Los Adaes - The First
Capital of Texas
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
The Royal Road (El Camino de Real), which was established in this part of its Empire by the Spanish after establishing the fort to link to Texas
missions and to San Antonio and further south, can be easily discerned at the Los Adaes fortification.
Three claims to the Red River decided a lot of fates during the colonial period (in our area, pre-1803 and pre-1836). The French claimed the
river portions in Louisiana and Oklahoma and Arkansas, and the Spanish claimed the portion of the Red River in Texas, and the Caddos
claimed the entire Red River as it ran in East Texas, in Louisiana, Eastern Oklahoma, and in Arkansas. Of all three powers, the Caddos had
the most say during this time. They had better access to food, knew the land, knew the politics all throughout the region, and were better
weaponized.

To get the Caddos to become allied with them, both the French and Spanish enticed them with trade and promises of eternal life. The
French set up a trading post at the
Natchitoches village (Poste St. Jean Baptiste), and the Spanish set up a trading and mission post just a
few miles down the footpath at the place known simply as Los Adaes, in 1716. Like all Spanish names, the post had a much more involved
moniker: the fort was officially knows as the Nuestera Senora del Pilar Presidio, and the mission was called San Miguel de Linares de los
Adaes. "Los Adaes" means the Adaes people, members of the Caddo confederacy and possessors of the lands between Natchitoches and
Nacogdoches.

The Europeans differed on their interactions with the Caddos, however. While the French openly traded their surplus guns with the
Caddos, the Spanish forbade the weapons trade. Conversely, the French only paid lip service to conversions, while the Spanish took
Catholic conversion deadly serious. The Caddos, of course, preferred trade with the French, and this is why Los Adaes became much more
tied to the Natchitoches post than with the other Spanish missions further west. An agreement between the Spanish governor and St.
Denis, the founder of Natchitoches who married into the Spanish governor's family, strengthened trading ties. An isolated, creole
community emerged at Los Adaes and the surrounding area, combining Caddoan (Adaes), French, and Spanish customs through
intermarriage and trade.

Even though the Spanish colonial government declared Los Adaes the capital of the province of Texas in 1720 to dissuade French
incursions (Spanish law forbade intra-colonial trade), the people at Los Adaes  continued to live their hard but simple lives as farmers,
cowboys, blacksmiths, seamstresses, leather workers, cobblers, soldiers, and cooks. It was most likely due to the Adaens's aceful natures
that no other violence took place at the fort.

In 1763, the French lost their New World empire to the British (trading relationships in the Ohio River Valley and in Canada) and to the
Spanish (Louisiana Territory). This made the outpost of Los Adaes obsolete. The Spanish government moved the capital of Texas to San
Antonio and ordered the Adaens to leave their homes for the missions in San Antonio, too. The trek to San Antonio killed almost half of the
people. They pleaded to the diocese at San Antonio to go back home; while they couldn't go back to Los Adaes anymore as the Spanish
could not guarantee their safety, they were granted permission to settle in Nacogdoches along the Camino de Real instead.

For a long time, the mission and trading post at Los Adaes was forgotten until
historians and archaeologists combined their efforts to
explore the fort further. Today, the site is a
Louisiana State Park and listed on the National Register.
Daily bread at Los Adaes: “The soil is almost entirely destitute of water; which unhappy circumstance, joined to the natural
indolence of the people, frequently reduces them to the way of the most common necessaries of life. The chief means of their
subsistence is Indian corn, which they boil, mixed with quick lime, whereby the husk is dissolved into a kind of powder, and the
grain considerably softened. Having washed and bruised it on a chocolate-stone, it is formed into a lump of paste, which they
knead between their hands. Of this dough they made a sort of cake, which is toasted on a plate of iron laid over the fire. This bread
is the native food of the people of New Spain; and indeed, when these thin cakes, or rather wafers, named by the Spaniards
tortillas, are well baked, they are far from unpleasant” (Pierre Marie François de Pagès, Travels Round the World, 1763, p. 51)*
A detailed plan of the Los Adaes installation from 1720 (University of Texas at Austin)*
Archaeologists have re-outlined the fort for the state park.
A 1763 map of Louisiana shows the proximity of the Spanish fort, Los Adaes, and the French fort (St. Jean Baptiste). (Library of Congress)
Catholic religious emblems found at the fort during archeological excavations. (Wlliamson Museum, Nothwestern State University).*
Image captions noted with an asteriks (*) denote that the image derives from the Los Adaes website designed and maintained by the Louisiana Division of Archaeology
How to get there
Los Adaes is now operated by the Cane River National Heritage Area. Its operational hours
used to be restricted due to budget cuts, but this may change depending on the year! To
see if the fort is open, call 318-356-5555.

If you want to chance it and just drive on over, the park is located west of Natchitoches
on LA 6 (the Camino De Real), right before you enter Robeline, along north-bound Parish
Road 485. Or, find it by clicking here: