The National Parks Service and the Catholic Diocese of Alexandria together with representatives from the Caddo-Adai Nation marked the 300th anniversary of the establishment of the military post (presidio) and mission at Los Adaes on Nov. 11, 1717 with a religious ceremony and the dedication of a marker honoring the Franciscan friars who died while serving at the San Miguel Mission.
The service, conducted by Father Chad Partain, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Church in Alexandria, was held on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 9:00 a.m. at the Los Adaes State Historic Site located at 6354 Hwy. 485, just outside of Robeline.
“The Spanish Missions of San Miguel de los Adaes, a state historic site, was founded in 1716 to convert the Caddo Adai American Indians living west of Natchitoches to Christianity and to stop French expansion into Spanish Texas.” Said Father Partain. “Although the history behind this long ago post is not well known, its purpose and influence is still with us today.”
In 1721, a new mission was built slightly to the east of the original, along with a military post to bolster the outpost’s military presence. In 1729, Los Adaes was designated the capital of Texas and served as such until 1770. Los Adaes was built as a response to the French Fort St. Jean Baptiste in Natchitoches, and the two outposts were linked directly throughout their existence.
Though the forts were built as opposing threats, their relative isolation led the communities of the two outposts to forge strong links to each other despite the fact that their countries were competitors in North America. The two communities engaged in extensive, illegal trade across the border. Intermarriage between the two groups was commonplace.
Spain allied itself with France against the British in the French and Indian War, and both Havana and Manila fell to the British. To compensate its ally for its loss, France in 1762 ceded to Spain all of its territory west of the Mississippi River, including New Orleans.
This erased the border that Los Adaes was supposed to protect, rendering the fort obsolete.
The command was given to close the fort in 1772 and Los Adaes was officially abandoned in 1772.
The Spanish and American Indian inhabitants were moved to San Antonio, Texas. Despite the forced migration, communities linked to the Spanish fort still exist in the Cane River region today.
Many of the residents of Los Adaes either decided to stay in the region when the fort was abandoned, or returned to it later in life.
The American Indians who were converted to Christianity at the fort still continue the legacy of the original mission at the Church of St. Anne, their present church in the Spanish Lake community northwest of Natchitoches.
Today, there is nothing left standing of the mission or military post that comprised Los Adaes. The site of the fort is an extremely important archeological site where much research has been conducted.
The area was established as a state park in 1979, and a small visitor center was erected to help tell the story of the fort. The site is operated by the Cane River Creole National Heritage Area and offers a museum (open 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday) and a 1-1/2 mile nature trail. Admission is free.
An area rich in archaeological finds, it thrives today as one of Louisiana’s most intriguing State Historic Sites. For more information, go to www.louisianatravel.com.
By Jeannie Petrus, Church Today editor