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The history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 online

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three centuries, have been maintained in constant and peaceable subjection,
without giving fuU employment to the genius and reflection of the legislator.
I ascribe all the merit to the Council of the Indies, that supreme tribunal,
where all violations of the laws, and all abuses of authority in Spanish America,
are judged, and from which all the regulations, all the decrees relating to the
government of the colonies, proceed. Europe does not furnish an example of
another tribunal whose decisions have been, during three centuries, so luminous
and wise as those which have resulted, and still continue to result from the
deliberations of this. ("Travels in South America," from 1801 to 1804, by
F. Depons, who resided twenty-two years in South America.)

To this council, one of the most important of the monarchy, for its dignity
and power, is granted the supreme administration of all the Spanish domains
in America. It was established by Ferdinand, in 1511, and received a more
perfect form under Charles V. in 1624. Its jurisdiction embraces ecclesiastical,
civil, military, and commercial affairs. It is thence emanate all the laws
relative to the government and policy of the colonies, which must be approved
by two-thirds of the members before being, published in the name of the king.
It confers all the offices whose nomination is reserved to the crown. Every
person employed in America, from the viceroy to the least officer, is subject to
its authority. It examines the conduct, recompenses the services, and punishes
the misdemeanors. They lay before it all the propositions, and all the public
and secret memoirs sent from America, as well as all the plans of administra-
tion, police, and commerce proposed for the colonies. From the first establish-
ment of this council the constant object of the Catholic kings has been to main-
tain its authority, and to give to it, from time to time, new prerogatives that
might render it formidable to all their subjects in the new world. To the wise
regulations and vigilance of this honorable tribunal, may be attributed, in a
great measure, what remains of public virtue and order in a country where so
many circumstances conspire to disorder and corruption. '

As the king is supposed to preside at the Council of the Indies, this tribunal
is always held at .the place where the court has its residence. There was
another tribunal required to regulate the affairs of commerce, which demanded
the immediate inspection of superiors. They established it, the year 1501, at
Seville, whose port was the only one that had intercourse with the new world.
It was called Casa de la Oontratacion. It is at the same time an office of com-
merce and a court of justice. In the first of these qualities it takes cognizance


of all that relates to the commerce of Spain with America ; and determines the
merchandise that must be imported into the colonies, and has the inspection of
that which Spain receives in return. It decides the departure of the fleets,
the freight, and the size of the vessels, their equipment, and their destination.
As a court of judicature it judges all affairs, civil, commercial, and criminal,
which take place in consequence of the commercial interests between Spain
and America. In either kind they cannot appeal from its decisions, except to
the Council of the Indies.

Such is a sketch of the system of government adopted by Spain for its colo-
nies in America. (Richer.)

Note (z), page 97.

The following extracts, taten from an article by General Jas. S. Brisbin,
U. S. A., entitled "Indian Bows and Arrows," published in a periodical, will
give an idea of the Indian bow, and of the force with which it sends an arrow.

"The Sioux and Crows make the best bows of all the Indians of the West.
The Sioux bow is about four feet long, one and a half inches wide, and an inch
thick at the middle. It tapers from the centre or grasp towards each end, and
is but half an inch wide and half an inch thick at the ends. When unstrung a
good bow is perfectly straight, and, if properly seasoned and made, will always
retain its elasticity and straightness.

' ' All bows differ in length and strength, being gauged for the arms of those
who are to use them. A white man would, until he learned the sleight of it,
find himself unable to bend even the weakest war-bow. A white man can
send an arrow as far and as deep as an Indian. I once had an officer, named
Belden, who had lived twelve years with the Indians, and he could shoot an
arrow into a buffalo while running, so that the point would come out on the
opposite side. He would also plunge an arrow into a beast so that it dis-
appeared. The power of an Indian bow can be better understood when it is
known that the most powerful revolver will not send a ball through a buffalo.
Belden said he had seen a bow throw an arrow five hundred yards, and I,
myself, have seen one discharged entirely through a board an inch thick.

