By H. Gordon Pettey, PhD
The real birthday of European Texas began on April 27, 1716 when an entrada of hundreds of head of livestock and seventy-five men, women and children, crossed the Rio Grande River winding their way along almost one thousand miles of ancient Indian paths, mistakenly called El Camino Real or correctly called El Camino de los Tejas, the road to the Texas Indians. This was the main road to the Tejas/Hasinai/Caddoian Indians in the heart of East Texas.
Included in the group were seven or eight women These were to be the nucleus of all of today’s descendants of the original Hispanic families in Old Spanish East Texas. Some of their descendants still live in and around Nacogdoches, Angelina County, including Western Louisiana at Spanish Lake, Zwolle and E’Barb. This area was then part of Spanish East Texas, which extended eastward to within sixteen miles of Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Father Francesco Hidalgo, who was at the first 1690-93 missions and who some call,” The true Father of Texas”, had kept in close contact with these Tejas Indians. In fact, after 1693 many of them, including the famous Angelina and her family journeyed down to live at his mission, at present Guererro, Mexico.
Now, with this second, much larger entrada, the Spanish were returning back to East Texas in large numbers, to stay.
They met with representatives of the members of the nine tribes of the Hasinai/Tejas, which included Angelina. There was great fanfare between the Spanish and the Natives.
With the permission and help of each tribe, working together they began to quickly build grass houses for the priests and brush arbors for the church services.
After the first four missions were built, during the fall of 1716, they rested. Father Margil was not with them, but he miraculously regained his health, and had arrived shortly after the Nacogdoches Mission was opened. When early spring arrived, he and Captain Ramon, their military leader, went to the Natchittos (Natchitoches) Tribe at present Natchitoches, Louisiana, to build a mission; they were told by local Indians that the French were on the island in the middle of the Red River out from present city of Natchitoches. So the Spanish backtracked about sixteen miles east to the Adais Tribe, who welcomed them, and they built the Mission Los Adais. This outpost would soon grow into a one hundred man presidio (fort) and it would become the first capitol of Texas.
This second year, not only did they build Mission Los Adais near present Robeline, Louisiana but also Delores Mission below present San Augustine, Texas. In little under one year, six Missions were in place and operating.
The first three missions to the west and the twenty-five man fort were short lived and closed by the King in 1732, leaving, one of the original four 1716 missions at Nacogdoches, plus the mission below present San Augustine and the one at present Robeline, Louisiana (then Spanish Texas.) These remained until 1773. They would have deep roots in the red clay hills of East Texas, just as their Creole Hispanic descendants do to this day. Hundreds of these descendants still live around central east Texas and western Louisiana.
Finally, in 1773, when all Spanish facilities in East Texas were closed, all citizens were told to leave their homes in East Texas and move to San Antonio. Most of those who did leave eventually returned to Spanish East Texas after a four-year ordeal. First, they returned to the old Mission complex at Nacogdoches and some, such as the Del Rio Family went back to Western Louisiana where their descendants remain at Spanish Lake, E’Barb, Zawelie, Natchitoches, Cane River, Robeline and the surrounding countryside.
After Spanish rule, Texas became Mexican for a short, tumultuous period. Then after the battle at Nacogdoches took place in 1832, all their soldiers were ejected out of East Texas. And when, four years later, Sam Houston overthrew the Hispanic yolk off of all Texans, thousands of Anglos flooded into the entire state. These became the new masters.
And this is how the great state of Texas has grown from a tiny entrada of seventy- five people that moved to East Texas in 1716.
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