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For more than three centuries, a period extending from 1541 to 1851,
 historians believed, and so announced to the literary world,
 that Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, the celebrated Spanish explorer,
 in his search for the Seven Cities of Cibola and the Kingdom of Quivira,
 was the first European to travel over the intra-continent region
 of North America.  In the last year above referred to, however,
 Buckingham Smith, of Florida, an eminent Spanish scholar, and secretary
 of the American Legation at Madrid, discovered among the archives
 of State the _Narrative of Alvar Nunez Cabeca de Vaca_, where for
 nearly three hundred years it had lain, musty and begrimed with the
 dust of ages, an unread and forgotten story of suffering that has no
 parallel in fiction.  The distinguished antiquarian unearthed the
 valuable manuscript from its grave of oblivion, translated it into
 English, and gave it to the world of letters; conferring honour upon
 whom honour was due, and tearing the laurels from such grand voyageurs
 and discoverers as De Soto, La Salle, and Coronado, upon whose heads
 history had erroneously placed them, through no fault, or arrogance,
 however, of their own.
 
 Cabeca, beyond any question, travelled the Old Santa Fe Trail for
 many miles, crossed it where it intersects the Arkansas River,
 a little east of Fort William or Bent's Fort, and went thence on
 into New Mexico, following the famous highway as far, at least,
 as Las Vegas.  Cabeca's march antedated that of Coronado by five years.
 To this intrepid Spanish voyageur we are indebted for the first
 description of the American bison, or buffalo as the animal is
 erroneously called.  While not so quaint in its language as that
 of Coronado's historian, a lustrum later, the statement cannot be
 perverted into any other reference than to the great shaggy monsters
 of the plains:--
 
           Cattle come as far as this.  I have seen them three times
           and eaten of their meat.  I think they are about the size
           of those of Spain.  They have small horns like the cows
           of Morocco, and the hair very long and flocky, like that
           of the merino; some are light brown, others black.  To my
           judgment the flesh is finer and fatter than that of this
           country.  The Indians make blankets of the hides of those
           not full grown.  They range over a district of more than
           four hundred leagues, and in the whole extent of plain over
           which they run the people that inhabit near there descend
           and live on them and scatter a vast many skins throughout
           the country.
 
 It will be remembered by the student of the early history of
 our country, that when Alvar Nunez Cabeca de Vaca, a follower of the
 unfortunate Panphilo de Narvaez, and who had been long thought dead,
 landed in Spain, he gave such glowing accounts of Florida[1] and the
 neighbouring regions that the whole kingdom was in a ferment,
 and many a heart panted to emigrate to a land where the fruits
 were perennial, and where it was thought flowed the fabled
 fountain of youth.
 
 Three expeditions to that country had already been tried:
 one undertaken in 1512, by Juan Ponce de Leon, formerly a companion
 of Columbus; another in 1520, by Vasquez de Allyon; and another by
 Panphilo de Narvaez.  All of these had signally failed, the bones
 of most of the leaders and their followers having been left to bleach
 upon the soil they had come to conquer.
 
 The unfortunate issue of the former expeditions did not operate as
 a check upon the aspiring mind of De Soto, but made him the more
 anxious to spring as an actor into the arena which had been the scene
 of the discomfiture and death of the hardy chivalry of the kingdom.
 He sought an audience of the emperor, and the latter, after hearing
 De Soto's proposition that, "he could conquer the country known as
 Florida at his own expense," conferred upon him the title of
 "Governor of Cuba and Florida."
 
 On the 6th of April, 1538, De Soto sailed from Spain with an armament
 of ten vessels and a splendidly equipped army of nine hundred chosen men,
 amidst the roar of cannons and the inspiring strains of martial music.
 
