Region III Quarterly

Volume 1 - No. 1

July, 1939


By Dr. Aubrey Neasham,
Regional Historian.

The National Park Service is recognized today as the federal agency having as its duty the preservation of the outstanding historic sites of the nation. Legally, by virtue of authority in the Historic Sites Act of 1935, this Service is obligated to do all in its power to insure that the heritage of the past, as exemplified in those sites, be passed on to the generations of the future.

Region III of the Service, comprising the States of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and parts of the southern portions of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, plays an important part in this national program of preservation. Here, in the southwestern portion of the United States, the white man has been active for 400 years. With such a background in an area almost untouched by the large population centers of the present day, the material evidences of the past are unusually abundant and varied.

"The Cavalcade of the Southwest", if we may think of those four centuries as such, is indeed an inspiring and dramatic parade, as depicted and centered in these historic sites. Before our vision pass in turn the stolid Indian, the Spaniard and the Frenchman, permanently leaving their marks in a land little known and often bewildering; and finally the citizens of Mexico and the United States, later comers, who through revolution, purchase, and war are able to expand in the directions and to the degree ordained by what some termed "Manifest Destiny".

The Spaniards were the first of the white men to come into these areas. Within half a century after the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492, they were well on their way. Pineda, Cabeza de Vaca, Friar Marcos de Niza, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, and Hernando de Soto were among them. Anxious to solve the "Northern Mystery" and to find the riches which were thought to be there, each emblazoned his name in the pages of history. These explorations are commemorated today in historic sites.

Permanent colonization of the Southwest by the Spaniard did not occur until 1598, when Don Juan de Onate founded New Mexico. He established his capital at San Gabriel, north of present Santa Fe, near the Indian pueblo of San Juan. From that time onward, there was no stopping the advance of settlement. The touch of the Spaniard may be seen today in Indian pueblos, often in ruins, such as Awatovi in Arizona; and Hawikuh, Puaray, Pecos, Acoma, and Taos in New Mexico. Spanish-founded towns include Santa Fe in New Mexico, while among world famed missions are Tumacacori, San Xavier del Bac, and Guevavi in Arizona; Tabira (Gran Quivira) Pecos, and Quarai in New Mexico; and the Alamo, San Jose, Espiritu Santo, San Juan Capistrano, la Purisima Concepcion, San Francisco, and Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe in Texas. Tubac and Tucson in Arizona and la Bahia in Texas, were important presidios built for protection. In addition, ranchos were created, trade with Mexico was furthered, and some mining was done. Generally, the life of the Spaniard followed the grooves patterned by the civilizations of Europe, becoming in time tempered by the hardships of a far away frontier and strange peoples.

After the sixteenth century, the French began to follow the steps of the Spaniard into the Mississippi country. In 1685, La Salle founded Fort St Louis in Texas, after exploring the Mississippi River. Arkansas Post was established in 1686 by Henri de Tonti in what is now Arkansas. John Law's famous "Mississippi Bubble" colony was settled at Dumas, Arkansas, in the second decade of the 1700's, and a fur-trading post was built by Francis D'Armand at Montgomery's Point in 1766. In 1802 Pierre Chouteau erected his post among the Osage Indians in the Oklahoma region. These and other sites like them left a French imprint which will never be erased.

The Mexican period, lasting hardly a quarter of a century, was in reality a continuation of the Spanish period in many ways, except for sovereignty and control by Mexico instead of Spain. The United States domination of the nineteenth century brought entirely new changes in the Southwest. Peoples of Anglo-Saxon heritage for the first time pushed on in numbers to these frontiers, established by Spain centuries earlier. Wherever they were, they too, left their imprints permanently in historic sites.

The enumeration of those sites would be almost endless. Some of importance would include: Indian battlegrounds, such as the Big Dry Wash in Arizona, Adobe Walls in Texas, and the Washita and Rush Springs in Oklahoma; Protestant missions- the Old Dwight Mission in Arkansas, and Union, Park Hill, Tallahassee and Council Hill missions in Oklahoma; Mexican Revolution sites- the Battle of Medina in Texas; Texas Revolution sites - the battles of the Alamo, San Jacinto, and Perdido in Texas; Mexican war sites - the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in Texas; Civil War battle sites - the battles of Val Verde and Glorieta Pass in New Mexico, Palmito Ranch in Texas, and Pea Ridge, Fourche Bayou, and Prairie Grove in Arkansas; forts - Bowie, Defiance, Apache, McDowell, Whipple, and Crittenden in Arizona; Marcy, Union, Sumner, and Stanton in New Mexico; Parker, Davis, Griffin, and Belknap in Texas; Towson, Gibson, Washita, and Wayne in Oklahoma; and Fort Smith in Arkansas.

Boom or ghost towns would include - Tombstone in Arizona, Elizabethtown in New Mexico, Mobeetie and Tascosa in Texas, and old Perryville in Oklahoma. Among cattle trails are the Chisholm, Goodnight, and Chisum; while trade and transportation routes would list the Santa Fe Trail and the Butterfield Stage route. The Old Stage Coach Inn in Texas, and the Etter and Log Cabin Taverns in Arkansas, could be grouped under taverns. Among houses of famous personages are Kit Carson's home and the Maxwell ranch house in New Mexico; the home of Stephen Austin and the Charles Goodnight ranch house in and the houses of Stand Watie and Sequoyah in Oklahoma.

Those sites of the Indian, the Spaniard, the Frenchman, the Mexican, and the American all played important parts in the "Cavalcade of the Southwest". Their influence is to be seen today in the widespread cultures which are here. To quote from an earlier paper. "This land of the Southwest, where many cultures are discerned but not easily separated, is unique in the United States. The evolution of the past, from prehistoric times to the present, may still be traced here in the living present."

Sand verbena plants, not known to occur anywhere else in the world, are growing in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. The plants are botanically described as abronia angustifolia.

A report on "Vegetation of the White Sands National Monument" has been written by Dr. W. B. McDougall, Regional Wildlife Technician. He says:

"This (sand verbena) is one of the two endemic species of the White Sands. It is a member of the four o'clock family and not a true verbena. The flowers lack petals, but the calyx is colored like a corolla, and, since several flowers are clustered in a common involucre (wrapper), the plant is very beautiful when in bloom. This is one of the two plants that occur on the alkali flats west of the gypsum sand dunes and it also occurs abundantly in the valleys between the dunes, but it is not known to occur anywhere else in the world."

Evening primrose, the other local species, is described by Dr. McDougall as "a most gorgeous plant when in bloom". It occurs only in the intervening valleys between dunes.

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Date: 17-Nov-2005