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The Neche Tribe and the Mission of San Francisco
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Southwest of the Hainai village, nearly straight west of the Nacogdoche, was the Neche village, near the east bank of the Neches River, and near the crossing of the Camino Real. The diaries usually represent the distance from the Neche to the Hainai as about the same as that from the Hainai to the Nacogdoche some eight or nine leagues.1 The air line distance was evidently somewhat less in the former case than in the latter, but the route was less direct, since between the Neches and the Angelina Rivers the road bowed quite decidedly to the north. The usual crossing of this highway at the Neches, as now identified, was at Williams’s Ferry, below the mouth of San Pedro Creek.2 Archaeological remains help us to identify this crossing and give certainty to the approximate correctness of our conclusions. These remains are the Indian mounds east of the Neches River. The first mention of them that I have seen is that by Mezières, in 1779. His record is important. Passing along the Camino Real on his way to the Nabedache, he noted the large mound near the Neches River, raised, he said, by the ancestors of the natives of the locality “in order to build on its top a temple, which overlooked the pueblo near by, and in which they worshiped their gods a monument rather to their great numbers than to the industry of their individuals.”3 This mound and its two less conspicuous companions still stand in Cherokee County about a mile and a half from the river and five miles southwest of Alto, in a plain known to some as Mound Prairie, undoubtedly the true Mound Prairie whose whereabouts has been debated. They are on land now the property of the Morrill Orchard Company, once a part of the original grant made to the romantic Pedro Ellis Bean. The Old San Antonio Road, as identified in the oldest surveys, ran about three hundred yards north of the largest, which is also the northern most mound.4 This mound, standing by the old highway, is an important western landmark for the location of the early tribes and missions, just as the site of Nacogdoches is an important eastern landmark. With the evidence of these mounds, the name San Pedro attached to the creek joining the Neches just above the crossing, and the early maps of the Camino Real, there is no doubt as to the approximate location of the old crossing, and, consequently, of the sites of the Neche and the Nabedache villages, with their respective missions, on opposite sides of the river.
The mission of San Francisco de los Texas, reestablished in 1716 at the Neche village,5 appears from the diaries to have been some one or two leagues from two to four miles from the crossing. Peña’s diary puts it at two leagues. The entry in his diary for August 3, 1721, is as follows: “The bridge [over the Neches] having been completed, all the people, the equipage, and the drove, crossed in good order, taking the direction of east-northeast, and camp was made near the mission of San Francisco, where the presidio was placed the second time it was moved in 1716. The march was only two leagues.”6 Rivera gives the distance from the crossing as more than a league.7 The other diaries are indefinite on this point, but the conclusion is plain that the mission and the Neche village were close to the mounds, the mission, at least, being apparently farther from the river.
Espinosa tells us that the mission was near a spring and also near an arroyo that flowed from the northeast. He gave the distance from the mission from the camp near the Neches River as one league, and that to the mission of Concepci6n, east of the Angelina, eight leagues, going northeast by east, then east (Diario, entries for July 2 and 6). Ram6n gave the distance to the mission of Concepción, from the camp near the Neches apparently, but possibly from the mission, as nine leagues east-northeast (Derrotero, in Mem. de Nueva España, XXVII, 157-158). ↩
See maps cited above, and also the Map of Houston County, copied from a map by Geo. Aldrich, by H. S. Upshur, Draughtsman in the General Land Office, 1841. ↩
Letter to Croix, August 16, 1779, MS., in the Archivo General y Pãblico, Mexico. This letter was written at the “Village of Sn. Pedro de los Navedaehos,” just after Mezières passed the mounds. The Memorias copy of the letter gives the name of the place, erroneously, San Pedro Nevadachos” (Vol. XXVIII, 241). ↩
Information furnished by Dr. J. -E. Mayfield, of N’acogdoches. The original Austin map (1829) in the Secretaría de Fomento, Mexico, shows the mound on the north side of the road. ↩
On the authority of the corrupt copy of Ram6n’s itinerary in the Memorias (XXVII, 157) it has been stated that this mission was founded at the “Nacoches” village, a tribal name nowhere else encountered. The original of the itinerary, however, gives the name “N’aiches,” thus agreeing with the other original reports and clearing up a troublesome uncertainty. The official name of the mission was San Francisco de los Texas, but, because of its location at the Neche village, it came to be called, popularly, San Francisco de los Neches. ↩
Diary, in Mem. de Nueva España, XXVTII, 38. The presidio had been temporarily placed in 1716 on the west side of the Neches, near a small lake, and then moved across the river. ↩
Rivera, Diario, 1727, leg. 2140. ↩
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