Oak Tree Under the Live Oak Tree
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Chapter One: The Setting

Alarcón 1718 Expedition

      Seguin's history, like many histories, can be divided into two eras: Prerecorded and recorded. This chapter will include the early Indians, the Guadalupe River and its importance to the early peoples, and the advent of the Spaniard.

      Human life existed in the region of Seguin long before the arrival of the Spaniard. The Indians roamed the rolling hills north of Seguin in search of buffalo, deer and bird. They passed through the eventual settlements of Staples, Galle, Barbarosa, Clear Springs, Geronimo and many others. They camped along the Guadalupe River for fishing, for water, and to lie in wait for game. Numerous shards of pottery, arrowheads, skin scrapers and jewelry have, over the years, been located along the Guadalupe River and surrounding creeks such as the Geronimo, Mill, Elm, and Cottonwood Creeks. Lucky hunters today can still stumble across these prized artifacts.

      As there were no records kept by the Indians the most one can do is assume what the early, pre-Spanish Indians were like.

      According to a number of sources, there were basically two Indian Tribes who semipermanently made their presence known in the Seguin and Gonzales area. These were the Lipan Apache Indians and the Tonkawa Indians. Both were peaceful to the extent that the Spaniards, during their mission building period, had little difficulty in working with them. When Green De Witt's Colony was established at Gonzales in 1825 -1827, a peace treaty was attested to by Major James Kerr and the Lipans.

      The Tonkawa and Lipan Apache life styles were similar in many respects. They were both clannish, each band being made up of the immediate and extended family. They were not necessarily an agrarian, permanent home building type of Indian. Their environment dictated that they follow the animal migrations and use the animals to fulfill their needs of food, clothing, and shelter. What fruits and vegetation they needed to supplement their diets came from the prickly pear-tuna, fish in the rivers, and the walnuts and pecans that grew along the river bottoms of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers.

      The Tonkawas made their home near the headwaters of the San Marcos River and, for the most part, roamed in a region extending north towards the Colorado River, to the foothills of the Hill Country and as far west as the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers. If they ever engaged in warfare, it was only to protect their poorly defined hunting boundary lines from being exploited by other tribes.

      The Lipan Apache, one of five subtribes of the Apache nation, were more aggressive than the Tonkawa. Their home territorial area was the Hill Country, but it extended into the Seguin-Gonzales area. They too were nomadic and seemed not afraid to trespass on other tribal boundaries. Where the Tonkawa often sought accommodations with other tribes and later the Spanish, the Lipan would protest enough (through horse stealing, prank pulling, and occasional raids) that force by the Spaniards, and later the Anglos, was required and treaties needed to be entered into.

      In effect, during the prehistory period, which has been dated to about l2,000 years ago, the Indians had more than enough to keep occupied - trying to fend off other tribes, maintain a social unit, and survive in a climate that was physically demanding. One of the most vital needs for survival existed in the Seguin area. Without this treasure, it is doubtful the Indians would have made this area one of their main hunting grounds, or that the eventual town of Seguin would have been settled here. This treasure was the Guadalupe River.

      Early camps and settlements invariably sprung up near springs and along flowing creeks and rivers. The graceful Guadalupe River was no exception. Her early history, written and unwritten, has played an important role in the dreams of life.

      The Indians needed her for survival. Her densely foliaged banks teemed with wild game seeking her protection from other prey. The nourishment of her waters was willingly accepted. Like the other major rivers of Texas, she had her own personality. The Guadalupe could be kind, yet, within less than a moment's notice, she could take a tempestuous turn. Her history is filled with droughts so severe that settlers could skip across her from rock to rock, one bank to the other. Other times she could turn into a raging, angry torrent, sweeping away anything that got in her way, be it house, man, or beast. Yet, for the most part, she is a stately, supporting river who nurtures peace, tranquility, and quiet usefulness.

      The first mention in the history of the Guadalupe River comes from Spanish sources. It has been confirmed that Cabeza de Vaca, an explorer shipwrecked off the coast of Galveston, crossed the Guadalupe River sometime between 1535 and 1536. One author placed Cabeza de Vaca and his small band of survivors as having crossed the Guadalupe River where she joins the San Marcos River. However, most historians, who have exhaustively tried to piece his escape trail from the coastal Karankawa Indians across Texas to Mexico, place his crossing more in the vicinity of Victoria, and then proceeding west northwest. Cabeza de Vaca did not name the Guadalupe River. His main interests were in surviving, escaping, and returning to his people in Mexico. Later, when he presented his account to the Spanish Courts, he did liken one river much to the Guadalquivir River of Spain.

      The next mention of the Guadalupe River came from another Spaniard, Alonzo de Leon, Governor of the northern Spanish State of Coahuila, which would eventually become the State of Coahuila and Texas. At the behest of the Spanish Government's desire to counter French expansion into East Texas, de Leon, for whom Leon Creek and Leon Valley in San Antonio are named, ultimately led five expeditions into present day Texas. His expeditions would lead to the slowing of the French presence and the establishment of missions.

      During the expedition of 1689, de Leon's route took him to the French fort established by La Salle in 1685, near present day Victoria and the Lavaca River. He found the fort destroyed, most likely by the Karankawa Indians. He sent out several exploratory expeditions and encountered the river he named in honor of the Patron Saint of Mexico - La Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, or "Our Lady of Guadalupe."

     Unfortunately, there were to be several changes in the River's name. In 1691, Father Massanet and explorer, Domingo Teran, explored the region of present Guadalupe and Comal counties. At the confluence of the Guadalupe and San Marcos Rivers, near Gonzales, they named the river the San Augustine. In 1709, missionary priests Espinosa and Olivares changed the name back to the Guadalupe River, out of profound reverence for its namesake.

      In 1715, Governor Martin de Alarcon, Governor of the State of Coahuila and Texas, due to the missionary efforts of Father Antonio Buenaventura Olivares along the San Antonio River, was directed by the Spanish officials in Mexico City to establish a mission and support station for the East Texas Missions. On May 1, 1718, the Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo) was founded. On May 5, one mile distant, the Presidio (Fort) of San Antonio de Bexar was founded. Ten families settled around the Presidio, thus forming San Antonio's first population.

      Having accomplished his mission, Alarcon set out on a series of expeditions into the surrounding countryside. His diarist was Francisco Celiz. Father Celiz drew a map of Governor Alarcon's three expeditions between April 1718 and January 1719. His second expedition brought him to present day Seguin, Belmont, Kingsbury, Saturn, Fentress, and Martindale.

      In describing the approach from New Braunfels to the Seguin area of 1718, Father Celiz offered these observations:

      On the 7 (of September) we left the above-named place, and after having gone about three leagues, we left the road we were following, which is the same which goes to Tejas (The main Old Spanish Trail to Nacogdoches), and heading straight to the east, we traveled about five leagues, over some hills and all along the way through woods, in places thick with mesquites and some oaks. There are on the way some small hills and some short ravines, all of very loose soil. This day we come to a stop at a high hill which is on the bank of the Guadalupe River in which two branches now flow together. There is here a waterfall which crosses the river from one side to the other (Comal and Guadalupe).

      On the 8 day of the said month, Day of The Nativity of The Most Holy Mary, after the holy sacrifice of the mass had been celebrated, we left the said place in the direction of the east, downstream, through a wood so thick that it was necessary to go ahead with axes to open a way with our hands so that the laden mules might pass, which were to be led one by one by their halters. The wood is of mesquites, hackberries, much nopal, and some mulberries and oaks. This day we traveled about five leagues and stopped on the bank of the same river (directly west of Seguin). On the 9 day of the said month, before leaving the place, the governor sent two companies to examine the direction and way we were to track. Presently the governor mounted a horse to inspect a waterfall which is downstream which crosses the entire river . . . (this could have been at the Saffold Dam at Starcke Park, Lake Placid's TP-4 Dam or Morrison Falls).

      Governor Alarcon's expedition continued, all of which was recorded by Father Celiz. Thus, in 1718, the Guadalupe River, from New Braunfels to Gonzales, had her first moments in recorded history.

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© 2000 E. John Gesick, Jr. All rights reserved.