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Left barspacerThe Coronado Expedition to QuiviraspacerRight bar
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Chapter II


Many of our readers, no doubt, are aware that the Sons of St. Francis have labored in Platte county and adjacent counties; in Omaha, in Lincoln and vicinity for many years. If asked, "When did the Franciscans come to Nebraska?" they may answer: Some fifty years ago. The Franciscans of the former St. Louis, Missouri, now Chicago, Illinois, or "Sacred Heart Province" came to Columbus in February, 1877; those of the Cincinnati (St. John Baptist) Province to Lincoln, January 1, 1893. However, the first Franciscans came to Nebraska, the presen (sic) Cornhusker State, much earlier. It is sure that they came as early as 1720 with the ill-fated Villasur Expedition and probably before that time with the Valvedere and Onate Expedition and Urbarri yes, already with Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who probably reached Gage county, southeastern Nebraska, or Custer and Nance counties, in 1541. If the Rt. Rev. Msgr. M. A. Shine has really solved the Quivira puzzle, then the first son of St. Francis, Fray Juan de Padilla, not only came to northeastern Kansas and Nebraska with the very first white men in 1541, but returned most probably the next year, in 1542, (the year 1544 is a supposition of hagiographers), to convert the Indians of Quivira. Thus, Nebraska may well dispute with Kansas and the Texas Panhandle the claim of being the scene of the first martyrdom for the faith in the United States. Other missionaries may have died of sickness or hardships before this time, but the first to give testimony to Christ by shedding his blood was Padre Juan de Padilla, O. F. M. However, since the scene of the first martyr's death in the United States depends on the site of Quivira, we briefly summarize the opinions of different historians regarding this famous land.


Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was a native of Salamanca, Spain. Little is known of his life except that he came to Mexico, married a rich and noble lady and was appointed governor of New Galicia in 1538. Coronado was governor of New Galicia (Michoacan and Jalisco) when the news came of the wonderful seven cities of Cibola. Fray Marcos de Nizza, O. F. M., had discovered Arizona and New Mexico, and caught sight of Zuni. The impetuosity of the negro Estevanico had prevented Padre Marcos from penetrating any farther. The reports were probably exaggerated purposely in Mexico, in order to arouse enthusiasm, thus to win laborers for the spread of religion and especially on the part of the civil authorities, who wished to rid themselves of a few hundred daring young noblemen and adventurers and at the same time conquer a new country for Spain. The famous viceroy Mendoza, therefore, gave Coronado the command of an army of two hundred and fifty Spaniards "to conquer and colonize the territory and never came back." In February, 1540, he was sent to colonize New Mexico with the 250 troublesome Spanish "blades" or noblemen, among 1100 men, and made his famous expedition from New Mexico into the land of Quivira. Thrown from a horse and broken in health in 1542 he returned to Mexico without gold, and fell into disgrace and died in Mexico. But he was, according to Charles F. Lumis (Spanish Pioneers and the California Missions, p. 81 f.), "the greatest explorer who ever trod the American continent, though his explorations brought him only disaster and bitterness."

Moqui, having been conquered after a sharp fight, the general sent expeditions under Tobar to the pueblos of the Moqui and to the Grand Canyon of Colorado and to the pueblo of Jemez. The two first expeditions were accompanied by Fray Juan de Padilla, O. F. M. The winter quarters were at Tiguex (Bernalillo) on the Rio Grande. Here the soldiers heard of the fabulously rich Quivera (sic), which an Indian slave called by the soldiers the "Turk", was spreading. The rumors eventually reached the ears of Coronado, who finally, giving credence, resolved to go in quest of the fabulous wealth.


