National Park Service
Kiva, Crown, Crown


The Invaders

The New Mexico: Preliminaries to Conquest

Oñate's Disenchantment

The "Christianization" of Pecos

The Shadow of the Inquisition

Their Own Worst Enemies

Pecos and the Friars

Pecos, the Plains, and the Provincias Internas

Toward Extinction



Chapter 8: Pecos, the Plains, and the Provincias Internas, 1704-1794

The Scourge of Epidemic Disease

Less newsworthy than the Comanche assault of 1748, but more lethal, was an unnamed epidemic that swept New Mexico late that summer. Sixty-eight persons died at Santa Fe between July and September. Father Urquijo was ordered to the villa to help. During his absence, at least fifteen Pecos children expired as well as three single men "without receiving the sacraments because," in the words of Fray Andrés García, "it is the custom of these mission Indians to notify the Father when there is no chance." The bunching of deaths in the Pecos burial books, more-or-less complete for the years 1695-1706 and 1727-1828, reveals major epidemics almost every decade:

1696 (fever)
1728-1729 (measles)
1738 (smallpox, in 18 weeks 26 young children died)
1780-1781 (smallpox)
1800 (smallpox)
1816 (smallpox)

And there were others. Over the years, epidemic disease claimed many more lives at Pecos than did the violent assaults of Plains raiders. [22]

Against the Comanches, hero Codallos had won some and he had lost some. At a junta convened in 1748, the consensus was that this now formidable Plains people, despite their barbarous perfidy, should be permitted to trade at Taos. New Mexicans were not prepared to do without the skins, meat, horses, and captives only the barbarians could supply. Besides, it brought them within the sphere of Christian influence and saved their captives from probable death. [23]

Vélez Cachupín Takes Over

In the spring of 1749, Governor Codallos, praised by Fathers Estremera, Menchero, and Varo for his defense of Pecos, yielded to his successor. Young, full of ambition and not a little impetuous, don Tomás Vélez Cachupín was already in the habit of exaggerating his own merits and the faults of others. Writing to the viceroy after a year in office, Vélez Cachupín claimed that Comanches had killed one hundred and fifty Pecos Indians during the administration of his predecessor, between 1743 and 1749. [24] Picked up by two fervent Franciscans, equally prone to exaggeration and eager to embarrass the governors any way they could, suddenly the Pecos dead exceeded one hundred and fifty, and now at one blow!

Tomás Vélez Cachupín

A Massacre that Never Happened

According to Fathers Juan Sanz de Lezaun and Manuel Bermejo, whose avowed purpose was to defend the persecuted and calumnated church and lay bare the incompetence and malice of New Mexico's governors,

soon after the arrival of Codallos as governor, the Pecos came to ask him for permission to go to the country of the Comanches to prepare buffalo meat. Aware of the great danger and warned by experienced persons, nevertheless, guided by his own self-interest, he granted them the permission. It is assumed that beforehand they did various carpentry jobs for him at his house.

Permission granted, with the proviso that they bring him [buffalo] tongues, almost the entire pueblo of Pecos set out. At a short distance an ambush of Comanches fell on these Pecos. The dead exceeded 150. Few escaped, the reason this pueblo is destitute of people.

Immediately don Manuel Sáenz, lieutenant of the presidio, set out with fifty men, citizens and soldiers. An ambush of these Comanches set out after them and killed ten Spaniards. The rest, some afoot and others on horseback, fled for the pueblo of Pecos. As a result, this fierce enemy has the Spanish troops in such a state that merely on hearing their name all tremble. And for all this, who is to blame but the governors? Not only do they favor the enemy, but when it is time to muster the troops to punish them, they have them diverted to other things in their personal service. They do not punish them because of the interest they have in their trading activities. [25]

There are, no doubt, elements of truth in this tale. The buffalo hunt and the carpentry have a valid ring. The account of Lieutenant Sáenz de Garvisu's chase squares precisely with the pursuit of June 1746. Some of the other stories the two friars told can be verified elsewhere. The Comanches, they said, had sent word early in 1750 that they were coming to Taos to trade. Warned that he should protect Galisteo and Pecos, the impulsive Governor Vélez Cachupín, "carried away by his caprice and greed," headed straight for Taos with all his soldiers. "In an instant the enemy struck Galisteo killing nine or ten Indians." In the Galisteo burial book, there is an entry of December 12, 1749, for eight men killed by Comanches attacking the pueblo. But nowhere is there corroborating evidence that more than a hundred and fifty Pecos died in a cleverly laid Comanche ambush." [26]

In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. Father Menchero had estimated the population of Pecos at 125 families in 1744. Father Francisco de la Concepción González counted everyone in 1750, a total of 449 persons. The discrepancy is not great enough, nor does the 1750 census show an abundance of widows. If indeed "almost the entire pueblo of Pecos" had walked into a Comanche ambush in the 1740s, Father Manuel de San Juan Nepomuceno Trigo, who visited the pueblo as vice-custos in 1750, should have known about it. If he did, his statement in 1754 was a travesty. "The mission is invaded daily by the barbarians," wrote Trigo, "but the Pecos are such valiant warriors that the enemy is always defeated." [27]

Still, the extravagantly heightened story that more than a hundred and fifty Pecos perished at one Comanche blow has persisted. It is the easiest way to explain the demise of the once populous pueblo—easy but erroneous. An example of the mid-century polemics of friars and governors, this exaggeration, suggested by Governor Vélez Cachupín and avidly embellished by the two Franciscans, should be taken for what it was—a blatant piece of propaganda. [28]

diagram of kivas
The kivas of Pecos (not all in use concurrently). Four "guard house kivas" marked H, I, J, K. Kidder, Pecos, New Mexico

The Defense of Pecos and Galisteo

After the assault on Galisteo in December 1749, Governor Vélez Cachupín took the Comanche grudge against Pecos and Galisteo seriously. Like his predecessor, he provided, on paper at least, detachments of fifteen soldiers at each pueblo. The large compound west of the Pecos convento, the so-called "presidio," probably dates from the 1740s and 1750s. Alcalde mayor José Moreno and a squad of soldiers had stood as marriage witnesses at Pecos as early as February 1747, although they may simply have been passing through on patrol. The friars confirmed that Governor Codallos had left troops to guard the pueblo after his heroics there in January 1748. That April, the military-minded Father Menchero wrote of fifteen-man detachments at both Pecos and Galisteo. Like others posted on outlying New Mexico frontiers, these detachments rotated and, like the parent presidio in Santa Fe, rarely if ever mustered at full strength.

Vélez Cachupín, in his letter of March 1750, to the viceroy was the first to mention that he had fortified Pecos and Galisteo "with earthworks (trincheras) and towers (torreones) at the gates." Just what form the earthworks took is difficult to say, but the towers at the gates have been well substantiated at Pecos by archaeologist A. V. Kidder. In the north or main pueblo, he excavated four of them and identified a likely fifth, all "strategically placed" to command the four entrances. He termed them "guardhouse kivas," and he recognized that they were of late construction. But because he surmised that they were entered by a hatchway in the roof, because they were fitted out like kivas, and because they seemed not "to have been mentioned in the early Spanish accounts," Kidder refused to assign them a primarily defensive role. Probably he was right about their ritual significance, albeit secondary. The kiva-like fire pit, deflector, and ventilator simply provided the best heating system for these chambers. These, it would seem, were Vélez Cachupín's defensive torreones. [29]

For the next half-century, until the Spanish settlements took hold at the river ford beyond, the governors guarded the Pecos gateway as best they could. To back up the arms of the Pecos Indians, which in 1752 consisted of 107 fighting men with 3,313 arrows, seventeen lances, four swords, and no cueras, they garrisoned the place sporadically and provided a small arsenal. In 1762, Alcalde mayor Cayetano Tenorio was responsible at Pecos for "1 small campaign cannon, 3 pounds of powder, and 250 musket balls." Somewhat expanded, the Pecos arsenal in 1778 included "18 muskets, 9 pounds of powder, 300 balls, 1 bronze cannon of two-pounder caliber with its carriage and other accessories, 4 balls of grape-shot, ramrod, and wormer." [30]

An 18th-century Spanish escopeta, a light musket widely used on the northern frontier. Brinckerhoff and Faulk, Lancers

Comanches Hurl Themselves at Galisteo

After treating and trading with Comanches at Taos in July 1751 and cautiously accepting their promises of peace, Governor Vélez Cachupín four months later saw his defenses tested by Comanches. The Indian scouts he employed to watch the approaches to Pecos and Galisteo had grown lazy. At dawn on November 3, 1751, without warning, a hell-bent army of three hundred Comanches or more "hurled themselves at the pueblo of Galisteo in an attempt to enter and sack it. The squad of ten soldiers which I had as a precaution there," Vélez reported,

together with the Indians, positioned themselves behind an earth work and fired upon the enemy. They repulsed the assault, killing six and wounding others badly. The enemy made a second attempt, but likewise were repelled. Chastised, they did not renew the attack, but remained an hour in the neighborhood of the pueblo, a musketshot away, firing the sixteen muskets they had and shooting their arrows at the entrance to the earthwork where the squad was. The latter answered their fire. Having achieved nothing except the killing of twelve cows that happened to be outside the pueblo, the enemy withdrew suddenly, as is their custom in such cases.

Vélez Cachupín was furious. "My heart leaped," as he put it, "with an ardent desire to give them a taste of our arms and show them something else than the kindness with which I had treated them and dealt with them at Taos." Taking personal command of the punitive force, the brash young governor caught up with the Comanches on the sixth day, and by his own account handed them such a drubbing, killing a hundred or so and releasing the others after firm but kind words, that they contented themselves with peaceful trade for the remainder of his term. At this time, too, he learned that not all Comanches shared the grudge against Pecos and Galisteo, only certain leaders. [31]

The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception by Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco, a panel from the altar screen of the former 18th-century church of Nambé pueblo. Museum of New Mexico.

Diplomacy of Vélez Cachupín

Despite the nasty things the friar partisans of ex-governor Codallos said about Vélez Cachupín, he, like Vargas before him and Anza after him, seemed to grasp intuitively the key to peace with the raiders: an active personal diplomacy backed by proven prowess in battle and a supply of gifts or trading opportunities. In his instructions to his successor, Vélez cautioned that the heathens would test him to see what manner of man he was. He must go to the fairs at Taos, conveying both confidence and friendship, and he must see to the Comanches' protection from the other tribes while trading, particularly from the Utes who had broken with them late in the 1740s. He must sit down and smoke with them, even "permit their familiarities and take part in their fun at suitable times."

As for the displaced Plains Apaches, the Carlanas, Palomas, Cuartelejos, and Chipaynes, they should also be wooed. During the winter of 1751-1752, three hundred men of these tribes had taken refuge near Pecos. Although the friars baptized and buried some of their young and their infirm, these Apaches camped outside the pueblo and were never counted on Pecos censuses. Viewing them as a ready reserve in the event of Comanche hostility, Governor Vélez Cachupín had succeeded in keeping them there. He had sought to prevent a close alliance between them and the horse-thieving Faraones and Natagés, or Mescaleros. When the men ventured out onto the plains to hunt or rendezvous with relatives, they left their women and children in the safety of Pecos. These Apaches, he noted, made much better plains scouts than the Pueblos.

The natives of Pecos and Galisteo who ably guarded the approaches to their pueblos should be kept alert. To insure the continuation of his successful policies at the eastern gateway, Vélez Cachupín recommended to the next governor that he retain Alcalde mayor Tomás de Sena, "who, because of his kindness, is greatly loved by the Indians. If he should be separated from them," Vélez counseled, "you could not find anyone who would wish to serve in that office." [32]

Marín del Valle Wrecks the Comanche Peace

But his successor did. Eager to put his own stamp on New Mexico affairs, Francisco Antono Marín del Valle, a vain, less bold individual who governed from 1754 to 1760, soon broke Vélez Cachupín's delicate web of alliances. The Apaches left the vicinity of Pecos. The Comanches took to raiding again. And the new alcalde mayor of Pecos and Galisteo went out on campaign.

Don Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco, lured north from El Paso by the offer of an alcaldía mayor, was an "engineer," soldier, merchant, painter, and, most important to Governor Marín, an accomplished map maker. After he had accompanied the governor on his visitation, Miera drew in 1758 an elaborate, illuminated map of the entire kingdom of New Mexico, one of a number he would compile and draw over the next quarter-century. On it, northeast of Pecos and north of the Río Colorado (the Canadian), he sketched a village of tipis. Below it, he wrote the words "tierra de Cumanches," and above it, drew a delightful leaping buffalo. Well to the south, on the west side of the Río Pecos not far from modern Fort Sumner, he labeled another cluster of tipis "Apaches Carlanes." [33]

Francisco Antonio Marín del Valle

While he held the office of alcalde mayor of Pecos and Galisteo between 1756 and 1760, don Bernardo claimed to have gone out on three campaigns against the Comanches. He also tried unsuccessfully to refound old cannon. He stood several times as godfather to Plains and Pecos Indians, as did his wife and his son, don Manuel. Before Governor Marín, his patron, stepped down, Miera painted for him a very special map in color showing New Mexico and "the provinces, enemy and friendly, that surround it." Replaced as alcalde mayor by Marín's successor in 1760, don Bernardo Miera remained in New Mexico for the rest of his life pursuing his varied interests, a prominent citizen who was never quite as prominent as he wished. [34]

French Threat to New Mexico

No problem exercised the governors of New Mexico more during the eighteenth century than defense against the heathen peoples on her borders, unless perhaps it was convincing the bureaucrats in Mexico City and Spain, who did not know a Comanche from a Pecos, how serious it was. It galled them that mere rumors of a few exotic Frenchmen somewhere out on the plains brought a more excited response than ten Apache raids. Diego de Vargas had used vague reports of a French threat in 1695 to win additional military aid for the colony. Other governors too were quick to relay every shadow of a Frenchman, real or imagined.

They were out there, to be sure, trading guns and liquor and working their Indian diplomacy westward from the Illinois country and from the lower Mississippi Valley as well. A real scare came in 1719 when the European War of the Quadruple Alliance and the Valverde expedition to the Arkansas coincided. Although he never saw a Frenchman, the cautious Valverde reported what the friendly Apaches told him about French forts, guns, and milltary advisers among their Pawnee enemies. The next year when Pawnees annihilated the follow up expedition of Lt. Gov. Pedro de Villasur, some of the survivors swore that there had been Frenchmen among their assailants. [35]

Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco

The Mallet Brothers

Thanks to the diplomacy of Étienne Véniard de Bourgmont among the Plains Apaches in 1724, the door to New Mexico lay open. But Bourgmont's return to France, Comanche-Apache warfare, and lingering resentment over the Villasur massacre intervened. Some illicit trade may have got through. For sure, in 1739, when Pierre and Paul Mallet and six or seven companions from the Illinois country dropped down via Taos to Santa Fe, they and their French contraband were cordially welcomed. Two of them, "Petit Jean" and Moreau, decided to stay, becoming Juan Bautista Alarí and Luis María Mona, the first a good citizen and the second an alleged rabble-rouser and sorcerer sentenced to die in the plaza of Santa Fe.

The others, after months of riotous hospitality, returned—several back to Illinois and several down the Canadian, the Arkansas, and the Mississippi to New Orleans. The latter, departing through Pecos late in the spring of 1740, carried a letter from a friend in Santa Fe, don Santiago Roybal, the vicar, to his counterpart in Louisiana. Roybal wanted French goods badly, and he enclosed a list. He thought a lucrative trade could be got up between the two provinces across the plains "because we are not farther away than 200 leagues from a very rich mine, abounding in silver, called Chihuahua, where the inhabitants of this country often go to trade." That kind of talk excited the Sieur de Bienville, governor of French Louisiana. [36]

The party Bienville sent to Santa Fe with a letter to the governor aborted, but a lone Frenchman, evidently a deserter from Illinois, dragged into Pecos early in June 1744. Governor Codallos told Sgt. Juan Felipe de Rivera to take a couple of soldiers to the pueblo of "Nuestra Señora de la Defensa de Pecos," enlist four Pecos Indians, and bring this unidentified intruder in "well secured." Interrogated in Santa Fe, he gave his name as Santiago Velo (Jacques Belleau, Bellot, or Valle?) and confessed that he was a native of Tours who had served as a soldier in Illinois. Codallos had no use for him. Dispatching the Frenchman's statement directly to the viceroy and Velo himself to the governor of Nueva Vizcaya, he washed his hands of the matter. [37]

sketch of Spanish soldiers
A knot of presidial soldiers besieged, perhaps members of Pedro de Villasur's ill-starred expedition to the plains in 1720. After an 18th-century painting on hide (Segesser II) in Gottfried Hotz, Indian Skin Paintings from the American Southwest (Norman, 1970)