"The Sioux and Cheyenne bows are made strong on the back by a layer of
sinew glued to the wood. This sinew, as well as the bow-string, is taken from
the back of the buffalo. It starts at the hump, and runs along the spinal
column to the tail, and is about six feet in length. The surface of the bow is
made flat, and then roughened with a file or stone, the sinew being dipped in
hot glue and laid on the wood. The sinew is then lapped at the ends and on
the middle or grasp of the bow. The string is attached while fresh, twisted,
and left to dry on the bow. The whole outside of the wood and sinew is next
covered with a thick solution of glue, and the bow is done.

' ' The Crow Indians make bows out of elk-horn. To do so, they take a large
horn or prong, and saw slices off each side of it ; these slices are then filed or
rubbed down until the flat sides fit nicely together, when they are glued and
wrapped at the ends. Four slices make a bow, it being jointed in the middle.
To make it secure, another slice is laid on the bow at the grasp, where it is


glued fast. The whole is then filed down until it is smooth and perfectly pro-
portioned, when the white bone is ornamented, carved, and painted. Nothing
can exceed the beauty of these bows, and it takes an Indian about three months
to make one. They are very rare and expensive, and Indians do not sell
them. Mr. Belden had a very fine elk-horn bow, which he had paid an Indian
thirty-two dollars to make. The elk-horn bow is so stiff that it is almost im-
possible to bend it ; but after some practice it can be bent with apparent ease,
and made to send an arrow four hundred yards.

" In travelling, the Indians carry the bow in a sheath attached to the arrow-
quiver, and the whole is slung to the back by a belt of elk or buckskin, which
crosses the breast diagonally, and is fastened to the ends of the quiver. The
quiver and bow-sheath are generally made of the skin of an ox or some wild
animal, and is tanned with the hair on. The quiver is ornamented with tas-
sels, fringe, or buckskin, and the belt across the breast is painted or worked
with beads. Each Indian has his sign or name on his belt, bow, or sheath."

In connection with this account of modern Indian bows, it may not be out of
place to say something of the most ancient Greek bows. It appears, from the
account of Ulysses's bow, in the twenty-first book of Homer's Odyssey, that
the best and most elegant bows were made of horn, and that the test of skill
and strength was to send an arrow through a number of rings placed at inter-
vals in a straight and horizontal line.

Penelope goes to the armory to get the bow.

There from the column, where aloft it hung,
Beached, in its splendid case, the bow unstrung.

# # *»# # * * #

She then proceeds, attended by her train, to the banquet hall.

Behind, her train the polished coffer brings,
Which held the alternate brass and silver rings.

She then tells the suitors : —

Who first Ulysses's wondrous bow shall bend,
And through twelve ringlets the fleet arrow send,
Him will 1 follow and forsake my home.

Telemachus then arranges the rings.

A trench he opened ; in a line he placed
The level axes, and the points made fast.

Then Telemachus, having failed to bend the bow, Leiodes, the priest, tries.

With tender hands the stubborn horn he strains,
The stubborn horn resisted all his pains.

Finally Ulysses takes the bow and essays it, and then shoots.

One hand aloft displayed
The bending horns^ and one the string essayed,
From his essaying hand the string let fly,
Twanged short and sharp like the shrill swallow's cry.

Now sitting os he was, the cord he drew,
Through every ringlet levelling his view,



Then notched the shaft, relensed, and gave it wing j

The whizzing arrow vanished from the string,

Sung on direct, and threaded every ring.

The solid gate its fury scarcely bounds j

Pierced through and through the solid gate resounds.

In Book IV. of the Iliad, Pallas counsels the warlike Pandarus, for strength
renowned, to shoot Menelaus.

He heard, and madly at the motion pleased.

His polished bow with hasty rashness seized.

'Twas formed of horii^ and smoothed with artful toil,

A mountain goat resigned the shining spoil.

Who, pierced long since, beneath his arrow bled ;

The st&tely quarry on the cliffs lay dead,

And sixteen palms his brow's large honors spread ;

The workmen joined and shaped the bended horns.

And beaten gold each taper point adorns.

The bow which the king of the Macrobian Ethiopians sent to Cambyses was
so strong that, of all the Persians, only Smerdis, the brother of Cambyses,
could bend it, and then only the breadth of two fingers. The message of the
Ethiopian to the Persian was : The»king of Ethiopia sends this counsel to the
king of Persia — When his subjects shall be able to bend this bow with the
same ease that I do, then, with a superiority of numbers, he may venture to
attack the Macrobian Ethiopians.* When he had finished, he unbent the
bow, and placed it in the hands of the Ichthofagi, emissaries of Cambyses.
(Herodotus, Thalia, xxi.) ^

Note (^3), page 113.

