Jumenes, Xiabu, Mescale, and another. We counted eighty-five huts. We distributed among them some cotton garments, blankets, beads, rosaries, knives, and arms, with which they were very much pleased. Five cattle were killed for them, too, so that all persons of all ages might
1 The party from Monterey went down the Caldera River (De Le6n, His- toria de Nuevo Le6n, p. 319).
2 The original list is printed in De Le6n, Historia de Nuevo Le6n, pp. 320- 321. It shows eighty-eight soldiers and religious, the French prisoner, called Andres, twelve muleteers, thirteen servants, seven hundred and twenty horses and mules, eighty-two pack-loads of flour, biscuits, and other provisions, and three pack-loads of presents for the Indians. See ibid., p. 318, and Massanet's Letter, p. 353.
3 The Indians at this point are referred to in the diary of 1690 as ""the In- dians of the Frenchman."" In De Le6n, Historia de Nuevo Leon, p. 322, the names are given as the Apes, Mescales, Jumanes, and Ijiaba.

eat. There were four hundred and ninety of them. We crossed a creek about the time of evening prayer.' 4. &nbs ;
Thursday, the 31st, it was necessary to halt at this point because of the suffering of the horses occasioned by lack of water.
April. nbsp;
Friday, April 1st, we traveled down the river five leagues, traversing some low hills. There was no lack of water-holes along the way. The route during the most of these five leagues was toward the north. We halted on this south bank in front of the ford.2 The river was forded, and found easy to cross the next day. Now we had with us a faithful Indian guide,3 who assured us that he knew the country, and that he would bring us where there were some men like ourselves, in a settlement of six or seven houses; that they had wives and children, and that they were about six days' journey distant from the said Rio Bravo. This Indian can not speak Castilian, but we got some light on what he was saying through another Indian who acted as interpreter, albeit a poor one. 5.
Saturday, the 2d, we crossed the river and went about one league north, to avoid some ravines and low hills. After- ward we went mostly northeast, until we reached some pools, five leagues away. We named these El Paraje de los Cuervos, because more than three thousand crows appeared at night- fall. The way was level and untimbered. 5. & bsp;
Palm Sunday, the 3d, we marched northeast three leagues, through level country, and afterward two more through sev- eral thickets of mesquite. We crossed some little dry creeks; and then we came upon one that had water in it, on the bank
1 The Sigiienza map gives a journey of four leagues for March 30, which is omitted entirely from the Memorias copy of the diary. From a comparison of distances between the Sabinas and the Rio Grande with the diary and map of 1690, it seems probable that the map is correct. The 1689 map gives the distance as twenty-three and the diary of 1690 as twenty-two leagues.
2 Of the Rio Bravo. See De Leon, Historia de Nuevo Le6n, p. 324. The crossing was not far from San Juan Bautista.
3 The Quems.
. . . of which we halted. Altogether we traveled that day five long leagues. We named this creek the Arroyo de Ramos,1 because we found it on Palm Sunday. There we observed the altitude of the sun with an astrolabe, though a defective one, and found our latitude to be 26° 31'.2 I must call attention to the fact that the tables on which this observation was based were made before the so-called Gregorian correction. This correction was made in the year 1582, in which the equi- nox was on the tenth of March. Following the Ephemerides of the Roman Andrea Argoli, which places the equinox this year (1582) on the 20th of March, we found by these tables that today, April 3, corresponds to the 24th of March of this year (1689), which is the first since the bissextile. These tables, the author says, he took from the Arte de Navegar, by the Maes- tro Medina.3 It has been necessary to state these facts in explanation, in case it should appear that a mistake has been made because of our lack of modern tables. 5.
Holy Monday, the 4th, we marched northeast most of the day, east-by-north occasionally, a distance of 8 leagues. At first the land was level, then there was a little mesquite thicket; and after that we got into a larger one, three leagues long. We came upon a river, which, as we could see, even though it contained little water at the time, overflows its banks in time of rain more than half a league from the main channel. We called it the Rio de las Nueces,4 because there were many pecan trees. It is somewhat rocky, and all its rocks are flint and very fine. 8.
Holy Tuesday, the 5th, we crossed the river. We had to go half a league down its bank, and then we went through a glade. Then came a very dense thicket. We had to cut a passage into it for almost a league with our cutlasses and axes,
1 Evidently one of the branches of the Nueces River.
2 As pointed out by Miss West, the calculations were a degree or more in error.
3 Pedro Medina's Arte de Navegar was first published at Valladolid in 1545. The Italian astronomer Andrea Argoli's Ephemerides was first published at Rome in 1621.
4 The present Nueces, and not that which figured in the Spanish expeditions to the Jumanos. The 1690 diary and map mention Arroyo de Caramanchel between Arroyo de Ramos and the Nueces River.

