Mexico became a country when it gained independence from Spain in 1821.
However, for almost three hundred years it is New Spain and its
citizen’s Spanish subjects. In 1835, the Mexican State of Tejas
declares independence from the new nation of Mexico. Nonetheless, to this
day, Spanish roots are deeply entrenched in the histories and composition
of both Mexico and Texas. The political, military and powerful elite
families from New Spain begin this history and this story.
Much data and legends exist on the Oil tycoons and the cattle barons of
Texas. Nevertheless, these men are mere latecomers in Texas history. Under
the leadership of the Silver Magnate, Governor Juan de Oñate, Spanish
Colonization of what is now the United States began in 1598. Nine
years before the English established the first settlement at Jamestown and
twenty-two years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, this early
trailblazer used his immense wealth to finance an entire entrada into New
Mexico. This expedition included his son, Cristóbal de Oñate, then
eight-years old and a commissioned lieutenant governor and captain
general, the two Zaldivar brothers, Juan and Vicente, and Oñate’s
nephews. Ten Franciscan priests carrying crosses fronted 400 men, many
with their families. The encumbered cortege entered New Mexico, via El
Paso, with two luxury coaches, belonging to Oñate, eighty-three wagons
and seven thousand heads of livestock. Dressed in full armor plate, these
first Europeans that settle New Mexico shape the destiny of what is now
the American Southwest. Eighty-two years later, the descendents of these
colonies flee the Albuquerque area in what history calls the Pueblo Revolt
of 1680. The refugees settle in El Paso and Monterrey, Mexico. The
families of Duran y Chavez of El Paso, and, generations later, San
Antonio, Texas, and the De Las Casas of Monterrey, New Spain, are
portrayals in this flight. Of these two families, later generation ally by
marriage to the Urrutia family. In addition, through the intricate web of
allied families of Monterrey one finds numerous descendents of the
Onate-Zaldivar family in the genealogy of the Captain’s descendents of
the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
By the late 1600’s, Florida, Texas and the Southwest belonged to the
vast empire of Spain. José de Urrutia and Diego Ramón, governor of
Coahulia, New Spain from 1691 to 1698, exemplify the “movers and
shakers” of this new land. These two influential men and their families
settled in the region of Coahulia.
Captain José de Urrutia was born in the province of Guipúzcoa, Spain,
on or about 1678. He and his brother Toribio came to the Americas before
1691. Little information exists on their early years in and about New
Spain, but by 1691, Jose, a mere youth, accompanies Dón Domingo Terán de
los Ríos, into an expedition into Texas. Terán had been in the
Spanish service in Peru for twenty years. In 1681, he came to Mexico
as a deputy of the consulate of Seville. Because of his successes in
quelling Indian disturbances, his instructions included establishing seven
missions among the Tejas Indians. At this time the Spanish military
established a garrison near the Neches River, a boundary stream forming
the county lines in what is now East Texas and the Louisiana border.
In the winter of 1693, the Tejas Indians turned hostile which forced
the garrison into a tortuous withdrawal from Texas. It was on this
fateful date that José de Urrutia met with an accident on the San Marcos
River, (but which scholars now believe to have been either the Colorado
River or the Navidad River). The San Marcos River flows southeast for
seventy-five miles, forming the boundary between Gonzales and Caldwell
counties, before reaching its mouth on the Guadalupe River, two miles west
of Gonzales. Forced to remain among the friendly Kanohatinos,
Tohos, and Xarames Indians that inhabited this area, Captain Jose and four
soldiers remained for an extended period. He soon gained the respect of
these tribes by quickly learning their languages and becoming intimately
acquainted with their customs. This earned him the title of "captain
general" and soon afterwards, he oversaw the activities of all the
nations hostile to the Apaches Indians. Under his leadership, he conducted
several extensive campaigns against the fierce and hostile Apache.
