Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000 Page: 18
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cern in Europe.
The French incursion
claimed by the
Spanish was a topic
of discussion in the
royal courts of both
Spain and France. : iS
The two countries
were at war and the
idea that Louis
XIV, the Sun King,
might try to wrest
away some of the
New World under
set the Spaniards in Europe and New Spain
in motion. Expeditions by land and sea
were launched to find and dislodge the
French usurpers. Members of the Alonso
de Le6n military expedition marched overland
from New Spain in 1689 in search of
the French settlement (Tunnell 1998). Led
to the fort by a deserter from La Salle's
group, de Le6n saw that nothing remained
for his soldiers to do but bury the dead colonists
and, later, burn the fort buildings.
So somber was the scene that de Le6n
felt compelled to describe it in his journal
We went to see it, and found all the
houses sacked, all the chests, bottle-cases,
and all the rest of the settlers' furniture
broken, apparently more than two hundred
books torn apart and with the rotten
leaves scattered through the patios-all in
We found three dead bodies scattered
over the plain. One of these, from the
dress that still clung to the bones, appeared
to be that of a woman. We took.
the bodies up, chanted mass with the bodies
present, and buried them.
On April 22, 1689, members of the de
Le6n expedition buried the French fort's
cannons (Tunnell 1998). They planned to
reclaim the armaments at a later date, and
they did not want any returning French
expeditions to find the cannons. Neither
of those things ever happened, and there
the cannons remained for more than 300
The idea that the French might return
to Garcitas Creek continued to haunt the
Spanish. By 1722, construction of Presidio
Nuestra Senora de Loreto (Presidio La Bahia)
was underway. As instructed, the
Spanish built their fort directly on top of
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HALL OF THE AMEKRIKA
This is a map of
Fort St. Louis,
drawn by the
Alonso de Le6n expedition
the ruins of the
and their efforts
were dutifully described
to the King
of Spain in a report
by the Marques de
San Miguel de
Aguayo, writing on
July 13, 1722
(McDonald, Hindes, and Gilmore
As your majesty ordered, thus have I
executed; for the location is still known
where they burned the powder and buried
the artillery. I found pieces of [French] muskets
and other iron pieces during digging of
the foundations . . .
The location proved, however, to be no
more amenable to the soldiers at the
presidio or the missionaries at nearby Mission
Nuestra Senora Espiritu Santo than it
had been for La Salle's colonists. Bad water,
heat, humidity, mosquitoes, a lack of
suitable building material, hostile Indians,
and a sense that the French threat had diminished
prompted the Spanish to relocate
inland to more pleasant surroundings on the
Guadalupe River by 1726. Thus ended the
European presence on the banks of Garcitas
Interest in the La Salle odyssey in Texas
was rekindled in 1996-1997 by the discovery
and excavation of the wreck of La Salle's
ship La Belle in Matagorda Bay and by the
serendipitous recovery of the cannons from
Fort St. Louis. In the context of that momentum,
the THC entered into negotiations
with the beneficiaries of the Keeran
Family Trust, managed by the First Victoria
National Bank. They graciously allowed
THC archeologists a two-year opportunity
to conduct an excavation at Fort St. Louis.
This investigation, formally known as the
HERITAGE * 18 * FALL 2000
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000, periodical, Autumn 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45391/m1/18/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.