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“Spanish Expeditions in the Lampasas Area and Precedents for

Short-Lived Missions”

Updates on the Long Meadows Project: 2009

by Judd Burton


Before the events related in the Hussey Manuscript (section 054) concerning the Coxes and Spanish Texas are reputed to have occurred, the Spanish were already treading regularly in the Lampasas area.  In the course of USAV research of the Long Meadows, I discovered two events of note.  They serve to scaffold the argument for a Spanish presence in the Lampasas area, albeit transient and fluid.  Of particular interest are the Aguayo expedition of 1721 and the Bustillo y Zevallo expedition of 1732.  The Lampasas County History briefly refers to Aguayo’s expedition, but I believe further detail will provide additional insight, with a specific bearing on the Long Meadows Project.

The Aguayo expedition of 1721 and the Bustillo y Zevallo expedition  of 1732 provide compelling evidence for the Iberian phantoms that linger in the history of Lampasas.  In conjunction with Cox traditions of a Spanish mission near Rumley, they are especially so.  Conventional scholarship has typically shown little more than passing acknowledgement of a transient Spanish presence in the Lampasas area.  However, in light of the following examples, taken in concert, such conclusions must be reassessed.

The Aguayo expedition of 1721 was a direct result of the westward encroachment of other imperial powers, namely the French.  The Marquis de Aguayo organized the campaign in response to the French invasion of east Texas in 1719.[1]  Under orders from the viceroy to retake east Texas, Aguayo mobilized some 500 men in an overland campaign to reoccupy the region, an object at which he was ultimately successful.  In the face of military might, the French relinquished control of east Texas without a fight.  Aguayo reestablished the six East Texas missions and presidios to solidify mother Spain’s hold on the region.[2]

            The expedition got underway in October of 1719, departing from Mexico City.  They entered Texas in the late autumn of 1720.  Along the passage to the northeast Aguayo and his men crossed countless streams and encountered numerous landmarks.  Travelling north from San Antonio, he came to the vicinity of the Colorado River on May 22, 1721.  The troop camped near a stream that is known today as Onion Creek.  The crossing of the Colorado itself took place some time between May 22 and May 31.  Their course took them over numerous arroyos, as many as twenty in the span of a day, including the modern Brushy Creek and San Gabriel River.  On May 31, they reached the Little River, but in order to make an effective crossing the troop had to move north to the confluence of the Little, Salado, and Lampasas Rivers.  It is from this crossing that the river most likely took its name, or at least came into more common usage by the Spanish.[3]  According to Aguayo’s records, he and his company camped on the banks of the Lampasas River (Creek) on June 4, 1721, most likely in Bell County.[4]

            While Spanish activity increased in the Lampasas area, the early decades of the 18th century proved to be a time of tenuous relations between the Apaches and the Spanish vanguard.[5]  The Comanches succeeded in pushing the Lipan Apaches ever southward into central Texas and northern Mexico.[6]  Unfortunately for the Apache exodus, the Spanish were moving north.  Inevitably, the two societies clashed and the early decades of the 18th century were marked by Apache raids on Spanish holdings, and likewise, Spanish campaigns against the Apache.  The Spanish hoped to make peace with the Apaches, and the San Antonio missions made sincere efforts to do so.  And so, under orders from the viceroy Juan de Acuna, Marques de Casafuerte, in 1725 Governor Fernando Perez de Almazan mandated a reduction of hostilities on the part of the Spanish, and Apache raids became much less frequent, though the actual warring between the Spanish and the Apaches continued throughout the 1730s and 1740s.

            In 1732, Governor Juan Antonio Bustillo y Ceballos (Zevallos) led a punitive expedition against the Apaches along the San Saba River and San Xavier River valleys.  Bustillos y Ceballos was a veteran soldier, whose other great accomplishment during his tenure as governor of Texas was the settlement of Canary Islanders in San Antonio.[7]  One hundred and fifty-seven Spanish soldiers thus tracked the Apaches to their various rancherias (villages) and engaged them.  Bustillo y Ceballos and his men defeated the Apaches and an intermittent period of peace followed.[8]

            Eminent historian of Spanish Texas Robert Weddle has written extensively on the activities of the Spanish mission efforts in central Texas.  In his worthwhile The San Saba Mission:  Spanish Pivot in Texas, he outlines the history of the mission and presidio at that location.  Weddle also discusses the aforementioned Bustillo y Ceballos campaign and their route.  In fact, Weddle developed a map that traces the route of the expedition.  The expedition moved from San Antonio to the San Xavier River for the initial attack, moving westward to engage the Apaches not only in the San Saba River area, but ostensibly any Apaches in between.  If Weddle’s reconstruction is accurate, and the detail followed river paths after San Xavier, then their route clearly took them along the Lampasas River for several miles before they crossed it in the southern portion of present-day Lampasas County before moving west to cross the Colorado, entering the San Saba River valley. No doubt, the region remained in the memory of the Spanish, as it was at the very least a thoroughfare in their commercial, military, political, and religious enterprises during the remainder of the 18th century.[9]

            This Spanish traffic in the Lampasas area becomes even more intriguing in light of the history and traditions of the Cox family.  One record in particular, the aforementioned Hussey Manuscript, compiled by genealogist Arlee Gowen, recounts the link between the Cox family and Lampasas.[10]  The Hussey Manuscript mentions a mission built at the confluence of the Lampasas River and Lucy Creek near present day Rumley, eight miles east of Lampasas.  The following passage illustrates the family tradition:


Part of the work of the Spanish army in Texas was to assist the church in establishing missions in an attempt to convert the Indians to Catholicism.  Father Alonzo Geraldode, a Jesuit priest who founded the Apache mission in Coahuilla in 1754, persuaded a cousin, Don Pedro de Terreros, to aid him in founding another at the confluence of Delucia Creek and Arroyo Cavallo [seven miles east of present-day Lampasas, Texas] in 1756.  Don Pedro, an adventurer, enlisted the aid of his brother, 'a barefoot Jesuit' in the effort.  Under the command of Capt. Basterra a company dispatched to provide escort to the expedition, traversed present-day Williamson, Burnet and Lampasas counties to the site.  The presidio was a failure.  Under constant attack by the Indians they had come to Christianize, the fortress was abandoned and the Terreros brothers moved to establish a presidio at San Saba.[11]


This excerpt does have the tenor of historicity, to a degree.  The Alonzo Geraldode is doubtless a reference to the Father Alonzo Giraldo de Terreros of San Saba fame.  In this document, Lucy Creek is of Spanish naming, having originally been DeLucia Creek.  Was this one of the many arroyos crossed by the Aguayo expedition?  Possibly, but we do not know that with any historical certainty.  This example begins to wander into the realm of debate from here.  Father Terreros is here referred to as a “barefoot Jesuit” and brother of Don Pedro, when we know in fact that he was a Franciscan and the cousin—not the brother—of Don Pedro.  The Captain Basterra cannot be named with any certainty at this point, nor can the expedition which he led to found this mission at Lampasas.  However, it is worth noting that the route detailed here does track around the periphery of the Hill Country, which would make an easier journey for teams of animals and wagons, than over the rugged hills of central Texas.  The passage also suggests that the mission and presidio at the Rumley location was indeed short-lived.  Under constant threat from local Indians, most likely the Comanche and Tonkawa and perhaps some Apaches, if their mission targets were attacking them, the project was abandoned in favor of the more viable Mission Santa Cruz near present-day Menard.

            Similar conditions seemed to have prevailed in the case of the San Clemente Mission.  In searching for precedents of short-lived or scarcely evidenced missions in Texas, San Clemente emerged as just such an example.  The following passage by Mary M. Standifer recounts the nature of the San Clemente Mission:

San Clemente was a temporary mission established by the expedition of Juan Domínguez de Mendoza while it was camped on a river named the "Glorious San Clemente," from March 16 to May 1, 1684. Interpretations of Mendoza's route have placed the mission variously on the Colorado River west of Ballinger (Herbert Eugene Bolton), near the confluence of the Concho and Colorado rivers (Carlos E. Castañeda), and on the South Llano River (Jesse W. Williams). The most recent study, by Seymour V. Connor, locates the mission on the San Saba River west of Menard. After calculating the approximate location of the mission, Connor discovered in the vicinity the remains of a massive stone ruin that matched Mendoza's description. Excavation in 1968 uncovered remarkably few items, suggesting that the site, although requiring significant manpower for its construction, was occupied only briefly. During their six-week stay at San Clemente the Spaniards were joined by 2,000 to 3,000 Indians, most of whom were baptized by the two priests accompanying Mendoza. After several attacks by the Apaches from the north and the Salineros from Nueva Vizcaya, the Spaniards abandoned the mission. Despite the desire of Mendoza and Father Nicolás López to return and establish a permanent mission, the appearance of the La Salle expedition on the Texas coast in 1685 persuaded the Spanish government to concentrate its energies in East Texas instead.[12]


The similarities in purpose, nature, and problems between San Clemente and the alleged Lampasas mission are clear.  If the proposed location of San Clemente west of Menard is a likely candidate, the paucity of finds in the excavations of 1968 would seem to parallel similar deficits in survey finds of Spanish make at Long Meadows.  Whatever the location—whether Menard, Ballinger, or otherwise—it is evident that little evidence was left behind.  Furthermore, the locations’ for San Clemente are all in relatively close proximity to Lampasas.  Such orientation serves to further support the notion that the Spanish were familiar with central Texas long before the missionizing efforts of the eighteenth century, and that they had designs on the region.


[1] William C. Foster, Spanish Expeditions into Texas:  1689-1768 (Austin:  University of Texas, 1995): 145-8.

[2] Bolton, Texas, 34, 284 and Chipman, Spanish Texas, 121.

[3] Eleanor Claire Buckley, “The Aguayo Expedition Into Texas and Louisiana, 1719-1722,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 15.1 (July 1911): 39 f. 1.

[4] Foster, Spanish Expeditions, 159.

[5] Chipman, Spanish Texas, 156.

[6] Bolton, Texas, 79.  See also Weddle, San Saba Mission, 10.

[7] Bolton, Texas, 28; Weddle, San Saba Mission, 12-13.

[8] Bolton, Texas, 28-9.

[9] Weddle, San Saba Mission, 13-15.

[10] Arlee Gowen, The Hussey Manuscript (Lubbock:  The Gowen Research Foundation): 054.  http://bz.llano.net/gowen/hussey_millenium/husseyms_054.html

[11] Ibid.

[12] Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706 (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936-58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Seymour V. Connor, "The Mendoza-López Expedition and the Location of San Clemente," West Texas Historical Association Yearbook 45 (1969). Juan Domínguez de Mendoza, Diary (transcript, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin). J. W. Williams, "New Conclusions on the Route of Mendoza, 1683-1684," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 38 (1962). 


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