Established in the late 1600's by connecting well-worn Native American trails, El Camino Real de los Tejas was a major overland route from Mexico City to Natchitoches. By 1717, the trail had witnessed at least five major Spanish expeditions from Mexico to Los Adaes—which became the provincial capital of Texas in 1729—near present day Robeline, LA. The trail connected Native American communities, the pueblos, missions, and forts of Spanish Texas to the French settlement of Natchitoches, and finally what became the American states of Louisiana and Texas.
Both the French fort at Natchitoches and Spanish fort at Los Adaes, some twelve miles apart, were built to protect the interests of each country on this international frontier. Although the Spanish were ordered not to fraternize with the French, Spanish friars came to Natchitoches to say Mass for the French Catholics, French soldiers courted and married girls from Los Adaes, and an healthy, although illicit, trace developed between the two outposts of European rule. Los Adaes at the terminus of El Camino Real or King's Road served as the capital of the Spanish province of Tejas for over 40 years.
When Louisiana was transferred to Spain in 1762 at the end of the Seven Years War, Los Adaes was closed. But Natchitoches remained an important center supplying
goods for the Indian trade and service the needs of the local indigo and tobacco farmers and planters.
In 1769 the Spanish governor appointed the Parisian-born, former military office Athanase de Mezieres, lieutenant governor for the Natchitoches district and tasked him with bringing peace to the frontiers. The Native Americans had been raiding the Spanish in Texas. DeMezieres, a man who had good relations with the tribes, held a series of councils and signed treaties with a number of tribes. Stipulation 11 of the treaty with the Taovayas stated that "the war hatchet shall at once be buried by their hands in sight of the whole village, and that he who again uses it shall die." They then buried the hatchet.
Did you know?
· Did you know? Archaeological evidence proves that the French and Spanish traded goods across the frontier even though it was illegal.
· That France, Spain, and the U.S. all owned or laid claim to this part of Louisiana at one point in time.
· The Catholic Church helped to bridge cultural and national interest here in Natchitoches. Records indicate that Spanish priests walked 22 miles from Los Adaes to say mass for the French of Natchitoches.
· The Natchitoches meat pie is a white flour version of a Spanish empanada.
· That our reliance on El Camino
Real de los Tejas continues today? Louisiana highway 6 from Natchitoches, LA to the Texas border is one of the original trail routes that became part of the larger El Camino Real de los Tejas.