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Coronado expedition by Remington, Courtesy of wikimedia commons

It is customary to think the history of our country began in the east and travelled westward, but in some respects Kansas and the Southwest are older than New England and Virginia. Older in the sense that the battles of the white man with the Indian on this continent began here, rather than in the forests of the Pequot and Powhatan.

In this region occurred the first bloodshed between the Indians and the whites. Padilla, the priest, was slain by the Indians, and the Indian guide, known as the "Turk", was put to death by the Spaniards. Southwestern Kansas has the right to use the march of Coronado in 1541 as a basis for its history; and it is thrilling to know that the first white men to ride over these plains were dressed in glittering armor, and were the select noblemen of a powerful nation.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado is reputed to be the first white man to visit Kansas. His expeditions in 1541 gave the Spaniards the prior title to the land by right of discovery. But no claim of proprietorship was ever established to any portion of Kansas except the southwest corner. The Spaniards were seeking gold and precious jewels. Failing in this, they withdrew in disgust, back over the shortest possible route to New Spain. Volumes have been written about Quivira and its location. Many claim to have figured out the exact routing of Coronado's expedition, but no one knows and it is not likely they ever will know the exact spots visited by Coronado. Sufficient data to determine these matters does not exist. There never existed, even in New Spain, any definite knowledge of the location of Quivira. It was to them a half-mystical land, to the eastward, abounding in gold and great wealth. It was a land of grassy plains, roamed over by rolling herds of wild oxen and inhabited by a wild, brutish people. But it does not matter about exact boundaries for there were no rigidly defined lines between the primitive nations in that far-away time, and their hunting grounds overlapped. It is not essential to know every mile of the route travelled by Coronado. Statements recorded in the old Spanish Chronicles, mapped portions of the route, and fragmentary remains that have been discovered, prove that Coronado did visit Quivira, and that Quivira was in Kansas—that Quivira was Kansas.

There is proof that Coronado and his band of select men followed a primitive trail across the counties of Southwestern Kansas. The detailed account they gave of the country, the climate, and the rivers, are authority for the claim. Another proof is the famous "Coronado Sword" that is now the property of the State Historical Society at Topeka. This sword was found in the year 1886 at the headwaters of the Pawnee, near the north line of Finney county, nearly due north of the town of Ingalls. It evidently belonged to Gallego, one of the principal men of the Coronado expedition, for it bears his name graven in the metal. On it is also an inscription:

"No me Saques Sin Razon

No me Enbaines Sin Honor'.'


"Draw me not without reason;

Sheath me not without honor."

In 1930 a Spanish lance and the elaborate bit of an ancient Spanish bridle were found in a box canyon near the Beaver river. A line drawn between these archeological findings cuts across Stevens, Haskell, and directly through the center of Finney county. These findings and their location are a strong indication that the route of that famous march led across this region, either when they entered the country or when they retreated.

For two generations after Coronado's expedition, the Spaniards sent various explorers to the Great Plains, still seeking gold and silver. But countries holding only possibilities of trade and agriculture were not considered of much value by the Spaniards. They finally abandoned hopes of finding riches, and left it for a stronger people to explore and develop the land they had discovered. They made no property claims and it was all but forgotten by them, except their historians, for two hundred years.

The early development of the "Great West" was due to the French. Robert Cavalier de la Salle was the first man to comprehend the magnitude and possibilities of the great valley of the Mississippi. Different from the Spaniards, he dreamed of establishing an empire that was to rest on commerce; and which would depend on the settling and developing of the country. He resolved to secure the land for France; and to develop the trade for himself. He succeeded in establishing the French Province of Louisiana April 9, 1682, which included almost the entire area of Kansas.

No detailed account of French and Spanish explorations can be given in this work; nor shall I explain the conditions which brought about the various changes in the sovereignty of the Territory of Louisiana, except as it affected this region. It remained a part of the Dominion of France until November 3, 1762, at which time it passed into the possession of Spain. October 1, 1800, Spain agreed to retrocede the territory to France, which agreement was consummated by the treaty of Madrid, March 21, 1801. Two years later it became a part of the United States of America, by purchase from France, April 30, 1803. In the year 1812 this part of the territory was separated from that of Louisiana and incorporated into the Territory of Missouri, whose western limits were the Mexican border, and its capital city was located at St. Louis, Missouri. In 1830 congress erected all the territory west of the present state of Missouri into lands for the Indians and it was called the "Indian Country" until it was organized as the territory of Kansas in 1854.

The early governmental history of the territory included in Southwest Kansas is unique as far as proprietorship is concerned. The Arkansas river was used as a dividing line between nations until 1845. That part north of the river was successively under the governmental control of France, Spain, France again, and then the United States.

The part laying south of the river was a Spanish possession until Mexico won its independence in 1821. It remained a part of Mexico until 1836. During that year, Texas seceded from Mexico, and the southwest corner of Kansas was held as a part of the Texas Republic during the nine years of its existence. It came into the possession of the United States in 1850. It was made a part of the territory of Kansas, which included all the lands between the state of Missouri and the Rocky Mountains, when it was organized in 1854.

On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted as a state with its area covering practically the same territory which was claimed by the ancient Quivirans before the coming of the white men.