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Friday, January 18, 2008

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in the Texas Panhandle

He reportedly camped in the Caprock Canyon, in what is now Floydada, TX. This is something else to add to my trip up there this weekend!

Wichita State University archaeologist Donald Blakeslee will shed light on long-mysterious legs of the explorer's trek in an exhibit this fall at the Texas Tech Southwest Collections and Special Collections Library.

Scholars have charted Coronado's route through Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas but know little of his forge through Texas.

Blakeslee believes Coronado passed through the northern tip of the state, a theory that could send tourists to the Panhandle.

"Every published version of Coronado's route - the things you find in encyclopedias, the things you find online - are wrong. All of them," said Blakeslee, behind him, giant maps laid across two tables at the Tech library.

Blakeslee is an avid traveler who has spent more than a decade studying early expeditions in North America. He's earned a reputation as a top-notch scholar, according to Tech library and archaeology officials.

Twelve years ago, the bespectacled Blakeslee announced his first major breakthrough: He found a likely campsite of the Spaniard's near Floydada, a rural town about 50 miles northeast of Lubbock.

Ever since, Blakeslee has been scouring the site, trying to reconstruct Coronado's time there. He's found quite a few artifacts that link the explorer to the site, including a 16th-century horseshoe, bullets used with a primitive gun and a copper bolthead.

He's concluded the site is the second of two camps Coronado set up in Texas, and the point where the explorer likely split with his army, continuing on to Kansas with a smaller group while the army stayed behind to hunt bison.

He believes Coronado traveled from south-central Kansas to Santa Fe, N.M., on three early Native American trails (the Fort Dodge-Fort Supply Trail, the Dodge City-Tascosa Trail and the Fort Smith-Santa Fe Trail), which were later used by foreign armies and early settlers.

Coronodo, he believes:
• Traveled north to exit the Llano Estacado (a plateau that covers 32,000 square miles in 33 Texas and four New Mexico counties) near Silverton, Texas.
• Headed through Old Clarendon and past Beaver, Okla., to reach the Arkansas River near Dodge City, Kan.
• Went up what later became the Santa Fe Trail to Great Bend, Kan.
• Returned to New Mexico, retracing his steps to the vicinity of Beaver, then went west up the Beaver River before swinging southwest to Tascosa, Texas.
• Went west along the Canadian River and took the Fort Smith-Santa Fe Trail to Santa Fe.

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