because of the numerous prickly pears and mesquite which blocked up the way. Afterward we got into a mesquite thicket in which at intervals we had to make a clearing. We traveled about seven leagues. We came upon a river to which we gave the name Rio Sarco,' because its water was blue. We went, I repeat, seven leagues, with many turns. 7.
Holy Wednesday, the 6th, we traveled about three leagues to the northeast, and two to the east. The country we passed through was level, with fine pasturage, with very pleasant glades, and, occasionally, little motts of oak. We came to a river, which we named Rio Hondo. Apropos of this river, its descent on each side is about forty feet; near it, on both banks, are some insignificant hills, some of them timbered. The water was plentiful, so that the horses were easily sup- plied. As we went down toward the river we found some large white rocks, on some of which we saw some crosses cut, and other figures artificially made with great skill, apparently a long time before. 5.
Holy Thursday, the 7th, we went more than four leagues down the river without crossing it, sometimes east, sometimes southeast; we halted on the hither bank. The country is of the same sort here as at the last stopping-place; level, for the most part, though there is a little mesquite timber. Ever since the thirtieth of last month, when we passed the village of the Five Nations,2 we have found along the line of march traces of Indians, made some time ago; but not a single Indian has appeared.
Holy Friday, the 8th, we crossed from the other bank of the Rio Hondo, and traveled east-northeast, most of the day near the river. We came upon two ravines near together. Here, it appears, the river rises in time of flood as much as six feet. After the ravines comes a little creek in a thicket. Here it was necessary to change our course for a while, to let the loaded mules cross, which they did with difficulty, some bogging up. After crossing this creek, we came to some very level land, and then to a large mesquite thicket. In the
1 Elsewhere called the Rio Frio, with which Clark identifies it (The Begin- nings of Texas, p. 17).
2 See the entry for the 29th of March.

