The spoils of the Spaniards were spattered
everywhere. The letter of Charlevoix is dated at Michillimakinac.
The following one was written to the Illinois by the engineer
Lallemand who explored the mines of the Maramek river region.
"The Spaniards of New Mexico"38 Says he "came three or four months ago with the design to establish themselves on the Missouri. They had with them a number of mules loaded with all kinds of tools to work the mines. They drove with them a number of cows and sheep. In this array they arrived at a nation called Octotata, two hundred leagues from here."
"They took only 40 days to reach the Octotata. It is presumed that they did not move rapidly on account of the baggage and the animals which they brought with them."39
Distance from Santa Fe to Nebraska Country.
"It is believed that it is not more than 120
leagues40 from New Mexico to the Octotata. These
savages say there is a fort built of stone four days journey from
where they are."
"On their way they killed and destroyed many savage nations. They flattered themselves they would finish the others. The affair turned our differently."
Account of Charlevoix.
"The Octotata who were on the hunt learned
all the cruelties which the Spanish had inflicted on their
neighbors. They dissimulated and came to the number of 60 to smoke
the pipe of peace with their new hosts, the Spaniards, who
suspected nothing. The savages all of a sudden gave a great cry
which was the signal to strike them down, they did this so well
only one remained. The mules took fright and fled on the run with
their loads. The prisoner whom the savages had captured was a monk
of San Juan de Dios. He escaped a little later. The savages were
foolish enough to let him have a horse in order to show them how
to ride one.41 His shrewdness had been too smart for
them and he fled with all speed. Since then it is learned that
other Spaniards had returned to the attack and that they had met
the same fate as the first, excepting one whom the savages would
send here at once. M.
de Boisbriant has shown me several documents written in Spanish, among others one which is marked Esquadras with the names of those who apparently were on guard for that day. The other papers are songs or hymns and prayers to the Virgin. There are some leaves of the breviary of the Spanish monk and some rosaries with their crosses, evident proof that the savages have not made up a tale. From this it must appear that there are rich mines on the Missouri since the Spaniards wish to penetrate there whether desired or not."
Hope of Mines in Missouri River Region.
Poor Lallement who, in spite of his efforts,
never succeeded in discovering in the region of the river Maramek
anything but very poor mines difficult to work, had not yet lost
his illusions. It was for him a deadly irony, the news of the
death of the Spanish prospectors, duped like himself by the
chimerical prospectus of the Company of the Indies, coming just at
this time to beguile him.
In Le Page du Pratz there is a long account, very picturesque but fantastic, of the arrival at Kaskaskia of Indians bearing the spoils of the Spaniards. His account would make one think a whole convent had been massacred, so much one glimpses of defiling of chasublas, of stoles, of surplices, of crosses and candlesticks.
But what is for us more interesting Du Pratz adds:
Spanish Maps of Nebraska Region.
"The Indians brought with them the map which had so ill-guided the Spaniards. After having examined it, it seems to me better, for the west of our colony which is toward them, than for the region which concerns us. According to this map it appears that the Red River and the Arkansas must bend more than I have said and that the source of the Missouri is more to the west than shown by our geographers since the Spaniards should know that region better than the French who have given notes upon it."
Where Did Massacre Take Place?
Let us now see whether the documents which precede, in spite of their apparent lack of certainty, may not, in reality, be sufficiently exact to determine with satisfactory approximation, the place where the massacre of the Spaniards occurred.
Not in Osage Country.
Let us observe, at the start, that the
expedition did not go to the Osage,42 as Le Page du
Pratz believed, but to the Pani, most of whose tribes then dwelt
to the north of or along
the middle course of the river Platte. The Spanish officers
seemed much better informed than that author thinks and would
therefore seek to avoid contact with the Osage who had always
shown themselves faithful allies of the French. On the other hand
the Spanish, who held only distant friendly relations (except with
the Apache and Padoka) could hardly yet have knowledge of the
peace, quite recent, between the Pani-Maha and our allies the
Missouri, the Oto and the Kanza.
