NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library



had Quivira parades in Omaha wherein King Tatarrax rode in all the savage glory of an early Nebraska sovereign. In the twenty-five years since Judge Savage presented his paper a great deal of new light has been shed on the subject. The route of Coronado has been minutely studied. It has been established beyond question that the Quivira Indians were the Wichitas,--they being the only Indians in all this region who built grass houses. A great river which Coronado crossed on his way to Quivira has been very closely identified as the Arkansas. With these two points conceded it is not hard to fix the valley of the Kansas river in the vicinity of Fort Riley as the true site of Quivira. Here are the remains of a vast former Indian population,--acres of rough flint axes, knives and arrow heads, and at a distance of a few miles other remains of finer flint workmanship mixed with thousands of fragments of pottery. Explorations begun in 1896 on this site by Mr. J. V. Brower, of Minnesota, culminated in the declaration by him that he had rediscovered Quivira. In the summer of 1902 the writer was present at the unveiling of a granite monument a few miles from Fort Riley designed to commemorate the rediscovery. The last word is not yet said in the Quivira controversy, but the present weight of opinion and evidence is that Coronado was mistaken in his reckoning of latitude, did not cross the fortieth degree into Nebraska, and that Quivira was in the Kansas valley instead of the Platte. So much space is here given to the subject because the story of Coronado and Quivira has passed into current Nebraska newspaper literature with the assumption that they were proven to belong to Nebraska history.

      Between the time of the Coronado expedition in 1541 and the Mallet journey in 1740 Nebraska was Fable-land or Liar's Paradise. The Spanish and French literature of that period is filled with the most fantastic tales of wonderful nations, vast cities, great treasure of gold and silver all located in Nebraska. A number of these were accepted for many years as real, narratives of journeys into this region. Some of them are still quoted in historical works. A brief reference to the more important of these romances belongs properly to a history of Nebraska. It might perhaps be called "the legendary history of Nebraska" if the legends were not known to be fabrications of the authors and not-like the fables of early Rome-popular tales handed down by word of mouth for many generations before they were written.

     One of the earliest of these stories is connected with Onate who was governor of New Mexico from 1598 to 1608. In the year 1601 he led an expedition of 80 men northeast across the plains a distance of about 700 miles in search of Quivira. He fought a battle with, an Indian tribe whom he calls "Escanjaques," killing 1,000 of them. Large villages were seen beyond and reports were brought him

Picture or sketch

The Quivira Tomahawk



that nations living still farther had vessels of gold in common use, but he was willing to return to the Rio Grande without seeing them. The whole story as told in the old Spanish records has elements of exaggeration, yet the main fact of an expedition northeast and probably into the Kansas-Nebraska region cannot be doubted.

     Don Diego Penalosa is the next of these Spanish explorers--and falsifiers--and perhaps the most noted. The story of his expedition purports to be written by Nicholas de Freytas, chaplain of the command. It relates how in the spring of 1662 Penalosa with a thousand Indians and eighty Spanish knights, six cannon and eleven hundred horses and mules marched out from Santa Fe. For three months they held their course northeast until stopped by a wide and rapid river where they met a war party of the same "Escanzaques" seen by Onate sixty years before. This war party, 3,000 strong, was on its way to fight one of the great cities of Quivira. Penalosa joined with

Picture or sketch
them and they followed the great river which made a bend and now flowed from the north. After many more days marching they came to one of the cities of Quivira. It was over seven miles long and contained thousands of houses, some of them three and four stories high built out of hard wood. The Spanish commander made a truce with the Quiviras, but the Escanzaques broke the truce, captured and burned the city and killed all the inhabitants who did not escape by flight. Penalosa and his army returned to New Mexico. So much for the story. As late as 1887 Judge Savage in a communication to the Nebraska state historical society accepted its truth and identified the site of the destroyed city as the Loup valley near Columbus, Platte county. Critical study of the later years has established that Penalosa was governor of New Mexico from 1661 to 1664, that he left there because of a quarrel with Jesuit priests and went to France where in 1670 he petitioned the French king to place him at the head of a force to conquer the Span-



ish provinces west of the Mississippi. He never made an expedition to Quivera, but used the account of Onate's expedition in 1601, with embellishment, as an incentive to persuade the French court to give him an army.

     Passing over other Spanish accounts of wonderful adventures in Nebraska-land we may consider a few samples of French fancy relating to the same field. The first of these to deserve special notice is the tale of Mathieu Sagean, a Canadian by birth, told by him in France to the ministry of marine about the year 1700. Sagean's story was that with eleven other Frenchmen and two Indians he crossed the divide west of the upper Mississippi, 120 miles, to a great river flowing southwest. He floated down this river several hundred miles in canoes until he came to the nation of the Acaanibas, living in many cities and strong forts. Their houses were built of wood and of bark. Their king was called Hagaazen and claimed descent from the Montezumas. His palace was 54 feet high with walls and floors covered with plates of gold. There were two wonderful giant idols, a male and a female, in front of the palace and every morning the

Picture or sketch

French Map of Territory including Nebraska, Printed Over Two Hundred Years Ago by La Honton

king with his people made adoration before them. This Indian nation carried on commerce with countries so distant that it required six months for a caravan to pass from one to the other. There was an army of 100,000 men ready always for war. The women were white and beautiful with most remarkably large ears in which were hung great rings of gold and the society belles had extremely long finger nails.

     All of this and much more of the same kind so much stirred the French ministry that it forthwith sent letters to its agents in America demanding further information of this great unknown country. All these splendid Nebraska liars were eclipsed by Baron La Hontan, a Frenchman, who shall be the last one here noticed. In the year 1703 he published in French at The Hague two volumes of his travels in what is now Nebraska and Dakota. The original volumes are before me as I write, with numerous illustrations of the people who lived here and a map showing the entire country between the Mississippi and the mountains. He found three

Prior page


Names index
Picture or sketch

@ 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller