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Los Adaes

Los Adaes
Photo by Candice Pauley, courtesy of Cane River National Heritage Area

The Spanish Mission of San Miguel de los Adaes, a state historic site, was founded in 1716 to convert the Caddo Adai American Indians living west of Natchitoches and to stop French expansion into Spanish Texas. In 1721, a new mission was built slightly to the east of the original, along with a presidio to bolster the outpost’s military presence. In 1729, Los Adaes was designated the capital of Texas and served as such until 1770. Los Adaes was built as a response to the French Fort St. Jean Baptiste in Natchitoches, and the two outposts were linked directly throughout their existence. Though the forts were built as opposing threats, their relative isolation led the communities of the two outposts to forge strong links to each other despite the fact that their countries were competitors in North America. The two communities engaged in extensive, illegal trade across the border. Intermarriage between the two groups was commonplace.

[photo] Visitor Center and site of Los Adaes
Photo by Candice Pauley, courtesy of Cane River National Heritage Area

Spain allied itself with France against the British in the French and Indian War, and both Havana and Manila fell to the British. To compensate its ally for its loss, France in 1762 ceded to Spain all of its territory west of the Mississippi River, including New Orleans. This erased the border that Los Adaes was supposed to protect, rendering the fort obsolete. The command was given to close the fort in 1772 and Los Adaes was officially abandoned in 1773. The Spanish and American Indian inhabitants were moved to San Antonio, Texas. Despite the forced migration, communities linked to the Spanish fort still exist in the Cane River region today. Many of the residents of Los Adaes either decided to stay in the region when the fort was abandoned, or returned to it later in life. The American Indians who were converted to Christianity at the fort still continue the legacy of the original mission at the Church of St. Anne, their present church in the Spanish Lake community northwest of Natchitoches. Today, there is nothing left standing of the mission or presidio that comprised Los Adaes. The site of the fort is an extremely important archeological site where much research has been conducted. The area was established as a state park in 1979, and a small visitor center was erected to help tell the story of the fort.

Los Adaes, a State Historic Site, and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 6354 Hwy. 485, just outside of Robeline. The historic site is staffed by the Cane River National Heritage Area and Los Adaes Foundation. For further information call 318-356-5555 or visit the fort’s website.

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