By the early 1700’s a band of “nomadic hunter and
gatherers”, the Comanche, began migrating south and they showed up in
the Texas panhandle and in New Mexico. It was this migration that would
drive the Apaches out of the High Plains. Only after their arrival on the
Plains did the tribe come to be known as Comanche, a name derived from the
Ute word Komántcia, meaning "enemy". This fact alone tells the
reader a great deal about these warriors. Like the Spaniards, the Comanche
were a new addition to Texas. They came from Wyoming and had once been
part of the Shoshone Indians. (The Comanche and the Shoshone share a
common language). Historical data says that the Comanche acquired their
first horses around 1680. It is interesting to note that in an ironic
twist of fate, the Spaniards, in an earlier century, introduced the horse
into the Americas. Once the Comanche had horses they learned to use them,
thereby enabling this nomadic tribe to be more mobile in hunting and in
warfare. As their migration continued, the Comanche used their skill with
horses to strike swiftly and overcome their opponents. The numerous
accounts of the depredations and murders inflicted by the Comanche on the
local Indian population as well as on the Spanish featured prominently in
the every day life of the settlers of San Antonio and its missions. The
Comanche have distinguished themselves as the finest light cavalry in the
world with the exception of the Cheyenne Indians, which out classed them.
Even today, one can well imagine the Indian war cries that terrified my
By his own statement, Captain Jose claims to have lived amongst the
Indians for seven years. When Captain José rejoined his countrymen
remains unknown, but by 1696, he had returned to New Spain. There he
held a prominent military position with the Spanish government.
trade with the local Indians and the Spanish of New Spain, in 1714
a French cavalier, Lieutenant Louis Juchereau de Saint Denis,
established a trading post that grew into the town of
Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was a short time later that several
overland highways met at Natchitoches, including the Natchez Trace from
the east and the Camino Real (The King’s Highway) from New Spain.
Natchitoches, recognized as the oldest permanent settlement in Louisiana,
plays a major role in the histories of both Texas and Louisiana, and given
notoriety by the filming of the movie “Steel Magnolias”. St. Denis
presented himself to the Indians of East Texas and revealed his plan to go
into Mexico. The Indians asked St. Denis if he would seek their beloved
“captain general”. This illustrates how completely Captain Jose
endeared himself to the Indians. St.
Denis did go to Mexico and found himself under a “pleasant house
arrest” while Spanish officials awaited instructions from Mexico City on
what to do with “a foreigner bearing goods banned by Spanish mercantile
restrictions.” The Spanish
Crown enacted an order prohibiting entry of foreign traders or their
merchandise into any Spanish territory.
St. Denis, however, used this occasion to court and wins a promise
of marriage to the Doña Maria Manuela de Sanchez Navarro.
The beautiful Manuela, as referenced in numerous accounts, is the
granddaughter of Dona
Feliciana Camacho y Botello, and the step granddaughter of Major Diego
Ramon. The union guaranteed St. Denis a successful outcome with the
Spanish Viceroy, who later appointed him conductor of supplies for the
planned Ramon expedition to Texas.
In 1721, St. Denis became the commander of Fort St. Jean Baptiste,
located near the mouth of Bayou Amulet. When Manuela died, April 16, 1758,
the annals of Natchitoches record that she was the wealthiest woman in
Louisiana. Northwestern State
University of Louisiana now occupies the property of her estate.
Throughout the parishes of Louisiana, the genealogist can find the
descendants of the union between St. Denis and Sanchez
Captain José married twice. The first occurred on January 7, 1697 to Doña
Antonia Ramón. Doña Antonia was the daughter of Governor Dón
Diego Ramón and the Doña Feliciana Camacho y Botello. The marriage
ceremony performed at the parish church, Santiago Apostol, in the silver
mining town of Monclova, in the state of Coahulia in Mexico.
Captain José and Antonia had one daughter, Antonia, who later married Dón
Luis Antonio Menchaca. The Menchacas settled in San Antonio, and in
1753, Don Luis earned the appointment and title of the commander of San
Antonio de Bexar. They left their own unique mark in Texas history.
