Coronado, Lewis & Clark, The Verendryes and Zebulon Pike are considered the four main Early Explorers.
This is the second excerpt – a short peice about Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, seeker of the “Seven Cities of Cibola” – in a series about the early explorers of the western United States of America; or the lands west of the Mississippi River.
Excerpts from the Book: The Pathbreakers from River to Ocean by Grace Raymond Hebard – published 1913.
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, seeker of the “Seven Cities of Cibola.”
In 1539, Coronado was made provisional governor of Nueva Galicia (New Gaul), by Antonio de Mendoza, viceroy of Mexico. This Viceroy Mendoza, who had been filled with enthusiasm over the accounts that Cabeza de Vaca had brought home, urged Coronado to take charge of his province at once and to explore the unknown country to the north immediately. Coronado, with the spirit of adventure in his blood, was equal to the task and was eager to be off.
The army was financed from the personal wealth of Coronado and what he could borrow, though the command of the soldiers was granted to him by the viceroy. The expense of equipping the expedition was about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, or sixty thousand ducats. If Coronado did not succeed in his high ambition – the loss was his. If he won – he was dizzy with the vision of the empires he was to conquer and own. He would have wealth greater than that of Cortez, and lands unlimited.
Early in 1540, piloted by a monk, Fray Marcos, who had previously penetrated to the Zuni Villages, he started with three hundred horsemen, foot soldiers, crossbow men, arquebusiers, eight hundred Indians, and a thousand extra horses for ammunition and baggage.
Northward through tribes more or less hostile they marched, near the present site of Tombstone, Arizona, on to Salt River, north across the Mogollon Mountains, then northeast to the Little Colorado. Here the first station of their travels wàs reached, the Zuni Pueblos. We are told that the city of Zuni is the home of a people who lived there centuries before the coming of Columbus. “There they still live, with very little change. The march of progress that has swept away other Indian tribes has spared the lonely little pueblo communities in their adobe terraced houses, surrounded by the arid deserts.”
These adobe terraces made excellent forts. Rising tier on tier to the height of three or sometimes four stories, with no doors, they covered with unbroken walls many acres, and presented a formidable front to the little army destitute of cannon with which to batter a breach. Ingress to these houses is had through the roof by aid of ladders. Upon the approach of the intruders, the Zuni had drawn up ail their ladders and ranged themselves on the terraces intent on defending their homes. Wood for the construction of new ladders was hard to obtain, and when the means of assault were finally provided it was no child’s play to storm that fortress through the hail of arrows and stones from the warriors in the terraces. Coronado’s shining armor and his foremost place in the assault made him an especial target. After the place was won he had gaping wounds on his face, an arrow in one of his feet, and many stone bruises on his legs and arms, and tells us that if it had not been for the strength of his armor “it would have gone hard with me.” But more bitter than the perils of the assault was the disappointment of the victors upon finding that here was no gold or precious stones,— none of the wealth they had marched and starved, fought and bled, to win. Evidently these were not the famed “Seven Cities of Cibola.” They must be still farther on.
So the conquerors passed on; scouts were sent in various directions, all bringing back similar reports of “no cities of gold.” In August of this year, 1540, the famous Grand Canon of the Colorado was discovered by a division of the expedition under the command of Garcia Lopez de Cardenas. One often wonders if this Canon were the real “city of gold,” for the discovery and possession of which more than one continent wasted its blood and treasure. It would take no great stretch of the imagination to fancy that the glittering and sparkling mica-bearing formations responding to the sun’s rays were houses built of gold. The tradition of this city was not a dream. Some one had observed something. For want of better description the vision was called a “city of gold.” Was this the end of the rainbow with its proverbial “pot of gold”?