On April 23, 1541, Coronado, with his army of soldiers and supplies, started in search of the Quivira across the vast plains unexplored by white men. He soon dismissed the army under Arellano and pushed on with about 30 horsemen and six on foot and came as far as the center of the present Indian. territory or Kansas,


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or as far as the Panhandle in Texas, as some would have it, or probably to the southern part of Nebraska, Gage county. (Prof. E. E. Blackman, Curator of the Nebraska State Historical Museum. See map of Quivira made for this book by Miss Martha Turner according to Mr. Blackman's directions). If the Rt. Rev. Msgr. M. A. Shine has really solved the "Puzzle of the Quivira", Coronado penetrated into Custer county near Georgetown, thence northeast to the Loup river near the northern boundary of Nance and Platte county, the end of Quivira. It was forty-two days after parting from the army or seventy-seven days after leaving the Rio Grande river. A few days after setting out they found great herds of humpbacked cows (buffaloes) and Indians killing them for their flesh and skins. To the northeast of Quivira lay the land of Harahey. Coronado summoned its chief Tatarrax, who came with 200 naked followers. In August, 1541, Coronado and Padre Juan erected a cross, whose chiselled (sic) inscription told of the General's coming to this place. Msgr. Shine was of the opinion that the stone with said inscription ought to be found some day within a radius of fifty miles from St. Paul, Howard county.


Route Coronado's Expedition from New Mexico to Quivira and
Return, 1541. (Ace, to Rt. Rev. M. A. Shine).


"This country," writes Captain Jaramillo, "presents a very fine appearance, that which I have not seen better in all our Spain, nor Italy, nor a part of France, nor indeed in the other countries in which I have travelled (sic) in His Majesty's service. For it is not a very rough country, but made up of hillocks and plains and very fine appearing rivers and streams, which certainly satisfied me and made me sure that it will be very fruitful in all sorts of products.

"Indeed, there is profit in the cattle ready at hand, from the quantity of them, which is as great as one could imagine. We found a variety of Castilian prunes which are not all red, but some of them black and green; the tree and fruit is certainly like that of Castile, with a very excellent flavor.

"There are grapes along some streams, of a fine flavor not to be improved upon."


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Quivira and Harahey

Drawing by Miss Martha Turner Under Direction of Prof. E. E.
Blackman, Curator of Nebraska State Historical Society.


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Where is Quivira? Personally we are interested, especially, because Quivira is probably the scene of martrydom (sic) of Patre Juan de Padilla, O. F. M., who was with Coronado.

The older famous historians, Bandelier, Hodge, Winship, Lummis and Coues, believe the Quivira to extend over the central portion of Kansas from Dodge City to the northeastern portion of the state as far north as the boundary of Nebraska. Brower and E. E. Blackman made explorations, and researches in Kansas, the result of which are laid down in Brower's, "The Land of Quivira" and "The Land of Harahey." (See Blackman's Map of Quivira and Harahey). According to Blackman the end of Quivira is in Gage county, Nebraska, near Beatrice.

Rev. Fr. Michael Shine, rector of St. John's Church, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, made a critical study of the site of Quivira and published his conclusion in the Catholic Historical Review, vol. II, p. 3-19, under the head, "The Lost Province of Quivira", which has since been published in pamphlet form.


Msgr. Shine compared the report of Coronado to the king and that of several historians and reached the conclusion that Nebraska is the real land of Quivira, where the Coronado expedition (reduced to some thirty horsemen with the Padre Juan and about six others on foot) found the first village thirty leagues beyond the South Fork of the Loup River crossing near Georgetown, Custer county.

"Proceeding in a northeasterly direction along the Loup river, they would cross all the large tributaries of the Loup river, which were later the favorite village sites of the Pawnee Confederacy. The twenty-five leagues through these settlements means the distance north or northeast of the Elkhorn river, beyond which was, indeed, the real Province of Arache, Taraque or Harahey, which means nothing else than the Country of the Ariki-ra, or Horn People, so called because of their peculiar head dressing. To the southeast of Quivira, or down the river, were the Guas, who are none other than the Kansas Indians, later on called Quans and Kaws by the French. The meaning of the Quivera and its derivation now become plain and simple, for it is nothing else than the Spanish pronunciation of the name of this Indian nation, the Skidi-ra or Wolf people. Coronado arrived here on July 11, 1541, the forty-second day from the Platte crossing." Rev. Shine, 1. c. and Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, O. F. M., Franciscan Herald, 'Franciscans in New Mexico, Vol. -, p. 197.'


