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 convince 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
established a trading and mission post just a few miles down the footpath at the
Adayes village, spelled 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 Adayes 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 peaceful 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.
Fort Los Adaes
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.
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