Zebulon Montgomery Pike.

Exploratory travels through the western territories of North America : comprising a voyage from St. Louis, on the Mississippi, to the source of that river, and a journey through the interior of Louisiana, and the north-eastern provinces of New Spain online

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Online LibraryZebulon Montgomery PikeExploratory travels through the western territories of North America : comprising a voyage from St. Louis, on the Mississippi, to the source of that river, and a journey through the interior of Louisiana, and the north-eastern provinces of New Spain → online text (page 30 of 39)
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court of appeals, in which the Vice-roy presides, and has two votes ; it is
intended as a check on his power and authority. The administrations
are governed by intendants, who are officers of high rank, and always

The longitude given is from the meridian of Paris. In the general
view of New Spain, I shall take some notice of the manners, modes,


force, &c., of the Vice-royalty ; but as I do not pretend to be correctly
informed respecting this quarter of the kingdom, and there being so
many persons who have given statements on these heads, I shall confine
my remarks principally to the internal provinces through which I passed,
and on which I made my observations.


New Mexico lies between 30° 30' and 440" N. latitude, and 104° and
108° W. longitude, and is the most northern province of the Kingdom of
New Spain. It extends on the north-west into an undefined limit ; it is
bounded on the north and east by Louisiana, on the south by Biscay and
Cogquilla, and on the west by Senora and California. Its length is
unknown, its breadth may be one hundred miles, but the inhabited part is
not more than four hundred miles in length, and fifty in breadth, lying
along the River del Norte, from the 31" 30' to the 37° N. latitude. But
in this space there is a desert of more than two hundred and fifty

Air and Climate. — No person accustomed to reside in the temperate
climate of the 36° and ^iT N. latitude in the United States, can form
any idea of the piercing cold experienced in that parallel in New Mexico.
But the air is serene, not subject to damps or fogs, as it rains but
once a year and some years not at all : it is a mountainous country, and
the grand dividing ridges which separate the waters of the Rio del Norte
from those of California, bordering it on the line of its western- limits,
and which are covered in some places with eternal snows, give a keen-
ness to the air, which would never be calculated on in a temperate

Timber and Plains. — The cotton-tree is the sole production of this
province, except some scrubby pines and cedars at the foot of the mount-
ains ; the former borders the banks of the Rio del Norte, and its
tributary streams. All the rest of the country presents to the eye a
barren wild of poor land, scarcely to be improved by culture, and appears
only capable of producing a scanty subsistence for the animals, which
live on a few succulent plants and herbage.


Mines, Minerals, and Fossils. — There are no mines known in the
province, except one of copper, situated in a mountain on the western
side of the Rio del Norte in latitude 34° N. It is wrought, and
produces twenty thousand mule loads of copper annually, furnishing that
article for the manufactories of nearly all the internal provinces. It con-
tains gold, but not quite in sufficient quantity to pay for its extraction,
consequently it has not been pursued. There is near Santa Fe in some
of the mountains a stratum of talc, which is so large and flexible as to
admit of being subdivided into thin flakes, of which the greatest propor-
tion of the houses in Santa F^ and all the villages to the north have their
window-lights made.

Rivers. — The River del Norte takes its rise in the mountains, which
give birth to the head waters of California, the Plate, Pierre, Jaune of the
Missouri, and Arkansaw of the Mississippi, in 40° N. latitude, and
110° W. longitude (from Paris). Its course from its source to the Gulph
of Mexico may be by its meanders estimated at two thousand miles ;
passing through the Provinces of New Mexico, part of Biscay, Cogquilla,
and New San Ander, where it falls into the Gulph in 26° N. latitude. It
cannot in any part of its course be termed a navigable stream, owing to
sand bars in the flat country, and mountains in the upper part, with which
its course is interrupted ; but small boats might ascend as high as the
Presidio de Rio Grande, in Cogquilla, and it might be navigable for
canoes in various parts of its course. Even in the mountains above Santa
Fe it afforded amply sufficient water for that species of navigation, and
more than appeared to be flowing in its bed in the plains. This must be
attributed to the numerous canals and the dry sandy soil, through which
the river takes its course, and where much of the water that flows from
the mountains is absorbed and lost. In the Province of New Mexico it
is called the Rio del Norte, below it is termed the Rio Grande, but in
no instance did I hear it called the Rio Bravo, as many of our ancient
maps designated it. There are also in the limits of this province to the
west, the Rivers San Rafael, San Xavier, River de los Dolores, also de los
Anamas or Nabajos ; all of which unite and form the Great Rio Colorado
of California ; the first two take their sources in the same mountains as the
Rio del Norte, but on the western side.


The River Colorado by its meanders may be about one thousand miles
in length, from its sources to its entrance into the head of the Gulph of
California in the 33° N. latitude. It has been represented to me by
men of information and research, to be navigable for three hundred miles
above the gulph for square rigged vessels.

By this river and the Arkansaw, the best communication might be
established between the two oceans in North America. There are repre-
sented to be various numerous and warlike nations of Indians on its
banks. Through the whole of its course its shores are entirely destitute
of timber, and I was informed that for three hundred miles there was not
a tree ten inches in diameter.

The River Buenaventura empties into the Pacific Ocean to the North
of California in 39° 30' N. latitude, and takes its source in the Sierra
Madre to the north of the Colorado and Del Norte. The Rio Gila heads
opposite to the copper mines, and discharges itself into the Gulph of Cali-
fornia, just below the Colorado in the 33° N. latitude. The Rio
Puerco is a branch of the Rio del Norte, and comes from the north and
joins that river about one hundred miles below the Presidio del Norte.
None of the foregoing streams have the vestige of civilization on their
shores, excepting the Rio del Norte.

Lakes. — I know of no lakes in the province except that of Tampana-
gos, the existence of which I rather look upon as fabulous. It is said to
commence, according to Father Escalante, in the 40° N. latitude, and
to have been explored to the 42° in a north-west direction, when it
enlarged its dimensions, and the discoverer thought proper to return.

Animals. — North Mexico produces deer, elk, buffalo, cabrie, the gris-
ley black bear, and wild horses, all of which are too well known to need
description. •

Population. — Its population is not far short of thirty thousand souls,*
one-twentieth of which may be Spaniards from Europe (or Chapetones) ;
four-twentieths Creoles; five-twentieths Mestis, and the other half civil-
ized Indians.

Chief Town. — The capital is Santa Fe, situated on a small stream
which empties into the Rio del Norte, on the eastern side, at the foot of

* Humboldt makes the population forty thousand two hundred, and that of the
capital three thousand six hundred. Vol. ii. pp. 307 and 317. E.


the mountains which divide the waters of that river from the Arkansaw
and Red rivers of the Mississippi, in 36° N. latitude and 109° W. lon-
gitude. It is of a long, rectangular form, extending about one mile from
east to west on the banks of the creek. In the centre is the public square,
one side of which forms the flank of the soldiers' square, which is closed,
and in some degree defended by round towers in the angles which flank
the curtains ; another side of the square is formed by the palace of the
Governor, his guard-houses, &c. ; another is occupied by the priests and
their suite, and the fourth by the chapitones, who reside in the city. The
houses are generally only one story high, with flat roofs, and have a very
mean appearance on the outside, but some of them are richly furnished,
especially with plate. The secondary cities in the province are Albuquerque
and Passo del Norte ; the latter is the southern city of the province, as
Taos is the most northern. But between the village of Sibilleta and the
Passo, there is a wilderness of near two hundred miles.

Trade and Commerce. — New Mexico carries on a trade direct with
Mexico and Biscay, also with Senora and Sinaloa. It sends out annually
about thirty thousand sheep, tobacco, dressed deer and cabrie skins, some
fur, buffalo robes, salt, and wrought copper vessels of a superior quality.
It receives in return from Biscay and Mexico, dry goods, confectionary,
arms, iron, steel, ammunition, and some choice European wines and liquors.
From Senora and Sinaloa, gold, silver, and cheese. The following articles
sell as stated in this province, which will shew the cheapness of provision,
and the extreme dearness of goods : flour at two dollars per hundred, salt
five dollars the mule load, sheep one dollar each, pork twenty-five dollars
per hundred, beeves five dollars each, wine Del Passo fifteen dollars per
barrel, horses eleven dollars each, mules thirty dollars each ; superfine
cloths twenty-five dollars per yard, fine ditto twenty dollars, linen four
dollars, and all other dry goods in proportion. The journey with loaded
mules from Santa Fe to Mexico and returning takes five months. They
manufacture rough leather, segars, a vast variety and quantity of potter's
ware, cotton, some coarse woolen cloths, and blankets of a superior qual-
ity. All these manufactures are carried on by the civilized Indians, as the
Spaniards think it more honourable to be agriculturists than mechanics.
The Indians likewise far exceed their conquerors in the fecundity and
variety of genius in all mechanical operations.



Agriculture. — New Mexico has the exclusive right of cultivating
tobacco. About two miles above the town of the Passo del Norte is a
bridge over the river, where the road passes to the western side, at which
place is a large canal that takes out an ample supply of water for the pur-
pose of cultivation, which is carried on at this place in as great perfection
as at any I visited in the province. There is a wall bordering the canal
the whole way on both sides to protect it from the animals ; and when it
arrives at the village it is distributed in such a manner that each person
has his fields watered in succession. At this place were as finely cultivated
fields of wheat and other small grain as I ever saw. And also numerous
vineyards, from which were produced the finest wine ever drank in the
country, which was celebrated throughout all the provinces, and was the
only wine used on the table of the commanding general.

They cultivate corn, wheat, rye, barley, rice, and all the common
culinary plants of the same latitude in the United States. But they
are at least a century behind us in the art of cultivation, for notwithstand-
ing the numerous herds of cattle and horses, I have seen them frequently
breaking up whole fields with the hoe. Their oxen draw by the horns
after the French mode* But their carts are extremely awkward and
clumsily made. During the whole of the time we were in New Spain I
never saw one horse in a vehicle of any description, mules being made use
of in carriages, as well as for the purpose of labour.

Antiquities. — On the River St. Francis, a large branch of the Gila
which heads near the copper mines in New Mexico, and discharges itself
into the Red river of California, are the remains of old walls and houses
which are established to be the vestiges of the Mexicans on their route of
emigration from the north-west to the plains of Mexico, where they finally
established themselves. Those walls are of a black cement which increases
in stability with age, and bids defiance to the war of time ; the secret
of its composition is now entirely lost. There are also found at this
place many broken pieces of earthenware which still possesses the glazing
as perfect as when first put on.

Aborigines. — The Kyaways wander on the sources of the Plate, and
are supposed to be one thousand and nine men strong. They possess

* In this they only imitate the parent country. E.


immense herds of horses, and are at war with both the Pawnees and
letans, as well as with the Sioux. They are armed with bows, arrows
and lances, and follow the buffalo. This nation, the letans, and the Utahs
speak the same language.

The Utahs wander on the sources of the Rio del Norte ; they are
supposed to be two thousand warriors strong, are armed in the same man-
ner, and pursue the same game, as the Kyaways, but are a little more
civilized, having more connection with the Spaniards, with whom however
they are frequently at war. They were at this time at peace with them,
but waging war with the letans.

A battle was fought between them and the letans, in September,
1806, near the village of Taos; there were about four hundred combatants
in each army, but were separated by a Spanish Alcalde riding out to the
field of battle. There were eight or ten killed on each side. The Utahs
gave all the horses they had taken to the Spaniards. This shews, in a
strong degree, the influence the Spaniards have over these Indians.

The Nanahaws are situated to the north-west of Santa Fe, and are
frequently at war with the Spaniards. They are supposed to be two thou-
sand warriors strong, and are armed in the same manner as the two pre-
ceding nations. This nation, as well as all others to the west of them,
bordering on California, speak the language of the Apaches and Lee
Panis, who are in a line with them to the Atlantic.

The Apaches are a nation of Indians, who extend from the Black
Mountains in New Mexico to the borders of Cogquilla, keeping the front-
iers of three provinces in a continual state of alarm and dread, and
employing nearly two thousand dragoons to escort the caravans, protect
the villages, and revenge the various attacks they are continually making
on the subjects of His Catholic Majesty. They formerly extended from
the entrance of the Rio Grande to the Gulph of California, and have waged
a continual warfare with the exception of short truces, with the Spaniards,
from the time they pushed their conquests back from Mexico into the
internal provinces. It is extremely difficult to say what their numbers are
at the present day, but they must be extremely reduced by their long and
constant hostilities, together with the wandering and savage life they lead
on the mountains, which is so injurious to an increase of population, and
in which they are extremely pinched by famine.