After the death of his first wife during childbirth, Dón José married
the Doña Rosa Flores y Valdez; the daughter of Dón Juan Flores y Valdez
and Doña Josefa de Hoyos y de la Garza Falcon. Dona Rosa’s
families are descendents of the original Conquistadors of Coahulia and
Nuevo Leon in New Spain. This marriage most likely took place in Saltillo.
From the union they had four daughters and six sons, including a son named
Turbico de Urrutia, who would later succeed him as captain of the presidio
de Bexar. Their children, Rosa Micaela, married Dón Pedro Jose de Godoy;
Cathalina, married Dón Jose de Plaza; Juana married Dón Ignacio Gonzalez
de Inclán. When widowed, her second marriage was to Dón Pedro
Mariano de Ocón y Trillo; Ana Gertrudis Josefina, married Dón Antonio
Nicolas de Treviño Gutierrez; Captain Toribio de Urrutia, married Doña
Ana Maria de Farias y Flores de Abrego and Doña Maria Josefa Flores
de Valdez; Joaquin married Doña Maria Josefa Hernández Longoria; Pedro
married Doña Gertrudis Flores y Valdez; Manuel died young and never
married; Ignacio Cayetano married Doña Rosa Sánchez Navarro y Gomez;
Miguel married Doña Clara Cantu.
On March 1, 1700, the new Governor of Coahulia was Dón Francisco
Cuervo de Valdez a knight of the Order of Santiago. (He would later serve
as the Governor of New Mexico). To help establish the Mission San
Francisco Solano, Cuervo de Valdez commissioned Dón Jose’s
father-in-law, Major Diego Ramón, now the former Governor, the commander
of the presidio de San Juan Bautista del Rio Grande. Major Ramón
commissioned other frontiersmen and together they enter the regions of
Texas. This mission, the predecessor of the Alamo, was later relocated and
On July 23, 1733, Dón José now had forty years experience with the
Indians of Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Texas. He earned the
commission as the Captain and commander of the presidio of San Antonio de
Bexar. This post suited him well, for Dón José was the most
knowledgeable on Indian affairs of all the New World Spaniards. His new
residence was the old Comandancia that today is known as the Spanish
Governors’ Palace in San Antonio, Texas. Of note: The Governor never
resided there. This building always served as an administrative office or
for official ceremonies.
From 1734 to 1738, a succession of Apache raids resulted in a great
loss of lives and livestock. Situated in a volatile area, the inhabitants
of Bexar lived in constant fear and some families moved into the
boundaries of the city. The situation worsen to the point that in the
winter of 1739 Captain Jose led a campaign against the Apache Indians in
the San Saba region (now known as located in the Texas “Hill Country”
and boasts the title “Pecan Capital of the World”). He reached
in this campaign the same point that years earlier another Spaniard by the
name of Dón Juan Antonio Bustillo y Ceballos had reached in 1732. This
campaign momentarily defeated the Apache and brought a short period of
peace and stability to the area. It would not be long after that the
Apache and the Spanish would find themselves warring with the Comanche. In
1743, the first report of the Comanche was sent to the viceroy.
Captain Jose’s many connections in Coahulia, Nuevo Leon, and New
Spain’s capital city Mexico (Mexico City) are acknowledged by the fact
that he was a friend and confidant to the powerful Marquis of San
Miguel de Aguayo, Dón Joseph Ramón de Azlor y Virto de Vera and that he
had a business venture with the merchant, Dón Juan de Angulo of Mexico
City. On September 25, 1735, Captain Jose and Juan drafted a contract or a
power of attorney (POA) where Jose had the authority to collect 350 pesos
a year from 40 of his men’s salaries. Juan in turn would supply them
with their necessary needs. This POA document, of particular interest to a
genealogist, contains the roster of the soldiers that were garrison in San
Antonio. An enthusiast can find housed in the Spanish Archives Collection
at the Bexar County Courthouse a copy of the POA.