New Mexico: From Tiguex (Bernalillo) by way of Cicuye (Pecos), southeast to near the present La Cuesta; northeast to the Rio Gallinas in San Miguel county; thence northeast through Union county into Texas, Hartby county; thence directly east to Mustang Creek (the Buffalo Ravine), southeast along this creek through Oldham, Patter, Randall, Armstrong and Briscoe counties to the Red river at Longitude 101, northeast of Silverton, Texas; thence directly north through Conley, Gray, Roberts and Ochiltree counties, Texas, through Oklahoma; Bever, Seward, Haskell, Fimey, Scott, Logan, Thomas and Rawlins, Kansas; into Nebraska, through Hitchcock, Hayes and Lincoln counties as far as the Platte river, thence abruptly to the northeast through Custer, Sherman and Howard counties as far as Genoa in northeastern Nance county, the eastern end of the Coronado expedition which was reached about July 11, 1541.

Mr. David Donoghue, of Fort Worth, a civil engineer, in his "The Route of the Coronado Expedition", reprint from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly XXII, 181-192, (January) 1929, claims that the Coronado expedition never left the Llano Estacado or Staked plains of Texas and that Quivira was within the limits of the present Texas Panhandle, l. c., p. 182. He bases his conclusion on descriptions and references to natural objects or features rather than distance and directions. As indentifiable (sic) natural features he selects the Rio Cicuye, the plains, the Salt lakes, the ravines, the river "below Quivira" and Quivira (1. c. p. 185) mentioned in the narratives of Coronado, Castaneda and Jaramillo, the Relacion de Suceso, and the Relacion de Postrera, de Sivola. Mr. Donoghue concludes (1. s. p. 192):

"Of this much I am certain: The expedition never left the Llano Estacado; Palo Duro Canon and its tributaries are the only ravines that fit Castaneda's descriptions; the salt lakes are found only in the southern Llano Estacado; Quivira was on the Canadian or in some of its tributary creeks at the edge of the plains.

"The return march of the army, therefore, was through the counties of Swisher, Castra, Lamb, and Bailey in Texas, and Roosevelt, DeBaca, and San Miguel in New Mexico."--D. Donoghue, l. c. p. 192.

But what about the thirty days march "by the needle" (north)? Besides, Padre Silvestro, the discoverer of Utah, seems to accept the Pawnee villages near the Loup and the Platte as the site of Quivira.


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H. E. Bolton, The Spanish Borderlands, p. 950105; J. V. Brower, "Quivira" and "Harahey"; J. N. Baskett, "Kansas Hist. Coll.", Vol. 12, pp. 219-252. Lewis H. Morgan, "The Seven Cities of Cibola", North American Review, April, 1869, Vol. 108, p. 457.



Before Coronado set out upon his return from Quivira he erected a cross with the inscription that general Coronado had penetrated this far. Fray Juan on this occasion vowed that he would return to these benighted natives, "hostile, roving, buffalo-living" Indians, in order to convert them to Christianity. And return he did. It was probably in the year 1542, since he is called the promartyr, although his confrere Fray Juan de la Cruz in New Mexico died November 25, 1542, and Brother Luis de Ubeda soon after. (Chas. F. Lummis, Spanish Pioneers).


Fray Juan de Padilla was a native of Andalusia, Spain. He was received into the Order of Friars Minor and with four other Padres came to Mexico in 1525. There he affiliated with the Province of the Holy Gospel. Padre Juan accompanied the Nuno de Guzman expedition into Nueva Galicia 1529-1531 as its chaplain. From 1531-1540 he did splendid work among the Indians and was guardian of the friary of Tselatcingo and erected the monastery of Zapotlan.

