The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 25, July 1921 - April, 1922 Page: 122
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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly
able skill in husbandry and their almost perfect efficiency in the
diversion and distribution of water for irrigation.
Now, on the success of irrigation depended greatly the outcome
of the critical situation that the Spaniard faced in Texas in the
eighteenth century. Texas was a buffer state, an outlying prov-
ince, which lay across the path of France pursuing her designs on
the riches of Mexico. To combat this menace the policy of Spain
aimed at bringing about the strict exclusion of aliens, the estab-
lishment of military posts of defense, and the conversion of the
Indians into Christian allies. The Franciscan missionaries under-
took the last task.
In carrying out this policy of patrol and conversion the posts
and missions in Texas were to be supported from the far-off base
of Saltillo. in Mexico. This long, uncertain line of communica-
tions was constantly being broken by hostile tribes, so it early be-
came apparent that, if the outposts were to be successfully main-
tained, they had to be made self-supporting. Accordingly, we find
documentary records of much shifting and moving about of posts
and missions in search of sites where they could support them-
selves through agriculture by irrigation.
In this search for water the provincial governors, under whose
authority settlements were made, customarily sent out engineers
to report on the feasibility of the projects under consideration and
to submit estimates of cost of building dams and acequias. The
authorities followed this procedure so closely that the availability
of water for irrigation governed the location of settlements even
in East Texas, where the rainfall was sufficient to assure crops.
Their projects were well distributed over the dryer portion of
the state. Mention has already been made of the irrigation sys-
tems along the Rio Grande below El Paso. These old canals
were dug by the Indians under the direction of the Spaniards, and
the three thousand acres that they watered became famous for
orchards and vineyards. The dam that took the water from the
river was a makeshift affair which was washed out annually by
May and June floods. An effort was made in 1754 to collect a
tax of fifty cents a hundred vines for building a permanent dam.
Although there were 250,000 vines in the valley the owners claimed
they were too poor to stand the assessment and the project fell
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 25, July 1921 - April, 1922, periodical, 1922; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101082/m1/128/: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.