 It is not within the province of this work to follow De Soto through
 all his terrible trials on the North American continent; the wonderful
 story may be found in every well-organized library.  It is recorded,
 however, that some time during the year 1542, his decimated army,
 then under the command of Luis de Moscoso, De Soto having died
 the previous May, was camped on the Arkansas River, far upward towards
 what is now Kansas.  It was this command, too, of the unfortunate
 but cruel De Soto, that saw the Rocky Mountains from the east.
 The chronicler of the disastrous journey towards the mountains says:
 "The entire route became a trail of fire and blood," as they
 had many a desperate struggle with the savages of the plains,
 who "were of gigantic stucture, and fought with heavy strong clubs,
 with the desperation of demons.  Such was their tremendous strength,
 that one of these warriors was a match for a Spanish soldier,
 though mounted on a horse, armed with a sword and cased in armour!"
 
 Moscoso was searching for Coronado, and he was one of the most humane
 of all the officers of De Soto's command, for he evidently bent
 every energy to extricate his men from the dreadful environments
 of their situation; despairing of reaching the Gulf by the Mississippi,
 he struck westward, hoping, as Cabeca de Vaca had done, to arrive
 in Mexico overland.
 
 A period of six months was consumed in Moscoso's march towards the
 Rocky Mountains, but he failed to find Coronado, who at that time
 was camped near where Wichita, Kansas, is located; according to his
 historian, "at the junction of the St. Peter and St. Paul" (the Big
 and Little Arkansas?).  That point was the place of separation
 between Coronado and a number of his followers; many returning
 to Mexico, while the undaunted commander, with as many as he could
 induce to accompany him, continued easterly, still in search of
 the mythical Quivira.
 
 How far westward Moscoso travelled cannot be determined accurately,
 but that his route extended up the valley of the Arkansas for more than
 three hundred miles, into what is now Kansas, is proved by the statement
 of his historian, who says: "They saw great chains of mountains and
 forests to the west, which they understood were uninhabited."
 
 Another strong confirmatory fact is, that, in 1884, a group of mounds
 was discovered in McPherson County, Kansas, which were thoroughly
 explored by the professors of Bethany College, Lindsborg, who found,
 among other interesting relics, a piece of chain-mail armour,
 of hard steel; undoubtedly part of the equipment of a Spanish soldier
 either of the command of Cabeca de Vaca, De Soto, or of Coronado.
 The probability is, that it was worn by one of De Soto's unfortunate men,
 as neither Panphilo de Narvaez, De Vaca, or Coronado experienced any
 difficulty with the savages of the great plains, because those leaders
 were humane and treated the Indians kindly, in contradistinction to
 De Soto, who was the most inhuman of all the early Spanish explorers.
 He was of the same school as Pizarro and Cortez; possessing their
 daring valour, their contempt of danger, and their tenacity of purpose,
 as well as their cruelty and avarice.  De Soto made treaties with
 the Indians which he constantly violated, and murdered the misguided
 creatures without mercy.  During the retreat of Moscoso's weakened
 command down the Arkansas River, the Hot Springs of Arkansas
 were discovered.  His historian writes:
 
           And when they saw the foaming fountain, they thought
           it was the long-searched-for "Fountain of Youth," reported
           by fame to exist somewhere in the country, but ten of the
           soldiers dying from excessive drinking, they were soon
           convinced of their error.
 
 After these intrepid explorers the restless Coronado appears on
 the Old Trail.  In the third volume of Hakluyt's _Voyages_, published
 in London, 1600, Coronado's historian thus describes the great plains
 of Kansas and Colorado, the bison, and a tornado:--
 
           From Cicuye they went to Quivira, which after their account
           is almost three hundred leagues distant, through mighty
           plains, and sandy heaths so smooth and wearisome, and bare
           of wood that they made heaps of ox-dung, for want of stones
           and trees, that they might not lose themselves at their
           return: for three horses were lost on that plain, and one
           Spaniard which went from his company on hunting. . . .
           All that way of plains are as full of crooked-back oxen as
           the mountain Serrena in Spain is of sheep, but there is
           no such people as keep those cattle. . . .  They were a
           great succour for the hunger and the want of bread, which
           our party stood in need of. . . .
 
           One day it rained in that plain a great shower of hail,
           as big as oranges, which caused many tears, weakness
           and bowes.
 
           These oxen are of the bigness and colour of our bulls,
           but their bones are not so great.  They have a great bunch
           upon their fore-shoulder, and more hair on their fore part
           than on their hinder part, and it is like wool.  They have
           as it were an horse-mane upon their backbone, and much hair
           and very long from their knees downward.  They have great
           tufts of hair hanging down on their foreheads, and it
           seemeth they have beards because of the great store of hair
           hanging down at their chins and throats.  The males have
           very long tails, and a great knob or flock at the end,
           so that in some respects they resemble the lion, and in some
           other the camel.  They push with their horns, they run,
           they overtake and kill an horse when they are in their
           rage and anger.  Finally it is a foul and fierce beast of
           countenance and form of body.  The horses fled from them,
           either because of their deformed shape, or else because
           they had never before seen them.
 
 "The number," continues the historian, "was incredible."  When the
 soldiers, in their excitement for the chase, began to kill them,
 they rushed together in such masses that hundreds were literally
 crushed to death.  At one place there was a great ravine; they jumped
 into it in their efforts to escape from the hunters, and so terrible
 was the slaughter as they tumbled over the precipice that the
 depression was completely filled up, their carcasses forming a bridge,
 over which the remainder passed with ease.
 
 The next recorded expedition across the plains via the Old Trail
 was also by the Spaniards from Santa Fe, eastwardly, in the year 1716,
 "for the purpose of establishing a Military Post in the Upper
 Mississippi Valley as a barrier to the further encroachments of
 the French in that direction."  An account of this expedition is found
 in _Memoires Historiques sur La Louisiane_, published in Paris in 1858,
 but never translated in its entirety.  The author, Lieutenant Dumont
 of the French army, was one of a party ascending the Arkansas River
 in search of a supposed mass of emeralds.  The narrative relates:
           There was more than half a league to traverse to gain the
           other bank of the river, and our people were no sooner
           arrived than they found there a party of Missouris, sent to
           M. de la Harpe by M. de Bienville, then commandant general
           at Louisiana, to deliver orders to the former.  Consequently
           they gave the signal order, and our other two canoes having
           crossed the river, the savages gave to our commandant the
           letters of M. de Bienville, in which he informed him that
           the Spaniards had sent out a detachment from New Mexico
           to go to the Missouris and to establish a post in that
           country. . . .  The success of this expedition was very
           calamitous to the Spaniards.  Their caravan was composed of
           fifteen hundred people, men, women and soldiers, having
           with them a Jacobin for a chaplain, and bringing also a
           great number of horses and cattle, according to the custom
           of that nation to forget nothing that might be necessary for
           a settlement.  Their design was to destroy the Missouris,
           and to seize upon their country, and with this intention
           they had resolved to go first to the Osages, a neighbouring
           nation, enemies of the Missouris, to form an alliance with
           them, and to engage them in their behalf for the execution
           of their plan.  Perhaps the map which guided them was not
           correct, or they had not exactly followed it, for it chanced
           that instead of going to the Osages whom they sought, they
           fell, without knowing it, into a village of the Missouris,
           where the Spanish commander, presenting himself to the great
           chief and offering him the calumet, made him understand
           through an interpreter, believing himself to be speaking
           to the Osage chief, that they were enemies of the Missouris,
           that they had come to destroy them, to make their women
           and children slaves and to take possession of their country.
           He begged the chief to be willing to form an alliance
           with them, against a nation whom the Osages regarded as
           their enemy, and to second them in this enterprise, promising
           to recompense them liberally for the service rendered,
           and always to be their friend in the future.  Upon this
           discourse the Missouri chief understood perfectly well
           the mistake.  He dissimulated and thanked the Spaniard for
           the confidence he had in his nation; he consented to form
           an alliance with them against the Missouris, and to join
           them with all his forces to destroy them; but he represented
           that his people were not armed, and that they dared not
           expose themselves without arms in such an enterprise.
           Deceived by so favourable a reception, the Spaniards fell
           into the trap laid for them.  They received with due
           ceremony, in the little camp they had formed on their
           arrival, the calumet which the great chief of the Missouris
           presented to the Spanish commander.  The alliance for war
           was sworn to by both parties; they agreed upon a day for
           the execution of the plan which they meditated, and the
           Spaniards furnished the savages with all the munitions which
           they thought were needed.  After the ceremony both parties
           gave themselves up equally to joy and good cheer.  At the
           end of three days two thousand savages were armed and in
           the midst of dances and amusements; each party thought
           nothing but the execution of its design.  It was the evening
           before their departure upon their concerted expedition,
           and the Spaniards had retired to their camps as usual,
           when the great chief of the Missouris, having assembled
           his warriors, declared to them his intentions and exhorted
           them to deal treacherously with these strangers who were come
           to their home only with the design of destroying them.
           At daybreak the savages divided into several bands, fell on
           the Spaniards, who expected nothing of the kind, and in
           less than a quarter of an hour all the caravan were murdered.
           No one escaped from the massacre except the chaplain, whom
           the barbarians saved because of his dress; at the same time
           they took possession of all the merchandise and other
           effects which they found in their camp.  The Spaniards had
           brought with them, as I have said, a certain number of horses,
           and as the savages were ignorant of the use of these animals,
           they took pleasure in making the Jacobin whom they had saved,
           and who had become their slave, mount them.  The priest gave
           them this amusement almost every day for the five or six
           months that he remained with them in their village, without
           any of them daring to imitate him.  Tired at last of his
           slavery, and regarding the lack of daring in these barbarians
           as a means of Providence to regain his liberty, he made
           secretly all the provisions possible for him to make,
           and which he believed necessary to his plan.  At last,
           having chosen the best horse and having mounted him,
           after performing several of his exploits before the savages,
           and while they were all occupied with his manoeuvres,
           he spurred up and disappeared from their sight, taking the
           road to Mexico, where doubtless he arrived.
 
