||Oñate, Juan de, 1549?-1624
||Account of the Discovery of the Mines
||Bolton, Herbert Eugene (editor). Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916). Pages 239-249.
||13 / 0
Juan de Oñate (1549?-1624) was the son of wealthy conquistador
and miner Cristóbal de Oñate. After the expeditions
of Rodríguez and Espejo (see AJ-004 to AJ-008), interest in the
mineral wealth of New Mexico convinced the Spanish viceroy to license
further expeditions. Espejo applied for a license, proposing a four-hundred-man
army to conquer and settle New Mexico, as did several other adventurers
and investors. The bidding process was long and drawn out, and the
lure of New Mexico was so strong that some parties embarked for
the north without permission. In 1593, Francisco Leyva de Bonilla
and Antonio Gutiérrez de Humaña led one such unauthorized
expedition into New Mexico. They spent a year among the pueblos
and journeyed east into Quivira as far as the Platte River in Kansas
before Humaña murdered Leyva, and all but one survivor were
killed by Indians (see AJ-103).
Finally in 1595, the Spanish viceroy named Juan de Oñate
to be the governor of New Mexico, adelantado and captain-general
of the new province. Oñate was the son of Cristóbal
de Oñate, the conqueror of Nueva Galicia where he operated
mines, and one of the founders of Zacatecas. His wife was the granddaughter
of the famous conquistador Hernando Cortez and the great-granddaughter
of the Aztec leader Montezuma.
Oñate’s Expeditions, 1598-1604
Although rivals impeded planning for the governor’s great expedition,
Oñate recruited colonists by promising them privileges and exemptions.
In the spring of 1596, four-hundred settlers, soldiers, their families,
and servants assembled eighty-three carts and wagons for the trip
north with seven-thousand head of livestock. After splitting up
to traverse the great sand dunes south of El Paso, Oñate took formal
possession of the “kingdoms and provinces of New Mexico for King
Philip II of Spain” on April 30, 1596. Oñate took a party of sixty
men north to subdue the pueblos. He established his first headquarters
at the Caypa pueblo, which he renamed San Juan, on August 18, 1596.
While a church was being built, Oñate met with chiefs of the surrounding
pueblos and convened a general assembly of all the chiefs and representatives
on September 9, 1596. At that convention the province of New Mexico
was formally established.
Next Oñate turned his attention to exploit other nearby lands.
He took sixty men to the Pecos River to hunt buffalo. He visited
salt mines near the Jumano and Zuni pueblos. He sent Captain Marcos
Farfán to explore Arizona near Moqui, finding abundant silver veins.
On one such expedition, in November 1598, Juan de Zaldívar was killed
at Acoma by the Hopi. Oñate retaliated by subduing Acoma in two
days of hand-to-hand fighting in which “the Indians were punished
by fire and bloodshed, and the pueblo was completely laid waste
and burned.” In 1601, Oñate explored the route taken by Humaña to
the Platte River and Kansas eight years earlier. In 1604 he followed
a route to the Gulf of California and retraced the expeditions made
by Coronado, Espejo, and Humaña during the previous decades.
Oñate’s sent Captain Marcos Farfán de los Godos to confirm the
location of mines reported by Espejo in 1583 (see AJ-006 to AJ-008).
In his detailed account to King Philip II of Spain, Oñate provides
information about the silver mines west of Mohoqui in Arizona. This
report describes how Captain Farfán and eight men traveled in November
and December 1598 through the sand dunes west of Mohoqui and followed
the Little Colorado River north to a mountain range. Passing San
Francisco Mountain and continuing near modern Flagstaff, they found
grass and water for the horses near Laguna, one of several springs
in the region.
Captain Farfán continued into the region and soon came upon a settlement
of the Jumanas nation, which, when alerted, surrounded the Spanish
expedition. The Spanish convinced the Jumanas they intended no harm
and the next day the tribe received the explorers at the ranchería,
where two chiefs provided food and presented samples of silver ore.
One chief showed the Spanish the source of the ore located in the
snow-covered clefts of the Bill Williams Mountains. At another nearby
ranchería, the Spanish found that the Indians had several different
ores that produced pigment suitable for paint and cloth dyes. They
continued their expedition to near present-day Prescott, Arizona,
and found suitable pastureland in the higher elevations among pine
groves, cactus patches, and maguey stands. At the Verde River, Captain
Farfán camped and visited the nearby ranchería where their Jumanas
guide lived. Its inhabitants provided a feast of venison, mescale,
and supplied the Spanish with samples of different colored powdered
Farfán made one final expedition near the Spenser River in Arizona’s
Aquarius Mountains. Here they were shown an old mine shaft that
produced minerals suitable for dyes. They named the mines San Francisco
and San Gabriel and established several mining claims. They learned
that three large rivers joined the Big Spenser and the Big Sandy
Rivers to form the Colorado and its famous gorge, the Grand Canyon.
The party also learned that the natives traveled south to the mouth
of the Colorado to harvest mollusks that occasionally produced pearls.
Captain Farfán and his men returned to Cibola on December 11, 1598,
and Oñate produced this account on January 16, 1599.
Other Internet and Reference Sources
For more information on Oñate, see the "Handbook of Texas Online" to read the
biography and see more details about the expedition.
The standard biography is Marc Simmons’ The Last Conquistador:
Juan de Oñate and the Settling of the Far Southwest (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1991). Also see George Hammond’s (ed.)
Don Juan de Oñate and the Founding of New Mexico (Santa Fe:
El Palacio Press, 1927). A wide selection of primary documents
are printed in George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, eds., Don Juan
de Oñate: Colonizer of New Mexico, 1595-1628 (Albuquerque: University
of New Mexico Press, 1953).