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Fort Los Adaes in Robeline, Louisiana


Trace of foot and cart path
Traces of El Camino de Real, or the Royal Road, can be seen at the entrance to Los Adaes. The road was built as an extension that connected Natchitoches to Nacogdoches, Texas after Spain acquired Louisiana Territory in 1763.

Los Adaes, East of Robeline, Louisiana on the Camino De Real

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 get 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 set up a trading and mission post just a few miles down the footpath at the place known simply as 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 Adaes 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 policies 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 Fort Los Adaes east of Robeline, Louisiana 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. Food 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)*


Map
The 1763 map of the settlements around Natchitoches depict the Spanish Fort next to the village of the Adaies, a Caddoan village. Assinaes village was "down the road" of the Camino de Real North is the Mine of Duplesis, a silver mining operation (LOC).
Plan of fort
The fort's plan from an original document is at the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas.
Three gold medallions.
Talismen found during an excavation at Los Adaes.
Aerial of the fort today.
Los Adaes State Historic Site has outlined the original footprint of the old fort. On the top of this aerial photo, the Camino de Real's path is fairly prominent.

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