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Trouble & Scandal at Texas Presidios in 1771

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522. [TEXAS PRESIDIOS: SAN AGUSTÍN DE AHUMADA & LOS ADAES]. Five contemporary manuscript copies of documents relating to Spanish Texas presidios at San Agustín de Ahumada and Los Adaes, concerning presidial officers Prudencio de Orobio y Basterra and Ángel de Martos y Navarrete. N.p., 1771. Folio (30.5 x 21.5 cm). Except for a few minor worm holes, condition for all is fine.

     As a result of the loss of Canada to England by Spain’s ally France and the English acquisition of Florida in the same year, the weakly defended northern frontier of New Spain was inspected by the Marqués de Rubí in 1766-1767 (Handbook of Texas Online). Rubí found administration and defense in Texas to be seriously deficient, especially at San Sabá and Los Adaes, the latter the seat of government. The lack of equipment and clothing at Los Adaes was attributed to Martos, who charged exorbitant prices and used soldiers as his ranch workers. Because of this situation, in 1767 interim governor Hugo Oconór ordered Martos taken to Mexico City to face charges of malversation and trade in contraband in a trial lasting fourteen years. As a part of his report, Rubí recommended the maintenance of only San Antonio and La Bahía as presidios, and in 1769 Louisiana was occupied by Spain. In 1770 the new governor, Barón de Ripperdá established San Antonio as the seat of government in Texas. In 1771, Carlos Francisco de Croix, the Marqués de Croix (1766-1771), was replaced as Viceroy by Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa (1771-1779), and the recommendations of Rubí were incorporated into the royal regulations for presidios.

     Founded in 1717 and periodically abandoned and reoccupied for many decades thereafter, Los Adaes, the easternmost settlement in Spanish Texas, was a critical lynchpin against French encroachments in the area. It was abandoned by royal order in 1772. Even though the population was removed at that time, settlers drifted back into the area. See Handbook of Texas Online: Los Adaes.

     San Agustín de Ahumada Presidio, near Wallisville, was founded in 1756. After several years of tumultuous existence involving charges of corruption, numerous desertions, and other problems, it was finally closed in 1771 after Rubí’s report. In the 1960s, John V. Clay finally discovered the actual site again. See Ha


     The collection contains the following items:

CROIX, Carlos Francisco, Marqués de (outgoing Viceroy of New Spain). Signed letter with cover sheet, remitting two files, one regarding the intestate Colonel Prudencio de Orobio y Basterra, late of Saltillo, and another regarding Lieutenant Colonel Ángel de Martos y Navarrete, former governor of Texas, to recently installed Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa for his consideration. Xalapa, Veracruz, 10 October 1771. 4 leaves.

SUPREME COUNCIL OF THE INDIES. Unsigned, undated summary of the actions of the Supreme Council of the Indies regarding settlement of the estate of Prudencio de Orobio Basterra and ordering prompt conclusion of the matter. 4 leaves.

[LOS ADAES PRESIDIO]. Unsigned copy of certification of José Gorráez Beaumont y Navarro, Principal Scribe of the Government and Military of New Spain, that, by verbal order of Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa, on 25 September [1771] the testimony of the soldiers of the presidio of Los Adaes against Ángel de Martos y Navarrete regarding accounts was delivered in seven folders to the auditor, and on 14 October the criminal charges in 24 folders were given to the minister. To the latter were added criminal charges against Rafael Martínez Pacheco, captain of Presidio San Agustín de Ahumado in nineteen folders. Mexico City, 15 October 1771. 1 leaf.

[MARTOS Y NAVARRETE, ÁNGEL DE]. Unsigned, undated summary of the causes against Ángel de Martos y Navarrete, Governor of Texas and Supervisor of the Presidios of Los Adaes and San Agustín de Ahumada, regarding his conflict with Rafael Martínez Pacheco, the burning of the presidio of San Agustín by Martínez, investigation by Hugo Oconór, complaints made against Martos for mistreatment of soldiers and malversation of salaries during the inspection by the Marqués de Rubí. Both matters remain pending determination by the Viceroy and Visitor. 4 leaves.

[ORIBIO Y BASTERDA, PRUDENCIO DE].     Unsigned, undated summary of the case of Orobio’s will. The case is problematical over whether Prudencio de Orobio y Basterra died intestate or left a will. The estate is claimed by his sister and the matter has been referred to the Royal Court of Guadalajara and several adjudicators appointed and after Hipólito Villareal treated the matter for some time, it was submitted to Spain to the Council of the Indies. A royal order was issued demanding settlement in four months and Juan Martínez de Campo was appointed, but despite threats, he has not resolved the matter after nine months. 4 leaves.

Ángel de Martos y Navarrete, Governor of Texas at Los Adaes (1759-1767), inherited the recent destruction of San Sabá and resulting Native American hostilities. In 1764 he accused Captain Rafael Martínez Pacheco (the Commander of El Orcoquisac, San Agustín de Ahumada, built in 1759 by Governor Jacinto de Barrios y Jáuregui) of mistreating soldiers and ordered him replaced by Lieutenant Marcos Ruiz. Martínez refused to leave the fort and fired upon Ruiz who responded by burning the presidio. Ruiz was arrested by Interim Governor Hugo Oconór, and Martínez Pacheco restored to his command until the abandonment of the presidio in 1771. See Handbook of Texas Online: Ángel de Martos y Navarrete; Jacinto de Barrios y Jáuregui; Captain Rafael Martínez Pacheco; and Marcos Ruiz.

     Prudencio Orobio y Basterra (Handbook of Texas Online), a merchant in Saltillo and Alcalde Mayor of Parras, was appointed governor of Texas from 1737 to 1741. In 1739 he prepared a map of the Texas coast. His term was marked by conflict over land and production between the Canary Island settlers of San Antonio and the Franciscan missionaries of the area. "Oribio y Basterra…was chiefly interested in the profits of his office and failed to agree with the presidio comandantes…. The records of the period…afford but slight material for a connected historical sketch. It was not a period of prosperity for any Texas interest, except so far as the officers, soldiers, and settlers may be said to have prospered in their great work of living with the least possible exertion. Officials as a rule kept in view their own personal profit in handling the presidio funds rather than the welfare of the province" (Bancroft’s History of the Northern Mexican States & Texas, San Francisco, 1884, Vol. I, p. 621).

     “Hugo Oconór (1732-1779), governor of the Spanish province of Texas, was born in 1732. Before his service in Texas he was stationed in Cuba and Mexico City. Irish by birth, he had flaming red hair that prompted the Indians to call him the ‘Red Captain.’ He was inspector general of the Provincias Internas of the east in 1765, when he traveled to Texas to investigate trouble between Governor Ángel de Martos y Navarrete and Rafael Martínez Pacheco concerning San Agustín de Ahumada Presidio. With the removal of Martos y Navarrete on August 28, 1767, Oconór became governor ad interim of Texas” (Handbook of Texas Online: Hugo Oconór).


Sold. Hammer: $3,000.00; Price Realized: $3,600.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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