A man of great physical and mental energy, he gladly gave up higher positions to devote himself to missionary labors. When the viceroy ordered Francisco Vasquez de Coronado to take with him about 250 roistering blades to New Mexico and "to conquer and colonize it and never to return", among the five Franciscans who accompanied the expedition was Juan de Padilla. In the "New Kingdom of St. Francis", the friar accompanied Pedro Tobar with twenty companions to Moqui and back; he accompanied Hernando de Alvarado to lofty Acoma and the Rio Grande, in New Mexico, a tramp of a thousand miles. When Coronado set out for the land of the Quivira, Padre Juan was again with the army and made that awful march and return always on foot, as was the custom of those Spanish friars.


After another 1,000 or more mile trip to Quivera, Fray Juan settled down with his companions. They were: Andres Docampos (del Campo), a Portuguese soldier, the Mexican Indian Donados (Oblates or Tertiaries) Sebastian and Luke, a mulatto and some Mexican Indian boys. Chas. F. Lummis gives a glimpse of the incredible hardships the Spanish missionaries had to undergo and the unparalleled success. At first the missionaries had to come from Spain or from Old Mexico. There was the terrible march of 1,000 miles from Mexico to New Mexico through fearful deserts, where soldier, colonist and missionary took his life into his own hands. He was beset by the danger of a most horrible death from thirst, or being massacred by the merciless Apaches. Then there was the almost unbearable hardship of living alone with a horde of untutored savages, of being compelled to till the soil for his living, or of relying on the scant food supply of the hostile, indifferent or very poor natives. Nor must we forget the great spiritual privations the missionaries had to undergo, suffering and often dying at their lonely outposts without the last consolations of the Church.


The kindly ways of the missionary gradually caused the suspicious Indians of the Quivira to lay aside their distrust of strangers and to even love the padre who dispensed the bread of life and no doubt understood much about medicine and also cured bodily ills, seeking thereby to heal the wounds of the souls and to dispel ignorance from their minds. Padre Juan after sometime conceived the plan to visit the neighboring tribe, who, as he thought, needed his ministrations even more than the Quiverans. He must have realized to what danger his departure might expose him not only on the part of the new savages he was about to visit, but also on the part of the superstitions, vindictive natives he was about to leave. For the two tribes were hostile to each other. And yet his thirst for immortal souls bade him go to preach the glad tidings of salvation also to them.

Accordingly Fray Juan de Padilla set out with his companions to visit the neighboring tribe. They had made about one day's journey when they met with a band of Indians on the war path--according to some historians they were of the tribe he had just left-evidently upon mischief bent. He bethought himself first of the safety of his companions and shouted to them to save themselves. For Docampos still had his horse and the boys were fleet runners. When they hesitated to leave him, he ordered them to flee: "Save yourselves; me you cannot help; and why should we all die together?" When


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they were still wavering, he ordered them to flee. Wont to obey the slightest wish of the priest they obeyed. Not, as Lummis explains, that they lacked the physical courage to die with their dearly beloved master. But in those ages of faith martyrdom was considered not only a triumph but a prophecy and the guarantee of new victories for Christianity, the news of which must be carried to the Christian world; to do so was considered a sacred duty. Hence the companions fled. But not until from their hiding place in the tall grass they had witnessed the bloody scene.

Meanwhile Fr. Juan fell upon his knees and in prayer commended his soul to his creator and calmly awaited the shower of arrows and cruel blows that were to free the soul from the prison of this mortal coil and allow it to wing its flight to paradise. The tragedy was soon over. The savages threw the body of the martyr into a pit and piled it with earth or stones.