midst of the thicket were some pools of water, where we halted. We traveled that day eight long leagues, to the east, as has already been said. 8.
Holy Saturday, the 9th, we set out to the north, but on account of some thickets that were in the way, it was necessary to make some turns, sometimes north-by-east, some- times north-northeast. We traveled that day five leagues. The land was very good. We crossed a dry creek that day, but a league farther on we found one with good water, with abundant pasturage and many oak-trees near by. We named this creek Arroyo del Vino, because we opened a cask' that day and divided its contents among the men. Under the trees we found well-grown nuts, as large as those of Spain, but very hard to open. We saw many wild grape-vines, whose fruit, as we were told by the Indians we had brought with us, is in its season very pleasantly flavored. Our horses stampeded at this camp about nine o'clock at night, and they could not be stopped, though fifteen soldiers were on guard. Accord- ing to the count made the following day, one hundred and two got away. 5.
Easter Sunday, the 10th, soldiers set out in different directions to look for the horses, which they found at various points. This search detained them till evening prayer,2 therefore the camp was not moved that day. We made a reckoning of our latitude which we found to be 27° 55'.
Monday after Easter, the 11th, we set out to the east. We crossed two creeks of good water, and immediately after came to a great wood of pecan and oak-trees, more than five leagues in extent, all fertile and pleasant land. After having to travel twelve leagues to get water, we came that day upon a river, which was very large, though it had not much water, and which had a good ford. We named it the Rio de Medina. The descent to it is about fifty or sixty feet. All the rest of the way there were oaks and pecans. The course that day was east half the way, and northeast half the way. 12. Tuesday after Easter, the 12th, we crossed the river, and found the ford very easy. We traveled five leagues to the east, over some low hills, without any timber; we crossed 1 Of wine. 2 Vespers, would be a better rendering.
some ravines of red and yellow earth; we entered a mesquite thicket, and found water in a creek. The creek was dry where we first struck it, and we were somewhat discomfited because we thought our guide had mistaken the direction; about a league farther, however, there was a very good stream. We named this creek the Arroyo del Leon,' because we found a dead lion near by, very much mutilated. The country was level, and furnished good pasturage. 5. &n sp;
Wednesday, the 13th, we advanced to the east, sometimes east-northeast, six leagues. About half a league from the camp we passed by the point of a little hill on which ends a clump of oaks, and which we left on the right hand. Among them were small piles of stones placed by hand. We followed some low hills; there were about two leagues of oak timber which had to be partly cleared away; but after this all the country was level till we reached a little creek. 6.
Thursday, the 14th, we moved forward, east-northeast, in search of a great river which the guide told us we should find and which we reached at two in the afternoon. We travelled six leagues, the first three over some hills, and the rest of the way over some hills that were timbered and marked with ravines. It was necessary in some places to clear away the timber so as to pass through. The country was the most pleasant that we had traversed; the river is not very full and has a good ford; its banks are covered with timber. Six /buffaloes-the first we had seen for a hundred leagues-were killed along the way. We gave this river the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom we had brought from Coahuila as our protectress,2 and whom we had painted on our royal standard. 6. nbsp;
Friday, the 15th, the day dawned very rainy. None the less, however, our whole party set out toward the ford of the river, which was about a league away. We crossed the river, but as the water prevented our forward movement, we halted
1Apparently the present San Antonio River. The name Medina now applies to only the upper waters of the stream (see Clark, The Beginnings of Texas, p. 17).
2 That is, they carried her statue or picture. The river was crossed not far from Victoria, perhaps a little below it.
on a little creek. We traveled that day not more than two leagues. As the guide said that we were near the settlement, a council of war was held, at which it was decided that the next day a reconnaissance should be made with sixty soldiers, while the camp should stay in another place at some distance away, with a sufficient guard. 2. aturday, the 16th, after a mass to Our Lady of Guadalupe had been chanted with all solemnity, the governor, in accordance with the decision of the day before, set out with the sixty soldiers, well equipped. The whole force set out at the same time. After traveling about three leagues with the sixty men, the rearguard caught sight of an Indian in the timber. When he was taken to the governor and examined- through a poor interpreter-he declared that his rancheria was near by, and that four Frenchmen were there. We quickened our pace, under the guidance of our Indian, after we had sent word to the main body to stay in the place whence they had sent the Indian. Before we came to the rancherfa all the people left. We sighted them, however, as they were entering some motts; and after them came eight or ten dogs loaded with buffalo hides. We sent the same Indian who had guided us to call them, with the result that most of them came. It was ascertained that the four Frenchmen were not there, but that they had gone on to the Tejas four days before. In this rancheria we found two Indians who told us that we should find them in a rancheria two days' journey further. We gave these Indians some tobacco, knives, and other things, to get them to guide us, which they did. We turned and moved northward till sunset. Then we found in a thicket a village of more than two hundred and fifty per- sons, where we tried to find the Frenchmen, our French guide always serving as interpreter. They replied that the French- men had gone to the Texas Indians four days before, and that the rest who had settled on the little sea (which is the bay) had all died at the hands of the coast Indians; that the French- men had six houses; and that the event had occurred three moons, that is, three months, before; that previous to this there had been an epidemic of smallpox, of which most of them had died. The main body traveled east that day, and halted
at the place appointed by the governor, who went eight leagues northward with the sixty men. 8.