Captain Howard Hansbury, U. S. A., in the report of his expedition to
Salt Lake, gives the following in regard to an interview he had with a band of
Sioux Indians on the main fork of the Laramie River.

' ' There was one circumstance, however, that attracted my attention in this
interview with these untutored sons of the forest, more than any other, and
that was the perfection and precision to which they appear to have reduced a
system of purely arbitrary and conventional signs, by which, all over this vast
region, intercourse, though of a limited character, may be held b6tween tribes
who are perfect strangers to each other's tongue. Major Bridger, who wasper-
.sonally known to many of our visitors, and to all of them by the repute of his
numerous exploits, was seated among us. Although intimately acquainted with
the languages of the Crows, Blackfeet, and most of the tribes west and north-
west of the Rocky Mountain chain, he was unable to speak to either the Sioux

* "The Macrobian [long-lived] Ethiopians, who inhabit that part of Libya which
lies to the Southern Ocean." (Herodotus.)

Ethiopian is a name that anciently was given to dark-colored people. The Arabs
were called Ethiopians. Zippora, daughter of the Midian priest Jethro, and wife of
Moses, was an Ethiopian.


or Cheyennes in their own language or that of any tribe which they could un-
derstand. Notwithstanding this, he held the whole circle for more than an
hour, perfectly enchained, and evidently most deeply interested in a oonversa/-
tion and narrative, the^ whole of which was carried on without the utterance of
a single word. The simultaneous exclamations of surprise or interest, and the
occasional bursts of hearty laughter, showed that the whole party perfectly un-
derstood not only the theme, but the minutias of the pantomime exhibited be- .
fore them. I looked on with close attention, but the signs to me were for the
most part altogether unintelligible. Upon after inquiry, 1 found that this lan-
guage of signs is universally understood by all the tribes."

Note (4), page 123.

' ' The country around Guyamas for a semicircle of one hundred miles is a
blasted, barren desert, entirely destitute of wood, water, or grass, producing
only cacti, and a stunted growth of mesquit. The water at Guyamas is all
procured from wells, and has a brackish, unpleasant taste, and generally causes
temporary diseases with those unaccustomed to its use. From Guyamas we
passed over this hard, barren country to Hermosillo, the principal town of So-
nera, and one of the most beautiful cities in the northern part of Mexico, if not
on the whole continent of America. The distance is a fraction over one hun-
dred miles, through a plain bounded by wild, desolate, and rugged mountains,
destitute of wood, grass, or running water.

The city of Hermosillo is situated on the Sonora River, in the valley of Hor-
casitas, about sixty miles from the Gulf of California. This valley is about four
miles wide at this place, and continues a southwestern course to the Gulf. The
soil is very productive.

I learned at this time, June, 1854, that Colonel Gray, the surveyor of the
Texas Railroad Company, had come down as low as Altar in Sonora. I imme-
diately made up a company of Mexicans and Americans for the purpose of ex-
ploring the Gulf of California above the line of 3 1° north latitude, where it was
then proposed our purchase should strike the Gulf of California. I started from
Hermosillo with a company of fifteen men and twenty-two animals, well armed
and provisioned for the journey. On arriving at Altar, latitude 30° 45', we
learned that Gray had been there and made observations. . . . Colonel
Gray had gone to Sonoita, about a hundred and fifty miles above Altar, to
which place we continued, where we learned he had made an exploration of
the coast and gone on to California.

We followed Gray's trail down to the coast, a distance of about fifty miles
over the Pinaceta Mountains, and then through about fifteen or twenty miles of
sand-hills to the beach. There is neither fi-esh water, wood, grass, nor vegeta-
tion of any kind here, nothing but a desert of sand-hills as far as the eye can
reach up and down the Gulf. The desert extends at least two hundred and
fifty miles- along the coast, by about twenty-five or thirty miles wide. There
is no vestige of a port. The channel of the Gulf is on the I^ower California
side. We travelled along this miserable shore, over these interminable sand-


hills (having no grass for our animals and nothing but the brackish salty water,
obtained by digging wells in the sand along the sea-shore), for a week, when we
reached the mouth of the Colorado Kiver. The mouth of the river is worse
than the shore of the Gulf, if such a thing could be possible, as the land is sub-
ject to overflow for many miles around, s"d is all cut up with sloughs and back-
water. This character of country prevails until within four or five miles of the
junction of the Gila and Colorado rivers, frequently overfliiwed, and conse-
quently sandy and barren." (Charles D. Posten's narrative in J. Ross Browne's
" Tour through Arizona and Sonora.")