Fr. Paul J. Foik says of the heroic Friar: "This heroic soldier of Christ was as strict and exacting in his religious life as he was energetic and determined in physical daring. We can gauge his stamina amid hardships and privations by the fact that he was a pedestrian on every step of his journey. The padre in gray Franciscan habit walked all the way from the heart of old Mexico through long stretches of thorny mesquites and prickly cactus, climbing up rugged mountains and descending dangerous slopes that impeded the steady march of these travelers north. No sacrifice was too great for this apostle."


Soon taken prisoners and compelled to perform the most menial services and maltreatment, the little band, after many futile attempts to escape, finally eluded the vigilance of their barbarous captors and after nine years of zigzagging through terrible deserts, suffering incredible privations and hardships, the weary, footsore companions of the protomartyr Juan de Padilla finally trudged into Tampico on the gulf and were welcomed as men who had come back from death. Nine years of wandering, over perhaps 20,000 miles while the famous Cabeza de Vaca had wandered more than 10,000 miles. Mr. Chas. F. Lummis calls the Portuguese Andres Docampos "The Greastest (sic) American Traveller (sic)", who "with a heroic purpose" endured these hardships in order to convey to the home folks the news of the martyr's glorious death. This accomplished, Docampos vanishes from history.


We have stated before that the place where the First Martyr of the United States gave his life for the faith, depends on the site of Quivira. If Padre Silvestre Escalente, O. F. M., of Utah fame, and Msgr. M. A. Shine and the New Catholic Dictionary (page 719) be correct he died in Nebraska, in Hall county, though we can well understand that others dispute this claim. Father Vetancurt in his Menologic assigns November 30, 1544. But the year 1542 seems to be correct.


It might be remarked that the Indians of Isleta, New Mexico, had a tradition, according to which the remains of Padre Juan de Padilla had been recovered and interred at Isleta where they at stated intervals worked up towards the surface. Towards the end of the last century the Archbishop of Santa Fe appointed a commission to investigate the rumor. It found that there was a second Padre Juan Jose Padilla, who died a peaceful death two centuries later, and even a third one, interred there but there was nothing supernatural about the body coming towards the surface. This did not happen regularly and was due to natural causes.


This is hard to say. Few of the many saints in heaven enjoy this privilege even though their martyrdom or heroic sanctity be proved beyond cavil. But this rests largely with Divine Providence. Some years ago were discovered near Morris, Illinois, what seem to be the remains of Father Gabriel de Ribourde, O. F. M., the first martyr (in a wider sense) of Illinois. But we Catholics and also we Nebraskans irrespective of creed should treasure the memory of this first martyr, who probably died in this state.


Franciscan Herald, Vol. VIII, 1919, Chap. VIII, p. 106 ff.

The New Catholic Dictionary, The Universal Knowledge Foundation, New York, 1929, p. 719.

Charles F. Lummis, Spanish Pioneers, p. 121 f.

Mid-America (Formerly "Illinois Catholic Historical Review), January, 1930: Paul Fork, Early Spanish Explorers of the Southwest, 199-211, and 1. c. October, 1930, Rev. Paul Fork, O. S. C., Austin, Texas, "Fray Juan de Padilla", pp. 132-140.


The somewhat uncertain rumors about a


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Spanish expedition massacred on Nebraska soil by the Indians have been verified by the finding of documents at Paris in France and by critical studies of Baron Marc de Villiers, Professor E. A. Sheldon, Mrsgr. (sic) M. A. Shine and others. Part of a diary kept by one of the ill-fated officers, believed by Msgr. Shine to have been that of the Franciscan chaplain of the expedition, and of a report by an officer in St. Louis and the writings of Father Charlevoix, S. J., are the chief sources of information.