Sunday, the 17th, after sleeping close by the Indian village, we again set out to the north. After traveling five leagues we found some ranchos' of Indians known to our French prisoner. We found out from them by minute inquiry the route of the four Frenchmen who were going to the Texas; we found out, moreover, that they had passed on horseback four days before. Here a consultation was held as to what decision should be reached, with the result that it was deter- mined, as the main force was far away and the country unknown, to write a letter to the Frenchmen and send it to them by an Indian. Accordingly, the letter was written in French by the royal alferez, Francisco Martinez. Its contents, in substance, were as follows: that we had been informed of their escape when some Christians on the coast had been killed by the Indians of that vicinity; that they might come with us; that we would wait for them three or four days in the houses of the village from which they had set out. This letter was signed by the governor and by our chaplain, Padre Fray Damian Manzanet, religious of our patron San Francisco. The letter added as a postscript some lines of Latin, in case any one of the four should be a religious, exhorting them to come. Putting in paper for a reply, we dispatched this letter by an Indian carrier who assured us that he would overtake them. About evening prayer2 an Indian came from the North to see the Frenchmen, of whom he must have had news. When we asked him through the Frenchman whether it was far from here to the Texas, he replied that it was not many days' journey and said that it had been three days since the four Frenchmen had gone on from his rancherfa.
Monday, the 18th, in view of the harm the camp might have suffered, even though we had left it well guarded, we set out in search of it. On the way thither the governor received a letter stating that the drove of horses had stampeded the night before, and that a hundred-odd had been lost; that some had been found, but thirty-six were still missing. At this we quickened our pace to the camp. There we heard Houses or huts.
also that a soldier' had been lost in the search for the horses. At this news sundry squadrons of soldiers were sent in search of him, but he did not appear that day.
Tuesday, the 19th, since neither the soldier nor the horses had appeared, two squadrons of soldiers set out in different directions to look for them; the governor went in person; but despite their diligent efforts the lost were not found. [The search-party], therefore, slept in the open, to continue the search. Indians from different rancherias came to the camp that day; we gave them tobacco and other things, and charged them to scour the country in search of the soldier and the horses that were missing, promising them due return for the service.
Wednesday, the 20th, the party did not set out, because neither soldier nor horses had appeared. The efforts of the day before were repeated with new squadrons of soldiers. Just after they had left the lost man came, guided by several Indians. He said that that night [after he had been lost] he had come to an Indian rancheria where he spent the night; that he had been undecided whether to stay there, because of his suspicion that they were going to kill him, but that he had been treated with great kindness. It was no little good fortune that he escaped from danger at the hands of so bar- barous a race. Though the astrolabe was broken, we righted it that day as best we could and made an observation of the sun, and found ourselves in latitude 28° 41' north. 2
Thursday, the 21st, our party advanced sometimes east, sometimes east-by-north, sometimes northeast-by-north. Our line of march lay through some wide plains which for long stretches were treeless. At the end of eight leagues we came to a creek of good water. Here the Indian guide told us that the settlement was on the bank of this creek3 and in its vicinity. The land was all very pleasing; and we came across many buffalo.
Friday, the 22d, as we were near the settlement, our party . . .
1 His name was Juan de Charles (De Leon, Historia de Nuevo Le6n, p. 327).
2 The Autor Anonimo gives the latitude as 28° 4' (Historia de Nuevo Leon, ibid.).
3 Garcitas River. See Massanet's Carta, p. 361, above, notes 2, 3.
set out though the day dawned rainy. Three leagues down the creek we found it. Having halted with the forces about an arquebus-shot away, we went to see it, and found all the houses sacked, all the chests, bottle-cases, and all the rest of the settlers' furniture broken; apparently more than two hundred books, torn apart and with the rotten leaves scattered through the patios-all in French. We noted that the perpetrators of this massacre had pulled everything [the colo- nists] had out of their chests, and divided the booty among themselves; and that what they had not cared for they had torn to pieces, making a frightful sack of all the French possessed; for besides the evidence involved in our finding every- thing in this condition, further proof was found in the fact that in the rancherias through which we had passed before our arrival at the settlement, we had found in the possession of the Indians some French books in very good condition, with other articles of very little value. These books were recovered and their titles committed to memory. The Indians had done this damage not only to the furnishings, but also to the arms, for we found more than a hundred stocks of flintlock arquebuses, without locks or barrels. They must have carried these off, as was proved by an [arquebus] barrel found at some distance from the houses. We found three dead bodies scattered over the plain. One of these, from the dress that still clung to the bones, appeared to be that of a woman. We took the bodies up, chanted mass with the bodies present, and buried them. We looked for the other dead bodies but could not find them; whence we supposed that they had been thrown into the creek and had been eaten by alligators, of which there were many. The principal house of this settlement is in the form of a fort, made of ship's timber, with a second story, also made of ship's timber, and with a slope to turn off water. Next to it, without any partition, is another apartment, not so strong, which must have served as a chapel where mass was said. The other five houses are of stakes, covered with mud inside and out; their roofs are covered with buffalo-hides. All are quite useless for any defense. In and about the fort and the houses were eight pieces of artillery, iron, of medium bore,-four or five-pounders,-and three very old swivels whose chambers were lacking. Some iron bars
were also found, and some ship's nails, estimated as altogether about five hundredweight. Some of the guns were scattered over the ground and some were on their broken carriages. There were some casks with their heads knocked in and their contents spilled out, so that nothing was worth anything. Around the building was also some tackle, much the worse for wear. The settlement was on a beautiful, level site, so as to be capable of defence in any event. On the frame of the principal door of the fort was inscribed the date of the settle- ment, which was 1684.1 There are other details which are noted in the separate description of the post.2 The party travelled that day three leagues to the east. It appears, therefore, that the total distance from the Presidio of Coahuila to this settlement is one hundred and thirty-six leagues.3
Discovery of Espiritu Santo Bay and its Harbor.