Note (S), page 180.

Old Olancho was on or near the river Olancho, a lower confluent of the Eio
Guayape, which is the same as the Patook, that empties into the Caribbean
Sea, about midway between Cape Honduras and Cape Gracias a-Dios. Wm.
V. Wells, who visited Honduras in 1854, and is the author of " Explorations
and Adventures in Honduras, "gives an interesting account of Honduras, from
which I extract the following in regard to Olancho Antiquo : —

" We arrived at dark at the estate of La Herradura or Horseshoe. Among
the legends of Olancho is that from which this hacienda received its name. Don
Ignacio related that in the days of his ancestors, gold must have been plentier
than iron, and in proof of its abundance, that a golden horseshoe was found on
the estate.

Early on the following morning our little cavalcade swept rapidly away
from the hacienda. At a distance of ten or twelve miles out of our path stood
a range of mountains, the loftiest peak of which, known as the Boqueron or
Great Mouth, had, according to tradition, opened, and destroyed the ancient
city [Olancho Antiquo]. A huge rent resembling the place of a land-slide was
visible, and where an opening in the dense forest permitted, could be seen im-
mense rocks tumbled about in dire confusion as by some great convulsion of

The great wealth of Olancho in olden time had centred at the ancient town,
which was once a sort of local emporium of fashion and luxury. Juarros names
Diego de Alvarado as the founder of San Jorje de Olancho in 1630.

Comparing all statements, traditionary and others, T was doubtful whether
Olancho Viego (old) had been overwhelmed by a volcano or a land-slide. But
though there are no evidences of volcanic eruptions on the Atlantic side of
Honduras, I was inclined to the former, having from the hills near Jutecalpa
observed the mountain ridge immediately overlooking its site, and on clear days
distinctly seen the chasm, possibly an ancient crater, whence had issued the

Within a mile of the ruins we came to a jungle, broken with deep pits, fallen
trees, and climbing parasites, passing laboriously through which we at length
reached the object of our search. The town could never have been a large
one, probably not containing more than three or four thousand inhabitants. A
more desolate spot could not well be imagined. I could discern only occasion-


ally traces of adobe houses, once clustering in neighborly fraternity ; but the
winds had scattered far and wide the very dust to which they crumbled. A
few square stones, resembling hearth-stones, suggested yet sadder thoughts. A
scanty vegetation had overgrown the desolate waste.

We fastened the animals to a tree, and penetrated into what appeared to have
been the plaza, and a heap of crumbled adobe denoted the site of the church.
We proceeded cautiously towards the foot of the mountain. The scene in-
creased in strangeness as we advanced. Here and there grew still the jocoral,
proffering in vain the domestic gourd, or drinking-cup, and the tall guacal de-
pending its giant calabash, or washing tub, where the voice of the lavadera
had long been hushed in silence. One lofty ceiba upon which entwined
the white and red bell-flowers of the creeping liananes stood like a queen,
proud and sorrowful on the field where her race had fallen. The few other
trees, stunted and ugly, seemed to stare desolately at each other ; and upon
one protruding leafless branch sat an old monkey, a wandering native of the

There were no evidences of scoria or volcanic substances, or if any existed,
they had become covered with the loam formed by accumulation of leaves and
the annual washings from above. The steep mountain side before us, up which
there appeared no path among the matted thicket, forbade our attempting an
ascent to the summit ; but from below there seemed to have been either a sud-
den and awful land-slide (a conjecture favored by the surface of bare rock
down the chasm) or an ancient crater existed at the top. The ashes mentioned
in the commonly received narration consisted probably of the dust raised by
the crushing to pieces of dried mud houses — adobes.

How Olancho Antiquo was destroyed is a matter of conjecture ; but that a
thriving and well-located town once existed there, is beyond dispute. It is
generally believed much gold lies buried beneath the ruins, but no one is valor-
ous enough to seek it. Oblivion has thrown her mantle over the place, and
only exaggerated monkish legends remain to tell of its former existence.

The sun was in the west when we remounted, and left the forbidding precincts
of Olancho Viego. The nearest hacienda was that of Penuare, to reach which
we were obliged to cross the Kio de Olancho, and to traverse some ten miles
of dark woods with an uncertain path. The river of Olancho, which winds
rather romantically around the base of El Boqueron, takes its rise towards
Manto, and empties into the Guayape half way between Catacamas and Jute-

Note (6), page 182.

' ' I preserve the Spanish designation in order that the reader may not con-
found this country with the continent in general, which they often call 2'erre-
ferme," firm land or continent.

The kingdom of Tierra-Firme commences on the north at the river of Da-
rien, continues by Nombre de Dios, Bocas del Toro, Bahia de I'Amirante. It
is bounded on the west by the river de los Dorandos and the North Sea. To-
wards the South Sea it extends from Funta Garda in the province of Costa Rica,


and continues by Punta de Mariatos and Morto de Puescas as far as the Gulf
of Darien from whence it stretches along the southern coast, and by Puerto de
Pinas and Morro Quemado as far as the Bay of St. Boneventure. Its length,
from east to west, is one hundred and eighty leagues, although in following the
north coast it is more than two hundred and thirty on the north side. Its
width, from north to south, is that of the Isthmus of Panama, which embraces
the province of Panama and a part of that of Darien. The isthmus is gene-
rally twenty leagues in width ; there are places where it is but fourteen ; but
it widens towards Choco and towards Sitaron, as well as on the side of the
western part of the province of Veragua, where it is probably twenty leagues
in width from one sea to the other. This kingdom contains two provinces,
Panama and Darien. Some geographers give to it that of Veragua ; but it
belongs now [1 775] to the Audiencia of Guatimala.

Panama. — The towns, burghs, villages, and dwellings of the province of
Panama are situated on the plains which are along the sea-shore. The rest of
its territory is cut up with mountains which the inclemency of the air and
sterility render uninhabitable.

The towns are Panama, which is the capital of the province and the metro-
polis of the kingdom, Porto Bello, San lago de Nata de los Cavalleros, and
Los Santos.

Panama is situated on the isthmus of the same name, near a beach bathed
by the waves of the South Sea. It is in 8° 57' north latitude. The name
which they have given it is taken from the language of the ancient inhabitants,,
and means place abounding in fish, because there was there much fish, and
the Indians had built there a multitude of fishermen's huts. The Spaniards
settled a colony therein 1518. In 1520 it obtained the name of town, and in
a short time became very flourishing, but in 1670 it was pillaged and burned by
English pirates. The Spaniards rebuilt it in the place which it now occupies ;
it is distant a league and a half from its ancient site. Quite near its walls on
the north side is a hill which they call Ancon. It rises more than a hundred
toises [600 feet] above the plain.

The port of Panama is formed in the road itself, and is " covered with" a
number of islands, the principal of which are Havo, Puerco and Flamencos ;
the anchorage is at the middle one, whence it takes its name. It is three
leagues from the town, and the vessels have nothing to fear there.

It is in this town that the flotilla of Peru lands its treasure ; it serves also as
the entrepot for the merchandise which ascends the river Chagres. At nearly
all times of the year strangers arrive at Panama. Some come from Spain to
pass to the ports of the South Sea ; others return from the same ports to return
to Europe. Besides these advantages there is another at Panama, which is the
pearl fishery. It is carried on chiefly at the islands in its gulf, principally at
those of Koi and Tubago. Nearly all the inhabitants employ negroes in this
valuable fishery. The method is the same as that which they follow in the
Gulf of Persia and at Cape Comorin. The pearls of the Gulf of Panama are
generally of a very fine water, and a very considerable size. The greatest
quantity passes to Lima and the rest of Peru ; they send a few to Europe.

They formerly got gold from the mines of Tierra Firme, which much


increased the wealth of Panama, but they have nearly entirely abandoned

Porto-Bello owes it origin to its good port. This town is situated upon the

Online LibraryBarnard ShippThe history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 → online text (page 63 of 75)