Los Adaes

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Los Adaes
The first map to depict an Adais (Adaie) settlement, shown to the west of a cluster of Natchitoches villages. Drawn in 1718 by Guillaume Delisle.
Location Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, USA
Nearest city Robeline, Louisiana
Built 1721
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 78001427
Significant dates
Added to NRHP June 7, 1978[1]
Designated NHL June 23, 1986[2]

Los Adaes was the capital of Tejas on the northeastern frontier of New Spain from 1729 to 1770. It included a mission, San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes, and a presidio, Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Los Adaes (Our Lady of Pilar of the Adaes). The site is located in the present-day Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. The Los Adaes State Historic Site preserves the site. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark, the highest honor for a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.


Although Spain claimed much of the Gulf Coast of North America as part of their colonial territory, they largely ignored the region to the east of the Rio Caca throughout the 17th century.[3] In 1699, French forts were established at Potta Bay and on the Mississippi River, ending Spain's exclusive control of the Gulf Coast.[4] The Spanish recognized that the French could become a threat to other Spanish areas, and ordered the reoccupation of Texas as a buffer between New Spain and French settlements in Louisiana.[5]

On April 12, 1716, an expedition led by Domingo Ramon left San Juan Bautista for Texas, intending to establish four missions and a presidio.[6][7] At the same time, the French were building a fort in Natchitoches to establish a more westward presence. The Spanish countered by founding two more missions just west of Natchitoches, including San Miguel de los Adaes.[8] These two missions were located in a disputed area; France claimed the Sabine River to be the western boundary of Louisiana, while Spain claimed the Red River was the eastern boundary of Texas, leaving an overlap of 45 miles (72 km).[9]

In 1719, European powers embarked on the War of the Quadruple Alliance. In June 1719, 7 Frenchmen from Natchitoches took control of the mission of San Miguel de los Adeas from its sole defender, who did not know that the countries were at war. The French soldiers explained that 100 additional soldiers were coming, and the Spanish colonists, missionaries, and remaining soldiers abandoned the area and fled to San Antonio.[10] The Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo volunteered to reconquer Spanish Texas and raised an army of 500 soldiers.[11] By July 1721 Aguayo's reached the Neches River. His expedition encountered a French force en route to attack San Antonio de Bexar. The outnumbered Frenchmen agreed to retreat to Louisiana. Aguayo then ordered the building of a new Spanish fort Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Los Adaes, located near present-day Robeline, Louisiana, only 12 miles (19 km) from Natchitoches.[12] The new fort became the first capital of Texas, and was guarded by 6 cannon and 100 soldiers.[11] The six East Texas missions were reopened under the protection of the new presidio.[13]

Spain discouraged manufacturing in its colonies and limited trade to Spanish goods handled by Spanish merchants and carried on Spanish vessels. Most of the ports, including all of those in Texas, were closed to commercial vessels in the hopes of dissuading smugglers. By law, all goods bound for Texas had to be shipped to Veracruz and then transported over the mountains to Mexico City before being sent to Texas. This caused the goods to be very expensive in the Texas settlements.[14] Because of the long distance between Los Adaes and the rest of the populated portions of Tejas, the settlers in the area turned most often to the French colonists in neighboring Natchitoches, Louisiana for trade. Without many goods to trade, however, the remaining Spanish missionaries and colonists had little to offer the Indians, who remained loyal to the French traders.[15]

In 1767, cartographer Joseph de Urrutia drew this extraordinary map accurately depicting Los Adaes. This map serves as a fine guide for the archeological investigations at Los Adaes.[16]

Although the Spanish settlers in the area did not encounter hostile Native Americans, since the local Caddoan speaking peoples were friendly, the Franciscan missionaries were unsuccessful in converting the local people to Catholicism. After several years of frustration in this regard, in 1768 the College of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas, which was the sponsor of the missionaries at Los Adaes, recalled their missionaries, and the mission was closed.[17]

