© 1999 Lost Treasures of Utah
During the second half of the seventeenth century, the slave trade was stronger than ever before. Indians were dying by the thousands in the mines and fields of the Spaniards, and a leader was rising to save his people. He was called Pope. Pope seemed to be everywhere, constantly urging Indians of many different nations to revolt. Pope believed, and convinced his followers, that he was in direct contact with the god Quetzacoatl and therefore they could not fail in driving the Spanish from their land. It is hard to understand how a simple man from the San Juan Pueblo could coordinate such a revolt involving so many different nations over such a wide region. If it was not so well documented, it would be impossible to believe.
In 1677, Friar Juan Francisco wrote a letter to the Viceroy, asking him to stop the abuse of the Indians and warning that a revolt was eminent. His plea fell on deaf ears, so in 1679, he made a journey to Mexico City where he brought the plight of the Indians to the attention of the Bishop. He was informed that helping the Indians "was a useless and needless expense." About the same time, there was a horrible accident at the Chalchihuitl Mine. About 100 Indians were killed at the bottom of the pit when a section of the mine collapsed. This was the spark that lit the fuse of revolt.
As the sun rose over Taos on August 10th, 1680, the rebellion began. Thousands of soldiers, miners, merchants and clergy were killed. More than 400 Spaniards were killed at the supply towns of Chama and Abique. Countless others died at mines and missions in remote mountains. At Taos, where Pope himself led the attack, priests were killed at their own alters while praying for deliverance. Everywhere, the Spanish and Jesuit priests were taken by surprise and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the Indians. Even Franciscan and Dominican priests, who showed little interest in mining and shunned slavery, were shown no mercy.
The few Spaniards that survived were all driven back to Santa Fe, but even there they were not safe. 2500 Indians attacked Santa Fe, cutting off irrigation ditches and setting fire to the buildings. Governor Oterman was seriously wounded, and later reported on the incident.
"I lost much blood from two arrow wounds I had received in the face and from a remarkable gunshot wound to the chest ........The Indian leader approached, carrying two flags, one of white and one of red. If we chose the one of white we must agree to leave the country immediately, but if we chose the one of red we must perish, for the rebels were many and we were very few."
Oterman chose the white flag and led a forced evacuation south back to New Spain. The rebellion had been successful and the Spaniards were driven south of the Rio Grande back into Mexico. In Arizona, the Spaniards had been driven south of Tucson. Even distant California was not spared, for most Spaniards had been driven south to Baja. It would be twelve long years until the Spanish first began to reclaim the north.
The Indians took great care to destroy what the Spanish left behind. Mine shafts were filled in, or covered with logs and soil. Tunnels were concealed by covering the entrances with slide rock. The missions were torn down and scattered so that no trace of them remained. Remote cabins and visitas were burned to the ground. Many church and mine treasures were discovered by the Indians and were buried in the mines or re-hidden in some secret location. It was during this era that many legends of lost treasure were born.
New Mexico had been reclaimed by the Indians, and in the last 10 years of the seventeenth century, the French were expanding their territory in the far north. Back in Spain, King Charles II had no intention of losing this province to anyone. He ordered an army assembled and commissioned Diego Jose de Vargas as its Captain General. Vargas arrived in El Paso in February, 1691, where he found the Kings army in such poor shape that it took almost 2 years to prepare for an assault on the north.
On August 21st, 1692, Vargas began his trek north with a well trained army and two dozen Franciscan Friars. He did not think it wise to be accompanied by the Jesuits who were so hated by the Indians. He found many deserted posts along the way which had either been burned or destroyed. He felt he was being observed the whole way, but his army was too strong to be attacked. Vargas and his army reached Santa Fe on September 12th, where they found the Governor's Palace in ruin, but the only building left intact. Mission San Miguel, which was built in 1610 had also been burned, but it's stone walls were still intact. It was soon rebuilt and now, nearly 400 years after it's establishment, still holds services as the oldest church in the United States.
Santa Fe was re-taken with relative ease by Vargas, but the Indians had been few and the army was large. They had not yet encountered the Navajos and the Ute's. When Vargas did venture north of Santa Fe, he was met with much resistance. He found he was being attacked on every quarter. Even the weather turned against him, for 21 of his men froze to death. The Indians stampeded most of his livestock and drove Vargas back to Santa Fe. Vargas managed to capture hundreds of Indians and had 70 of them hung in the public square at Santa Fe. This quelled much of the resistance, but it still took him 2 years to reclaim Taos, Chama and Abique.
Towards the end of 1694, Vargas reestablished a mission in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Mining parties soon made their way from there back to the mountains. Some of the mines were not located, due to the fact that they had been concealed so well by the Indians, but many mines were reopened and new mines were also discovered. By the beginning of the 18th century, there was once again a vigorous slave trade in New Mexico and the northern mines were again being worked.
In 1705, Rogue de Madrid led an expedition north from Taos to return runaway slaves. In 1709, Juan de Uribarri pursued runaways into the San Pete Valley of Utah. More evidence that the Spanish were once again using Indian slave labor to work in the mines. Uribarri led another expedition in 1709, to the furthest limits of Spanish control. Here he met with French fur traders, who had traveled west from the Mississippi. Uribarri claimed the northern Rockies and the surrounding area in the name of the king.
The increased presence of French and British traders was a threat to the Spanish crown, and in 1719 Pedro de Villasur was sent to stop the incursion. Villasur's expedition was accompanied by Father Minguez, 45 soldiers, and 60 Indian servants. Villasur traveled into Colorado where he turned northwest into the Uinta Mountains, continued into Wyoming and then journeyed eastward into Nebraska. His instructions were to establish missions in the north from which the country might be populated.
Dr. Moorman, of Utah's Weber State University, has spent much time researching the line of missions that were established by Villasur. He is convinced that one of those missions was built, or was an earlier mission rebuilt by Villasur, north of Duchesne, Utah on Rock Creek. There is a great deal of evidence to show that he is correct. Indian traditions tell of a mission on Rock Creek, there are references to it in church archives, many old names, dates and church symbols can be found on Rock Creek, not to mention the physical evidence. Spanish type spurs, bronze church bells and Catholic crosses have been found on Rock Creek, as have cannons and cannonballs. There is a stone ruin of an ancient structure on Rock Creek that was probably the mission itself, and there are European graves near that mission. Too many Spanish artifacts have been found on Rock Creek over greatly separated periods of time to ignore.
One of the first well documented forays into Utah was by Juan Maria de Rivera. Rivera led no less than 2 expeditions to Utah in search of gold and silver. One expedition in 1761 through southern and central Utah, and one in 1765 into northern Utah and Idaho.
Slaving and mining was once again instated full scale in New Mexico and showed no sign of stopping, until one day in June of 1767. The Viceroy and other high ranking officials were gathered at Mexico City to witness the unsealing of a secret order sent directly from King Charles III. When opened, the orders stated that all Jesuits throughout New Spain and New Mexico were to be seized and returned to Spain.
The Jesuits, who were officially known as The Company Of Jesus, were in a different class from Franciscans and Dominicans, in that they reported directly to the Pope in Rome, bypassing the hierarchy of bishops and even the King of Spain. The King himself had to have the approval of the Jesuit General before he could appoint Governors to his new world provinces. Over time, the Jesuits became exceedingly cruel to the Indians, forcing them to work in their mines or fields, and subjecting them to cruel punishments. They were now being arrested, not only for their cruelty to the natives, but also because many of them were not Spanish but of German, French or other European decent.
Over the next century, Spanish activity in the north would slowly start to taper off. There were still many small, illegal mining and slaving parties that would make the trek to the northern mountains, but the age of great exploration and terrible exploitation was over. There would be only one more major expedition to Utah.