at Robeline, Louisiana, seem to take a measure of pleasure
in pointing out that the first Texas capital of Texas stands on a
blacktop road a few miles east of town.
The site is Los Adaes,
and it was indeed a Texas capital -- the colonial capital of Spanish
Texas from 1729 to 1773. The fact that Texas has allowed one its capitals
to remain in Louisiana intrigues a considerable number of folks.
In recent years, Louisiana has invested a lot of money in Los
Adaes, making it an excellent place to brush up on your early
Spanish Texas history.
The site dates back to the l700s when Father Francisco Hidalgo, a
Franciscan missionary from New Spain (now Mexico), urged the French
governor of Louisiana to establish a post near East
Texas. He knew that such an action would alert New Spain and cause
the Spanish government to reestablish previously closed Spanish military
posts and Franciscan missions.
The founding of Natchitoches in 1774 by Frenchman St. Denis and the
construction of Fort St. Jean Baptiste had the predicted effort. In
1716, the Spanish established six missions and one fort in East
Texas. The easternmost mission, San Miguel, was built among the
Adaes Indians, only 15 miles from the French fort.
An attack on Mission San Miguel, ordered by Louisiana governor Bienville
during the French-Spanish hostilities of 1719, alarmed the Spanish
and they built a new fort to counter any further French intrusion
into Spanish territory.
As a result, the Presidio Nuestra Senora del Pilar de los Adaes (Fort
of Our Lady of Pilar at the Adaes) was surrounded by a hexagonal stockade
with three bulwarks. Inside the walls were a chapel, guard house,
barracks, wells, blacksmith shop, and powderhouse. Corrals, service
buildings and the dwellings of the Indians and the soldiersą families
were located outside the fort.
In 1729, Spain designated Los Adaes as the capital of the province
of Texas and the official residence of its governor. A house was built
for him and Los Adaes remained the seat of government for the province
during the next 44 years.
The 100 soldiers stationed at Los
Adaes were Mexican cavalrymen who defended the mission and escorted
the governor and missionaries on their travels. The soldiers also
doubled as farmers and herdsmen.
Except for one minor raid by the French upon Los
Adaes, relations between the Spanish and French were, as a matter
of necessity, friendly. Although Spain prohibited trade with the French,
the latter sought it and took advantage of supply shortages at Los
Adaes. An illegal trade soon flourished between the fort and Natchitoches.
This commerce became so important that Natchitoches suffered a recession
when Los Adaes closed
For many years, Los
Adaes was simply a place in the woods marked by a monument erected
by the women of Robeline.
Today, however, the location has an excellent archeology workshop,
an interpretive complex, an overlook, and an outline of Presidio Los
Adaes. Texas visitors should be forewarned
that Louisiana residents still enjoy having Texas'
first capital sitting in their midst.
22-28, 2002 column
column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(Bob Bowman is a former president of the East Texas Historical
Association and the author of 28 books on East Texas history and folklore.
He lives in Lufkin.)