On November 3, 1762, as part of the Treaty of Fontainebleau, France ceded the portion of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River to Spain.[18] With France no longer a threat to Spain's North American interests, the Spanish monarchy commissioned the Marquis de Rubi to inspect all of the presidios on the northern frontier of New Spain and make recommendations for the future.[19] Rubi recommended that East Texas be totally abandoned, with all population moving to San Antonio.[20] With Louisiana in Spanish control, there was no need for Los Adaes to reside so closely to Natchitoches, especially after the missions had relocated to San Antonio. In August 1768, the acting governor, Juan María Vicencio, Baron de Ripperda, moved his headquarters and the garrison to San Antonio, and in 1772 San Antonio became the new Texas capital.[21]

The 500 Hispanic settlers who had lived near Los Adaes were forced to resettle in San Antonio in 1773.[22] In the six years between the inspection and the removal of the settlers, the population of East Texas had increased from 200 Europeans to 500, a mixture of Spanish, French, Indians, and a few blacks. The settlers were given only five days to prepare to relocate to San Antonio. Many of them perished during the three-month trek and others died soon after arriving.[23] After vociferously protesting, the settlers were allowed to leave San Antonio the following year, but were not to travel further into East Texas than the Trinity River, 175 miles (282 km) from Natchitoches.[22] In 1779, the Comanches began raiding the new settlement, and the former Los Adaes settlers chose to move further east to the old mission of Nacogdoches, where they founded the town of the same name. The new town quickly became a waystation for contraband.[22]

The site of Los Adaes was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.[2][24]

Present day[edit]

Reenactors performing a gun salute at the present day historic site

Today the site of Los Adaes is the Los Adaes State Historic Site near the town of Robeline, Louisiana. The Los Adaes site has proven to be one of the most important archaeological sites in the US for the study of colonial Spanish culture.

Dr. Hiram F. "Pete" Gregory Jr., an archaeologist at nearby Northwestern State University, conducted landmark excavations at the historic presidio from the 1960s through the 1980s. In the 1990s, the state appointed Dr. George Avery to the newly created position of station archaeologist of the Los Adaes State Commemorative Area (as it was called at the time). In this capacity, Avery contributed a great deal in his own right. Los Adaes has since lost its station archaeologist position. However, Avery, Gregory, and other archaeologists specializing in the Spanish colonial borderlands continue to advance the knowledge of this frontier outpost. Gregory, in particular, has championed the need for more academic interest in Los Adaes and the colonial history of northern and central Louisiana in general.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b "Los Adaes". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  3. ^ Chipman (1992), p. 26.
  4. ^ Weber (1992), p. 158.
  5. ^ Weber (1992), p. 60.
  6. ^ Chipman (1992), p. 111.
  7. ^ Chipman (1992), p. 112.
  8. ^ Weber (1992), p. 162.
  9. ^ Edmondson (2000), p. 10.
  10. ^ Weber (1992), p. 166–7.
  11. ^ a b Weber (1992), p. 167.
  12. ^ Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. "Los Adeas Historical Marker". 
  13. ^ Chipman (1992), p. 123.
  14. ^ Weber (1992), p. 175.
  15. ^ Weber (1992), p. 173.
  16. ^ Los Adaes
  17. ^ "Los Adaes". The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2008-04-14. 
  18. ^ Weber (1992), p. 198.
  19. ^ Chipman (1992), p. 173.
  20. ^ Chipman (1992), p. 181.
  21. ^ Weber (1992), p. 211.
  22. ^ a b c Weber (1992), p. 222.
  23. ^ Chipman (1992), p. 186.
  24. ^ Mark R. Barnes (September 24, 1992). "National Historic Landmark Nomination: LOS ADAES / Nuestra Senora del Pilar Presidio (16NA8); San Miguel de Los Adaes Mission (16NA16)". National Park Service. 


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°42′31″N 93°17′36″W / 31.70861°N 93.29333°W / 31.70861; -93.29333