 Charlevoix,[2] who travelled from Quebec to New Orleans in the
 year 1721, says in one of his letters to the Duchess of Lesdiguieres,
 dated at Kaskaskia, July 21, 1721:
 
           About two years ago some Spaniards, coming, as they say,
           from New Mexico, and intending to get into the country of
           the Illinois and drive the French from thence, whom they
           saw with extreme jealousy approach so near the Missouri,
           came down the river and attacked two villages of the
           Octoyas,[3] who are the allies of the Ayouez,[4] and from
           whom it is said also that they are derived.  As the savages
           had no firearms and were surprised, the Spaniards made an
           easy conquest and killed a great many of them.  A third
           village, which was not far off from the other two, being
           informed of what had passed, and not doubting but these
           conquerors would attack them, laid an ambush into which
           the Spaniards heedlessly fell.  Others say that the savages,
           having heard that the enemy were almost all drunk and
           fast asleep, fell upon them in the night.  However it was,
           it is certain the greater part of them were killed.
           There were in the party two almoners; one of them was
           killed directly and the other got away to the Missouris,
           who took him prisoner, but he escaped them very dexterously.
           He had a very fine horse and the Missouris took pleasure
           in seeing him ride it, which he did very skilfully.  He took
           advantage of their curiosity to get out of their hands.
 
           One day as he was prancing and exercising his horse before
           them, he got a little distance from them insensibly; then
           suddenly clapping spurs to his horse he was soon out of sight.
 
 The Missouri Indians once occupied all the territory near the junction
 of the Kaw and Missouri rivers, but they were constantly decimated
 by the continual depredations of their warlike and feudal enemies,
 the Pawnees and Sioux, and at last fell a prey to that dreadful
 scourge, the small-pox, which swept them off by thousands.
 The remnant of the once powerful tribe then found shelter and a home
 with the Otoes, finally becoming merged in that tribe.