At the commencement of their warfare, the Spaniards used to take
their prisoners and make slaves of them, but finding that their unconquer-
able attachment to liberty. made them surmount every difficulty and dan-
ger to return to their mountains, they adopted the practice of sending
them to Cuba. This the Apaches no sooner learned than they refused
to give or receive quarter, and in no instance have there been any taken
since that period, except when surprised asleep, or knocked down and
overpowered. Their arms are the bow and arrow, and the lance. The
bow forms two semicircles, with a shoulder in the middle; the back of it is
entirely covered with sinews, which are laid on in so nice a manner, by
the use of some glutinous substance, as to be almost imperceptible; this
gives great force to the elasticity of the weapon. Their arrow is more
than the cloth yard of the English, being three feet and a half long, the
upper part consisting of some light rush or cang, into which is inserted a
shaft of about one foot, made of some hard seasoned light wood; the point
is of iron, cane, or stone, and when the arrow enters the body, in attempt-
ing to extract it the shaft comes out of its socket and remains in the
wound. With this weapon they shoot with such force as to go through
the body of a man, at the distance of one hundred yards ; and an officer
told me, that in an engagement with them one of their arrows struck his
shield and dismounted him in an instant. Their other weapon of offence is
a lance of fifteen feet in length, which with both hands they charge over
their heads, managing the horse principally with their knees. With this
they are considered as an over-match for the Spanish dragoons single
handed, but for want of the tactic can never stand the charge of a body
that cuts in concert : they all have the shield. Some few are armed with
guns and ammunition, taken from the Spaniards. These, as well as the
archers, generally march to war on foot, but the lance men are always

Numerous are the anecdotes I heard related of their personal bravery,
and the spirit of their partisan corps. Not long before I passed throuo-h,
as a cornet with sixty-three dragoons was passing between New Mexico
and Biscay, he was surrounded by about two hundred Apaches infantry,
and instead of charging through them (as it was on the plain) he ordered
his dragoons to dismount and fight with their carabines, by which means
he and his whole party fell a sacrifice. Malgares related an instance when


he was marching with one hundred and forty men, and was attacked by a
party of Apaches, both horse and foot, who continued the fight for four
hours. Whenever the Spanish dragoons made a general charge the
Apaches cavalry would retreat behind their infantry, who met the Span-
iards with a shower of arrows, on v/hich they immediately retreated, and
even the gallant Malgares spoke of his cavalry breaking their infantry as a
thing not to be thought of. How quickly would one full squadron of our
troops have put them to flight and cut them to pieces ? Malgares assured
me that if the men had seconded the efforts and bravery of the Indian chief-
tain, they must have been defeated and cut to pieces ; that in various
instances he rallied his men and brought them up to the charge, and when
they flew, retired indignantly in the rear. Seeing Malgares very actively
engaged in forming and bringing up the men, he rode out a-head of his
party and challenged him to single combat with his lance. This my friend
refused as he said the chief was one of the stoutest men he knew, carried a
remarkably heavy lance, and rode a very fine charger; but one of his corpo-
rals enraged to see them thus braved by the savage, begged permission
to meet the " infidel." His officer refused his request, and ordered him
to keep his ranks ; but he reiterating his request, his superior in a pas-
sion told him to go.

The Indian chief had turned his horse to join his party, but seeing
his enemy advancing, turned, and giving a shout, met him at full speed.
The dragoon thought to parry the lance of his antagonist, which he in
part effected, but not throwing it quite high enough, it entered his neck in
front and came out at the nape, when he fell dead to the ground, and his
victorious enemy gave a shout of victory, in which he was joined by all
his followers. This enraged the Spaniards to such a degree that they
made a general charge, in which the Indian cavalry again retreated not
withstanding the entreaties of their gallant leader. In another instance a
small smoke was discovered on the prairie, and three poor savages were
surrounded by one hundred dragoons, and ordered to lay down their arms.
They smiled at the officer's demand, and asked him if he could suppose that
men who had arms in their hands would ever consent to become slaves ?
He being loth to kill them, held a conference for an hour, when finding that
his threats had as little effect as his entreaties, he ordered his men to attack
them at a distance, keeping out of the reach of their arrows, and firing


at them with their carabines, which they did, the Indians never ceasing to
resist as long as life remained.

In a truce which was once held, a captain was ordered to treat with
some of the bands ; he received their deputies with hauteur, and they
could not come to terms ; the truce was broken, the Indians retreated to
their fastnesses in the mountains. In a day or two this same officer pur-
sued them. They were in a place called the Door in the Mountains,
where only two or three dragoons could enter at a tiine, and there were
rocks and caves on the flanks. Between the Indians secreted them-
selves, until a number of the Spaniards had come in, when the Indians
sounded a trumpet, and the attack began and continued on the side
of the Apaches, until the captain fell, when the Indian chief caused
the firing to cease, saying, that "the man who had so haughtily spurned
the proffered peace was now dead," They made prisoner (for once) of
a young officer who during the truce had treated them with great kind-
ness, and sent him home safe and unhurt.

Some of the bands have made temporary truces with the Spaniards,
and received from them twenty-five cents per diem each. These people
hang round the fortifications of the country, drink, shoot, and dissipate
their time ; they are haughty and independent, and great jealousy exists
between theni and the Spaniards. An officer was under trial when I was
in the country for anticipating an attack on his fortress, by attacking the
chiefs of the supposed conspiracy, and putting them to death before they
had time to mature and carry their plan into operation. The decision of
his case I never learnt ; but those savages who have been for some time
around the forts and villages become by far the most dangerous enemies
the Spaniards have when hostile, as they acquire the Spanish language,
manners, and habits, and passing through the populated parts under the
disguise of the civilized and friendly Indians, commit murders and rob-
beries without being suspected. There is in the Province of Cogquilla a
partisan by the name of Ralph, who, it is calculated, has killed more than
three hundred persons. He comes into the town under the disguise of a
peasant, buys provision, goes to the gambling tables and to mass, and
before he leaves the village is sure to kill some person, or carry off a
woman, which he has frequently done. Sometimes he joins travellers on
the road, insinuates himself into their confidence, and takes his opportu-


nity to assassinate them. He has only six followers, and from their
knowledge of the country, their activity, and cunning, he keeps about
three hundred dragoons continually employed. The government has
offered one thousand dollars for his head.

The civilized Indians of the Province of New Mexico consist of what
were formerly twenty-four different bands, the several names of which I
was not able to learn. But the "Keres were one of the most powerful ;
they form at present the population of St. Domingo, St. Philip's and Deis,
and one or two other towns. They are men of large stature, round, full
visage, fine teeth, and appear to be of a gentle, tractable disposition ; they
resemble the Osage more than any nation in my knowledge. Although
they are not the vassals of individuals, yet they may properly be termed
the slaves of the state ; for they are compelled to do military duty, drive
mules, carry loads, or in fact perform any other act of duty or bondage
that the will of the commandant of the district, or any passing military
tyrant, chooses to ordain. I was myself eye-witness of a scene which
made my heart bleed for these poor wretches at the same time that it
excited my indignation and contempt, that they should suffer themselves
with arms in their hands to be beaten and knocked about, by beings no
ways their superiors, unless a small tint of complexion could be supposed
to give that superiority. Before we arrived at Santa Fe, one night we
rested near one of the villages where resided the families of two of our
horsemen. They took the liberty to pay them a visit in the night. Next
morning the whole were called up, and because they refused to testify
against their imprudent companions, several were knocked down from their
horses by the Spanish dragoons with the butt end of their lances ; yet with
the blood streaking down their visage, and arms in their Jiands, they stood
cool and tranquil ! not a frown, not a word of discontent, or palliation
escaped their lips. Yet, what must have been the boiling indignation of

Online LibraryZebulon Montgomery PikeExploratory travels through the western territories of North America : comprising a voyage from St. Louis, on the Mississippi, to the source of that river, and a journey through the interior of Louisiana, and the north-eastern provinces of New Spain → online text (page 30 of 39)