The Platte or Kansas River?
The geographic hints contained in the last leaves of the note book of the route furnish only rather vague information, and the author seems a little lost among the divers branches which join the river "Jesus-Maria." However, since it must relate to some affluent of the Kanzas--or of the river Platte the description seems precise enough to show that the river, not navigable and full of islands, which the Spaniards in search of the Pani, crossed on the 7th and 8th of August, 1720. (after having traveled 300 leagues) could be none other than the river Platte, whose name indicates43 that it is as broad as it is shallow.
So far as the Creek of "Saint Lawrence", a veritable river, since the mules could hardly cross it in the month of August, in studying the map of this region, and in comparing the place then inhabited by the Oto, with the various distances indicated which otherwise show remarkable agreement, one may, we believe, identify it most surely with the Loup Fork and the name of this river comes from the surname of the tribe of Loup Indians, which our trappers gave at another time to the later Pani-Maha along its banks.
Paris Editor Believes it was at Junction of Loup and Platte.
The Spanish expedition was, then,
exterminated on August 11, 1720, by the Oto and Pani-Maha at a
point below, but very near, the junction of the Loup Fork and the
river Platte. This place is in fact, located in a straight line
about 25 leagues from the Missouri. And the disaster according to
Boisbriant, occurred about 15 leagues west of the Otoptata who
dwelt about 8 hours in an air line, from Missouri.
When once the gold mines had vanished it does not seem that the Spaniards renewed their efforts, although this dispatch from Bienville on April 25, 1722, reports:
"I learned a little while ago, from the savages of the Missouri, that the Spaniards of New Mexico calculated to return and demand satisfaction from those who defeated them, and to make at the same time, a settlement upon the river of the Kanzes (Kansas) which flows into Missouri."
Revenge on the French.
And one might also ask whether it was not at
the instigation of the Spaniards that the Indians massacred, about
1725-26, under mysterious circumstances the garrison of Fort
d'Orleans,44 then reduced on account of economy, to 8
men. It was then, we have already stated, commanded by Dubois, the
first husband of the "Princess of the Missouri."
1. Under the title, "The Spanish Caravan",
Sheldon's "History and Stories of Nebraska", first edition
published in 1913, gave a summary of what was then known upon this
subject and a critical review of conjectures upon it. The new
information contained in this article clears up many of the
conjectures and gives us an historical basis for the real
2. The discovery of new documents upon Louisiana and the Missouri river region in the last 20 years has been full of interesting encouragement. These documents were generally sent from New Orleans to France or to Spain during the 18th century. They were filed away in pigeon holes from which they are now being rescued by the diligent scholarship of Europe and America.
3. The books mentioned by the French editor in his notes 1, 2, 3, are the chief bases of our knowledge of the French Province of Louisiana as it was 150 years ago. The Missouri country (including Nebraska) was even then known in its general features from reports of French fur-traders.
4. Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, born 29 October, 1682, died 1 February, 1761. Twice visited Canada. Wrote "History of New France" and "Journal and Letters" of his travels.
5. Pierre Margry, born 8 December, 1818, at Paris. Died 27 March, 1894, at Paris. He was author of many important books on early history of America--most valuable of them six volumes on French and Spanish explorations entitled "Memoires et Documents pour servir a l'histoire des origines francaises des pays d'outremer." Volume six of this series contains the most important documents relating to the Missouri river region including the present Nebraska. (See a fine article on Margry's life work in the Louisiana Historical Quarterly for April, 1922.)
6. John Law, born in 1671, died 1729, was a
shrewd Scotch economist and promoter. His most famous financial
promotion was the Company of the Indies. This company sold shares
to the French public based upon the expectation of great profit
from the region known as the Province of Louisiana, including the
present Nebraska. The company had the support of the French
government and a practical monopoly of the French foreign trade.