Saturday, the 23d, we set out with thirty men to recon- noitre the bay to the south, trying to follow the creek below the settlement. We took the French prisoner for a guide, because he had told us he knew the bay and had been all over it in a bark. In view of this assurance we let him guide us. He did not guide us down the creek, because he said it had no crossing. We went [instead] five leagues to the south- west; then, after going around the head-waters of two creeks, we went three leagues farther, to the east, when we came upon the shore of the bay. Here we slept, as we arrived at twilight. Sunday, the 24th, very early in the morning, we set out along the shore of the bay, which at that season was at low water. There are many lagoons of salt water around it whose marshes prevented us at some places from crossing on horse- back. For long stretches, therefore, we went on foot, leading
1 See a drawing of the fort and of the inscription in De Leon, Historia de Nuevo Le6n, pp. 330-331. Additional details are given there. See also De Leon's letter of May 18.
2 From this it is inferred that a special description of the French settlement was contained in the autos drawn up by De Leon.
3 The distances given by the map total one hundred and thirty-seven leagues; those of the Itinerary one hundred and nineteen, some being omitted. (Miss West.)

the horses. The arm of the sea which appeared to us the long- est runs in toward the north, another smaller one to the south, and the other, the smallest, toward the settlement mentioned in this diary. We went eight long leagues along the shore, till it pleased God that we should discover the mouth, through which one enters the bay. This was probably about two leagues from the place we could reach on horseback. We were greatly re- joiced at this discovery, in token of which we fired a salute with our arquebuses. The Frenchman affirmed that this was the mouth of the harbor, through which he had entered when he came into these parts with Monsieur Felipe So-and-So. The mouth of the harbor, so far as we could judge, is about two short leagues across. There is a bar of low land across it which is closer to the mainland on the side toward Vera Cruz than toward Florida. The Frenchman says that ships enter through the narrowest passage. On the south the river which we named Nuestra Seniora de Guadalupe falls into the bay. We did not actually see its mouth, because it was im- possible to reach that point; but we came to that conclusion because when we crossed it we saw that it was near the bay, and also because the Frenchman made a statement to that effect.' The arm of the sea which extends inland on the north of the bay is so wide that we could not see land on the other shore.2 On the shore of the bay, which we ran for about eight leagues, we saw a topmast of a large ship; another-a small top-gallant mast, a capstan, some barrel-staves, and other timbers, which must have belonged to some ship that was lost in the bay or along the coast whose harbor we had sighted.3 After seeing and exploring the mouth of the bay, we went back the same way we had come, and we camped for the night on the bank of a creek near a little mott. Here had been an Indian village, but it had been abandoned for some time. We found in the village a book in the French language, a broken bottle-case, and other things which gave
1 As a matter of fact, the Guadalupe River does not flow into Matagorda Bay.
2 The reference is to the main body of Matagorda Bay.
3 These things were the wreckage of L'Aimable and La Belle, two of La Salle's vessels.
us indications that the Indians of the village had taken part in the massacre of the French. In this creek, whose water was somewhat brackish, we found two canoes.'
On the 25th of April we set out from there and went to the camp. There we found2 an answer to the letter that had been written to the Frenchmen who had gone to the Texas. The letter, read by the alf6rez, contained in substance that within two days they would come to where we were, for by that time they were tired of being among barbarians. There was only one signature-that of Juan Larchieverque3 of Bay- onne. It was written with red ochre. The distance trav- ersed, in going to reconnoitre the bay and in returning, was fifty-two leagues. On that day, Monday, the 25th, the main camp remained stationary.
Discovery of the San Marcos River.
Tuesday, the 26th, it was decided that the main body should set out by the same route we had traversed, because the water of the creek is brackish, as has been stated, and the horses that drank it became sick. Accordingly, we moved three leagues up the creek, and halted in the same place where we had stopped in our advance; and then we went on with twenty men.
There was a very large river which the French prisoner said was toward the north and flowed into the bay. We found it at a distance of about three leagues,4 and followed its bank to where some lagoons form an impediment. It is a very large river; larger, it seemed to us, than the Rio Bravo; so large that a small vessel can navigate it. We determined to see its discharge into the bay, even though it should be a
1 Next year a place in this vicinity was called ""Arroyo de las Canoas,"" probably referring to these canoes. (Itinerary of 1690, entry for June 20.)
2 See Massanet's letter, p. 363, note 1.
3 Jean L'Archeveque. See p. 364, note 3.
4 The Autor An6nimo says six leagues (Historia de Nuevo Le6n, p. 335). The stream was the Lavaca, but has been wrongly identified by some writers as the Colorado, a stream fifty miles or more distant. The stream called the San Marcos further inland was the Colorado.
matter of difficulty. Finally we accomplished our purpose, looking from a little hill, which is about three quarters of a league distant from the mouth of the river. It appeared to us that it was about a league and a half from the mouth of the San Marcos to the mouth of the creek on which the Frenchmen had lived,' and the same distance from the mouth of the creek to the settlement. We travelled that day fifteen leagues. We took an observation on the shore of the creek, and found ourselves, allowing for mistakes on account of the defect in the astrolabe, in latitude 26° 3' more or less.2 We named this river San Marcos, because we discovered it the day after that saint's feast day.
The Diary of the Return, continued, with the New Entrada made toward the North in search of the French.
Wednesday, the 27th, our party moved forward and halted on some pools, near a little mott which borders on the trail. Thursday, the 28th, we set out on our way, and the gover- nor set out the same time with thirty companions toward the north bank, to look for the Frenchmen who had written. The main body halted on the River Nuestra Sefiora de Guadalupe, on the other bank.
Friday, the 29th, the main body halted.
Saturday, the 30th, the main body again halted.
& bsp; Sunday, May 1st, about evening prayer,3 the governor arrived with his companions, bringing two Frenchmen, streaked with paint after the Indian fashion. He had found them twenty-five leagues and more from where we had set out with the main body.4 One of them, the one who had written the letter, was named Juan; the other, a native of Rochelle, was
1 The Garcitas.
2The Autor An6nimo says 29° 3'. The figures of the diary are evidently a misprint. The actual latitude of La Salle's fort was not far from 28° 40'.
3 Vespers. 4 He had found them near the Colorado River.
named Jacome.1 They gave an account of the death of their people, the first saying that an epidemic of smallpox had killed more than a hundred persons; that the rest had been on friendly terms with the Indians of all that region, and had no suspicion of them; that a little more than a month before five Indians had come to their settlement under pretext of telling them something and had stopped at the most remote house in the settlement; that the Frenchmen, having no suspicions, all went to the house unarmed to see them; that after they were inside other Indians kept coming and embracing them; that another party of Indians came in from the creek at the same time, and killed them all, including two religious and a priest, with daggers and sticks, and sacked all the houses; that they were not there at the time, having gone to the Texas; but that when they heard the news of this occurrence, [the] four of them came, and, finding their companions dead, they buried the fourteen they found; that they exploded nearly a hundred barrels of powder, so that the Indians could not carry it off; and that the settlement had been well provided with all sorts of firearms, swords, broadswords, three chalices, and a large collection of books, with very rare bindings. The two French- men were streaked with paint after the fashion of the Indians, and covered with antelope and buffalo hides. We found them in a rancheria of the chief of the Texas,2 who were giving them sustenance and keeping them with great care. We took him [the chief] to the camp and treated him with great kindness. Although unable to speak Castilian he was an Indian in whom was recognized capacity. He had a shrine with several images. The governor gave him and the other Indians who had come with him generously of what was left of the cotton garments, knives, blankets, beads, and other goods. He was very much pleased and promised to come with some Indians of his nation to the province of Cohaguila. The governor made a separate report of all that was expedient or important in the declara- tions of the two Frenchmen, to send it to His Excellency. We continued our march to the Nueces River. On Tuesday,
1 Called Santiago Grolette in Massanet's letter, p. 364, above.
2The Autor An6nimo, who was in the expedition, writes: ""This captain of the Tejas was not in his own country there, but a long distance from it."" (De Leon, Historia de Nuevo Leon, p. 339.) See also De Leon's letter of May 18.