Meanwhile, out on the plains, other Frenchmen were working for peace between the Wichitas, their allies, and the Comanches. With that accomplished in 1746 or 1747, the way again lay open to Santa Fe. By early 1748, Codallos had word that thirty-three Frenchmen had come to the Río de Jicarilla and traded quantities of muskets to the Comanches for mules. The next three Frenchmen, deserters from the Arkansas post who turned up at a Taos fair in the spring of 1749, were Governor Vélez Cachupín's problem. Two were carpenters by trade, the other a tailor, barber, and bloodletter. Vélez put them to work in the governor's palace and requested of the viceroy that they be allowed to stay.

sketch of Natives
A friar in trouble, perhaps Fray Juan Mingues, the chaplain killed in the massacre of Villasur's command in 1720. After an 18th-century painting on hide (Segesser II) in Gottfried Hotz. Indian Skin Paintings from the American Southwest (Norman, 1970)

Another pair arrived with an errant refugee Spaniard. Vélez cursed Gov. Gaspar Domíngo de Mendoza for entertaining the Mallet party, "the first who entered," and permitting them to return to French territory with favorable reports of New Mexico. [38] In November 1750, that mistake came home to roost. Four Frenchmen appeared at Pecos. One was no stranger. It was Pierre Mallet.

He had set out from New Orleans with trade goods and letters from the governor and merchants of Louisiana. Only six days short of Pecos, the party had run into some Comanches who were spying on Pecos hunters. These jovial theives proceeded to despoil Mallet and his companions of most of their goods. With a dozen spent horses, they had made Pecos, where Lt. Gov. Bernardo de Bustamente y Tagle met them.

Bachiller Santiago Roybal

Taken into custody, they were escorted to Santa Fe and then on down to El Paso where Governor Vélez was waiting. He declared them illegal aliens and confiscated what goods they had left. These were evaluated and cried three times at public auction. Since no one bid on them, the El Paso merchant who had appraised them bought them himself for 420 pesos, six reales. The buyer was also a soldier, a painter, and a map maker, don Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco, later alcalde mayor of Pecos and Galisteo. Vélez Cachupín used the money to send the prisoners to Mexico City, and that was that. [39]

Poor Chapuis and Feuilli

Just at noon on August 6, 1752, four days after the Pecos patronal feast, Fray Juan José Toledo was roused from his cell by a commotion. One of the servants motioned for him to come quickly. Outside the cemetery wall stood a couple of bedraggled-looking Europeans, one of them holding a French flag, or as Toledo described it, a piece of white linen on a stick with a cross on it. They and their guide Manuela, a run away Aa Indian servant of Esteban Baca, had been brought in from the Río de las Gallinas by Jicarilla and Carlana Apaches. [40] They had with them a string of nine horses carrying packs of sealed trade goods. Fray Juan, a thirty-six-year-old native of Mexico City knew no French. Jean Chapuis sounded to him like Xanxapy, very close if one sounds the Mexican x's, and Louis Feuilli, like Luis Fuixy. Ordering the goods unloaded and placed in the convento, Toledo saw to his guests, and then wrote a hasty note to Governor Vélez Cachupín, who had it the same evening.

King Charles III
Charles III, king of Spain, 1759-1788. Brinckerhoff and Faulk, Lancers

Next day, Alcalde major Tomás de Sena reined up outside the convento. With sign language, he communicated as best he could that the Frenchmen had been summoned to appear before the lord governor in Santa Fe. Sequestering goods and horses, he packed the lot to the villa. The French tailor, who after three years in Santa Fe had picked up some Spanish, interpreted.

The story the two told of sanction by French officials, their grand plans for opening trade, and the invoices of their merchandise, convinced Governor Vélez Cachupín that this was a matter for the viceroy. Their wares, all manner of dry goods, hardware, and fancy items, from silk garters and lace, hawk bells and mirrors, to embroidered beaverskin shoes and ivory combs, the governor sold at auction. When the viceroy decided that this was a matter for the king, hapless Chapuis and Feuilli, professing all the while their ignorance that such trade was illegal, were shipped off to Spain. Their attempt to open the Santa Fe Trail had been precisely seventy years too soon. [41]

If other Frenchmen tried the Pecos gateway, their fates are not recorded. A decade later, as the Seven Years War wound down, France transferred Louisiana to Spain. Not only did the Spaniards inherit the elaborate French system of Indian diplomacy and subsidies, which would influence their own less liberal Indian policy, but also a vast and vulnerable new frontier. The contest for North America had come down to Spaniards and Englishmen.

In New Mexico, meantime, it all hung on war and peace with "the barbarous Indians."

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