The immediate expectation of profit was from the development of
mines in the Missouri river region. These mines were reported as
having vast quantities of all kinds of metals. The shares in the
Indies Company rose to a premium of 4,000%. A perfect craze to
make fortunes out of the undeveloped resources in the Mississippi
Valley seized the French public. It was impossible for these
expectations to be realized at once, and, after a period of three
years of the wildest speculation, the company went up in smoke and
its shareholders were ruined. This is called "The Mississippi
Bubble." It was accompanied with a large issue of paper money
through the Royal Bank controlled by John Law.
7. The Rue Quinquempoix was the location of the stock-exchange at Paris in 1720. It corresponded in the popular language with the American phrase "Wall Street."
8. The original French is more musical and sarcastic than the best translation:
9. The Otoe occupied in general, southeastern Nebraska a century ago. The salt basin at Lincoln was near the dividing line between territory claimed by the Pawnee and claimed by the Otoe. Both tribes gathered salt at the basin. In 1868-70 bands of Otoe and bands of Pawnee camped frequently on the homestead in Seward county, where the editor of this magazine lived as a boy.Page 7
10. Morse's Geography of the World (copy dated 1805 in the Historical Society library) has the legend "R. Plate or Shallow R.", upon the chief stream on the map in the Nebraska region. The French editor (or his printer) has simply misspelled the word in suggesting that the river is ever called "Swallow." In the Otoe language Ne-brath-ka means Water Shallow.Page 9
11. This chief of the Metchigamias is the original from which the name of the modern city of Chicago is derived.Page 11
12. "Salt Marshes of the Lake of Ninmehaw" is
the earliest reference, I have found in literature to the Nemaha
river. It suggests that the early explorers had the idea that the
salt basin at Lincoln was connected with the streams we now call
13. By section lines the site of the great Otoe village near Yutan is 25 miles west and about eleven north of the mouth of the Platte. This village was the capital city of the Otoe tribe for 100 years or more. Its remains today cover 640 acres of land.
14. "Fresh Sand Cherries." In the original
French "des feuilles d'Oloues (?) fraiches." The Paris editor
inserts the question mark into the Spanish text, evidently not
understanding what kind of wild fruit is meant. Any one familiar
with the Platte Valley in the month of August knows that sand
cherries are the most abundant fruit to be found and most likely
to be the one eaten by this band of Indians.
15. "The great number of islands in the river" certainly fits the Platte better than any other stream between Santa Fe and the Missouri river.
16. The junction of the river Jesus-Maria with the creek named St. Lawrence by the Spanish commander "in such a manner that if we had not already crossed it would be impossible to do so," suggests one of three difficulties, great depth of water, very swift current or difficult banks. Either of the first two would fit the junction of the Loup and the Platte today.Page 21
17. Early records of the plains Indians clearly show a system of slavery or servitude for captives. Human sacrifice is known to have existed among the Pawnee in Nebraska, with many citations on that point.Page 25
18. "An Iroquois dance." The Iroquois tribe set the style in dancing for all other Indian tribes in North America. More than thirty different Iroquois dances are described by competent writers on the subject. Each dance had a distinct style and signification.Page 26
19. The distance from Santa Fe to the junction of the Loup and the Platte, as measured in air line across the map today is 619 miles. The distance by railroad, via Denver from Columbus, Nebraska to Santa Fe is 965 miles. The league unit of measurement is about 3 miles. The French kilometre is about 3-5th of a mile.Page 27
20. Mines in the Missouri region. All the early explorers got the idea of very rich mines in the region now occupied by the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. There are in fact rich mines in that region, but not the kind either the Spanish or French could utilize at that time. A number of early references to "Spanish Mines," on the Weeping Water refer beyond doubt to the excavations on the Pollard farm at Nehawka, studied twenty years age by Curator Blackman and others of the Nebraska State Historical Society. About forty acres of limestone hill is tunnelled and dug in a most extraordinary manner, probably by Indians searching for flint. Early fur-traders saw this hill and carried report down the Missouri of Spanish-mines on the Weeping Water. There were expert advertising geniuses in 1720 as well as in 1923.
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