Paleo-Texas Clovis Technology
By 700 AD, the transition from atlatl to bows-and-arrows marked a passage into the late-Prehistoric period. While that is generally accepted, the scope and impact of these populations is open to debate and interpretation.
Texas, however, remained a tough neighborhood. Resources remained scarce for pedestrian wanderers, and game was hard won. Spears were either used as thrusting weapons, hurled weapons, or flung from an atlatl. Most humans abandoned the plains in favor of better locations, and bison hunting decreased. Driving buffalo over a “jump” was an infrequent and usually highly celebrated event among this Southern Great Plains population. Rock art in the region—pictographs and petroglyphs—date to this era and often seem to depict events of a climatological, cosmological, and religious significance.
Some things seem certain: Indians understood the cosmos, the climate, and the environmental cycles to a degree far superior to other civilizations on earth, and began using this knowledge to draw a living from their environment on a grand scale. A patchwork of linguistic groupings and cultures evolved as a result of the “scattering” of people on the land, eventually leading to around 500 different Indian nations. Some Indian nations only numbered a few hundred, while others numbered in the millions.
On March 19, 1687, bitter, weary, and desperate men finally had enough with their leader, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. They were stranded in a foreign land with little hope of rescue, or even survival, and still he seemed lost and incapable of finding a way home.
If they hated anyone more than their leader, it was his arrogant and overbearing nephew, Crevel de Moranget. They killed him first. Then, they compounded the crime by killing La Salle.
But who were these conspirators?
Jean L’Archevêque, born in 1672 in Bayonne, France. Just fifteen-years-old at the time of the murder, he was living in the West Indies with his parents before becoming an indentured servant to Sieur Pierre Duhaut. This merchant would become the accused trigger-man in the escapade, while L’Archevêque played a key role in luring La Salle into the ambush. Duhaut paid for the crime with his life, but L’Archevêque escaped into exile among the Hasinai (Caddo) Indians, along with fellow survivor, Jacques Grolet.
Two years later, L’Archevêque convinced a Jumano Indian to carry a note and a drawing to the Spanish. “I do not know what sort of people you are. We are French[;] we are among the savages[;] we would like much to be Among the Christians such as we are[.] … we are solely grieved to be among beasts like these who believe neither in God nor in anything. Gentlemen, if you are willing to take us away, you have only to send a message. … We will deliver ourselves up to you.”
Tipped off by this note, the Spanish recovered L’Archevêque and in the summer of 1689 sent him and Grolet to Spain in irons. He languished for two years before Spanish authorities—wary of setting them free because of their knowledge of the frontera, instead made them swear an oath to Spain and then returned them to Mexico as soldiers.
L’Archevêque, now just twenty-two years old, joined the Diego de Vargas expedition to New Mexico in 1694. There he married Antonia Guitiérres and settled into a domestic life as a soldier, merchant, and landowner. He became a famous scout in the Santa Fe region and a man of political influence. In 1720, during the War of the Quadruple Alliance between Spain and France, the forty-eight-year-old L’Archevêque guided Lieutenant General Pedro de Villasur’s expedition into the heart of the Great Plains in order to push back the French influence along the Platte River. Pawnees and Otoes, aided by French trappers, surprised and crushed the Spanish-Pueblo column, killing nearly half and sending the rest scurrying back to Santa Fe. L’Archevêque and Villasur were among the slain.
Born in 1663 in St. Jean, La Rochelle, France, Jacques Grolet was an illiterate sailor aboard Aimable during the La Salle Expedition. In 1685, when his ship wrecked off the coast of Texas, he remained with the colony instead of returning to France aboard Joly. After La Salle’s murder in 1687, Grolet vanished among the Hasinai people instead of joining the party still heading for Canada. The twenty-four-year-old soon met up with Jean L’Archevêque and, after two years among the Indians, surrendered to the Spanish. Grolet, shipped to Spain and imprisoned, returned to Mexico in 1692 after swearing allegiance to his new masters and enlisting as a soldier. He, like L’Archevêque, traveled to New Mexico. In 1699, Grolet married Elena Galuegas and settled down to domestic life in the town of Bernalillo as Santiago Gurulé
Born 1670 in Paris, France, Pierre Meunier was the son of minor nobleman Louis Meunier, Sieur de Preville. A companion of René-Robert Cavaleir, Sieur de La Salle, he traveled to La Rochelle to join the expedition. Meunier served aboard the Aimable but stayed at Fort St. Louis after his ship sank on the Texas coast. He fell afoul of La Salle, and served time in irons aboard La Belle in 1685-1686 before that vessel, too, sank. Once again ashore, Meunier made his way to Fort Saint Louis. He accompanied La Salle’s overland expedition looking for a way to the Mississippi, and was on hand when his companions killed Crevel de Moranget, La Salle’s nephew.
