How Once Upon a Time
Coronado Came
to Quivira


"Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches,
And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine trees,
And the thunder in the mountains,
Whose innumerable echoes
Flap like eagles in their eyries;
Listen to these wild traditions."




NCE upon a time this vast country which we call the United States was a great wilderness, inhabited only by tribes of Indians. Whence they came no one knows. It is a subject upon which many historians have written and disagreed, and until the buried truths of the past are discovered the origin of the Indian must remain unexplained,--however much the mystery may lure to speculation, and however much the






myths, legends and traditions may seem to afford ground for conjecture. All we know for a certainty is that the red men were here when the early explorers and the Pilgrims came, and that there are evidences in some parts of the continent of a very ancient civilization to which long deserted ruins and tenantless temples testify.
     The love of adventure has ever tempted men to hazard their lives in the perils of the wilderness, and the history of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is filled with the accounts of their failures and achievements ;--yet, whether failures or achievements they nevertheless, alike contributed to that Divine law which is Progress.
     The discovery of the Nebraska country, according to reliable historians, occurred "eighty years before the eastern shore was visited by the Pilgrims, sixty-six years before John Smith came to Virginia, and when Queen Elizabeth was a little girl."
     Modern research among old Spanish letters, journals and reports preserved in Spain, opens to our vision a wonderful and astonishing chapter in Spanish exploration, which reads like romance, but is based on authentic records and the accounts of the brilliant Coronado and his march from the city of Mexico to the land of Quivira, and is a thrilling tale of adventure.
     Long years ago, in the early part of the sixteenth century, came an explorer, De Narvaez, and his followers, to the coast of Florida to perish miserably at the hands of hostile






Indians and from sickness caused by hardships, until only four men survived, who for six years remained with the tribes of Florida; then, led by one named De Vaca, they decided to brave the perils of an unknown land and for two years wandered among savage tribes, being the first white men to cross the North American continent from Florida to Mexico.
     The story of their wanderings seems a fairy tale, yet, probably, they led to the discovery of the Nebraska country by white people.
     Roaming about on the trackless prairies, they met a company of Spanish slave-hunters and in this strange group of men, ragged and with long tangled hair, these Spaniards were astonished to find natives of their own country. De Vaca, overcome with joy at meeting friends after his long wanderings, related his experiences.
     Among other interesting events, he said he had been told by Indians that to the north lay rich and populous cities where gold and silver were plentiful.
     An Indian slave said that he knew of those cities to the north, and a Franciscan monk, Friar Marcos, sent out by Mendoza, viceroy of Mexico, reported that he had visited Cibola, the seven cities of the Zuni Indians.
     The Mexican government, influenced by these tales, sent out a gallant young cavalier named Coronado, with a following of three hundred Spaniards and eight hundred Indians to explore this land and capture the rich and populous






cities, the viceroy having been instructed by Charles V. of Spain to outfit the expedition.
     This army of Spaniards and Indians, when reviewed by those in command of the expedition, presented a wonderful and gorgeous appearance.
     "On February 23, 1540, the expedition started from Compostela, the capital of New Galicia (a western border province of Mexico of which Coronado was governor, now within the territory of Tepic, Mexico), situated about 375 miles northwest of the city of Mexico. Culiacan, the next place of importance it came to, was also in New Galicia (near the center of the present state of Sinaola). From Culiacan it went on northwesterly, crossing many rivers and following some along a part of their course, until it came to the Sonora river (now in the state of Sonora) which was followed, nearly to its source, to a pass in the mountains, not far beyond which it arrived at the headwaters of the river now called San Pedro (in the extreme north part of Sonora) which was followed some distance into the country now called Arizona; then, continuing northeasterly, the expedition passed near the place where Fort Apache, Arizona, was afterward built; thence, continuing in the same direction, it reached the Zuni village called Hawikuh, the ruins of which are fifteen miles southwest of the present town of Zuni, in McKinley county, New Mexico. Hawikuh was one of the so-called seven cities of Cibola."
     Instead of rich and populous cities, of which






they had been told, they found Indian villages composed of huts made of stone and mud, and the Spaniards, seeking plunder, attacked these villages. The Indians fled at the sight of the strange rushing figures on horseback, and as their only weapons were arrows and stones, they soon surrendered. Coronado was twice wounded during the fight. There was no gold or silver of much value, but considerable food supplies were obtained.
     After some time spent in New Mexico, Coronado, not wishing to return to Mexico empty handed, decided to lead his army north to a land called Quivira, where he was fold there were rich cities, and where gold and silver were plentiful. An Indian named, "The Turk," told Coronado that he knew of this land and offered to guide the expedition. The credulous Spaniards travelled northeasterly, but very indirectly, about 1,200 miles to Quivira. As many of Coronado's men wandered off and were lost on the prairies, when he had gone more than half the way, he began to fear he could not obtain food for so large a company, notwithstanding many buffaloes were killed, so he sent the army back to New Mexico pushing on with thirty chosen men. Distrusting the Turk, who was put in chains, an Indian, named Ysopete, was chosen guide.
     When Quivira was reached, and found to be only an Indian country, without rich cities, the Spaniards put the Turk to death, who confessed that he had deceived them, hoping to lead them out of the right road through the wilderness to






prevent them from destroying his own people, who lived in the direction they were going, and thus proved himself a brave and patriotic man. After spending some time in Quivira, ruled over by an Indian chief, Coronado returned to New Mexico, October 20, 1541, arriving at Tiguex, whence he started for Quivira, April 23, and where his army was encamped. Tiguex was an important Indian village or pueblo, situated on the Rio Grande river, at a point not far southwest of Santa Fe and now in Sandoval county, New Mexico.
     The following spring Coronado started with the army to the city of Mexico, where he made his report to Mendoza, the viceroy, who was greatly disappointed at the failure and Coronado retired from active life, spending his last years in obscurity.
     It is impossible to find out to a certainty or definitely the situation of Quivira; but according to the most reliable students of the question it was nearly circular in shape; about one hundred miles in diameter, and was bounded on the northwest by the Republican river; its eastern boundary extended nearly to a point where this river enters the Kansas, and its southwest boundary nearly to the Arkansas at the great bend. Probably the best authority upon this question says that: "there is no reason to suppose Coronado's party went beyond the limits of the present state of Kansas," which, however, lies in what was known as the Nebraska country, consisting of the






land drained by the Platte river and tributaries until the waters began to flow into the Arkansas river.


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© 1999, 2000, 2001 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, T&C Miller