Retrenchment, Islanders, and
THE MARQUÉS DE SAN MIGUEL DE AGUAYO HAD ANCHORED Spanish Texas at three vital points: Los Adaes, Matagorda Bay, and San Antonio. At the first, French activities at Natchitoches were monitored and the further ambitions of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis checkmated. The second defended the coast from French incursions at the exact location of La Salle's ill-fated colony. And the third, San Antonio, secured a vital way station with the newly reconstructed presidio at Béxar. The next two decades, however, did not signal years of uninterrupted progress. Instead, they were a time of trial.
Overall, the province did not experience a "multiplication of new settlements"; death, reassignment, and retirement thinned the ranks of pioneer soldiery and clergy and led to a changing of key personnel; peace in Europe prompted retrenchment in government spending, resulting in the abandonment of Presidio de los Tejas and removal to San Antonio of the three Querétaran missions in East Texas; the presidio and mission at Matagorda Bay were scarcely four years old when they had to be moved to a more favorable location on the Guadalupe River; Indian wars began in the 1720s and greatly intensified in the 1730s; civilian settlers recruited in the Canary Islands founded the first formal municipality in San Antonio, but their coming spawned serious internal troubles at Béxar; a martinet governor and a terrible epidemic in 1739 brought near disasters to the San Antonio missions; and by the early 1740s the remaining settlements in East Texas could best be described as beggarly. This chapter chronicles Spanish Texas in those years of Job-like testing that had to be weathered before the province was stabilized and expansion could take place. 1
AGUAYO'S RETIREMENT TO PRIVATE LIFE IN THE EARLY 1720s was symptomatic of changes already sweeping through the ranks of those