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
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
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
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 in 1773.
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
syndicated 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.)
Adaes by Archie P. McDonald