Map of the Villasur Expedition, A. D. 1720

In 1720 the French and Spaniards were at war. The French had seized Pensacola, Florida, and expelled the Spaniards. The Spanish governor of New Mexico had been warned by the Padouka (Commanche) Indians that French troops had been sent to Missouri, to look for mines and to conquer New Mexico. The governor, therefore, in spring of 1720, organized an important expedition of some sixty Spaniards and perhaps 250 Padouka (Comanche) Indians, to explore the region of the Missouri river, in order to search for mines and to expel the French, who might have established themselves there. The Spaniards seem also to have contemplated the founding of a colony, since a number of colonists and mining tools were taken along. By destroying several Indian villages and killing or enslaving the inhabitants the Spaniards aroused the vindictiveness of the natives.


The Pawnees whom the Spaniards met pretended to be friendly Pani-Mahas (Loup or Skidi Indians), who (sic) Language they spoke, and


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after the Spaniards had retreated one day's march from the confluence of the Loup and the Platte rivers (St. Peter and Paul and the San Lorenzo or St. Lawrence rivers) witnessed a war dance and were suddenly massacred, Don Pedro the commander and the Franciscan chaplain Padre Pedro Minguez at his side being among the first to fall. Only one or the other Spaniard escaped; the Padoukas had fled in terror at the sight of the war dance. The second priest, Padre Juan de Dios, who had a fine horse, made his escape, but was captured by another tribe. While exhibiting his fine horsemanship to the savages he succeeded in getting away. But he was taken prisoner again and eventually probabl (sic) ransomed by the French. News of the disaster was brought as early as September to the French governor at Kaskaskia, Illinois. By November the Indians had penetrated as far north as Michimillimac or Mackinaw, Michigan, where an Indian offered to Charlevoix the useless shoes and the pistol of the chaplain for sale while reserving the cure-all salve for himself as a good medicine. One writer relates rather picturesquely, "that an Indian came riding wearing the paten (gilded plate for covering the chalice) on his chest, like a shield, another savage having the chalice like a bell suspended from the neck of his horse and a third Indian wearing the chasuble upon his naked body.

Rev. Pedro Mingues, O. F. M., had been stationed at Zuni, New Mexico, in 1705; since 1706, at Nambe, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara, missions in New Mexico.


Already Baron Mark de Villiers pointed to the neighborhood of Columbus, near the confluence of the Platte and Loup rivers, as the scene of the Massacre. Fr. Shine and others reached a similar conclusion. Professor E. E. Blackman, of (sic) curator of the the Nebraska State Historical Museum at Lincoln, has established the scene of the Villasur Massacre on the Foley farm about 2 to 3 miles west of Monroe, Platte County, or a few miles west of Columbus, on the Looking Glass Creek. A Spanish sword, bullets, pieces of Spanish armor found here and near Genoa and a Spanish officer's shoulder strap, acknowledged by the Smithsonian institution as possibly being that of the Spanish commander, are now preserved in the Historical Muesum (sic) at Lincoln.


Letter 20 of Charlevoix, S. J., History of New France, Ed. 1744; Vol. III. pp. 246-251. Historical Memoirs of Louisiana, 1753 Vol. II. pp. 284-285; History of Louisiana, 1756, Vol. III. pp. 246-251. Spanish Expedition Number, Nebraska History and Record of Pioneer Days, Vol. VI. No. 6, Jan-March 1923 and 1924: Columbus or North Platte Site of Spanish Massacre? l.c. Vol. VII. No. 3.

After the year 1720 we hear no more of the Franciscans in Nebraska until the year 1877. Before we, however, narrate the activity of the modern Friars Minor, we deem it useful to give a sketch of the Development of Catholicity in Nebraska.


Don Juan de Onate, governor of New Mexico and founder of Santa Fe (1605) made an expedition to Quivera in 1601. Fray Francisco de Velasco, a priest, and Fray Pedro de Vergara, a lay brother, accompanied him. Onate did not reach Nebraska. Uribarri also made an expedition in the year 1706. The Penalosa expedition in 15-- has been proved to be a base forgery of that governor of New Mexico. In 1719 Don Antonio de Balverde (Valverde) undertook another expedition.


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