May 10, the governor went ahead' with some companions to send a dispatch to His Excellency, giving an account of this discovery. We arrived at the presidio of Cohaguila today,
May 13th, at nightfall. Here ends the diary. To insure its authenticity, it is signed by the governor, ALONSO DE LEON.
1 Adelant6. He went ahead with fifteen men, the two Frenchmen, and Martinez. On the 18th Martinez was sent to Mexico with the Frenchmen and the despatches. (De Leon, Historia de Nuevo Le6n, p. 342.)

Léon used the same route from Mexico to reach Fort Saint Louis and Matagorda Bay, starting out in late March of 1690. From there they went to the Neches River. After building a mission there, they heard tales of French children being held hostage for ransom. They went to investigate the matter. Part of their account is listed below.



. . . Sunday, the 9th, after mass we set out northeast-by-north over level land and, crossing two wooded valleys, entered a mesquite grove and found the ford of the Nuezes River. Here we camped in a meadow on the bank of the river, having marched this day five leagues. 5. &nbs ;
Monday, the 10th, having crossed the river on a passage- way of trees,2 we set out towards the east, and traveled two leagues. Then we marched towards the north another two leagues and, making a detour3 to the east over level land, but with some mesquite brush, crossed the Sarco River. The company camped here, having marched this day seven leagues. 7. & bsp;
Tuesday, the 11th, we set out towards the north over some plains, crossing some knolls. We camped by the Rio Hondo, having marched six leagues. 6. &nbs ;
Wednesday, the 12th, we were delayed with the company, to search for two comrades who were lost in a severe rain- storm the preceding day. We marched 0.
Thursday, the 13th, at noon, the two comrades arrived, and at the same time we learned from some Indians that six leagues from this place there was a gathering of Indians where a Frenchman had come. With twenty soldiers I set out this day towards the west along the northern bank of the river.4 At about five leagues I camped for the night. 5.
Friday, the 14th, at dawn, I continued my march and, making a detour towards the north over a plain, arrived at the bank of a river where the Indian encampment was. A great number of them, both large and small, came out to see us and, upon giving them tobacco and biscuits, they informed us that two Frenchmen were on the other bank of the Guada- lupe River. One Indian had a French musket. Having heard
(footnote) 1 This stream is not mentioned in the 1689 expedition.
2 ""Por un ailadero de arboles,"" omitted from C.
3 The same detour is mentioned in the 1689 diary and map, under date of April 5.
4 C adds that Captain Don Gregorio Salinas Varona was among the twenty.