The San Fernando Catholic Church records of February 18, 1738 note that
Captain José gave 100 pesos towards the construction of San Fernando
Church. This church was named after the thirteenth century Spanish
monarch, Ferdinand III. At eighteen years of age, the young king led his
army to defeat the Moors and reestablished Christianity worship in
Castile, Spain. In 1671, Pope Clement X canonized King Ferdinand III a
saint. When founded in 1731, San Fernando church was the first Christian
church west of the Mississippi River. The secular clergy
administered the sacred rites under the jurisdiction of the diocese of
Guadalajara, in New Spain. The monastic Franciscans administered prior
spiritual care from the local mission, San Antonio de Valero. This new
parish served the religious and civic events for the civilian and military
populations. It became known as San Fernando Cathedral in later
Captain Jose’s property included holdings in Coahulia as well as in
Texas. In San Antonio, Texas, Captain Jose and his family received a Royal
Land Grant from the King of Spain. The land grants included water rights
that went with the land and was measured by the number of days in which
water could be used. The water was derived from the San Antonio River and
one day of water was equivalent to 117 acres. (Even by today’s
standards, this is quite a track of land). This grant was near what is now
Military Plaza, between Houston and Commerce Street in San Antonio. A
son-in-law, Dón Ignacio Gonzalez de Inclán, a native of Milan, Italy, (a
duchy under Spanish domain) a soldier and cashier under the Captain’s
command owned the property across the street from the Comandancia. On June
10, 1739, Dón Ignacio received his land grant (Spanish Deed #704 Bexar
County Courthouse) located on the northwest corner of West Commerce and
Flores streets. His widow, Doña Juana de Urrutia would later sell this
property to Dón Diego Ramón Jr. This land with its adobe house would
later pass to a kinsmen, Dón Luis Mariano Menchaca. Upon his death, the
property passed to his widow, Doña Maria Concepcion de Estrada, and on
her will of March 21, 1815, she bequest the property to her son, Dón
José Maria Rodríguez. On her will was a clause which provided “one day
of water” to be sold to defray her burial expense and the balance to be
applied for masses to be said for her and her deceased husbands souls.
This one story adobe landmark stood for two centuries before giving way
for a commercial building that stands there today. The site remains as an
abandoned five and dime store.
The Captain’s last will and testament is dated July 4, 1740, San
Antonio, Texas. His will was witness by the Notary Public and Secretary, Dón
Francisco Joseph de Arocha, and father-in-law to his granddaughter, Doña
Maria Ignacia de Urrutia. He died in San Antonio on July 16, 1741.
As mentioned previously, his son, Turbico de Urrutia succeeded him as
The sons and daughters of the Urrutia and Ramon clans married and
settled in Coahulia and Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Texas and Louisiana. Later
Generations also contributed in shaping the new Republic of Texas.
The flags from Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas and the Unites
States have flown successively over Texas. Likewise, the intricate
web of allied families of Coahulia and Nuevo Leon, found in Texas,
comprise an interwoven community that irrefutably credits the Spanish
conquests in providing the Hispanic origins.
- Barnes, Thomas C, Nayor,Thomas H., and Polzae, Charles W.
Northern New Spain A Research Guide. Tucson, Arizona The University of
Arizona Press, 1981.
- Chabot, Frederick C. With the Makers of San Antonio. San
Antonio, Texas Artes Graficas Publishers 1970
- Chipman, Donald E. Spanish Texas, 1519-1821. Austin,
Texas, University of Texas Press, 1992.
- De Zavala, Adina. History and Legends of the Alamo and other
Missions. Houston, Texas Arte Publico Press, University of Houston .
- Foster, William C. Spanish Expeditions into Texas 1689-1768.
Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, 1995
- Gonzalez de la Garza, Rodolfo. Mil Familias III. 1998
- Hogan, Paul. Great River The Rio Grande in North American
History. New York, Rinehart & Company, Inc. 1954