El Orcoquisac: A Spanish Outpost at Wallisville (1756-1771)
By Kevin Ladd
Established by the Spanish in 1756 to control French encroachment into the Lower Trinity, "El Orcoquisac" was located north of present-day Wallisville and east of the Trinity River in what is now Chambers County. The settlement consisted of Mission Nuestra Señora de la Luz and Presidio San Agustin de Ahumada.
The presence of Indian villages along the Lower Trinity, primarily Bidais and Akokisa, lured French traders into the region as early as the 1720s. After French trader Joseph Blanpain and his associates were arrested here in 1754, the Spanish eventually decided to locate the mission and presidio on the site of Blanpain's trading post. Lt. Marcos Ruiz marched to the site in May 1756 with 31 men, 151 horses, guns, swords, supplies and other military)' equipment. A temporary presidio was completed by July 1756. A temporary mission was also completed, with two missionaries from the College of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas assigned there. The first two priests, Fathers Bruno Chavira and Marcos Satarain arrived in the winter of 1756.
Both priests soon fell ill, and Chavira died there on June 27, 1757. He was replaced by Father Jose Francisco Caro. By the time of Chavira's death, the first mission consisted of a wooden church plastered with clay and moss. By the fall of 1759, the mission had been moved to a hill a quarter league to the east of me presidio.
The second mission was constructed of hewn timbers plastered with beaten clay mixed with moss. The entire structure was then whitewashed. Both missi6ns appear to have been roofed with palmetto. The presidio consisted of a number of buildings, including a barracks, captain's quarters, a store, presidial church, and a central plaza. The presidio was burned by Ruiz on October 11,1764 in an ill-conceived effort to flush Commander Rafael Martinez Pacheco from the same when he refused to surrender his command. Ruiz was briefly installed as commander and served until his arrest in November 1765 on charges of burning a Royal presidio. He was replaced by Melchor Afan de Rivera and command was later restored to Pacheco in 1769 after he was cleared of responsibility in !he burning of me presidio. Pacheco served until the place was abandoned in 1771 and later became Governor of Texas. The mission and presidio were ravaged by hurricanes in 1762 and 1766.
The late John V. Clay [1912-1986] of Houston, an amateur historian, discovered the site in 1965 and it was verified in 1966 by a state archeological mission led by Curtis Tunnell, the state archeologist. An area including the mission, presidio, the French trading post and some 200 Indian middens, now known as the El Orcoquisac Archeological District, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in Texas in 1972.
For More Information:
The Wallisville Heritage Park
PO Box 16
Wallisville, Texas 77597
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