Claiming illness, he disappeared among the Hasinai instead of continuing to Canada. The seventeen-year-old met fellow survivor Pierre Talon, an eleven-year-old boy that La Salle had planned to leave with the Indians to be raised among them for future service as an agent. Meunier “went native,” being tattooed in the Caddo fashion and apparently intended to make a life with the Hasinai. The Spanish captured him and Talon in 1690, however, believing they would prove useful as guides for establishing Spanish outposts in East Texas. After being taken to Mexico for interrogation, Meunier returned to the region as a guide and interpreter for the 1691 Domingo Terán de los Rios expedition before returning to Mexico. In 1693, Meunier joined the Diego de Vargas expedition to New Mexico as a soldier and disappeared from history.
Texas At The End of the Chain
Shortly after the conquest of Mexico, the Spanish monarch established two layers of government to help manage the growing empire. The Council of the Indies dealt with New World governing issues. Trade and issued related to maximizing revenues for the crown channeled through the Casa de la Contratacíon located in the chief duty port of Seville.
In the New World, the crown established the Viceroyalty and Audiencia of New Spain. These entities were, in essence, an assistant king in Mexico aided by a privy council to provide judicial, legislative, and administrative functions in this vast area.
The Viceroyalty of New Spain developed various kingdoms, provinces, and other regional subdivision as it expanded, each headed by an appointed official and assisted by some sort of council. This created, in turn, some awkward arrangements by creating layers of often overlapping jurisdictions that often caused bureaucratic headaches for people trying to conduct official business in Mexico. A common expression, Obedezco pero no cumplo (I obey but I do not comply), expressed the attitude many of these officials had toward royal authority as they sought to navigate the maze of rules, regulations, and authorities. In the end, bribery and graft became tools for administrative efficiency.
At the local level, officials further divided most Spanish territory in the provinces into municipalities that controlled not only the settlement itself, but also the surrounding lands. Alcaldes served as chief magistrates chosen by councils called the ayuntamiento (sometimes cabildo) composed of councilmen (regidores) presided over by a chairman—el corregidor.
As the society of New Spain matured, additional layers of control and bureaucracy emerged as administrative positions sprouted among the various settlements and population centers. As a rule, the more important the post, the more likely it would be held by a European-born Spaniard—a Penisulare. Behind them would be Mexican-born Criollos.
The mass of the Mexican population remained out of this political mix while a growing number of Criollos jostled with Penisulares for political control and influence and its associated economic benefits. This reality added class as an issue to the already simmering friction of race.
On the frontera, though, people had to be more pragmatic. Issues that seemed of paramount concern in Mexico City often became muted in places like Tejas.
But who were these conspirators?
The purity of Spanish blood, or Limpieza de Sangre, was a concept imported from Europe to Mexico in the 1500s. Originally, this concept helped identify persons of Jewish or Muslim descent during the violent and turbulent Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula.
When the Spanish conquered the Mexica (Aztecs) and expanded their new world empire, they applied the practice to the conquered populations. Before long the idea of ethnic and religious purity became blended with concepts of racial purity as well with the addition of Africans and Asians to the mix. Eventually every race on earth had some representation in the Americas.
This reality resulted in a staggering and bewildering system of castes in colonial New Spain as people of different heritages mixed and mingled. There were large stratifications:
• Penisulares (Europeans born in Spain)
• Criollos (Europeans born in New Spain)
• Mestizos (Mixed Indian and European)
• Indios (Indians)
• African Slaves
The first two categories accounted for about 10% of the population. Within the remaining 90%, however, there was a rainbow array of combinations. This diversity led to widespread stereotypes and prejudices about various racial and ethnic combinations. Poetry, literature, and politics all became tinted with caste issues with people of purely European ancestry become increasingly rare as New Spain matured.
Having traveled to Béxar, Nacogdoches, the Red River, and down through Goliad to Matamoros in 1827, General Manuel Mier y Terán grew worried about what he saw. Notably, he believed the population trends in Texas would lead to an eventual loss of that region for Mexico and remained suspicious of American designs. He recommended several methods to remedy the situation:
Mexican Foreign Minister Lucas Alaman y Escalada agreed with these observations, and took measures to more successfully integrate Tejas into the Mexican economy, and to make its settlers more accountable to the Mexican government. He also hoped to attract a better quality of immigrant than those he feared were crowding Mexico’s northern frontera. The resulting Law of April 6, 1830, included the following elements:
Give tomatoes at least two feet of space between plants, keep the soil moist (drip irrigation works best for this), and plant chives near the base of the tomatoes to ward off insects. Planting marigolds around the border of the garden will help to fend off those pesky nematodes.
Eaten raw or turned into pickles, this member of the gourd family is also a relative of squash and cantaloupes. They perform extremely well when trellised, which also makes harvesting quite a bit easier. Full sunlight and well-draining soil are a must to get the most out of your cukes, and you should harvest when still green to avoid bitter cucumbers. Good companion plants include carrots and dill.
Bells, banana peppers, and pimentos are common varieties of sweet peppers found in home gardens. Trickier than tomatoes, sweet peppers set their fruit when the temperature stays between 60 and 90 degrees. Space your sweet pepper plants about two feet apart, and don’t forget to mulch.
Beans are some of the easiest, most nutritious vegetables that you can plant, and there are several varieties of bush beans, pole beans, and lima beans that do well in the Texas garden. Full sun and a moist, well-draining soil will improve your chances of getting a great harvest. Be sure to mulch the beans to keep them from drying out.
Carrots do best when grown in a sandy, loamy soil. Once the seed sprouts the carrot sends out its tap root. Bits of rock or tough material will cause this root to change course, deforming the carrot. Raised bed gardening is great for growing carrots. Once the seedlings are about three inches high, thin plants to three inches between plants.
One of the most popular varieties of summer squash is zucchini. It’s also one of the most prolific, and will take over the garden if you let it. We first planted zucchini when I was a child; four mounds of zucchini eventually took over about thirty feet of fence and a swing set. That year my mother put it in almost every dish she made (she even used it in a cake!).
Be sure to plant a “short day” variety of onion for the Texas garden. Onions can take up to 120 days to harvest; Bermuda, Red Burgundy, and Texas Super Sweet are standouts.
Hot peppers have been around for about 10,000 years, and have been used in folk medicine remedies since their discovery. The heat of the hot pepper is from a naturally occurring substance called capsium. The level of heat varies according to the variety and ripeness of the pepper. They help to prevent hardening of the arteries, improve circulation, lower triglycerides and help with your cholesterol by reducing the oxidation of LDLs, thus lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke. Hot peppers also lower the risk of certain types of cancer, and improve your breathing by opening up your sinuses. The endorphin rush you get from a hot pepper leads to a general sense of well being, akin to a “runners high” that some joggers get during a workout. Some researchers also suggest that hot pepper consumption can even aid weight loss by raising your metabolism. There are hundreds of varieties of hot peppers. Most prefer sandy soil and a sunny location.
A cool weather crop, lettuce is perfect for early spring and late fall plantings. There are several varieties that do well in Texas.
Peas need essentially the same growing conditions as beans, and there are about twenty varieties of pea that work for the Texas garden. There are bush varieties and vine varieties, English, snap, and Southern. My great grandparents used to grow purple hull peas, and while I like purple hulls my favorite variety is the sugar snap, preferably eaten while I’m meandering through the garden.