Sunday, the 23d, after mass the company set out east by northeast through some live-oak groves and camped near the Guadalupe River, where there is an arroyo close to the river. We marched five leagues. 5. &nbs ;
Monday, the 24th, the company set out down stream and, having crossed the river with much difficulty,' because there was so much water, we camped on the other bank, having marched two leagues. 2. &nbs ;
Tuesday, the 25th, I set out with twenty soldiers,2 leaving the company in the aforesaid place, and went towards the east to reconnoitre the Bay of Espiritu Santo. This day we marched fourteen leagues and camped on the banks of some small pools of water. 14.
Wednesday, the 26th, we arrived at the French settlement, which we saw last year.3 Having ascertained from its form that it was as before, and having learned where the artillery was buried, we burned the wooden fort; and, going two leagues further, we recognized in the bay what were apparently two buoys, one at the mouth of the San Marcos River and the other at one side, indicating the same channel. The sun was not observed as the day was cloudy. From there we returned up the arroyo of the French settlement, to see if we might meet some Indians from whom to obtain information, but, not having met any, we camped on the bank of the ar- royo,4 having marched this day, in going and coming, four- teen leagues. 14. &nb p;
Thursday, the 27th, we returned to the camp, having marched up the arroyo of the French in search of some In- dians of whom to obtain news. After making some detours we reached the camp. We marched this day twenty leagues. 20.
1 The crossing was at the same place, or not far from the same place, as that of the 1689 expedition. In 1689 the distance from the Guadalupe to the French settlement was given as seventeen leagues east-northeast. In 1690 the settlement was reached by going nineteen leagues eastwardly, the difference being probably one of estimating.


Thursday, the 11th, we continued our journey towards the northeast about twelve leagues, to a high hill which had a clump of very high trees, where we found some Indians camped, who informed us of another Frenchman who was near there in a rancheria. I sent an Indian to summon him and another Indian afterwards told us that other Frenchmen had arrived at the entrance to the Bay of Espiritu Santo. At the same time I sent two soldiers to the camp in order that four should come with supplies and a relay of horses, so that, if the French- man should not come, we might go in search of him. We crossed the San Marcos River this afternoon in order that, since it had rained heavily, it might not rise and keep some of us on one side and some on the other. We marched this day sixteen leagues.l 16. &n sp;
Friday, the 12th, in the morning the French boy arrived with three Indians and said his name was Pedro Muni; at the same time came the soldiers whom I sent to summon from the camp. We therefore advanced towards the northeast until we reached it. We marched this day six leagues.2 6.
Saturday, the 13th, the company set out from San Joseph towards the east about three leagues, and another three towards the northeast, crossing some valleys and arroyos with little water. Stopping upon the bank of an arroyo, we gave it the name of San Francisco de Asis.3 We marched six leagues. 6.
Sunday, the 14th, the company set out for the Colorado River, crossing some valleys towards the northeast and, halting on its banks, we gave it the name of Espiritu Santo River,4 having marched six leagues. 6. &nbs ;
Monday, the 15th, the company set out down stream and at a distance of half 5 a league crossed the river. Passing Francisco Martinez continued north with the camp, crossing the San Marcos, and proceeded to the place where De Leon had left his companions, at San Ilde- fonso, having traveled eight leagues.
(footnote) 1 C adds that the camp moved this day to a better site, called San Joseph, three leagues northeast.
2 C adds that they found the camp, which awaited them, six leagues from the river, towards the north.
3 Evidently the Yegua River.
4 The Brazos River.
5 C states that the camp moved east three leagues, crossed the river, then one league northeast, then north one league to San Juan, going the same distance. . .

Sunday, the 18th, the company continued their journey and I, General Alonso de Leon, with sixteen soldiers,4 set out towards the northeast in search of two French boys and a French girl, of whom some Indians, who were camped in the said place,5 gave me information. We travelled over some plains for about four leagues, until we reached a small wood, through which we went, and afterward marched towards the east about three leagues over another plain, where we found a small wood and a rancheria6 of the Indians. We continued from there over some very large plains7 where there were a great number of buffalo, to the edge of a small river, near which was a large clump of trees, where we halted, as it was already very dark, having marched this day seventeen leagues. 17. Monday, the 19th, we continued our journey along the banks of said stream, which has timber on both sides and, 1 C omits the item regarding the sending for the governor of the Texas. 2 C calls it Real de San Joseph y San Ildefonso. 3 It was given the name on the way northeast. 4 C says Salinas Varona and sixteen soldiers. 5C adds ""In this camp there were many nations of Indians, such as the Cantona, the Thoaga, the Chana, and the Cabas."" 6 C says they were called the Tho 6. 7C adds that they were going southeast, and gives the distance for the day as sixteen leagues.
Wednesday, the 21st, we set out towards the south6 and after about one league we met two Indians who were coming, on horseback, from the nation which had the French children.7 They took us to their rancheria which was on the headland of a small bay. Here were Roberto and Magdalena Talon. I discussed their ransom, and having given them presents and paid the ransom which they asked, they came with us with a thousand impertinencies, begging of us all the horses, and
even the clothing which we wore upon our backs. Meanwhile they went to get the other French boy, who was two leagues from there in the same nation. Having brought him, they proceeded further with their impertinence, carrying bows and arrows, a large number of the Indians coming with shields, begging exorbitant things, and saying that if we did not give them to them they would have to shoot and kill us all. Their saying this and beginning to shoot were simultaneous, where- upon we attacked them, and, having killed four and wounded others,1 they retreated, having wounded two of our horses. We departed in an orderly manner to camp for the night at a distance of about four leagues, where we had slept the night before, having travelled this day twelve leagues.2 12.
Thursday, the 22d, at dawn we set out in the same northerly direction over some very large plains to the bank of the Guadalupe River, and about ten o'clock at night we halted near a small wood, having marched this day fourteen leagues. 14. &nb p;
Friday, the 23d, we set out towards the north for about two leagues, where we found the track of the company which had gone by, and after about three leagues we came up with them at the ford of the Guadalupe River, where we halted, having marched five leagues. 5. &nbs ;
Saturday, the 24th, St. John's day, the company set out from the said place, and, crossing the Guadalupe River, we continued our march to an arroyo which is before the Real de Agua Salada, where we camped, having marched this day seven leagues. 7. &nbs ;
Sunday, the 25th, the company set out from the said place, and passing by the Real de la Salada, we reached the Arroyo del Leon, where the company halted, having marched this day seven leagues. 7. &nbs ;
Monday, the 26th, the company set out from the said place, and we reached the Medina River,3 where the company halted, having marched this day five leagues. 5. &nbs ;Tuesday, the 27th, the company set out from the said
1C says four were killed and two wounded.
2 C says twelve leagues north.
3 C says they crossed the Medina and gives the distance as six leagues.

The Armada de Barlovento was a fleet of Spanish War ships established to seek and destroy any European advancements into the new world and also to ward off high seas piracy. After capturing a pirate ship, they found they had some of La Salles deserters who told them about La Salles plans to establish a colony. Five expeditions were sent to find this intrusion of New Spain. Some of them were led by Juan Enríquez Barroto, Francisco López de Gamarra, Andrés de Pez y Malzárraga, and Martín de Rivas, none of which would find the settlement, though on one voyage they would discovered the wreck of La Salle's ship, Belle and . This was all taking place roughly during the Alonso de Leon land expeditions as well.


In 1684 La Salle left France with his colony destined for the mouth of the Mississippi, but by accident it was landed
on Matagorda Bay. News of La Salle's enterprise soon I reached Spain and Mexico, and there began a series of ex- peditions, four by sea and five by land, in search for the French and the Bay of Espiritu Santo. In January, 1686, Juan Enrfquez Barroto, sent by the viceroy from Vera Cruz, explored west from Apalache and returned to Vera Cruz, re- porting that the Gulf was free from pirates. In 1687 the new viceroy sent out two brigs under Rivas and Yriarte, with Barroto as pilot, and two frigates under Pez and Gamarra. The brigs coasted west from Apalache to Matagorda Bay, where they found the wrecks of two of La Salle's vessels, and concluded that the French party had perished. Shortly afterward the frigates, coasting north, also saw the wrecks, and continued to Apalache. In the following year Pez ex- plored from Mobile Bay past the mouth of the Mississippi, in another search for La Salle.

The five land expeditions were all made by Alonso de Leon, a soldier of Nuevo Leon, and son of a conspicuous pioneer of the same name. In 1686 he led a company from Monterey to the Rio Grande, followed the right bank of that stream to the Gulf, and explored south along the coast to Rio de las Palmas. Making another expedition in 1687, he succeeded in crossing the Rio Grande, but was turned back by a river called Salado or Solo. In this same year he was made governor of Coahuila and captain of the new presidio of Monclova. Being informed early in 1688 that a French- man was living among the Indians across the Rio Grande, in 'May De Leon crossed the river, captured Juan Jarri, as the Frenchman was called, and sent him to Mexico. In the following year, 1689, accompanied by Father Massanet, De j. Leon again crossed the Rio Grande, went to Matagorda Bay and found the remains of La Salle's settlement, and on the Guadalupe River held a conference with the chief of the Nabedache, one of the Tejas tribes.
Letter of Fray Damian Massanet to Don Carlos de Siguenza, 1690


Note: Following a dramatic discovery, the Texas Historical Commission announced in early 1995 that one of LaSalle's ships, the La Belle, had been found near Matagorda Bay. Now over 310 years old. Background information and periodic reports on the status of the can be found HERE

Home Part - 1 Part - 2 Part - 3 Part - 4 Gallery